It has been called the Ghost Ship, the Phantom P-40, the Ghost P-40, the Ghost Plane, and any number of other names, but whatever it has been called or whatever it has been referred to, rather in history, lore, or legend, it continues to show up --- and when it does it is always a P-40, but, although often pictured as such, never a Flying Tiger. Either way, its existence, in the past or present, always ends up more true than false. In substantiation of such a premise, that is, that the Ghost P-40 stories are more true than false, the following quote found below, is from a footnote to The Ghost Plane From Mindanao, also found below, regarding one Sergeant Milton McMullen. McMullen claimed to have worked on the P-40. The paragraph from the footnote is related to a newspaper article that discusses him being in the Philippines during World War II and his later capture and time as a prisoner of war under the Japanese:
"With only 25 out of 350 soldiers in McMullen's unit surviving the war, and with only four left at the time of the article (2005), it would not be out of the ordinary with such a high attrition rate both during and after the war, that McMullen was the only one who came forward telling Norris he had worked on what has now come to be known as The Ghost P-40. As with my questions regarding Scott my question regarding McMullen, considering all the atrocities and suffering he had to endure as a prisoner of war, is the same. Why would he come forward and say he worked on the P-40 if it wasn't so? It doesn't make sense."
VERSION ONE: THE PEARL HARBOR P-40
On December 8, 1942, over a year after the attack on Pearl Harbor, radar in the United States picked up an unusual reading. What appeared to be an airplane was heading for American soil from the direction of Japan. Radar operators knew this bore none of the usual markings of some sort of aerial attack. The sky was overcast, it was late evening, and no prior attack had occurred in these types of conditions.
Two American pilots were sent to intercept the mysterious plane. As they approached the plane they radioed back to the ground to report that the aircraft was a P-40 and bore markings that had not been used since the attack on Pearl Harbor. When they pulled up alongside the craft they were shocked to find a bullet-riddled plane with landing gear blown away. Puzzled as to how a plane in this condition could even fly, they noticed the pilot was slumped in the cockpit, his flight suit stained with fresh blood. As they peered into the window the pilot raised slightly, turned in their direction, and smiled offering a meek wave towards his two allies. Moments later the mysterious craft plummeted from the sky smashing into the ground with a deafening roar.
American troops swarmed the crash site but found no trace of the pilot or evidence of who he may have been. Neither did they find identifiable markings from the plane. But, they did find a document which was assumed to be the remains of some sort of diary. From this diary, researchers were able to deduce that the plane must have originated from the island of Mindanao, located about 1,300 miles away (actually it is more than four times as far). The rest of the story is a mystery.
Some speculated that the craft may have been downed over a year earlier and the pilot managed to survive on his own in the wild. He could have possible scavenged parts from other downed aircraft, repaired his airplane, and managed to somehow navigate his way back to his homeland over 1000 miles of hostile territory. What they could not explain, is how the heavy P-40 aircraft could have ever taken off without the aid of any sort of landing gear.
THE PEARL HARBOR P-40 GHOST SHIP
It should be noted that months before the above alleged P-40 flight toward Pearl Harbor the Japanese prepared a second aerial attack within 90 days of their first attack on Pearl Harbor. On March 5, 1942 Japan launched a two plane bomb run toward Hawaii, using 4,440 mile range Kawanishi H8K flying boats. H8K's literally bristled with weaponry. Their ability to defend themselves was well appreciated. Nicknamed the "Porcupine," they were heavily armed carrying ten machine guns and 20mm cannons.
The planes left Wotje Atoll in the Marshall Islands after each had been loaded with four 550 pound bombs. From there, they flew 1,900 miles to French Frigate Shoals to refuel, 550 miles from their target, Oahu, where they were to bomb the "Ten-Ten" dock --- named for its length, 1,010 feet --- located at the Pearl Harbor naval base, the idea being to disrupt as much salvage and repair efforts as possible.
Because of heavy low-level clouds and long in place blackouts throughout most of Oahu, even though the two-plane sortie was able to successfully make landfall, bombing from 15,000 feet they missed their primary targets, ending up doing only minor damage. The two flying boats returned unharmed, although one of the aircraft had sustained hull damage refueling at French Frigate Shoals and had to proceed to her home base at Jaluit Atoll, the second plane returning to Wotje Atoll.
The idea of course, is to illustrate all the planning and pre-planning the Japanese had to do and put into place to pull off their second bombing run against Hawaii. Their embarkation point, the Wotje Atoll in the Marshall Islands, was 1900 miles from their refueling point, the French Frigate Shoals, 550 miles from their target, Oahu. Mindanao, where the P-40 reportedly lifted off, with no known refueling point, is around 5400 miles from Hawaii.
VERSION TWO: THE CHINA GHOST SHIP
On Dec. 8, 1942, American forces in Kienow, China, spotted an unidentified plane heading toward them on a beeline from Formosa. Pilots Bob Scott and Johnny Hampshire approached it and discovered it was an old American P-40B Tomahawk bearing an insignia that hadn't been seen since Pearl Harbor. The pilot would not identify himself.
Fearing a trick by the Japanese, Scott and Hampshire fired briefly on the plane, but it sought neither to evade them nor to counterattack. Scott moved to the plane's farther side and saw that it had been badly damaged before they came upon it the canopy had been shot away, the right aileron was gone, and part of the wing was missing. The pilot's head was slumped on his chest. Strangest of all, the P-40B had no landing gear the wheel wells were empty.
Scott and Hampshire lost the plane in a cloud bank and then saw it crash in a rice paddy below. Who was the pilot, and where had the strange plane come from? No one knows, but after years of research Scott evolved a conjecture that it had been assembled by a small group of Air Corps personnel who had retreated from Bataan to Corregidor and then to Mindanao. If this is true it must have flown more than 1,000 miles through enemy airspace to reach China.
Japanese records confirm that there was an American P-40 over Formosa on Dec. 8, 1942, but where it came from, where it was headed, and indeed how it even got airborne remain a mystery.
Taken together, the above two versions, one an escape mission by the pilot to reach American territory, Pearl Harbor, and the second a bomb attack mission against Japanese occupied Formosa, present what has pretty much become the internet standard or backbone for most of the P-40 ghost stories. In the beginning the story had a fairly low-key start, but has since spread clear around the net octopus-like growing larger and larger into a variety of forms, formats, content and variations --- with almost none of them ever citing or producing the original source or the why of the story or where it came from.
Although you would never know it from some of the comments that show up on the various aircraft, World War II, and P-40 related forums and pages, and, although the story may have been floating around in some minor form years before previously, except for the Pearl Harbor side of it, it has a fairly solid history. The original basically stems from a short story that found its way into a very popular hard cover book titled Damned to Glory way back in 1944 when the war was still raging. The central core of the story is attributed to the most honorable Robert Lee. Scott, Jr., a P-40 pilot himself and double flying ace credited with shooting down 13 Japanese aircraft. Besides Damned to Glory, Scott was also the author of at least 11 other aircraft related books including the best selling God is my Co-Pilot, made into a movie in 1945. The other pilot so mentioned above as joining Scott in the pursuit of the rogue plane, John Hampshire, was himself, flying a P-40, credited with 13 kills. Hampshire died in action in the air on May 2, 1943.
The Ghost P-40 story, apparently garnered from Scott's story on the same subject in his book Damned to Glory, was picked up and reprinted in the January 1945 issue of "The Reader's Digest" under the title GHOST SHIP: The Weird Story Of A Mystery Plane.
Below is a very short few paragraph synopsis that shows up on the internet, selectively pulled out by an uncredited or unnamed author-editor from Scott's four page Reader's Digest article, then reassembled and presented as representing the Reader's Digest article. While it does a fair job presenting the gist of the article, it is NOT the Reader's Digest article --- which, like I say, runs a full four pages. It still shows up as if it was, presented in that manner on the internet in conjunction with the Ghost P-40 story on a regular basis. Please notice in the very last paragraph Scott's name is mentioned:
VERSION THREE: OF THE MANY CORN SHERRILL VERSIONS
In May 1942, a U.S. Army pilot named Corn Sherrill found himself on the Philippine island of Mindanao "with 11 mechanics who had escaped to the southern island by devious routes and one cracked-up P-40." The Warhawk was an E-model with sound wings and six working .50-cal machineguns.
Four miles away, the Americans located a fuselage, which a gang of Moro tribesmen helped them carry to the wings. (The P-40E weighed over three tons empty, with most of that the engine and fuselage.) By December they'd cut a 5,000-ft runway and equipped their P-40 with bamboo skis for takeoff and an extra 50-gallon gas tank in the baggage compartment.
On Dec. 8, 1942 --- the anniversary of the Japanese attack --- Sherrill took off with four 300-lb bombs under his wings. He dropped the bamboo skis and flew 1,000 miles to Taiwan --- an extraordinary feat for a P-40, even with 50 extra gallons of gas.
Lieutenant Sherrill attacked the Japanese airfield "with its neat rows of parked fighters and bombers," as Scott told the story. "He strafed them row on row, and he cut the Jap flag from the headquarters building with his wingtip. He laid his first wingbomb right in the enemy offices." Though intercepted by Zeros, he finished the job and made his escape, flying 250 miles to a Chinese airfield, where he was intercepted and shot down by P-40s of the China Air Task Force.
GHOST SHIP: THE WEIRD STORY OF A MYSTERY PLANE
Another example or variant of Version Three, above, albeit a little longer, that shows up on the internet is found in UNUSUAL STORIES OF WWII (sometimes Unique Stories of WWII) attributed to one Bart Anderson of St. George, Utah simply titled The Ghost Pilot. Anderson, now deceased, is (or was) a well known story teller. The Salt Lake City UTAH DESERT NEWS upon his death, provided, amongst other things, the following about Anderson:
"'He came alive when he spoke; he almost had a photographic memory on facts and figures and history,' Blair said of his friend. 'I think he is prone to exaggerating on his stories. He sort of fractured the language sometimes, often used words that weren't on target, but no one cared, because he told a good story.'"(see)
If Anderson is typical of those who write the various Ghost P-40 stories or not I can't say. However, his version of what I have given title to in my works as Version Three, contains, or has within its contents all the same buzz words and info as the uncredited Version Three, albeit somewhat more lengthy and somewhat more detailed. However, length notwithstanding, any of Anderson's details are not "new" in the sense that they are basically found in the four page story that appeared in the January 1945 issue of "The Reader's Digest" in the aforementioned GHOST SHIP: The Weird Story Of A Mystery Plane, which was clearly attributed to having come from Robert L. Scott, Jr. in some fashion.
So, since the above versions seem to keep coming back to Scott, where or how did Scott, who shows up fairly prominently in Version Two and more or less as a cameo or assumed known person in Three (but not in Anderson's version) become involved in or come up with the story --- or at least nothing else, the seed of the story?
Scott has since come forward, in a quick brushoff sort of quip, saying the whole thing was a hoax, he and a fellow pilot made the whole thing up. However, Michael Lemish, a staff writer for the Atlantic Flyer, a monthly aviation newspaper has a somewhat different take on the whole thing. Lemish has explored the story intensively, front to back, eventually coming across one Curt Norris of Norton, Massachusetts, who has reported he read about the mystery plane initially in Time magazine in the 1940s, although my research has yet to turn up any specific mention of it prior to 1945 when at age 18, Norris showed up in the Army Air Force stationed at an airfield on Bataan. The story of the ghost plane was still circulating and Norris decided to learn more about it.
Over the sixty years since then, Norris has written letters to hundreds of people and spoke to numerous military groups in an attempt to uncover the pilot's identity and the story behind the mystery plane. In the process he had interviewed many, many people involved with the flight either on Mindanao or in China several times. According to Lemish, Norris learned that after the mystery P-40 crashed in China, a group of pilots from the 76th Fighter Squadron visited the crash site. Lo and behold, who was in that group:
"Among the group was Col. Robert Scott, a former Flying Tiger, and author of God Is My Co-Pilot. Guided by Chinese guerrillas, the group skirted enemy patrols to find the wrecked aircraft. Scott retrieved a partially burnt diary and several undamaged letters. But before the pilot could be exhumed, a Japanese patrol approached, forcing Scott and his party to slip away."
THE GHOST PLANE FROM MINDANAO: AS FOUND BELOW
If you notice in the above VERSION II: The China Ghost Ship, the two pilots who scrambled to meet the incoming bogie were listed by the author as being Bob Scott and Johnny Hampshire. When it comes to the Ghost P-40 Robert Scott just won't go away with Hampshire and sometimes a pilot named Costello coming in a close second. The following quote about Scott was written by Olga Greenlaw, the author of Lady and the Tigers, probably one of the best all around tomes on the the Flying Tigers, scribed by a person who had been there from day one:
"I was up at six-thirty and had breakfast with Colonel Bob Scott, who was to become leader of the 23rd Pursuit Group, which was later to succeed the A.V.G. Scott was a trim looking young man and whatJack Newkirk would have described as an 'eager beaver' ---- full for flying and fighting."
The aforementioned Curt Norris (1927-2002), from a few paragraphs back, who had his own Ghost P-40 story published in 1999 under the title The Tragic Tale of the Phantom P-40 Over Mindanao and Its Mysterious American Pilot in "Aviation History Magazine," Volume 10 Issue 3, page 9, if not forgotten to death in the backwash halls of history, is brushed off by most researchers and writers as being not much more than a low-level G.I. bit player or gadabout doofus. Brushed off or not, his mother and father were both authors, and he himself is actually one Curtis Bird Norris, a distinguished author in his own right who has in his name a rather large university library collection of his works in the Brown University Library. Listed in that distinguished library collection, of all things, is background work on the "Phantom P-40."(see) Most if not all of the Norris library collection is unavailable electronically, so it is easy to see that almost any serious researcher on the subject might have to get up off their behind-butt and leave their keyboard. So said, that's why, unlike the Lemish article below and others, I left the Norris "Aviation History" Phantom P-40 magazine article out of the equation, i.e., not available online through me at this site.
The question I would ask though, is why would Norris or those he interviewed or encountered mention Robert Lee Scott, Jr., as being there if he wasn't, or why would Scott deny he was there if he was? In 1943, when Olga Greenlaw was writing her book, and just about the time the Phantom P-40 story was going down, she attested very highly to Scott's character. His actions seem a little more wobbly.
The above three versions of the Ghost P-40 are pretty much standard internet fluff. What follows, in full, is the more heavily researched The Ghost Plane From Mindanao by Michael Lemish, including his Curt Norris interviews followed then by my own take on the P-40 Ghost Plane, the one I know about.
As well, further down the page there is a click through link that will not only take you to a page that has access to a full and complete unabridged online version of Colonel Scott's four page Reader's Digest article, but also has embedded within that article an access link to an online PDF version of the whole Reader's Digest issue itself, an issue that contains the complete article in it's original form. In the meantime, to tie it all together, please read The Ghost Plane From Mindanao by Lemish.
Although both the Lemish and Scott full length versions are similar in their overall execution, there are several differences between the two. Any comparisons quickly shows the most blaring difference is the date cited when the incident occurred, being several months apart. Lemish cites the date September 2, 1942 while Scott uses the more standard December 8, 1942 date. The other major difference is that Lemish totally avoids any mention of Corn Sherrill or anyone similar in his works while in Scott's version Sherrill plays a significant role. Scott does however, have within the text of his article a blurb that states the name is fictitious, something most people writing about the Ghost P-40 have a tendency to overlook.
If you have gone to the footnote and read the Bart Anderson version, in which Corn Sherrill is mentioned quite readily, you may have noticed Anderson cites a totally different April 1942 date for the incident as well as mentioning several times the pilots were members of the famed Flying Tigers of the China Air Force. The interesting thing about the date is that the Flying Tigers were still Flying Tigers of the American Volunteer Group. The A.V.G. wasn't disbanded until July 4, 1942, three months after the date Anderson cites. Prior to that Kienow was for the most part an undefended and rarely used auxiliary field with no personnel or equipment. It was only after being disbanded and the USAAF took over that they moved as far east as Kienow.
GHOST PLANE FROM MINDANAO
On Sept 2, 1942, In the skies near Kienow, China, Army Air Force pilots encountered a buliet-riddled P-40B Tomahawk, with the piiot slumped over dead.
The plane bore obsolete insignia as it approached from enemy territory. Bullet holes riddled the fuselage but she still flew on probably with a dead pilot at the controls.
It is a haunting World War II saga about a phantom plane and a pilot with no name. After 50 years, it's still a mystery.
As dusk approached on Sept. 2, 1942, the Chinese Warning Net relayed a report of a plane heading toward Kienow, China. Two U.S. Army Air Force pilots of the China Task Force took off to intercept the unidentified aircraft. Climbing above the low, thin overcast, the pilots soon made visual contact.
The American pilots were both confused and shocked when they saw a Curtiss P-40B Tomahawk similar to theirs. The plane was an older version of the Tomahawk and bore an outdated Army insignia, the white star surrounded by a blue field, outlined in red. That insignia had not been used since the attack on Pearl Harbor the previous year.
The plane was in wretched shape. Bullet holes laced the length of the fuselage and most of the canopy had been shot away. Beneath the craft was a more eerie sight, no landing gear.
Calls on the radio and flashing recognition signals yielded no reply from the pilot. Fearing a Japanese trick, one pilot fired a short burst into the wing roots. Still no response.
The U.S. pilots edged their throttles forward and pulled alongside. The pilot appeared slumped over. Then the Tomahawk began to descend. Moments later it crashed into a rice paddy, flipped over and exploded, sending a plume of smoke into the air.
A year later, 16-year-old Curt Norris of Norton, Massachusetts, read about the mystery plane in Time magazine. In 1945, he joined the Army Air Corps and was stationed at an airfield on Bataan. The story of the ghost plane was still circulating and he decided to learn more about it.
So, for the past 43 years, Norris has written letters to hundreds of people and spoke to numerous military groups in an attempt to uncover the pilot's identity and the story behind the mystery plane. Here is what he learned.
The tale of the ghost plane begins shortly before Pearl Harbor, when the First American Volunteer Group, later known as the Flying Tigers, was formed.
A handful of the pilots and mechanics en route to China were diverted to Australia when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. During February 1942, while this group bivouacked in Australia, the Army planned to break through the Japanese blockade of the Philippines. Several ships carrying food and munitions attempted to resupply the beleaguered defenders.
Among the three ships that managed to skirt the Japanese forces was the SS Anhui, a 3,500-ton coal burner out of Brisbane. The freighter carried 450 tons of food, 2.5 million rounds of ammo, three disassembled P-40 Tomahawk fighters and several volunteer pilots.
The Anhui ran aground, but the cargo was brought ashore near Gingoong Bay on the northern coast of the island of Mindanao.
Several bomber and fighter strips were already established on the island, many covered completely by over- hanging coconut trees and jungle growth. Fighters would begin their takeoff roll below this natural camouflage netting and become airborne once clear of the trees.
Men of the 14th and 30th Heavy Bomb Squadrons, with a contingent of Philippine Scouts, assembled the three P-40s. The planes were a welcome addition to those already on the island. Losses in the air, no spare parts, and limited resources meant a dwindling number of aircraft available to fight the enemy.(see)
With the fall of Bataan, Corregidor and the rest of the Philippines, many Americans were forced to surrender to the Japanese. But a few refused, and carried on a guerrilla action. Their airfields were so well camouflaged that even the Japanese could not locate them all.
During his research, Norris learned that a small group of Americans on Mindanao habitually gathered crashed and wrecked aircraft, hoping to keep one aircraft always serviceable. He is convinced one of those aircraft was the mystery plane.
Norris lectured about the heroic efforts made on Mindanao during these early, bleak days of World War II. He hoped someone would provide information that would reveal the name of the phantom pilot. His biggest break came during a Bataan and Corregidor Defenders reunion, when a man stood up and called out:
"I helped build that airplane!"
The man was Milton McMullen, a former sergeant with the 701st Aviation Ordinance Squadron of the 19th Bomber Group. McMullen told about the squadron's last flying P-40. During a takeoff run, the left landing gear sheared off, but the pilot made an excellent landing. "After that, we felt she was good for one last flight," he said.
"The talk was of a flight to China, the nearest friendly point from where we were on Mindanao," he related. "We removed all the machine guns, stripped the armor plate, ammunition bins, and everything not essential to fly the P-40." An external gas tank was fastened to the bottom of the plane.
McMullen said the broken landing gear posed the greatest challenge. An attempt to fabricate a new wheel failed. Then someone hit upon the idea of using a bamboo skid with a metal frame. "We designed the skid so that it would fall off when the plane got air- borne and the pilot could close the other wheel," he said.
Several designs were tried over the next few weeks. The final product was a metal frame fitted onto the axle spindle, and a large piece of bamboo formed as a skid.
"The P-40 lay well hidden back in the jungle, with an open field in front of it. No one could have found it there."
Normally, the Tomahawk has a cruise speed of 300 mph and a range of 500 to 700 miles. With additional fuel, and by throttling back to an airspeed of 180 mph, the men felt the P- 40 would have an increased range of 1,200 to 1,300 miles.
On Sept. 2, 1942, hearing a familiar sound, McMullen looked out from his tent. The P-40 he had labored on was airborne and headed on a course for China. McMullen believes the American pilot who flew the P-40 had been hiding in the jungle, one of those who had refused to surrender.
Captured shortly thereafter, McMullen never heard anything more about the P-40.(see)
Norris has interviewed others involved with the flight either on Mindanao or in China several times. He learned that after the mystery P-40 crashed in China, a group of pilots from the 76th Fighter Squadron visited the crash site.
Among the group was Col. Robert Scott, a former Flying Tiger, and author of God Is My Co-Pilot. Guided by Chinese guerrillas, the group skirted enemy patrols to find the wrecked aircraft. Scott retrieved a partially burnt diary and several undamaged letters. But before the pilot could be exhumed, a Japanese patrol approached, forcing Scott and his party to slip away.
The letters were mailed, and Scott read part of the diary before turning it over to military intelligence. No one knows what happened to the diary after that point. Norris firmly believes that the name of the pilot is in the diary or among those letters.
But it is 50 years since that flight, and time has a habit of erasing valuable information. And the American pilots who flew alongside the ill-fated aircraft and witnessed the crash did not survive the war.
Who was this brave pilot who flew a pieced together airplane over hundreds of miles of enemy territory?
Norris has gathered some information on the pilot, much of it from Milton McMullen. He was a volunteer pilot, probably from Massachusetts, with a broad Boston accent, and a Polish-American, about 5 feet, 10 inches tall, with black hair.
"I really believe I'm close to learning his name," Norris says. "I can feel it." The next phone call or letter may unlock the mystery of the name that has eluded him for so long.
POSTSCRIPT: Curtis Norris died in 2002, and as far as it is known, without ever learning the pilot's name.
Michael Lemish is a staff writer for Atlantic Flyer, a monthly aviation newspaper.
MY TAKE ON THE GHOST PLANE, THE ONE I KNOW ABOUT:
Many years ago, or about 10 years after the fact for me, thinking I might write a book someday, I sat down on-and-off over a roughly two year period with a couple of other than Army buddies, yet at one time covertly affiliated with me in some fashion or the other, and wrote down everything either I or we could think of or remember regarding my military service connected adventures. I never wrote a book, but I still have a whole bunch of the notes and the part about getting to Laos and beyond contains a certain amount of information that has allowed me, memory-wise, to come up with the following:
In a footnote to The Code Maker, The Zen Maker sub-titled How I Got There (Part II), I write that after ending up in the far northern reaches of South Vietnam at a location not far from the DMZ I was met by a company spook and a non-com with the Army Security Agency, both implying they were out of an I Corps communication intelligence facility in Phu Bai.
What always seemed to be the case for me in those days, being immersed in a quasi typical need-to-know or eyes-only status situation, since it was just the spook, non-com and me, and we were out in the middle of nowhere I asked what was going on. The spook pulled me aside putting his arm around my shoulder saying it could be a day or two before we pulled out, depending on the weather at this end and the other end. I asked if we going into North Vietnam. He answered, close. The same way he couldn't clarify in those days, I still can't clarify in these days. What I am getting at is, even though I am revealing the military had a very special need for my talents duplicating and sending Morse code totally indistinguishable for virtually anyone to differentiate between messages sent by me and that of any person I was imitating, I am still not at liberty to tell for what use that talent was so needed or any implementation thereof. Without breaking any tenets on my part, the paragraphs that follow were written by the highly distinguished and well received author and researcher Alfred McCoy, and found in his book The Politics of Heroin in Southeast Asia (1972) and are being presented for you to infer what you wish:
"From Nam Yu the teams were flown fifty-five miles due north and dropped off on the Laotian bank of the Mekong River. After inflating their rubber rafts, the teams paddled across the Mekong and hiked three miles through the Burmese jungle until they reached the joint Nationalist Chinese CIA base near Mong Hkan. It was originally established by a KMT intelligence force, the First Independent Unit, to serve as a base for its own cross-border forays into Yunnan, and as a radio post for transmitting information on the availability of opium to KMT military caravans based at Mae Salong in northern Thailand. When the CIA began sending its reconnaissance patrols into Yunnan, the First Independent Unit agreed to share the base.
"From Mong Hkan, the CIA teams hiked north for several days to one of two forward bases only a few miles from the border --- a joint CIA-KMT radio post at Mong He and a CIA station at Mong Mom.
"Using light-weight, four-pound radios with a broadcast radius of four hundred miles, the teams transmitted their top priority data directly to a powerful receiver at Nam Yu or to specially equipped Air America planes that flew back and forth along the Laotian Chinese border. Once these messages were translated at Nam Yu, they were forwarded to Vientiane for analysis and possible transmission to CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia. The radio messages also served to pinpoint every team's position, all carefully recorded on a huge relief map of Yunnan Province mounted in a restricted operations room at Nam YU."
ALFRED McCOY: The Politics of Heroin in Southeast Asia
NAM YU: CIA LIMA SITE 118-A
Now we come to the part about the Ghost P-40 or the Phantom P-40 and how such a plane came to involve me --- sort of. The following paragraphs are from my so previously cited as existing notes from many years ago, and by inference, ties back to the CIA KMT radio posts described by McCoy:
"(We) hiked down to a rudimentary mountain road, following it to a river that doubled back on itself flowing south to the Mekong. From the river we headed northeast, all the while climbing in altitude along the side of the mountains. Eventually we crested the ridge following the top along the undefined border between Burma and China. In the mountains near the village of Wan Hsa was a second, but much smaller, CIA-KMT radio site called Mong He. We rested there two or three days, then crossed into Yunnan Province, China. We skirted a dirt road to a small river following it downstream several miles until it met the second of two streams joining it from the north. Going upstream we came across an all weather road that had a telegraph line stretched along it. At that point we were 15 to 20 miles into the People's Republic of China. From where we were we could watch five-truck Chinese Red Army convoys pass by a couple of times a day, otherwise the road was deserted. After we got a good handle on when a convoy might pass before the next one in either direction, we went down to the telegraph line and tapped into it, stretching a double loop back to our camp."
BIG TROUBLE IN BIGGER CHINA
Then we got in trouble. Francis Gary Powers U-2 trouble. Our timing regarding the convoy that day did not turn out to be as reliable as it could have been. A couple of us, me included, were caught in the open, with me actually being atop a pole when a convoy showed up in the distance headed down the road our way. I scrambled down the pole, and duplicating my buddy, crawled through the same creek culvert our wires ran through to our camp. All well and good except for one thing. We left one of our primary tool bags sitting in plain view along side the road. I figured I could scoot back through the culvert and grab the bag hoping not to be seen before the convoy was on top of us. That's when one of the most unusual things to ever happen, happened.
I crawled into the culvert hoping to reach the other side when low and overhead behind me, just above the road I heard the overwhelming roar of an aircraft engine. As I pulled myself up out of the culvert on the other side, the side the bag was on, I could see a wheels up World War II fighter plane, looking all the same as a P-40 skimming along just above the road at full speed heading face on toward the convoy. The next thing I knew the plane began unleashing a whole stream of machine gun fire from her wings, scattering the convoy all over off the road and tearing the shit out of the asphalt for well over a mile. The plane began swinging around in a big loop for a second pass when the convoy reformed, only headed in the other direction, speeding away as fast as it could. The fighter peeled off and disappeared beyond the distant treetops and hills. I grabbed the bag and in the open ran across the road toward our camp.
Reconnaissance photos clearly showed the six-stream bullet trails along the road for a good half mile before it came upon the convoy. Everybody agreed the tracks most closely resembled those of three machine gun per wing configuration of a World War II P-40 and that the pilot strafed the road early for dramatic effect more so than to hit the convoy directly. What couldn't be agreed upon was the specifics of the plane itself. I had only seen it from the rear after it passed over me, then only through in the wavering atmospheric air caused by the heat of it's engine and the smoke of it's exhaust. The Lahu and Wa bearers traveling with us that day, who were close to the side of the road and who did or should of have had good profile views of the craft, were all in agreement it wasn't, especially after seeing photos or drawings, a "Flying Tiger." All saying almost to the man over and over, it was a ghost, a ghost, a ghost.
When the above incident happened I hadn't been in Southeast Asia very long, it was only afterwards, and mostly with my questioning that I began to hear stories of a Ghost Ship --- and then never up and down the South Vietnam, North Vietnam corridor. Sightings were always well to the west, Burma, Western China, Thailand, Laos, sort of old Flying Tiger stomping grounds. However, no matter who reported it or who told me what, the plane, although maybe built like a Flying Tiger, i.e., a P-40, the plane never had the markings of a Flying Tiger. From it all, as far as I know I am the only guy still hanging around who has been strafed by a P-40 under military conditions on some road in China.(see)
On and off from late August 2005 to late September 2008, after having volunteered with the American Red Cross and being deployed back and forth for weeks-and-weeks-and-weeks between four hurricanes starting with Katrina then Rita, followed by Gustav, then Ike, because of a certain innate thirst for a distinct separation, immersed in total quietude mixed together with a longing for the ragged Terry and the Pirates milieu of the Asian atmosphere --- without concern by or for others within my support system --- I returned to the Mahasi Meditation Center located in what was once called Rangoon, Burma, now called Yangon, Myanmar to re-participate in and complete all 12 weeks, which I did.
The Center provides the setting for a free room and board six to twelve week around-the-clock meditation program for visiting and foreign monks and practitioners. However, the first time I attempted to participate, because of a series of mitigating circumstances beyond my control and unrelated in any way to the meditation center itself, I was only a short ways into the sessions when situations turned such I unable to reach completion of hardly any let alone the full 12 week regimen.
A few days before I was to complete this 12 week session, and for all practical purposes, on a countdown in hours to depart, in a highly unusual set of circumstances one of the monks, came to me and said an American woman had arrived at the office requesting to see me. In that only a very small cadre of people actually knew where I was and what I was doing, thinking someone seeking me must have some importance behind it, I agreed to go back with the monk. When I got to the office the woman was gone.
The woman turned out to be Phyllis Davis, who I had helped in the past in the states some years before. She was is Southeast Asia hoping for my assist once again, telling me this time, now, she was totally serious in wanting to head into the jungles of Asia alone, becoming a frequenter of lonely places in an ever expanding attempt to enhance a deepening Awareness.
A couple of days later, after leaving Rangoon, the two of us were in Chiang Mai together. However, for me, with a trail of past history in Southeast Asia within certain segments of their societal infrastructure, no matter how innocent I was in being there, if it were learned I was in Chiang Mai and hadn't paid my respects and explain why I was there, even though it had been some years since I had been in Chiang Mai, there might have been repercussions that I rather not have wanted to deal with. Soon we were going into a classy Thai restaurant in a classy part of town escorted the whole way through the streets by the two punks on motorcycles. Inside I told the person of concern that the lady I was traveling with was in the early stages of following a spiritual path and had expressed a desire for my assistance hoping to become masterful in Sila, Samadhi, Jhana, and Prajna. To do so she needed to be a frequenter of lonely places.
The next morning, thanks to the man in the Thai restaurant, we were headed northeast out of Chiang Mai in a brand new van on the main roads toward the mountains and jungles beyond.
After quite some distance a monk who had joined us at the hostel that morning told the driver to stop. Phyllis and I got out taking our stuff with us and followed the monk into the jungle. Some hours later we came upon an opening with a small roofed wooden structure built at least three feet off the ground on stilts with a set of steps in the center-front leading to a wood floor interior. All four sides of the structure were open but had roll up rattan-like shades or blinds that could be pulled up or down forming walls, of which the one in the back was down. The way the structure faced the sun came up in the morning on the far left going across the sky in an arc setting on the far right, shining all day on the structure albeit leaving almost all of the floor area shaded. The only thing inside were two meditation mats neatly laid out on the floor. Hanging on a tree close by was one of those portable bag-like showers that heated the water by the sun, and out front, about 30 feet across the clearing was a fire pit like cooking area. An older Asian woman was in the process of making something over the fire as we came into the clearing and within seconds she put hot tea and cooked rice on the structure floor just at the top of the stairs for us. She and the monk spoke in muted tones for a few minutes pointing and making gestures, then, without explanation, both left, leaving Phyllis and I alone.
After about three or four weeks when I could sense she felt comfortable with her surroundings, the villagers, the jungle, her safety, and especially so with her meditation sessions, I told her I would be leaving. The next day I headed alone into the jungle on the same trail the two of us came in on and I never saw her again.
As easy as it may have seemed for Phyllis and me in Chiang Mai, and the graciousness of the help we received with transportation and all for her to reach a meditation spot where she could safely become masterful in Sila, Samadhi, Jhana, Prajna, and a frequenter of lonely places, and of which she was apparently working on full-fledged the last I saw her, it wasn't done without a cost. Nothing is free. Although Phyllis never knew about it nor did I ever have a chance to tell her, for the services rendered there was a price that was to be extracted.
A few days later, after leaving Phyllis to her own vices, I crossed over the bridge by foot into Tachileik from the Thai city of Mae Sai. In those days the Burmese side took your passport and gave you a temporary travel permit limited to only the Tachileik area and a day or two stay. People running out of visa time in Thailand often made "visa runs," crossing over to Tachileik from Mae Sai, get their passport stamped, then when returning to Thailand, even after a few minutes, could get a new 14 day extension. Me, I had bigger fish to fry.
In writing about Phyllis Davis and the two of us being in Thailand together, I make reference to a city by the name of Mong La. Mong La came up because in fulfilling the request of the man in the Thai restaurant he had asked me to meet a man in the border town of Tachileik, Myanmar, a man that was unable or unwilling to cross into Thailand.
Simple enough except the man wasn't there and I was told I would have to go to Mong La to reach him. In my visit to Mong La, which was deeper into Myanmar along the Chinese border than I wanted to go, especially since my passport was being held in abeyance by authorities back in Tachileik, I compared it to the wretchedness of the Star Wars city of Mos Eisley. I do so by including a section on the Phyllis Davis page titled MONG LA: Mos Eisley Spaceport or Mayberry, R.F.D.?. That same section also shows up on my Khun Sa page. In the section I write:
"Obi-Wan Kenobi warned Luke Skywalker that he'd never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy in the whole galaxy than Mos Eisley spaceport."
Then I write that I guess neither of them ever heard of Mong La. Later, after leaving Mong La I go on to say:
"Not long after that we were in Panghsang with me introducing myself to Wei Hsueh-kang. He asked if I had the 'item.' I opened my phone and handed him the SIM card. He praised me for a job well done, saying everything he heard about me was true. Then he asked how it was I knew Khun Sa. I quickly explained to him the whole story saying I felt he was instrumental in saving my life."
Wei Hsueh-kang, who I was sent to see by the Thai restaurant man, is probably the most notorious Southeast Asian warlord and drug kingpin around, with a $2M dollar FBI bounty on his head. Yet I sat there on a veranda with him along the Chinese-Burma border sipping drinks together. Next thing I know I am at the 140-million-baht Casino Club operating under the flagship of the Myawaddy Riverside Resort Complex on the Thai-Burma border meeting with Khun Sa's son.
While in Mong La I crossed over into China at night without benefit of a passport, riding on the back of a motorbike crossing the river and riding on hidden trails for one reason and one reason only --- to meet a man who I heard, in China, owned his own private plane and did "missions" for he Burmese drug cartels. He was easy enough to find, it was just harder to find someone who could interpret for me. I told him I wanted to visit the Flying Tiger Museum in Kunming. Although there was no plane in evidence he basically told me he could fly me there and back for $200.00 U.S. dollars cash and the cost of fuel, a roughly 600 mile round trip. Then, with a slight sneer and moving closer to me across the table in a one bulb lit room powered from a barely functioning generator, he asked if I had that kind of money or any kind of money on me. I informed him I was where I was because of a job I was doing for a certain man, a certain man I was to meet the next morning in Panghsang. I told the so-called pilot if I wasn't there and his people backtracked to find me and found you responsible for interfering you might not live to see the following day. He threw his head back in a huge roar of laughter and in absolutely prefect English said, "You are a careful little asshole aren't you." He said come back and see him when I was done and he would take care of me.
The pilot had the motorcycle driver throw the bike in the back of a pretty nice looking nearly brand new Toyota pick-up then took us on a shortcut across the border. While travelling at a fairly high speed in the dark with no headlights on he told me after the Flying Tigers disbanded his grandfather still needed work and heard that a group of P-40s had arrived in Karachi, India, so he and a few former ground crew Tiger stragglers headed over there, eventually working on P-40s of the Burma Banshees. They moved from there to Tingkawk Sakan in Burma, then to Myitkyina, Burma. About that time the Banshees began phasing out P-40s for P-47s and P-38s. Since the P-40s were sitting around falling apart, more idle than not, and with more and more being rendered unflyable because of being cannibalized, with no pressing need for mechanics with P-40 expertise, toward the end of the war he just left, returning to China. He said while with the Banshees his grandfather never received the respect nor recognition he had when he was with the Flying Tigers. So too, without anybody knowing about it, he learned to fly under the auspices of testing planes he worked on telling them that was how they did it in the Tigers. Using that expertise, when he returned to China, with nobody watching, he simply took a P-40 with him. In turn his grandfather taught his father everything he knew about flying and P-40s and his father taught him, at least he said, about flying.
A few days later when I was at the Myawaddy Riverside Resort Complex on the Thai-Burma border talking with Khun Sa's son, I asked if he had ever heard of the pilot I went to see in China a few days before. He said no, clarifying that I must remember he and his dad were never in the same business. Then I asked if either he or his father had ever experienced in any fashion a so-called Ghost Ship. He said neither he nor his dad, as far as he knew about it, had experienced personally such an aircraft. He did say however, in the past his dad's convoys had been attacked and strafed on at least two separate occasions by an unknown suddenly out-of-nowhere plane, leaving several men and mules either dead or wounded in its aftermath. Convoy bearers reported the plane as being a "Ghost Ship." Survivors and convoy members, mostly uneducated onetime backcountry farmers and such, not knowing a whole lot about airplanes on any formal level, when interrogated, to the man reported that the attack plane had NO cowling over the engine, i.e., a type of metal hood that covers reciprocating engines. Royal Lao Air Force (RLAF) planes, at the time, be they AT-6s or T-28s, all had cowling over their engines, the Ghost Ship didn't. Since the plane spewing bullets coming straight at them at such a low level was the last thing some of them thought they were ever going to see, even if they didn't know what cowling was or what it did, the plane being clearly built in another fashion was something permanently etched into their minds after they found they were still alive.
When I was a teenager looking around for a Ford woody wagon to restore I was always hoping that someday I would come across a nearly pristine wagon long forgotten and stashed away in some barn. For the same reason, all the time I was with the man I thought he was going to blindfold me and take me across the woods to some abandoned building in the jungle. There he would throw open the doors and inside sitting there all by itself right in front of me would be a fully intact Curtiss-Wright P-40 Tomahawk in all of it's full flying glory. I still have an inside gut feeling such is the case to this day. If you take a look at where the grandfather worked on P-40s as well as the photo below, you will find after leaving the Flying Tigers he went to Karachi, India, then Tingkawk Sakan in Burma, then to Myitkyina, Burma, all locations of the Burma Banshees. The P-40 he absconded with most likely had Burma Banshee markings on it, making it for all practical purposes, to those who saw it and knew nothing about the Burma Banshees and/or their role in World War II, a Ghost Ship.
AND NOW THIS:
Unrelated on the surface to any of the events found in the above Ghost P-40 accounts, there is a page on the internet related to a Buddhist Bodhisattva named Kuan Yin, called by some as being a Female Buddha, and known amongst her followers as the "Compassionate Saviouress."
The reason the Kuan Yin page is of interest is because of an eyewitness to the bombing of Japanese occupied Taiwan by B-29 Superfortresses of the United States Army Air Corps during World War II. On the Kuan Yin page he said from ancient times there was a "girl Buddha" whose followers believed that reciting the mantra Om Mani Padme Hum, would, because of her compassion, deliver them from harm. He said even though he himself had not practiced or invoked the mantra, while seeking refuge in the midst of one of the B-29 bombing attacks he inadvertently ended up amongst a group of believers who were also running to find shelter from the explosions. Then, while within the group, most of whom were verbally repeating the mantra, overhead, pure white and almost cloud-like the "girl Buddha" appeared in the sky above them actually deflecting the trajectory of the bombs away from their exposed path until they reached safety and out of harms way. In Footnote  of the Kuan Yin page, in an interview, the eyewitness, speaking of the bombings and an Allied Prisoner of War camp adjacent to the area he worked during that same period, he is quoted as saying:
"The man told me that during the Japanese occupation of Taiwan he himself wasn't a slave per se' in the classical sense, but indentured, which was, for all practical purposes, the same. He worked in and around a Japanese military installation in Takao. He said there was a POW camp there and compared to the prisoners, who were actual slaves, he had it easy, although at the end of the day he was expected to participate and produce at the same level of work as the POWs. He was, however granted a slight bit more rations when it came to the amount, quality, and type of food he received, plus around sunset he was typically allowed to return to his family and their multi-family shared quarters, what there was of it.
"He told me when the American bombers began bombing they were relentless. He did say though he remembers well the first bombing attack, a fluke of sorts. Three months to the day after the POW camp opened a lone plane clearly marked with U.S. insignia, all by itself and not a bomber but more like a fighter equipped with bombs, slipped in along the southern edge of the island very low and slow, catching everybody off guard, in turn wreaking havoc all over the air station before heading off out over the open ocean towards China. In a matter of minutes several rows of Japanese fighters, some docking facilities, and a maybe even a ship or two were destroyed or damaged. Records show that the Takao prison camp opened September 7, 1942."
Japanese records confirm that there was an American P-40 over Formosa on Dec. 8, 1942, but where it came from, where it was headed, and indeed how it even got airborne remain a mystery.
KUAN YIN: COMPASSIONATE SAVIOURESS
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GHOST SHIP: THE WEIRD STORY OF A MYSTERY PLANE
READ THE FULL FOUR PAGE VERSION AS FOUND IN
THE READER'S DIGEST
ISSUE DATE: JANUARY 1945; VOL. 46, NO. 273
THE JEEP, NEVADA, AND THE RED-HAIRED GIANTS
TANGO SQUADRON AIR MUSEUM, CHIANG MAI
1942: THE GREAT LOS ANGELES AIR RAID
P-40: THE OBSOLETE WAR HERO
GHOST AND HAUNTED B-29
P-40 GOOSE SHOOT
PEARL HARBOR SURVIVOR
ON THE RAZOR'S
As to the subject of donations, for those who may be so interested as it applies to the gratefulness of my works, I invariably suggest any funds be directed toward THE WOUNDED WARRIOR PROJECT and/or THE AMERICAN RED CROSS.
BURMA BANSHEE DEATH'S HEAD GRAPHIC COURTESY OF
THE PHIL ADAIR COLLECTION
COL. PHILIP R. ADAIR
P-40 BANSHEE ARTIST RENDERING COURTESY OF
Historian Richard L. Dunn writes:
"The SS Sea Witch's cargo of 27 P-40s was supposed to have been dumped in the harbor in Java, but the Japanese may have been quick enough to have recovered them without too much corrosion. Also, three crated, brand-new P-40s were delivered to Cebu by SS Anhui about mid March 1942. I assume, but can't verify, if they were then transported to Mindanao. Anyway while I don't know their fate they were potentially available for capture."
Author and historian William Bartsch follows up Dunn with the following:
"Three P-40Es were brought by the blockade runner SS Anhui that left Brisbane on February 22, 1942, bound for Cebu. This event is included in my book 'Doomed at the Start,' (pp. 339-40). The Warhawks ended up being re-shipped to Mindanao, where they were assembled by mechanics under United States Army Air Corps1st Lt. Pete Warden. All three were flown to the field at Maramag, where two were captured by the Japanese (p. 422)."
Lt. Pete Warden's unit, the 20th Pursuit Squadron, was sent to Nichols Field, near Manila in the Philippines, where he served as a fighter pilot and also worked as a depot inspector. After the Japanese attacked Hawaii and Philippines, MacArthur ordered American and Philippine forces to positions on the Bataan Peninsula. Warden requested to stay behind to repair and assemble P-40's to keep them from falling into Japanese hands. Warden managed to save at least eight aircraft, flying the last one out of Manila, himself, literally in front of Japanese forces. He was sent from Bataan to Mindanao to find more airplanes. He found three planes in packing crates and while testing one that he had assembled, shot down a Japanese transport.
COL. HENERY EDWARD "PETE" WARDEN: FATHER OF THE B-52
P-40s: THE BATAAN CAMPAIGN
USAAF P-40s IN JAVA
BATTLE OF THE JAVA SEA: Friday 27 February 1942
On February 27, 1942, allied air and naval units launched a major last ditch effort to stop a convoy of 80 Japanese ships approaching Java from the Northeast. All available B-17's, A-24's, P-40's and LB-30's were put into the air but achieved only minor results. An Allied naval force of 5 cruisers and 11 destroyers, under Rear Admiral Karel W Doorman, Royal Netherlands Navy, met the enemy near Surabaya, Java and was decisively defeated, losing 5 ships. Most of the 5th Air Force ground echelon in Java was evacuated by sea. The SS Sea Witch delivered 27 crated P-40's to Tjilatjap, Java, but all 27 were destroyed (i.e., dumped overboard) to prevent them from falling into Japanese hands. Thirty-two P-40's aboard the Seaplane Tender USS Langley (AV-3), which sailed from Australia for India on February 23rd were lost when the USS Langley was sunk by Japanese aircraft 100 mi South of Tjilatjsp. The pilots were rescued by other vessels in the convoy, but the enemy sunk the ships with the exception of a destroyer, which was able to deliver two of the surviving pilots to Perth, Australia.
The following is from a newspaper article regarding Sergeant Milton L. McMullen (1921 - 2014), his time in the Philippines in the Army Air Force and after his capture as a Prisoner of War under the Japanese. It was published in the April 7, 2005 issue of the Laurel Leader Call newspaper, Jones County, Mississippi. The article starts out with an interview of one of his fellow Army buddies, Joseph C. Baxter:
LAUREL LEADER CALL
JONES COUNTY, MISSISSIPPI
APRIL 7, 2005
Joseph C. Baxter of Bay St. Louis, who escaped the Bataan Death March only to wage a guerrilla war with a band of Filipino resistance fighters before being captured, said there are only a few hundred survivors of the Philippine camps still alive. Baxter, 86, told The Associated Press that he has been trying for years to increase awareness about sacrifices made in the Philippines, the torture endured by the Allied forces, and the determination of American soldiers.
In 1940, he trained at the National Guard base south of Hattiesburg before being shipped out to the Philippines. Baxter said only about half of the Americans who served in the Philippines survived. Those who did make it were subjected to starvation, beatings and torture. "We were tied to the bumper of a truck in single file with ropes around our necks and we were paraded down the boulevard in Manila with a sign attached to the truck that said we were, bandits," he recalled. "They took us to the dungeons of, Fort Santiago where I was beaten and interrogated. My eye was put out by a cigarette butt."
Milton McMullen, who now lives in Madison, was assigned to the Army Air Corps 19th Bomb Group along with Baxter when he was captured in the Philippines. McMullen said only about 25 of the unit's 350 soldiers survived the war. Today only four are living. McMullen, 84, said he was injured by bombers, hidden in a village and nursed back to health for about three months before he was captured. He, too, avoided the infamous Death March but he did not escape the ferocity of the Japanese prison camps. "When you start seeing about 90 men a day dying, it gets pretty tough," he said. "I don't think most people, not even my own family, realize what really happened."
With only 25 out of 350 soldiers in McMullen's unit surviving the war, and with only four left at the time of the article (2005), it would not be out of the ordinary with such a high attrition rate both during and after the war, that McMullen was the only one who came forward telling Norris he had worked on what has now come to be known as The Ghost P-40. As with my questions regarding Scott my question regarding McMullen, considering all the atrocities and suffering he had to endure as a prisoner of war, is the same. Why would he come forward and say he worked on the P-40 if it wasn't so? It doesn't make sense.
MILTON L. McMULLEN: OBITUARY
THE GHOST PILOT
ANOTHER OF THE CORN SHERRILL VERSIONS:
By Bart Anderson
It was April 1942 when, after a week of bad weather, pilots of the American famed Flying Tigers of the China Air Force could get off the ground. The operation telephones at an airfield at Kienow began to ring off the hook. Chinese jungle aircraft spotters reported a single plane flying low toward the Kienow airfield. The Americans were puzzled. The Japanese never sent out a single plane for a raid, but the plane was flying from enemy territory.
Taking no chances, the American flight leader ordered six Warhawk P-40s into the air. The unknown plane was now only thirty miles east. About ten miles from the Kienow airfield, two Americans spotted the mystery plane zipping along only two hundred feet above the ground. When the Americans got close enough they were shocked, as one of the P-40 pilot radioed: "That's an American insignia, it's a P-40." The plane had been literally shot to pieces. They could make out the pilot behind the shattered glass of the windshield. His face was a mask of blood. But the P-40 was holding a steady course.
Only later would the American pilots at Kienow learn that the mysterious pilot was "Corn" Sherrill. After the fall of the Philippines, "Corn" Sherrill and eleven mechanics cannibalized a few aircraft to make one plane fly. "Corn" would fly one last mission and hit the enemy where it would do the most good. "Corn" would fly 250 miles, with the extra fuel tanks and hit the Japanese at Formosa. There was no real defense there, for it was too far into enemy ground. The lone American zoomed in and fired burst after burst against the juicy targets. Soon, enemy plane after plane were burning and exploding.
Within minutes, Japanese Zeros, buzzing around him like angry bees poured scores of rounds into "Corn's" already battered plane.
Then the P-40 zipped up into the clouds and set a course for Kienow. Badly wounded, "Corn" was flying by the seat of his pants. When the American Flying Tigers found him, "Corn" was dead. He had died somewhere between Formosa and Kienow. The plane was flying, perhaps, by bracing the stick between his knees, the P-40 continued on course, but flown by a dead man, a phantom pilot.
As the rest of the scrambled Flying Tigers were at the side of the dead pilot and crippled P-40, the plane plunged to the ground and exploded.
UNUSUAL STORIES OF WWII, By Bart Anderson
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THE GHOST SHIP: CHEWING IT TO PIECES
If the idea is to convince the reader as to its accuracy or to set into motion a viable foundation for the Ghost Ship story later, the opening paragraph of the Pearl Harbor Version I of the P-40 story does a mighty poor job of it, in turn totally impacting adversely or destroying almost any premise so presented that the Ghost P-40 stories are more true than false.
The paragraph is worded in such a manner that anybody with even a little background knowledge of Pearl Harbor would find it if not untenable, at the very least, confusing. Saying "radar in the United States picked up an unusual reading" and "what appeared to be an airplane was heading for American soil from the direction of Japan" sort of stretches the understanding of the situation. Hawaii was not part of the United States in 1941, a territory true, but not a state, making the statement "radar in the United States" questionable. The same for an airplane "heading for American soil." American soil is a little more acceptable, but still iffy. Both have a strong ring of referring to the Continental United States, the mainland, being of course, some 2000+ miles to the east of Hawaii. If it had been worded something like "radar of the United States Army picked up an unusual reading" it may have been better --- at least it would add a little more credibility to the story.
I say so because in December 1939 the United States Army, under the direction of the Secretary of War, established an Aircraft Warning Service (AWS), using radar for the defense of American territory including the Hawaiian Islands. In Hawaii operational mobile radar equipment (i.e., truck mounted) was set up at Kawaiola, Waianae, Kaawa, Koko Head, Schofield Barracks, and Fort Shafter on Oahu.
"It was a SCR-270 that was being operated by a training crew that first detected the approach of Japanese aircraft more than a half hour before the attack on Pearl Harbor. The planes were detected approaching Oahu at 7:02 AM Hawaiian Time at a distance of 130 miles. The attack on Pearl Harbor is usually given as 7:48 AM, 46 minutes later. The radar site was located high up on the northern tip of the island, and, even though it was a training site and not online at full operational status, it WAS in operation in 1941 and it DID detect incoming aircraft 130 miles out."
THE BATTLE OF LOS ANGELES: The Radar Dilemma
Again, like what has been said, anybody with even a little background knowledge of Pearl Harbor would find what is presented, confusing. It is stated the aircraft was headed toward "American soil" from the direction of Japan. Further down it is stated found documents infer the plane originated from the island of Mindanao. Japan is basically straight due west of Hawaii. Mindanao is roughly 2000 miles south (and slightly west) of Japan, but mainly south. The distance between Mindanao and Hawaii is around 5400 miles. Not only is the location-geography all wrong, i.e., headed toward American soil from the direction of Japan but originated in Mindanao. In addition the distances are way out of line. They are just too great for a single seater fighter aircraft such as a P-40 to cover.
The take away is you can't read too much into the first three versions as being gospel. So too, because of what or how things are presented in the three versions should you discount totally the whole story of the Ghost Plane. Most of the issues brought forth above and the other versions are addressed in the full length articles offered on this page such as found in the Reader's Digest by Robert Scott and The Ghost Plane From Mindanao by Michael Lemish --- along with the rest of the material provided herein along with the attending footnotes and links. By continuing, the Ghost Plane will be seen to take on a much different and more positive light and instead of chewing it to pieces, we'll try and put it back together.
PEARL HARBOR P-40 GHOST SHIP
TAKING OUT THE FIRST MEATBALL
KENNETH M. TAYLOR, PEARL HARBOR, AND THE P-40
"Japanese records confirm that there was an American P-40 over Formosa on Dec. 8, 1942, but where it came from remains a mystery."
I have not seen any confirmation personally regarding the above statement that emanates from --- and only from --- official Japanese records.
In the months leading up to the December 7, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor Allied military presence in the Philippines was sure that a war with Japan was inevitable and could or would start at any minute.
Attempts at surveillance over Taiwan (Formosa), where it was thought Japan would launch any major air strikes to the south, especially with heavy bombers, was, for reasons unknown, thwarted at the highest levels of the U.S. Philippine regional command (read General MacArthur, et al). However, going down the military chain of command to where regular people with boots on the ground were typically found, were others who saw the situation in a somewhat different light:
"While formal permission to recon Formosa had been denied, at lower levels men took matters into their own hands. The islands had two operational radar stations. These had been picking up bogies in the early days of December 1941. P-40s were scrambled to intercept, but as the flights came in at night, or in cloudy weather, there were no interceptions. Permission had been sought, and granted, to attack any flights in Philippine airspace. What had not been granted was permission to fly recon flights over Formosa.
"Lt. Col. Eubank, the commander of the bombing group, had let it be known that he would not object too much if individual pilots chose to fly a bit too close to Formosa. Capt. Colin Kelly was the sort of officer to take that notice to heart. On Dec. 6th, he told his crew to load live ammo into the B17-C's machine guns. He also informed them they were going to do some photography. As their plane approached the base at Takao, a float plane was seen to take off, and head straight for the ship. A gunner on the B-17 opened fire, driving it off. The flight landed normally. What report Capt. Kelly made is not known."
AVALANCHE PRESS: Air Raid: Manila
When the war started, Japanese air, land, and sea power swept through the Philippines in a matter of days if not hours, fracturing the majority of U.S. forces forcing them, if they didn't become prisoners, to hole up into small pockets or strongholds of resistance in the southern islands or scoot away all the way to Australia. The money bettors bet that any attempt on recon as far north as Taiwan, official or unofficial, not only became impossible, but served no immediate logistical purpose in that the Japanese had already relocated most of their forces south to the Philippines.
On April 18, 1942, a little more than four months following the attack on Pearl Harbor, with the full power of the United States combined forces, the Army and Navy using aircraft carriers and B-25 bombers, launched the Doolittle raid against Japan, albeit leaving the island with only minor damage, still hitting the Japanese capital of Tokyo and other places in the country's heartland for the first time since the war started.
Eight months later, on December 8, 1942, without the full force of the U.S. military, but carrying forward the precedents of people like the aforementioned Lt. Col. Eubank and Capt. Colin Kelly, a ragtag group of G.I.s launched their own attack against Japanese territory. Re the following from the main text above:
"With the fall of Bataan, Corregidor and the rest of the Philippines, many Americans were forced to surrender to the Japanese. But a few refused, and carried on a guerrilla action. Their airfields were so well camouflaged that even the Japanese could not locate them all.
"During his research, Norris learned that a small group of Americans on Mindanao habitually gathered crashed and wrecked aircraft, hoping to keep one aircraft always serviceable. He is convinced one of those aircraft was the mystery plane."
And now again as a reminder, the following from the Kuan Yin page:
"Three months to the day after the POW camp opened a lone plane clearly marked with U.S. insignia, all by itself and not a bomber but more like a fighter equipped with bombs, slipped in along the southern edge of the island very low and slow, catching everybody off guard, in turn wreaking havoc all over the air station before heading off out over the open ocean towards China."
Below, in another or second sort of confirmation of the Ghost Ship, like the Kuan Yin one, was originally generated from a totally different or unrelated other story that just so happened, once connected, to coincide with the Ghost P-40 saga. That connection was discovered and put together by the author of the Pearl Harbor P-40 Ghost Ship segment linked at the end of Footnote  above. Re the following:
During World War II Bill Stout served honorably in the U.S. Navy. In the Navy he was just a plain old sailor, as a civilian he was a carpenter. Following Pearl Harbor he joined the Navy and not long after that, the Navy in all it's wisdom, because he was a carpenter, sent him to the South Pacific ending up being assigned to PT boats because they were, after all, made of plywood. One day he found himself pretty much unprotected laying in wait out in the middle of the open ocean for several days with a couple of other PT boats somewhere in the South China Sea about 200 miles west of Luzon. Just at the crack of dawn on the start of their third day of waiting, a U.S. submarine breached the surface not far from their group. As the PT boats off-loaded a bunch of supplies, including medical supplies intended for guerrillas and hold outs still fighting the Japanese in some of the southern islands, the sub transferred aviation fuel to the PT boats.
When Stout first arrived in the South Pacific he and a bunch of other gobs got into a huge discussion regarding the International Date Line and how you can lose or gain a day by just crossing it. They went on and on about how there could be two December 7ths depending where you were relative to the date line. However, everybody was pretty much in agreement that the morning they were unloading supplies it was December 8, 1942, one year and a day after the attack on Pearl Harbor.
About eleven in the morning that day, while still in the process of unloading supplies and refueling, and even though they had a gaggle of spotters, most scanning the skies higher up, a lone plane very low to the surface of the water slipped into view heading in their direction. Caught out in the open and unprepared they began shifting their guns around toward the plane while the sub began preparing to submerge. Then, as the plane was almost on top of them, it was clearly seen to be an American P-40, the pilot tipped the wings up and down in a more or less friendly manner and when he did they spotted U.S. military insignias on the fuselage and wings --- although truth be told, they were of the type with the red circle in the star since discontinued after Pearl Harbor.
The P-40, loaded with bombs under her wings continued northward out of range and out of sight. Everybody just looked at each other glad it wasn't Japanese and wondering what a lone P-40 would be doing all by itself, not only out in the middle of nowhere, but where was it going with all those bombs.
"I told the badly wounded medic that I had been a member embedded within a special communication team on a covert mission that crossed over several miles deep into sovereign Chinese territory. Because it involved already in place strung wires and telephone poles, a couple of us, of which I was one, were just about on the edge of being caught out in the open during the daylight hours by a Chinese Red Army truck convoy when, out of nowhere, coming in behind us at about tree top level was a World War II vintage prop machine, it's engine screaming like crazy all the while strafing the shit out of the road in front of the convoy, scattering it all directions and making it turn around and retreat towards where it came from. The medic said it was a Ghost Ship, a Phantom P-40 that shows up out of nowhere, usually on 'our' side, and disappears just as quickly. Although he had never seen it as it usually never operated as far east as Vietnam, he and others had long heard of it. He also said I was the first, first-person witness he had talked to that had actually seen it."
HOW I GOT THERE (Part II)