OCTOBER 10, 1942

From The Dragon's Wings

"One aircraft crashed and burned during practice landings at Balijan airport, a small dirt strip near Dinjan, on October 10. The crew survived."


Link Laughlin and Bill Bartling, 10/10/42. C-53 #52. No fatalities. Operations Manager, Hugh Woods sent Captain Laughlin over to Balijan to instruct Copilot Bartling in shooting landings. Balijan was a small gravel 2000-foot strip. This plane had just arrived from the United States. It was at this small field so it could be hidden from the Japanese by covering it with cut tree branches. They made out very well until they got to the end of the runway and the plane would not lift off the ground at flying speed. The end of the runway came up surprisingly fast. They decided it was too late to abort. Link advanced the flaps to full in order to hop it off the runway but it came back to the runway at the end of the runway, at flying speed. Since Link couldn't steer it with the rudder and they were headed directly for a large tree that would kill both of them, he chopped the left throttle in the knick of time so the plane missed the tree and went between two trees that sheared the wings off inside of the engines. The plane burned but the pilots escaped from the side windows. Both were severely burned and Bartling had a complex broken leg. Source: Dr. Richards and Hugh Woods in his Volume 4, Wings Over Asia.

And here's another version from Reg Spendlove:

Tom, I would like to give you my account of what happened on the 10th October, 1942 at Balijan airport. It was a big day, and we had just built a new dining hall, as the one at the Pilots bungalow was too small. The place was packed, and lunch was being served, with Eva Major and Woods busy taking care of the catering. Captain Woods had a keen interest in the food and said it was the best anywhere. I was standing next to him when Bill Bartling approached Woods, and asked if he had time to check him out. Link Laughlin was nearby, so Woods handed him the job, the time being about 1pm. Next we heard a plane had crashed. First on the scene was a Assumes Police man who got the two Pilots out of the craft, next Woods and I arrived and administered first aid. Woods then said "Go to the Pilots bungalow and pick up two beds". So, I proceeded to drive my 3 ton Mack Truck to get the beds, and transported them to hospital. The plane was not demolished or burnt, and was in one piece. It had landed in this little hamlet closely missing the woman and child inside. The aircraft was pointing in the posited direction to take off. The account I heard from witnesses was the plane was air borne, but lacked altitude and made a left bank, with it's left wing clipping the tall tree. I was later told that one of the Pilots returned to C.N.A.C. while the other remained in the U.S.A. Captain Woods was a very strict man, and very well respected.

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