by Arthur La Vove, Schiffer, 2021, $24.99.
Many firsthand accounts have been written by pilots who flew during World War II. Hump Drivers, however, stands out by having been written by a pilot who was also a journalist. Born in 1909, Arthur La Vove was an experienced airline pilot well before WWII began. He had also studied journalism at Columbia University, had worked as a reporter and was a talented artist.
Hump Drivers consists of text that La Vove wrote during 1946-47, while events were still fresh in his mind, to accompany drawings he had made while flying cargo and troops across the Himalayas between India and China. Both the text and the drawings are included in the book.
The fall of Hong Kong and Burma early in 1942 cut China off from Allied aid except from the air. The result was the establishment of an unprecedented supply system consisting of overworked pilots flying overloaded cargo planes out of primitive airfields over some of the most dangerous terrain in the world. In effect, they were aerial truck drivers, and the author notes that they actually referred to themselves not as “pilots” but as “drivers.”
Hump Drivers presents a vivid and very personal account of an aspect of the war that few outsiders knew about at the time, and which is still considered somewhat obscure. Although they experienced little actual fighting, those cargo plane “drivers” had every bit as difficult a time as those who did, and the losses they suffered were as real and as bitter as those sustained by the crews of merchant ships on the oceans.