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Mathews resident recalls ‘Flying the Hump’

Ed Vail of Mathews, 95, is a veteran of a little-known operation during World War II that was an important part of winning the war in the Pacific Theatre.

Nicknamed “Flying the Hump,” Vail’s mission was to fly cargo planes full of war materiel over the Himalayan mountain range to support Allied Chinese forces. Though he ended the war as a “Hump Pilot,” Vail’s path to that point was as bumpy as the turbulent skies he flew.

Vail joined the U.S. Army Air Corps in January 1941 shortly after Pearl Harbor was attacked. He said he was drawn in by “the glamour” after seeing P-40 fighters training at an airfield near his Norfolk home. He recalled thinking at the time, “That would be the ticket, to fly one of those.” 

After navigating his cadet program to become a pilot, Vail was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant. He had trained as a P-51 Mustang pilot, which made his subsequent orders quite surprising. He was sent to a base in M...

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