When the 40th Bomb Group arrived at Chakulia Army Air Base, India, in 1944, the housing area was near a Bengal Lancer Fort more than two miles from the local airfield. When construction was started to build permanent bashas (barracks) nearer to the airfield, the original quarters were named The Old Area. Aircrews lived in the Old Area on June 5, 1944, when the 40th Bomb Group flew the first B-29 combat mission against the Japanese Empire. The strike force was scheduled to take off at dawn and bomb a railway yard at Bangkok, Thailand.

G.I. trucks were used to transport aircrews from the Old Area to the flight line in the predawn darkness. When the trucks arrived at a railway crossing, the hand-operated barrier was down, and a native guard was waving his lantern as a signal to the lead vehicle to stop. The terrain was flat for miles up and down the track, and there was no light of an approaching train in either direction. The driver of the lead vehicle, and an impatient flight crew member, stepped out of their truck and approached the crossing guard who waved his lantern and shouted, "TRAIN COME SAHIB." The truck driver told the Hindu that there was no train in sight so he should raise the barrier. The Hindu became very angry. This time he screamed, "TRAIN COME SAHIB."

The flight crew member realized that to keep on schedule, the convoy could not afford to be delayed. So he drew his .45 caliber pistol and pointed it directly at the face of the agitated guard. It was the American's turn to shout. "THERE IS NO TRAIN IN SIGHT. RAISE THAT DAMN BARRIER AND GET OUT OF THE WAY." The guard raised the barrier and stepped aside, all the time waving his arms in protest, and babbling that he would report this incident to his superiors. The convoy surged across the tracks and maintained its time schedule.

The strike aircraft of the 40th Bomb Group took off on time. While they were airborne, an indignant official of the Bengal-Magpur Railway Company came to the air base to report the Hindu guard's version of the morning's incident at the railway crossing. According to the official, the man who wielded the gun had done serious harm to the feelings of the native, so there should be redress and the American should be punished. As the official left the base, he threatened to inform the Governor of Bengal about the incident. The Bomb Group staff officer who listened to the complaint, promised to look into the matter.

The only corrective action taken was the posting of an American guard at the crossing. The impatient airman who wielded the gun was killed that day on the Bangkok mission.

* From Ira V. Matthews' Eighty-one War Stories. *