Tales of the Flying Tigers

The fall of Loiwing, April 1942

In the files of Captain Bruce Leighton, vice president of CAMCO, his granddaughter Eugenie Buchnan found the following letter from R. C. Wertz of the CAMCO staff:

Mr. W. D. Pawley June 18th 1942

In reference to the last days of the factory at Loi Wing, I returned from Magwe after disassembling and shipping 5 1/2 P-40's, which had been bombed at Magwe a week previous, up the Irawaddy to Bhamo. When I returned the factory was running smoothly until we received word through the Chinese intelligence that the Japanese land forces were 60 miles from Lashio. This created quite a bit of confusion among the workmen and staff with them asking for trucks to move their families and belongings into the interior.

Doc [Walsh] and Johnny Tseng tried to evacuate the families and still leave as many trucks as possible to carry on the work at the factory. We later received a report that the Japanese were 30 miles northeast of Lashio, heading, towards Loi Wing and Wanting. The workmen on hearing this report began stealing trucks and caused quite a commotion which was hard to deal with and left us only a few trucks.

We asked for volunteers to carry on the repair of the P-40's and tried to keep up production on the CW-21. On the 26th of April the personnel, with the exception of the volunteers, made preparations to evacuate to Powshan [Baoshan]. We borrowed as many trucks as possible from Dutch Myers, head of the American Red Cross, keeping only what was necessary for removal of the staff and personnel which were left.

We had eight P-40's which had been strafed at Namsham [Suili?] Field two weeks previous. We tried to complete the repair so as to fly these ships to Kunming where they could be taken care of later. The Allison engines in the mat shed at Lungdow were not removed up until the time I left.

In the meantime, Col. C. T. Chen and Doc was trying to get information from the Commission on what to do with the personnel and factory. As far as I know, they had not received information at the time I left. Col. Chennault was still operating two squadrons from Namsham [Suili?], strafing and trying to block the Jap drive up the Burma Road. Col. Chennault promised to leave at least one squadron for protection of the factory as long as he received the necessary radio warning.

We were having alarms three and four tines a day, causing the factory to work from 3:00 P.M until midnight. The [Chinese Aeronautical] Commission had recalled all of the Chevrolets and a part of the Ford trucks, leaving only Studebakers and a few Fords. This made evacuation of machinery almost impossible with, all the personnel to get out first.

I returned to Lashio on the 25th to pick up an over-turned Chevrolet truck belonging to the Commission and checked one P-40 washed out in the middle of the Lashio airdrome. We later picked up what parts we could from this ship as Lashio was reported to fall the next day. Plans were made to get out what machinery and parts that were possible before it was too late. Doc said that with the factory in the condition it was that some of us had better make plans to leave. On the 28th I boarded a [USAAF] Ferry Command DC-3 to Dinghauhn, India, and the rest of the American personnel were going to follow or continue to Chungking. At the time of take-off the Japs bombed the field and the factory, to what damage I don't know.

[Joseph] Killalee had gone to Mandalay to get lumber and a P-40 left at the railway station. I met Chuck [Hunter] and Ed Pawley at Lashio on the 25th. They were going to proceed on to Loi Wing and help Doc in the situation there. When I left the plan was to save as much as possible of the factory equipment and P-40s and send same to Powshan to set up at a future date.

I had been going out and picking up cracked-up P-40s and salvaging them up to the time I left. I returned by Ferry Command to the U.S.A.

R.C. Wertz

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