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Bridge Over the River Kwai

From CHINA BURMA INDIA to the KWAI
by Lt. Col. William A. (Bill) Henderson, USAF Ret.

An account of the forming and training of a WWII B-24 Liberator Crew and their combat missions in the "unknown and forgotten" theater of war, the China Burma India (CBI) theater. Shuffled between China and India by politics, they hauled gasoline in four bomb-bay tanks over the Himalayan "hump" and because they had defensive guns, into Japanese surrounded airfields east of Luliang, China. These missions proved to be as harrowing as their bombing missions. Resuming their bombing missions in early 1945, they destroyed the wooden bridge that the Thais label "Bridge Over the River Kwai," of movie fame. Shot to pieces on this mission, they crashed on a Burma beach, then resumed their tour. With the co-pilot seriously wounded and the nose wheel crippled, they set down on a steel-mat, fighter-aircraft strip after "dive bombing" with a B-24. They survived several other close encounters but through fate and quick action on their own, survived to war's end.

USAF Lt. Col. Henderson
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Born near Belton, Texas, he enlisted in the Army Air Corps in 1942, shortly after his 18th birthday. He earned his gunner's wings in B-17s at Kingman, Arizona in 1943, and his bombardier’s wings at Deming, New Mexico, Class 44-7, in early 1944. A 2nd lieutenant at age 19, he trained in B-24s at Tonopah, Nevada, and went to the China Burma India theater in September 1944. Prior to reaching his 21st birthday, his crew destroyed the "Bridge Over the River Kwai," was badly mauled at the target and crashed on a Burma beach. Continuing his combat tour, he remained until WWII's end, returned stateside in October 1945, and was separated in February 1946. Recalled during the Korean conflict, he earned a triple-rating as Radar Operator, Navigator, Bombardier in 1952. A Master Navigator, he has 3,000 hours in the B-36 and 2,800 hours in the B-52. He was Bomb./Nav. Chief of the 4228th Strategic Wing, Columbus AFB, Mississippi, and served three years on the 8th AF HQ staff at Westover AFB, Massachusetts. He served combat tours in Southeast Asia in 1967 and again in 1970-1971. He also commanded radar stations in St. George, Utah, and Hastings, Nebraska. He attended Oklahoma City and Texas Christian Universities and the University of Alabama and graduated from the Air Force Command and Staff College. Retiring from the Air Force at Barksdale AFB, Louisiana, 1972, he presently resides on his ranch near Gatesville, Texas.

Kwai wooden bridge construction probably early 1943.
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Kwai steel bridge construction probably, mid 1943.
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Work party on wooden bridge.  Barefoot and down to "Jap happies" (loin cloths), November 1944.  Note steel bridge, right, center.
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Kwai steel bridge, February 1945.
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The Kwai bridges after author's mid-hit, April 3, 1945; taken by a follow on aircraft.  Wooden bridge on bottom.  POW camp on right.
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Remains of wooden bridge, 1971.
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Steel bridge was repaired, 1971.
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CHAPTER VII
THAT WOODEN BRIDGE ON THE KWAI

CHAPTER VIII
DESPERATE SURVIVAL ON THE RIVER KWAI

From CHINA BURMA INDIA to the KWAI
by Lt. Col. W. Henderson

Copyright 1991
Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 91-70252
Texian Press
Waco, TX

Colonel Bogey March


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