Updated: Nov 9, 2021
Veterans Day is a tribute to military veterans who have served in the U.S. Armed Forces. It honors all military veterans, including those still with us.
“Veteran” is a general term and it’s easy to forget what they collectively achieved unless an individual’s career is singled out.
Today I want to recognize Lt Colonel Caldwell Newton (C.N.) Powell, who passed away October 10th 2006. Colonel Powell was a national hero and dedicated his life to his country and the pursuit of democracy and freedom. His Air Force career was rich and spanned over 30 years and served during the Korean War, and had several tours of duty in Vietnam.
Caldwell Newton Powell joined the Army Air Corps during WWII when he was 20 years old and trained as a pilot. His first military war assignment was as a Hump Pilot and flew many missions over the “China, Burma, India Hump.” The name Hump was given by allied pilots to the eastern end of the Himalayan Mountains that has an average height of 20,000 feet.
The Hump Pilots flew military transport aircraft from India to China to resupply the Chinese war effort of Chiang Kai-shek and the units of the United States Army Air Forces (AAF) based in China.
Historian Francis Pike writes: "These flights over 'the Hump' were indispensable to China’s war effort against the Japanese and this a major factor in the Allies’ ultimate victory. But at a tremendous cost. No fewer than 700 Allied planes crashed or got shot down and 1,200 airmen died. Every 340 tons delivered cost the life of a pilot. Flying over these mountains was extremely dangerous for Hump Pilots- there was an approximately one in three chance of being killed, one of the worst wartime survival rates ever.”
The flights were dangerous due to a lack of reliable charts, an absence of radio navigation aids, and scarcity of information about the volatile weather. Colonel Powell and his fellow pilots were literally “flying blind” over the Himalayas using only their skill and experience.
Highly decorated with numerous medals and service awards, Colonel Powell’s medals included the Legion Of Merit and the Distinguished Flying Cross. The Distinguished Flying Cross medal is awarded to any officer who distinguishes himself or herself in combat in support of operations by "heroism or extraordinary achievement while participating in an aerial flight.”
Colonel Powell was chosen for the Astronaut Candidate Training Program at Langley AFB, and trained with several astronauts including Scott Carpenter in the early 1960’s.
Afterwards, Colonel Powell had many tours of duty in the Orient and was involved in "top secret undercover missions” as a “spy mechanic” before accepting his last assignment in the USAF, Commander in Chief of Air Services for Lockheed in Ontario California.
Please remember a Veteran as their full exploits are very rarely known.