While the 35th PRS completed final training and equipment preparations to go into China, five pilots of the squadron went on detached service to the 21st PRS, which had been in China flying the F-5 on recon missions in the CBI since the summer of 1943. There at Kunming these first Redhawks into China began to fly combat recon missions in an active theater of war.

Emblem of the 21st Photo Recon Squadron, the first Lockheed F-5 Photo Lightning unit in 14th Air Force (Courtesy Flying Tiger Antiques)

Emblem of the 21st Photo Recon Squadron, the first Lockheed F-5 Photo Lightning unit in 14th Air Force (Courtesy Flying Tiger Antiques)

On 16 August 1944, one of these pilots, 2nd Lt. Stanley A. Hardin of Raton, New Mexico, departed Kunming at 0730 local time in a Lockheed F-5 to cover targets on Hainan Island, off the southeast coast of China.

Lockheed F-5 Photo Lightning “Shamrock” of the 21st PRS, Fourteenth Air Force, China (Photo by Russel E. Prather, courtesy CBI History.com)

Lockheed F-5 Photo Lightning “Shamrock” of the 21st PRS, Fourteenth Air Force, China (Photo by Russel E. Prather, courtesy CBI History.com)

On the way back to homebase, however, his left engine started leaking gas, causing him to make a forced landing short of his destination. Flying through some miserable weather, and about to bail out, he sighted an abandoned airstrip at Lungchow (known as Longzhou today, but known then as the emergency field at Lungchow (Lungtsin) 106°55’0″ 22°22’0″). It was around 90 miles southwest of Nanning, the airfield he was trying to reach, but he had to set the aircraft down before it became starved of fuel from the leak.

Near the Indochina/Vietnam border, Lungchow Airfield had been cut across with ditches and holed to prevent use by the enemy. Hardin approached and buzzed the field twice. He saw a prospective landing area through the cuts in the field which seemed to be unobstructed and so he landed. After safely coming down, he walked back over the landing area and discovered that in his landing roll-out his wheels had fortuitously bounced over an eight-foot ditch!

Stranded in rural China, he turned to his pointee-talkee to communicate with some villagers, and they took him to someone who could speak English, whilst he left some Chinese soldiers at the field to guard his plane. A family in the village that could speak English invited him to stay with them and directed him to a telegraph office. Hardin sent a message off to his home station about his status, and in turn received a message that gasoline would be sent to him to enable him to return.

That first evening in the village a delegation from the local Chamber of Commerce brought Hardin “…many varieties of foodstuffs, including 12 dozen eggs, fruits, fowl, sugar, and beer.” Afterwards, Hardin asked for help to repair the runway of the field enough for him to return to Kunming. The Chinese agreed to provide one member from each family to help for one day, and that was all it took to get the strip back into shape.

The work on the field was completed before the gasoline arrived, so Hardin asked the Chinese soldiers to gather brush and branches to camouflage his plane, and also to create some dummy bunches of brush around the field as an added distraction.

After about three weeks, enough gas arrived from supply sources to enable a flight to Nanning Airfield, but then heavy rains arrived and inundated the field for another week. By the time the ground dried out enough, Hardin discovered to his chagrin that his aircraft’s batteries had died, so it was necessary to bring in a mechanic and a spare battery to replace it.

The battery of the Lockheed Lightning is located in the aft end of left tail boom, behind the yellow oxygen cylinder just behind the mid-boom bulge.  (Lockheed P-38 “Lightning” foldout color phantom drawing, courtesy Legendsintheirowntime.com)

The battery of the Lockheed Lightning is located in the aft end of left tail boom, behind the yellow oxygen cylinder just behind the mid-boom bulge. (Lockheed P-38 “Lightning” foldout color phantom drawing, courtesy Legendsintheirowntime.com)

Finally, on 16 September 1944, Lt Hardin was able to fly out to Nanning, and then on to Kunming. He carried with him the film he took of Hainan Island, and after return the film was found to be intact, and thus his mission, though extended, was successful.

Years later Hardin wrote his memoirs, which differ slightly from the brief squadron history reference and are greatly expanded in the recap of his Lungchow adventure. He passed away in 1982, but his niece commenced an effort to get his story published. It was ultimately published in 2003, and is titled: “From Pajarito to Lungchow: Memoirs of Photographic Reconnaissance Pilot Stanley A. Hardin,” as told to D.A. Simpson, by Eagle Editions/Heritage Books, Inc., Bowie, MD. In softcover, it is 143 pages in length, and illustrated.

Cover for Stanley Hardin’s Story, “From Pajarito to Lungchow:  Memoirs of Photographic Reconnaissance Pilot Stanley A. Hardin,” as told to D.A. Simpson, published by Eagle Editions/Heritage Books, Inc., Bowie, MD, in 2003.

Cover for Stanley Hardin’s Story, “From Pajarito to Lungchow: Memoirs of Photographic Reconnaissance Pilot Stanley A. Hardin,” as told to D.A. Simpson, published by Eagle Editions/Heritage Books, Inc., Bowie, MD, in 2003.

Stanley A. Hardin started his memoirs with a scripture from the Holy Bible, Ecclesiastes 3:1-8, which is a fitting perspective for one to regard thinking of the big picture of the life we live:

A Time for Everything
3 There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:
2 a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
3 a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
4 a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
5 a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
6 a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
7 a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
8 a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.

Certainly 35th PRS members could reflect on Ecclesiastes for their experience. From a time to be born as the 123rd Observation Squadron in April 1941, a time to tear down and a time to build when the squadron became the 35th PRS in 1943, a time to plant and a time to uproot with the changes of bases and deployment overseas in the spring of 1944. And now in the late summer of 1944, on to a time for war in CBI.

References:
35PRS History, April to September 1944

21st PHOTOGRAPHIC RECONNAISSANCE SQUADRON, entry on CBI History.com, at: http://www.cbi-history.com/part_vi_21st_recon_sq.html

21st PRS emblem, on Flying Tiger Antiques, at: http://www.flyingtigerantiques.com/mm5/merchant.mvc?Screen=PROD&Store_Code=fta&Product_Code=z99afsq901021ph&Category_Code=03afsq3

921st Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron, Wikipedia entry at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/921st_Expeditionary_Air_Refueling_Squadron

D.A. Simpson, “From Pajarito to Lungchow: Memoirs of Photographic Reconnaissance Pilot Stanley A. Hardin”

P-38 Schematic Drawing, Legends in their Own Time.com, at: http://legendsintheirowntime.com/P38/P38_IA_4408_DA.html

Pacific Wrecks, China Airfields page, at: http://www.pacificwrecks.com/airfields/china/

The Holy Bible, Ecclesiastes 3: 1-8 (New International Version), at Biblegateway.com, at: https://www.biblegateway.com/

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