Fleeing Shanghai, August 1937: the demise of a Tin Goose

China's Wings coverOver a year ago, I started telling the story of CNAC fleeing the Battle of Shanghai in August, 1937 in a series of China’s Wings outtakes. I made several posts on the topic, but then lost the thread and never completed the run of stories. Now, on the cusp of August, 2013, 76 years after the events described, I’m going to return to them. They were all once part of  chapters 8 and 9, “Things Fall Apart” and “The Cavalry.”

For full effect, you should return to the first post and pick up the threads at the beginning:

In addition, any fan of Old Shanghai will enjoy this atmostpheric photostream of 1920s, ’30s, and ’40s Shanghai photos.

Joy Thom, Moon Chin, and Donald Wong in front of a Stinson Detroiter
CNAC’s three star Chinese-American pilots: Joy Thom, Moon Chin, and Donald Wong in front of a Stinson Detroiter, middle 1930s

Okay, now for the first addition to the story collection: “Joy Thom and the end of a Tin Goose,” which fits right onto the end of Moon Chin’s first air raid, part II, when Donald Wong gets shot up by twitchy Chinese anti-aircraft machine gunners while landing in CNAC’s other “Tin Goose” Ford Trimotor:

Joy Thom had a similar experience in CNAC’s other “Tin Goose.”

Joy Thom tried to fly the tin goose to an airfield south of Hankow. Notification went to the destination airfield’s traffic control, but Japanese airplanes were rumored to be everywhere, and nobody at the airfield bothered to tell the local air defense units about Thom’s incoming flight.

They blazed away with their machine guns as Thom eased in to land. Thom firewalled his engines, aborted landing, and turned for Hankow. The weather soured enroute.

One of CNAC's "Tin Goose" Ford Tri-motors in Western China
One of CNAC’s “Tin Goose” Ford Tri-motors in Western China

Thom couldn’t slip under the clouds; he had to go over the top. The Ford had a radio, but no direction-finding capability. Thom cruised north over an unbroken gray carpet as his fuel supply shriveled.

Finally, Thom spotted a hole in the cloud deck. He spiraled down and made visual contact with the ground, but he didn’t know his exact location. He continued north beneath the cloud ceiling in the hopes of spotting a landmark. He ran out of gas before he sighted anything familiar and force-landed in a marsh.

Thom wasn’t harmed, but the airplane was destroyed.

* Sources for Joy Thom’s Tin Goose flight: Bixby to Morgan, August 25, 1937; Bond to Kitsi, written in Hong Kong, August 28, 1937; both letters in the Bond Papers.

Next: Colonel Lam tries to get Donald Wong to fly a load of bombs; Harold Bixby protests



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