Flying The Hump:

The War Diary of Peter H. Dominick

In 2018 I published my father’s diary. In 2022, based on additional resources and comments from readers, I published a second edition. It is called “Flying The Hump: The War Diary of Peter H. Dominick.” He wrote it in 1944, while stationed in Tezpur, India, in the Assam Valley. It came in two books, each not much bigger than a modern day business card, and each written in pencil. It wasn’t until our family home in Denver was sold in 2014 that I and my family discovered them in a storage box. We were astounded. Even my mother knew nothing about these treasures.

I took on the task of transcribing the notebooks, and in the process learned more about him than I had known while he was alive. And I understood why he chose his career path following the war. He entered local politics and was elected to the Colorado Legislature in 1956. After two terms he ran for and was elected to the US House of Representatives. In 1962, after only one term in the House, he was elected to be the junior US Senator from Colorado, where he served two terms until his defeat in 1974. President Ford appointed him to serve as Ambassador to Switzerland, where he proudly served until illness forced his retirement.

I knew all that! I had lived it, from age 7 to age 26.

We are living in a very dangerous world. I believe it is critical to understand history in order to navigate the present and future. Tragically, there is a problem. There are thousands upon thousands of histories that are lost every day. American men and women have risked everything to do battle with those who would destroy or subjugate entire peoples in the name of expansion, or power and glory. These soldiers return home to family and friends with stories locked deep inside, never to be revealed. I know this first-hand. My father was a warrior in WWII, a pilot in the US Army Air Corps, stationed in India, flying critical supplies over the treacherous Himalayan mountains into China. He returned from that war. Many did not. Though not classified a “Combat Zone,” the “Hump” Airlift Operation, the first of its kind, was the most costly and riskiest operation of the war.

History Revealed

My father’s story would have gone unsung. His job there was to fly aviation fuel, ammunition and other materiel over the Himalayas from India to China. These are the highest and most treacherous mountains on Earth. Downdrafts have been recorded as high as 3,000 per minute. Winds have been recorded at over 250 mph. to aid them in their fight against the Japanese and to supply. This was called Flying The Hump. Or The Rock Pile. Or The Aluminum Trail, because so many aircraft crashed along the way. From January to December of 1944, he flew 67 missions.

This was the world’s first airlift, and was by far the most challenging. Over six hundred planes crashed, and over 1,300 pilots and crew members gave up their lives.  The airplanes they flew were “quirky,” as one author put it. The weather they flew into was likely the worst in the world. Winds were measured at over 250 miles per hour, and downdrafts were encountered of over 3,000 feet per minute. Add to that electrical storms which knocked out radio and navigation systems, ice that crippled the wings, and Japanese Zero’s, and you get an idea how dangerous this was.  After the war, when he settled in Colorado with his young family, he rarely talked about it.

My father died without telling that story – or so we thought.  After his death, when we were deciding what to do with all his belongings, we came across a small brown notebook. About 3×6 inches, with no markings on the cover, it opened vertically and we saw that it was a diary, written in pencil in my father’s “handwriting.” The first entry was marked, “June 17, cont.” No one in my family knew of its existence. I transcribed it as well as I could, and though we turned our house upside down, could not find the first half. It wasn’t until the sale of our family home in 2014 that we found it in the bottom of a storage box in the back of a storage closet. There was also a handwritten short story called “The Rock Pile!”

With the help of family and friends, I transcribed this first half and the short story, combined it all and published it in 2018.

“Flying The Hump: The War Diary of Peter H. Dominick