A Jungle Rescue

Conflict: World War II

The injured Captain Green is taken from the rescue helicopter to a stretcher

The injured Captain Green is taken from the rescue helicopter to a stretcher

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:

Pfc. J. Jefferson and Pfc. E. Williams operating gasoline powered buzz saw (dropped via parachute) in making the helicopter rescue strip

Pfc. J. Jefferson and Pfc. E. Williams operating a gasoline-powered buzz saw (dropped via parachute) to make the helicopter rescue strip

Progress shot of helicopter rescue strip

Progress shot of helicopter rescue strip

The cleared strip is smoothed over by a log

The cleared strip is smoothed over by a log

This aerial shot shows the dense jungle terrain in which the helicopter strip had to be built, not far from the crashed PT-19

This aerial shot shows the dense jungle terrain in which the helicopter strip had to be built, not far from the crashed PT-19

A wire basket litter is dropped via parachute. It will be used to carry Capt. Green from one ridge at the scene of the crash to the helicopter strip, another ridge several hundred yards away

A wire basket litter is dropped via parachute. It was used to carry Capt. Green from one ridge at the scene of the crash to the helicopter strip, another ridge several hundred yards away

Captain Green is carried to the clearing to await the arrival of the rescue helicopter

Captain Green is carried to the clearing to await the arrival of the rescue helicopter

The helicopter pilot (center) talks to rescue party members

The helicopter pilot (center) talks to rescue party members

The helicopter leaves the helicopter strip with the patient, bound for the hospital at Shingbwiyang, Burma

The helicopter leaves the helicopter strip with the patient, bound for the hospital at Shingbwiyang, Burma

Find more images of this and other rescues in Fold3’s WWII US Air Force Photos.