When last we talked about Eric Sevareid, he had jumped from a C-46 moments before it crashed into the Burmese jungles. Twenty-two days later, on August 24, 1943, he was reunited with civilization. And in between, there was quite a story for the young correspondant to tell.
With a plane still burning nearby, Sevareid and his fellow passengers had just gathered their wits when they found themselves in the company of natives. There was some immediate consternation as several tribes in the area (most notably the Ponyo) were known head-hunters. But their fears were short-lived…these short, dark-skinned men were Nagas, and they had helped Stilwell’s people in the past.
The Nagas took the men to their village, where they were fed and tended. That evening, more survivors from the crash were brought into camp (remember, only the flight officer had been killed). As they tended to their wounds, the drone of another plane overhead was heard. From it parachuted Lt. Col. Don Flickinger, a surgeon, and two more medics. The broken bones and other injuries could now be treated with proper care.
For nearly two weeks, the group stayed at the Naga camp, waiting for the rescue party and regularly supplied by air drops. On the 14th, the rescue party arrived and, after a couple of rest days, they departed the Naga camp on the 18th.
The next six days were not much different that General Joe Stilwell’s evacuation from Burma more than a year before: Up hills, down hills, torrential rains, incredible heat and humidity, leeches, and ubiquitous mosquitoes. But with the advantage of continual supply by air, the trip was far more bearable.
Eric Sevareid and the others reached the bungalow of Philip Adams (who was not only the sahib of Mokokchung, but was also the leader of the rescue party) on the 24th, and that evening was spent eating a hot meal, imbibing adult libations, and listening to the incomparable crooning of Frank Sinatra.
Other than being with his wife and two children, life probably couldn’t have gotten much better for Sevareid than it was right then.
Recommended Reading: The Burma Road