As the 35PRS had to take a pause and wait for its aircraft to catch up, the unit departed Camp Kanchrapara, near Calcutta (see 11 June 2014 posting) and relocated northward to Gushkara Airfield, located just southeast of Gushkara, in West Bengal, India.

Picture of the main street in Gushkara, Bengal. Notice the ox carts. 60 miles northwest of Calcutta. August 1944 (Courtesy Frank Bond Collection)

Picture of the main street in Gushkara, Bengal. Notice the ox carts. 60 miles northwest of Calcutta. August 1944 (Courtesy Frank Bond Collection)

Tony Garra remembered the move: ““Our next stop was at the Gushkara air base. This base was fairly nice. All of us were quartered in barracks, of course the grass roof affairs again… When we first arrived, the heat was terrible but in a few weeks the monsoon or rainy season arrived and this helped cool things off somewhat. When our mail arrived, we were really happy and believe me when I say, it was the only thing to be happy about.”

The Barber Shop at Gushkara Air Base. G.I. doing the cutting had been a barber in civilian life. 40th Photo Recon Sqdn, Fall 1944. (Courtesy Frank Bond Collection)

The Barber Shop at Gushkara Air Base. G.I. doing the cutting had been a barber in civilian life. 40th Photo Recon Sqdn, Fall 1944. (Courtesy Frank Bond Collection)

Construction at Gushkara began by August, 1942, after the arrival of U.S. Army forces in India earlier in 1942. Air Corps requirements were sent to the Services of Supply, which submitted them to the British. “The actual construction work was in most cases done by Indian contractors using the casual, unhurried working methods of the country. Cement was mixed up by hand and conveyed to forms on the heads of a slow-moving procession of coolies. In many cases the quality of the concrete produced in this fashion was poor.” (Airfield Construction)  Nonetheless the field was completed and USAAF units began operations.

Gushkara Airfield was a Tenth Air Force based used in 1943 -1945. Tenth Air Force was heavily involved in the Burma campaign. Gushkara is long abandoned, but during the war, the following USAAF units operated there during the times indicated:

Elements of the 8th Photographic Reconnaissance Group
– 20th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron, 5 January – 26 March 1944 (Curtiss P-40)

– 24th Combat Mapping Squadron, 5 January 1944 – February 1945 (Consolidated F-7 Photo Liberator)

F-7 Photo Liberator, photomapping version of the B-24 bomber belonging to the 24th Combat Mapping Sqdn, Gushkara, Bengal, 1944 (Courtesy Frank Bond Collection)

F-7 Photo Liberator, photomapping version of the B-24 bomber belonging to the 24th Combat Mapping Sqdn, Gushkara, Bengal, 1944 (Courtesy Frank Bond Collection)

– 40th Photographic Reconnaissance Squadron, 18 July-9 August 1944 (Lockheed F-5)

Other units

2nd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron, October 1944 – 1945 (B-25 Mitchell)

35th Photographic Reconnaissance Squadron, June 13, 1944 – September 1, 1944 (Lockheed F-5E)

89th Fighter Squadron, 80th Fighter Group, 16 August – 15 October 1943 (Curtiss P-40N)

"Lula Belle II," Curtiss P-40N-5-CU Warhawk of the 89th Fighter Squadron, 80th Fighter Group, 10th Air Force.   Pilot: Lt. Philip R. Adair.  (Courtesy LIFE, via D. Sheley on Flickr)

“Lula Belle II,” Curtiss P-40N-5-CU Warhawk of the 89th Fighter Squadron, 80th Fighter Group, 10th Air Force.
Pilot: Lt. Philip R. Adair. (Courtesy LIFE, via D. Sheley on Flickr)

93rd Fighter Squadron, 81st Fighter Group, October 1944 – 16 October 1945 (Republic P-47 Thunderbolt)

118th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron, 16 Feb – 12 June 1944 (P-40, maybe P-51)

426th Night Fighter Squadron, January – August 1945 (Northrop P-61 Detachment)

 

The 35PRS arrived at Gushkara just before the onset of the southwest summer monsoon, which is a four-month period when massive convective thunderstorms dominate India’s weather; it is called Earth’s most productive wet season. A product of southeast tradewinds originating from a high-pressure mass centered over the southern Indian Ocean, the monsoonal torrents supply over 80% of India’s annual rainfall.

Map of the onset of India's southwest summer monsoon (Wikipedia)

Map of the onset of India’s southwest summer monsoon (Wikipedia)

This Monsoon or rainy season, lasts from July to September and is dominated by the humid southwest summer monsoon, which slowly sweeps across the country beginning in late May or early June. Monsoon rains begin to recede from North India at the beginning of October. South India typically receives more rainfall.

Afternoon monsoon clouds form over the Maidan and Calcutta's downtown tram terminus, 1944. (Courtesy Glenn Hensley Collection)

Afternoon monsoon clouds form over the Maidan and Calcutta’s downtown tram terminus, 1944. (Courtesy Glenn Hensley Collection)

“The rains are really downpours. In ten minutes the sky can cloud over, the air becomes deathly still, for a short period, the rain comes like a wave with a roar of wind. In a few minutes the ground is ankle deep in many places, with water. In an hour or a few hours it clears up and the water just seems to disappear from the ground. All except our slit trenches to be used in case of air raids, they are usually half full of water,” recorded Tony Garra about the Monsoon.

Tony Garra also had these impressions of the local nationals at the base: “Many of the natives are employed at the VSA. The work in the mess halls, around the grounds and each barracks has a “Bearer” for which all of us chip in to make forty rupees a month. This is considered a standard wage… At this base I saw my first snake charmer, a very interesting spectacle. Two natives singing to a few cobras. The snakes are beautiful but vicious.”

Snake charmers in Calcutta, 1945. (Courtesy Frank Bond Collection)

Snake charmers in Calcutta, 1945. (Courtesy Frank Bond Collection)

The Redhawk’s time in India was only a temporary stop on the way to China. Time was devoted to receiving and reshipping equipment to the squadron’s “permanent destination” which they thought at the time was to be Kunming, China. Personnel were sent to Calcutta, Panagarh Airfield, Undal (or Ondal, Andal depending on source), Chabua, and Kunming, China in order to accomplish this.

Personnel at Gushkara even studied Chinese language, Cantonese dialect, in preparation for the move. They later found out, much to their chagrin, that Cantonese was not spoken at their “permanent destination.” Mandarin would probably have been appropriate, and is certainly so today given the influx of Han Chinese after World War II.

But in the summer of 1944, everyone with the Redhawks did their best to prepare for entry into China and combat aerial reconnaissance missions in the Lockheed F-5 Lightning.

 

References

Tony Garra Trip Journal

Airfield Construction, Historical Record of the Engineer Section Construction Service – Services of Supply United States Army Forces in China-Burma-India and United States Forces in India-Burma Theater, March 1942 – August 1944, accessed at:  http://cbi-theater-4.home.comcast.net/~cbi-theater-4/airfields/airfields.html

Bond Photograph Library, University of Chicago, online at: http://dsal.uchicago.edu/images/bond/about.html

Hensley Photograph Library, University of Chicago, online at: http://dsal.uchicago.edu/images/hensley/about.html

Climate of India, Wikipedia entry at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Climate_of_India

Kunming Dialect, Wikipedia entry at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kunming_dialect

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