On 19 March 1945, Captain James L. Green was flying a search and rescue mission over the jungles of Burma, when he himself crashed. His crash site, which was only three minutes by air from a nearby air base, took rescue and medical workers a day and a half to reach on foot, due to the hilly, vegetation-covered terrain. As Green was too seriously injured to be carried out, he would have to be flown—the problem with that being the impossibility of finding and clearing a level strip of ground for a plane to land on.
Luckily for Green, the Sikorsky YR-4 helicopter—the first mass-produced military helicopter—was just coming into use. In fact, one had been shipped to the area only the year before and had already been used in at least two successful rescue missions. This helicopter was perfect for the jungles of Burma, since it only needed a relatively small landing pad rather than the much more sizeable landing strip of a plane.
With a helicopter available, Captain Green’s rescue team began clearing a landing pad. They chose a ridge a few hundred yards away from the crash site, and using supplies air dropped in by parachute, they blasted, chopped, cleared, and finally leveled a suitable spot for the helicopter to land. The process took two weeks, during which time Green was cared for in a makeshift field hospital by experienced doctors and surgeons.
Finally, the landing pad was ready, and the helicopter was flown in by Lieutenant Raymond Murdock. Green was transferred by stretcher into the helicopter and flown to Shingbwiyang Air Base, where he was treated at the hospital.
The following images document the difficult rescue:
Find more images of this and other rescues in Fold3’s WWII US Air Force Photos.