Sunday, 7 October 2012

"From Japan to Manchuria - By Air" by James Boyd

In the course of my research I came across the following description, by Australian journalist F. M. Cutlack, of a flight from Osaka to Dairen (now Dalian, China) in May 1934. The passage, which shows what it was like to make such a journey and to brave the airways in the early days of international flight, is reproduced exactly as it appears in the original (Cutlack, F. M., The Manchurian Arena: An Australian View of the Far Eastern Conflict, Angus & Robertson, Sydney, 1934, pp. 12-13). - James Boyd 

"We, two Australians, descended on Manchuria, at the stalk of the maple-leaf, from the air. We flew in one day from the farther extremity of the Inland Sea of Japan, at Osaka, along the shore of that sea to the Japanese coast at Fukuoka; across the Straits of Tsushima to the south-eastern corner of Korea; and then for 600 miles, first diagonally across the tumbled hills of that peninsula, then along the coast of the Yellow, Sea, and so to Dairen. It was a strenuous day's flight, 1,100 miles in all, the more strenuous by reasons of deficiencies at the hotel in Osaka. We had to start from there at 5.30 in the morning, with only a few bites of what in Japan pass for sandwiches, and (incredibly as it may seem) without being able to obtain a cup of even green tea. We drank a bottle of beer as we went down in the dim-lit lift, and shed no tears over leaving Osaka. No one we could hear of ever does.
  The well-laden, three-engined, eight-seater Fokker took off from the inadequate Osaka ground without any weather difficulties to add to the hazards of the cramped aerodrome. They are laying out a larger ground we are told. The great smoke stacks of a near-by factory seemed to belch out a breath of disappointment at our having missed them. Thereafter we winged our way in comfort at 1,500 to 2,00 feet till, well into the forenoon, we dropped down to Fukuoka for a cigarette, and to pick up a wireless operator for the sea passage. We left the land behind; the little wireless man set up his instrument in front of the forward port seat of the cabin, buzzed occasionally a progress report of our even journey at 700 feet over a lazy sea, and then fell to reading his Japanese novel from the back end, as of course in Japanese one must. We flew over the site of the greatest naval engagement of 29 years ago [The Battle of Tsushima, 1905], one of the decisive sea battles of history, and peered down with enormous interest at the rocky island of Okinoshima, near where Togo [Admiral Togo Heihachiro (1848-1934)] headed off for the last time the desperate Russian fleet - Togo, who at this moment, on the very anniversary of the famous day, lay in a coma on his deathbed in Tokyo. It was an interesting thought that the soul of that stout old sailor was, perhaps at the same-self moment, flitting somewhere in space above us, revisiting this very scene.

A Fokker F.VIIb/3m belonging to the NKYKK. The airline purchased nine of them in 1929/30.
  From the Korean shore at Urusan [present day Ulsan in S. Korea] we took off again in a small single-engined Fokker, laden so heavily that our scanty baggage had to be left behind. Thereafter we tumbled about in the air over 300 miles and more of detestable hills and rice-fields, no visible emergency landing-ground anywhere in sight, till we alight at Keijo, the old Ping-yang [today's South Korean capital, Seoul], where the battle in the Sino-Japanese war of 1894-5 determined the fate of Korea. We completed the last lap of 300 miles to Dairen at dusk, desiring of friends who met us above all a whiskey and soda."

A NKYKK Fokker Super Universal registered J-BCVO.
Below is an original 1932 pamphlet of NKYKK (Nippon Koku Yuso Kabushiki Kaisha)or Japan Air Transport; the airline the two Australians flew with. "Heijo" is today's N. Korean capital, Pyongyang and "Shingishu" is today's Sinuiju in N. Korea. All images, Arawasi collection.










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