DOUGLAS DEVAUX – US Airforce, Corporal, Flight Radio Operator, 1330th AAAF Base Unit, India China Division, Air Transport Command
Douglas Devaux was a Corporal / Flight Radio Operator with the 1330th AAAF Base Unit, India China Division, Air Transport Command (US Air Force) serving in the China-Burma-India Theater during WWII. He received a Distinguished Flying Cross award for service incorporating 42 flights over the treacherous India/Southern China “Hump” mountain range and injuries sustained during a bombing raid at Kunming airfield China.
The following harrowing account, (one of many), copied from his excellent WWII online memoir “FROM THE BACK SEAT” is an example of the incredible dangers faced during his service.
From his memoirs Douglas Devaux recounts the below which he describes as one of the worst experiences he had during the war:
We took off from Dum Dum and headed north, straight into the teeth of a huge storm. We were bounced and jounced and I am sure that we were flipped over. After we had righted, I checked the cabin and the engines were still held fast by their moorings. The altimeter raced up and down. The rain beat us unmercifully, lightning was everywhere.Excerpt from Mr Devaux’s online memoir “FROM THE BACKSEAT”
Captain Black flew the plane and the co-pilot manned the throttles. The plane would be pointed nose up on full throttle and the downdrafts would be driving it down. It would be pointed nose down on full power and the updrafts would be forcing the plane up. Black called me up to the cockpit. He shouted above the din of the storm that the co-pilot couldn’t leave the throttles and that I was to man the wheels lever, “When I say wheels down push it down, when I say wheels up, pull it up”.
I spent at least an hour holding on; on my knees, just back and between the pilots with the landing gear lever in my hand waiting for the order to “wheels up” as we were going to stall, and “wheels down” whenever we were facing too much turbulence. The order came often that night. It was a real fight for survival.
I could see the plane’s instrument panel from my squatted position and I watched the spinning altimeter. One time it raced down past 100 feet and I braced myself for an expected impact. It was still going down when an updraft finally caught us and the altimeter reversed as we started back up. I thanked God for that. We saw some building lights from windows beside us as we were driven down in that wind shear. These lights had to have been in the center of Calcutta. We must have broken out of this downdraft over the large park in the center of the city and thereby missed the tall buildings.
We probably flew over Chowringhee Street about 50 feet off the ground but we never saw it. A few feet right or left we would have hit the buildings. An updraft drove the plane up again. Radio contact was absolutely zero. There was nothing but static during the worst of the storm. We were totally lost. I was shouting Mayday into the radio much of the time whenever I was not manning the wheel lever. After two hours of this fight for survival and attempting to fly north, the storm finally began to diminish; the radio cleared of the static and the Mayday went through. We were surprised to find that we were south of Dum Dum. We had thought that we had flown north the whole time. We flew north and were almost immediately over an airfield. Where were we?
Clear radio contact again. It was Dum Dum, its runways covered with water. We didn’t recognize it. We had flown generally north for two hours and wound up south of our take off point. Captain Black and his co-pilot had done a magnificent job in keeping that C-47 alive. The C-47 did a magnificent job of hanging together. We “splash” landed, taxied to a stop, and just collapsed mentally and physically.”
For the most part the journey of the Log Book has been fairly random, based on news items or the occasional referral. I “discovered” Douglas Devaux when a Google search of “Devaux”and “WWII” revealed his fascinating wartime story posted online:
Also visit Remembering the CBI for more about this important but often overlooked theater.
It was a magnificent surprise to discover that this wonderful former serviceman was not only still alive but also a direct relative. His entry to the Log Book was a special honor.
Devaux related that his father, Gerald Joseph Devaux, one of Henri and Isabelle (Bennett) Devaux’s eleven children, sailed to Baltimore, United States from St. Lucia as a first mate aboard a tramp steamer he boarded in Castries.
Gerald Devaux was educated through Cambridge correspondence and was able to become a teacher in both public and private schools in the US. He married Helen Van Horne and the couple eventually owned Cambria-Rowe Business College in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, where Douglas was born.
Gerald visited St. Lucia shortly after the Germans precipitated WWII and filled the Atlantic with submarines. He came home and wrote to the United States government requesting protection for St Lucia’s people. “My father always had beautiful stories to tell us about his beloved island.” Douglas said.
Douglas was married to Charlotte Moran for 65 years before she passed in 2010. In June 2018 he celebrated his 95th birthday surrounded by his children, grands and great grands. I wished him happy birthday to which he replied in typical humor
“Thank you for the birthday wishes and intentions . My birthday is over. It was great. Back to unbirthdays.”