Thursday, 21 July 2011

The Flight of the Hog Wild

A recent enquiry about the Indian Medical Service led me into a fascinating World War II journey which began with an American B-29 bomber.
On August 29th 1945 the Hog Wild was on a POW supply mission when it was shot down by Soviet fighters. Its 13-man crew was interned in Konan POW camp (now Hungnam, North Korea) for sixteen days while Soviet and American commanders negotiated for their release.
The camp already held 354 Allied POWs (mostly British) who were captured during the fall of Singapore in 1942. One of the prisoners was Canadian Major Harry V. Morris (pictured below), who had served in the Indian Medical Service.

Born and educated in Newfoundland, Morris graduated with a medical degree (with surgery specialty). He spent several months studying at London's Royal Military College before arriving in India in early 1939. He was stationed at the Indian General Hospital, Lahore and then moved to No. 12 Indian General Hospital in Malaya.

It is thought that he was captured by the Japanese in February 1941, held first in the notorious Changi Prison in Singapore and then in a North-East Korean POW camp. His wife and two children escaped Singapore. Major Morris was transferred to Konan, imprisoned by the Japanese for a further two years; he was one of five Allied officers at the camp. The men laboured long hours under extremely hazardous and strenuous conditions at a nearby carbide factory (pictured below), although the Japanese wouldn't permit an officer from doing any work of the sort. The crew of the Hog Wild were released in mid-September 1945; Major Morris and his fellow POWs were finally freed and repatriated a week later. The aircraft crew talked to the American Press, revealing the people, places and events surrounding the downing of the B-29.

You can read much more about the Hog Wild in a forthcoming book and the book's comprehensive website.

Thanks to Bill Streifer (New York) and Heather Home (Queen's University Archives) for the information. The photo of Major Morris was supplied by John Mill, son of Lieut. Ronald Mill, the sole Australian officer at the camp. Photo of the Hog Wild taken from The Flight of the Hog Wild website.