Kansas MemoryKansas Memory

Kansas Historical SocietyKansas Historical Society

Interview on experiences in World War II

Item Description Bookbag Share




Ellis County Historical Society


Ellis County Historical Society

Veterans of WWII Oral History Project


Interview with Robert Layher*

March 8, 2006


Conducted by Judy Walker**

*Hereafter referred to as LAYHER

**Hereafter referred to as WALKER

WALKER: Today is March 8th, 2006. My name is Judy Walker at the Ellis County Historical Society and we're here with Robert Layher. And I'll let you give us your full name, Mr. Layher.

LAYHER: Robert Fonzo Layher.

WALKER: And your current address?

LAYHER: 206 East 20th street, Hays, Kansas.

WALKER: How old are you? Or when were you born?

LAYHER: 3-9, September third, 1916.

WALKER: Very good. Who were your parents?

LAYHER: Herman and Anna Layher.

WALKER: Where were you born?

LAYHER: I was born in Oregon, in Dallas. D-A-L-L-A-S, Dallas, Oregon.

WALKER: Where did you go to school?

LAYHER: I went to my grade school and high school in Eastern Colorado and went to the University of Colorado, for my college work.

WALKER: How much schooling do you have then?

LAYHER: Well I had five and a half years at the University of Colorado. I was in engineering school and then went in to pre-law and law school, when the war got me I was halfway through law school.

WALKER: Are you married?

LAYHER: Oh yes.

WALKER: And her name is?

LAYHER: Marian. M-A-R-I-A-N. Marian.

WALKER: And how did you meet your wife?

LAYHER: We went to the university. I met her at the university.

WALKER: And so when did you get married?

LAYHER: We got married in 1941. We're coming up our sixty-fifth anniversary this September. I was married on my birthday so I wouldn't forget my anniversary. But I can't count my birthdays anymore so all I count is the anniversaries.

WALKER: Very good. Do you have any children?

LAYHER: Yes. We have two living children and we lost one son.

WALKER: And you children's names are?

LAYHER: Robert junior and Linda.

WALKER: And their ages?

LAYHER: Bobby was fifty-nine last month and my daughter is, will be sixty in April.

WALKER: Okay, Mr. Layher. What branch of the service were you in?

LAYHER: I had my training in the Navy and I went to Pensacola in 1939, was commissioned in 1940 and was assigned to a patrol plane, the flying boat squadron in San Diego at North Island where I continued training and became a patrol plane commander in BP-12 and then in the Summer of 1941 they came looking for volunteers to go to China. So I volunteered to go to China and fly pursuit planes defending the supply routes to China. Now this was six months before Pearl Harbor, so we had to resign our commission because we couldn't go in uniform. We were not at war. So we, we, we called it the American Volunteer Group and it was financed by the land lease money to help in China. But we were attached to the Chinese Air Force because we were not at war but Washington through the Pentagon, they controlled the whole operation and the moneys. It was a covert operation, which goes on all the time. And so I spent a little over a year there and came back and went back into the Navy. And they had just started the Naval diplomatic run, flying from New York to Europe, to Africa, to South America and back, and these fly a four engine flying boat. And having been in flying boats it was a natural… But it was another one of these operations, that we were going into neutral countries, into Ireland and Portugal and Africa and South America which were not at war so we could not go in there in uniform so the Navy put us on inactive duty and put us in airline uniforms. So that was a different experience too. We'd been to Dublin or Lisbon and go out dinner and maybe two tables over would be the German Delegation orthe Japanese delegation and then you'd be back in New York a week later with all the hate propaganda. It made you realize that it isn't people that go to war, it's the governments. So I flew that for the Navy then for the remainder of the war. And then after the war the airplanes and personnel were purchased by American Airlines, American wanted the ability to go overseas so they became American Overseas Airline. So we flew into all the Western European countries and about a year and a half later American decided they didn't want to be in the overseas so they sold out to Pan Am, so my last few years of flying for the airlines, I flew for Pan Am.

WALKER: How long did you fly planes then?

LAYHER: I flew planes, well my flying career went from 1939 to 1947 and then I liked flying but we'd lived in New York on Long Island for six years and having grown up in Colorado and the Midwest we wanted to get back to our home ground so… My chief pilot when I went in, resigned. I was number twenty-six on the seniority list, the North Atlantic division of Pan Am. We had good jobs. We were drawing thirty-four thousand a year in 1945, `6, and `7, and the chief pilot looked at me and said, `` Bob do you know what you are doing?'' and I said ``Well probably not, but we want to get back to the Midwest.'' He said `` You have no idea how many thousands of ex-military pilots are just champing at the bit to get these jobs with the airlines.'' And I said `` Well it isn't that I'm leaving because I don't like flying,'' but we'd had our first child. Lindy was about ten months old and I knew that I had to make the move then or I'd be hooked on. But my son's carrying on. He's been an airline pilot for, well in fact he'll retire in another year.

WALKER: So he's carrying on. What was you rank when you left the military?

LAYHER: Well, on the ranks, different, I was a patrol plane commander, an ensign in the Navy when I went over, when I came back and over there our ranks were squadron leader, vice-squadron leader, flag leader, and wing man. I was a flag leader the time I was in China. When I came back, went back in the Navy as a Lieutenant J. G. and they put us on then inactive duty and we became what they call airline transport captains, and so I was a Captain with the Naval diplomatic, so I never knew quite…

WALKER: Quite where it was. Now you enlisted? Did you enlist or were you drafted?

LAYHER: No I enlisted in '39.

WALKER: Okay can you tell me why did you decide to enlist?

LAYHER: Well basically I always wanted to fly, and of course back prior to the war they weren't too many openings in flying. You could get into the Army Air Corp at that time with two years of University or College and at the end of two years I went and tried to enlist and I went through all their physical and everything and they told me I was completely qualified but there were four thousand others who were in the same position and they didn't have openings, so they said I might as well go back to college. So I went back to college and then in `39 the Navy came to the University recruiting and I thought, well, I'll try once more. So I signed up and the 10th Naval District encompassed seven states, seven western states. We all were told to report to Denver for our physicals and thirty-three of us showed up from the seven western states for the physical. After three days of physical exam only three of us passed. They were a little particular. Most of them went out on color-blindness or depth perception and so forth. So that's how I got in to the service.

WALKER: Do you recall your first days in the service? What were they like?

LAYHER: Well we were, well first we went to elimination training out in California and eleven of us showed up from the whole western part of the United States and after two weeks and they sorted us there, seven of us, we were assigned to go to Pensacola, but when you went to Pensacola in those days, this was 1939, you knew that forty-five percent was all that was going to graduate because there wasn't enough money to commission everybody. So you needed a little work along with other things. But fortunately I survived that and that was the beginning. I never regretted it because we got a wonderful training in the service and I look back, I don't think we realized that going to China was going to be a great adventure but it turned out to be a little more than…

WALKER: Tell me about how they informed you about the China.

LAYHER: Well, FDR and Churchill had a meeting in early 1941. The Battle of Britain was over and Germany had turned to fight Russia. And at this time the Japanese had been encroaching on China for about, since about 1934. In fact they controlled the entire Eastern seaboard of China there were no seaports open. And when Churchill and Churchill. The British had so many possessions in the Far East, of course they had Singapore, Burma, India, and Hong Kong, and the Japanese were rapidly taking over and they decided they better help the Chinese because they had no Air Force or no protection, so they decided, Britain decided they could give up some of their Middle East supplies and help China. But the question became, if you're going to help them you've got the get the supplies there and there was no way to ship them by sea into Eastern China. The supplies had to be shipped to either Burma or India and then taken either by truck over the Burma Road or flown over what they called the hump, and so they knew that in order to keep that supply road open they had to protect it because without any Air Force the Japanese could come over and bomb a few bridges and it was just a one way road across the Himalayas, and consequently they needed protection if they were going to get any supplies in there and that's, that was the thought behind the recruiting of American Volunteer Group. Because they tried to keep it secret and they kept it pretty well secret. They wanted a hundred pilots and then the ground crew, all the armorers and crew chiefs and so forth that were trained. In fact we had to have in order to volunteer you had to have over a thousand hours of military training in our services and the ground personnel had to have two years of training as armorers and crew chiefs. So when we went over we were pretty well trained in our different fields and the British allowed the Chinese to have an airbase in central Burma where when we shipped over we were there and that's where Chennault trained us in the tactics and he'd been over there for four years after he retired from the Army Air Corp. Madam Chang talked him into coming over and doing something with the Chinese Air Force but they couldn't get equipment or anything. And they, but Chennault had been there or four years and studied the Japanese and knew their tactics and knew their equipment. And our schooling, we had about almost three months of schooling there in Burma and the tactics that, the strategy that Chennault had developed was very successful and that was the reason for our big success and of course we were one bright spot when everything else was going to pot there.

WALKER: What kind of tactics did you use then?

LAYHER: Well for instance, the airplane we had was a wonderful airplane that only had one drawback. It did not have what they call a super charger, a high-blower, so we were limited to about twenty thousand feet. Now the Japanese we had allowed them to build a Wright motor with a supercharger so they could go up to twenty-eight or thirty thousand feet so they had an advantage and they were not as well, much lighter and could outmaneuver us so Chennault taught us to not try and dogfight with them at all and they, a lot of the books say that Chennault was the man who developed what they call now drive by shooting. Because he taught us to dive through their formations and do what damage we could and then we could always dive away and they couldn't catch us in a dive at all. And we had better fire power and we had self-sealing gasoline tanks and we had armor plate. Well the Japanese were lighter, they did not have self-sealing tanks and they didn't have armor plate and they were very vulnerable to, if we could hit them with a few incendiaries they became a roman candle in a hurry. So his tactics proved, we only lost four actual casualties in combat and destroyed over three hundred Japanese in the air and they say probably another of those damaged that didn't get home, several hundred more.

WALKER: And so you would, basically you were protecting that Burma Road?

LAYHER: Absolutely, that was the reason. But it didn't take long, they tried to obliterate our group there that was protecting Rangoon and the road but their losses were so heavy that they finally quit it. Then we started attacking them over in, what's now Vietnam, it was French Indochina at that time and Thailand so we did a lot of raiding them and destroyed a lot of their aircraft that way.

WALKER: And this was before we were officially at war with them?

LAYHER: well we went over in July of '41 but most of our combat came after Pearl Harbor, after we were at war.

WALKER: So you flew all over Southeast Asia then?

LAYHER: Oh yes, yes. We were pretty well and about well we been back three times but a year ago last fall we were invited there for the sixtieth anniversary of the end of the war and we got to go see the old bases we used to fly out of for the first time. And that was one of the most memorable trips I've ever had because we were, really got VIP treatment from A to Z. I'll tell you it was absolutuely fantastic.

WALKER: So now, did you fly out of Rangoon? Was that your base?

LAYHER: Our base was up in, up in Kunming, China. We had three squadrons, they divided the planes into three squadrons and there always was one squadron protecting Rangoon where the supplies were coming in. And then we alternated and then eventually the Japanese ground troops came into Burma and the British, of course, governed Burma at that time, they didn't have enough ground troops to stop the Japanese so when the armored divisions came in we finally had to withdraw from Burma back up into China and in fact when we left Rangoon then on our way out of there by air, they had all the roads and so forth cut off. Then after we got up there we wended up over in East China where the Japanese were. When they disbanded our group they formed the 14th Air Force right over there. It never existed before that, they formed it right there.

WALKER: So they disbanded your group and you became the 14th Air Force?

LAYHER: Well, what they, they tried to talk us into staying but they sent the wrong man. They sent General Bissell and he called us in there and he's chawing on. He was the wrong man to send there because, instead of, they offered us a very attractive deal. They offered us a Majority at our age, we were in our early twenties, with a Lieutenant Colonelcy within ninety days. That was unheard of before the war but all we asked was a couple weeks of R and R, to go over to India to buy some supplies and so forth and no way they wouldn't , they wouldn't allow it. In fact he said, ``If you don't sign up here, you will not be assisted in getting home, you're on your own.'' And he said, ``I'll promise you within seventy-two hours you're in the United States the draft board will have you back in service.'' Well you can imagine a group that had been there for over a year in combat. Everybody got up and walked out except five pilots and twelve ground crew, I think signed up. Had they sent the right person I think fifty percent of the group would have stayed.

WALKER: So what happened then? I assumed you walked out, is that correct?

LAYHER: Oh yes. I had gotten, when we signed up to go we signed up as unmarried person, and Marian and I had been engaged for, when I went to Pensacola, you couldn't get married for two years and my two years was up August of '41. We had the wedding all planned. Marian had her dress picked out and her bridesmaid things and so forth when I decided to go to China. I just about blew it but her mother talked us into getting secretly married, secretly married with the families before I went over, and I found out there were about four or five others who had done the same thing. In fact when Life Magazine came over and took a bunch of pictures of us in '41 and Marian was having quite a social life in Colorado Springs at her mother's when these came out and announced that we'd gotten married. I kinda threw a monkey wrench into her social life.

WALKER: And this is the March 30, 1942 Life Magazine. Oh my goodness, how beautiful.

LAYHER: There's quite a few pictures here.

WALKER: They did a whole spread on you pilots of Burma.

LAYHER: Our group. There I am in the jeep. This magazine is hard to come by because, not because of us but because of Shirley Temple on the front. In fact Bobby ran on to one in New York here some time ago and they wanted sixty dollars for it.

WALKER: So how did you get back to the States from Burma then?

LAYHER: I hitchhiked. Literally.

WALKER: Literally?

LAYHER: Literally. I knew some of the fellows who were flying supplies in from India and so I talked them into a ride over back to India and trying to rent first up to Pakistan to Karachi for two weeks, there were eleven of us and they wouldn't give us priority so we went down to Bombay and waited three weeks and finally a troop ship came in and unloaded troops and we bought our passage home for seven hundred dollars.

WALKER: You had to buy your way home?

LAYHER: Oh yes. They weren't kidding when they said they weren't going to help us get home. So I don't know.

WALKER: So you took a troop ship back to the States then?

LAYHER: Yeah Right. I got back but fortunately soon as I arrived in New York, some of the guys had arrived earlier. Because there were about a dozen of us stayed an extra two weeks after they disbanded our group because they didn't have enough personnel forming the 14th Air Force. We had another designation that not many had. Here we are civilians where we were at and we were flying Army Air Corp planes in combat as civilians for two weeks. I'll tell you, but they didn't give us, didn't get an honorable discharge until when was that, in… when's the date of this?

WALKER: July 1941. 18th of July.

LAYHER: No that's when we were over there. I didn't get this till '92. Fifty years later.

WALKER: Oh my.

LAYHER: It took them fifty years to admit that.

WALKER: That you were a part of the military?

LAYHER: That they had been financing this covert operation.

WALKER: Oh, they must of decided that it didn't need to stay covert any longer.

LAYHER: Well the word was out of course. There's Chennault he was quite a person.

WALKER: Okay, you got back to New York, then what happened?

LAYHER: They had just formed, the Navy had just started this Naval Diplomatic run and they were looking for pilots. So we had a job immediately.

WALKER: The draft board wasn't waiting for you?

LAYHER: No, I didn't have, the next day signed up with them.

WALKER: Well did you get a chance to see Marian in between then?

LAYHER: Well after I signed up in New York they gave us two weeks. That was a funny deal too. I called her and we were to meet in Chicago, She was in Colorado Springs where she grew up with her mother. And so we decided we'd meet at the Palmer house. Well she flew in and I took a train from New York to Chicago. Went to the Palmer house and I asked if she was registered there. And they looked and they said, ``No she isn't here.'' So I called her home in Colorado Springs and they said, ``Oh yes we sent her. She should have been in there hours before I got there.'' And I said, `` Well was she going to go to the Palmer house?'' ``Well,'' they said, ``they just didn't have her registered.'' And I asked for the manager and he came and I explained it to him and with all this going on and somebody said, ``Well we put somebody up on the second floor.'' And find out they didn't have any extra rooms but they had a display room that companies… so and here's Marian in a room that you could've had thirty, forty people, a meeting. The only bed in there was a Murphy bed that folded down from the deal, but you could've had twenty-five, thirty people in there for a dance. I look back a lot of the funny things happened.

WALKER: Now when you were in Burma, in between flying what did you do to entertain yourselves, keep occupied?

LAYHER: Well we sat on alert duty from before dawn until after dark except for one day a week they'd let us go and try to see if we could find some cigarettes or supplies, so we just sat out at the airfield ready for, but there was usually almost everyday we'd have several encounters that either we'd fly over and attack them or…

WALKER: So there wasn't a lot of down time at all?

LAYHER: No there really wasn't. It wasn't boring. But there's the way we'd rest and see down at Rangoon that was the Tropics.

WALKER: So that was…

LAYHER: And it was hot down there, hot and humid. In fact funny thing, the first or second day the Japanese attacked Rangoon. One of the, Paul Greene, his plane was shot up and he had to bail out. And he was dressed in cowboy boots, shorts, and had two forty-five pistols on. And the Japanese as he was coming down in his parachute tried to shoot him but he got to swinging and fortunately got down safely. But I can just imagine when those Japanese pilots got back over there and reported about what had happened and what they were shooting at, they thought this has got to be a renegade group. I'll tell you, it was funny.

WALKER: Yeah, that's not your usual military outfit.

LAYHER: But….

WALKER: So you said there were some casualties but not many?

LAYHER: No, we lost two down there and we lost quite a number in accidents and we probably we started out, they recruited a hundred and while we were training over there, there were some malcontents that Chennault allowed them to go home. So when we got into combat after Pearl Harbor there were seventy-six of us. And fifty-three or four of us survived and came home. So we had casualties, well a few from sickness, a lot of malaria, and the ground bombings a number were killed and that we probably lost the most in accidents, probably lost a dozen or so in accidents. But we're a vanishing breed, there are only nine of us left out of that hundred.

WALKER: Do you still get together?

LAYHER: Oh yes. We started in '52 and we would have a reunion every year and then about, no every two years and then about fifteen years ago we decided we'd have them every year. And now in the last few years we've been having then twice a year.

WALKER: Okay.

LAYHER: And we have one coming up in May. We're going to be in Washington D.C. over Memorial Day.

WALKER: Since you weren't official military while you were over in Burma, how did you keep in contact with family?

LAYHER: The only way that we could, we could send telegrams. Now most of the time they got through. So and every chance that we'd get we'd send a telegram to tell them that we were okay.

WALKER: Now when you were in the Navy Diplomat Air, how did you keep in contact?

LAYHER: Well, we'd be gone for two, two and a half weeks and then we'd be home for ten days. We lived in New York so no…

WALKER: And nobody was shooting at you then.

LAYHER: No we were unarmed and sometimes you wonder, I often think of the night of the Normandy invasion. I was flying up from just north of Casablanca up to Ireland at night and then my radio man told me he said, he said ``I don't know what's going on Captain but,'' he says ``this is the craziest'', they called it traffic, ``going on.'' but he said, ``This is the craziest night I've ever head on the radio.'' Well the invasion was going on so I can imagine it was. And they never told us about it and we had encoding machines I wouldn't expect them to tell us, but they should have put us further, we were only seventy-five mile off the French coast and an unarmed plane. I don't care either the American or the German had seen us I'm sure that they would if we couldn't identify ourselves they would have shot at us because here's a four engine plane, well what are you doing here. I let a couple people know that I thought, course when you think of all the people that had to be informed I can understand how we slipped through the deal but I thought they should have put us another hundred miles out at sea.

WALKER: At least give you a different flight plan…

LAYHER: Yeah. But those are some that we lucked out.

WALKER: Was there something special you did for good luck?

LAYHER: Truly when I saw that I tried to think and other than saying a good prayer occasionally, I don't think I really…

WALKER: And sometimes you felt the need of a good prayer.

LAYHER: Oh I'll tell you there were times that, there's a lot of luck involved that you have to, I know I gave a program here, oh, a year or so ago and just while I was over there I kept a daily, I just wrote where I was and enough to remember that day. And I was refreshing myself before I gave this program and I came across six instances that it just wasn't my day. I mean fate just didn't want me that day, but it had to be luck that I, I mean, for instance, I came, one of my first combats, I got mixed up with a whole bunch of fighters and they, one of their twenty-millimeter shells hit my propeller and put it out of balance and my motor was vibrating and I had to go back to the field because if I put on power I was afraid that I was going to ruin the motor mount. But anyway I get back to the field and I look across the field and at the same altitude I am, here's a Jap fighter. And I though uh-oh if he decides he wants, there's no way I can get away from, but I kept my eye on him and I looked down and our squadron leader had been shot up to where he had to make a landing with his hydraulics were shot out and he had to land with his wheels up, we called it a belly landing and this Jap fighter had his eye on him. In fact as he was down on the runway scooting along this Jap dived on him and tried to hit him. Well the Jap didn't realize that without wheels he was going to stop a lot quicker and he overshot him by about seventy-five or a hundred yards and went in. Well we found out that that Jap had been shot up, he had about five, a burst had caught him across the chest so he was a, he was a goner and we was just trying to Kamikaze.

WALKER: He was just going to take him out as he went.

LAYHER: But I thought, I mean had he not picked whatchamacallit, I was very vulnerable. I mean I could've….

WALKER: He missed you both.

LAYHER: Yeah, but anyway, I say as I was going through my, the pages I had written, I found six different times that just wasn't my day, fate didn't want me.

WALKER: Now were you ever injured?

LAYHER: No, I force landed one time clear down in Southeast China, north of Hanoi, we ran out of fuel. And the Chinese down in that area had seen very few white people and normally we had this <holds up framed Blood Chit> on our, that we call that a blood chit. We would have that on the back of our uniform, which basically tells them that we are friendly, and if they will assist us they'd be reimbursed and get paid and as fate would have it that day that, when we'd have to take those off because they couldn't go through the laundry, they would fade and then you'd have to tack them on and I put on a clean flight suit that morning and I didn't have any identification, so when they caught me down in Southeast China for a day I was their enemy as far as they were concerned.

WALKER: Oh really?

LAYHER: Oh yeah, because we had just got back from Burma and had the short haircut and suntanned. So I spent a very uncomfortable day until…

WALKER: How did that day go?

LAYHER: Well, first the militia, well the day when I finally ran out of fuel there were five of us, in fact Greg Boyington, Baa Baa Black Sheep Boyington, was, had taken over the lead and he's the one that got us lost, but anyway I was the first one to run out of fuel. And so our radio communications were practically nil because all we had were just commercial little sets in there and you were never all tuned in on the same frequency. So I had been three times around on my fuel tanks and I knew I had to get down, so I waved goodbye to my buddy and had him take a look where we were and they went on and I went down and I thought I had seen a green valley down there and I thought well

I'd better go down, maybe I can land there. Now I'm deciding to should I put my wheels down or up. And I thought well if I'd had my fuel I'd want to look at it and if it wasn't good I'd go up and bail out. But I thought well I better get ready so I put my gear down and as I got down to about three hundred feet looking I could see that this nice green valley had irrigation ditches perpendicular to where I was gonna land and these were about, had burms about four feet high and I though, boy, I don't want to go in there with my gear down I'll do a cartwheel and just about that time my motor quit completely, I had no hydraulic pressure. But I hit my up, gear up but it showed, it didn't show that it came up but all I could do was tighten my harness cause I figured I'm gonna have a real interesting landing, so I tightened my belt and came in and got as slow as I could but when I came in, I came to that first irrigation ditch and like you'd take off skiing, I just took off, what had happened, when the gear comes down on this plane, it comes down like this instead of that, and as it turned out my gear was just halfway down so I had two, I didn't know that.

WALKER: Skis.

LAYHER: So I was going over these irrigation ditches I'd go about seventy-five or a hundred yards and hit again, but I came out all I did was my propeller deal, I mean I came out very lucky on that. But that was just the beginning of, that was about ten-thirty in the morning. What we had done, the Generalissimo and the Madam had come down to Kunming and given us a banquet after we got back from Burma and the reason for the flight that we were on was they came in and as then Generalissimo and the Madam got aboard their plane, they wanted us to escort them until they were out of reach of Japanese fighters and then come home. Well Murphy's law was that day, everything, the flight leader Frank Lawler, we did a little air show and the Generalissimo and the Madam were getting on their plane, and his baggage door came open and he had to go land and Boyington was his wingman and that put the flight leader to Boyington. He hadn't paid attention that we were only to go a hundred miles east and then turn around. He kept following until we didn't have enough fuel to get home. So anyway after I landed in the, the local militia there in Southeast China, took a hold of me, took me back to their little compound about three or four miles from there, nobody could speak a word of English and here they had a flyer that and they had been harassed by the Japanese for four years all through that area. As far as they were concerned I was an enemy. After they conferred a while and then they sent me to the militia and they wouldn't let any of the, well there weren't many local population there, just a small community, but they wouldn't let any of them come and we got out to the edge of town, and I had seen this too many times, I mean these guys were escorting me, had their guns in my back I mean I was definitely their prisoner and I got out and I got to thinking, you know, I've seen this happen too many times when they want to get rid of somebody they just everybody. So I stopped and drew pictures of my plane I thought, surely I've got some identification back in my plane that I can prove who I am, drew my plane that I wanted to go so they turned around and we walked back out to my plane, cause I knew on my parachute there was some Japanese writing, I mean Chinese writing I didn't have any idea what it was and, so we got my parachute and we came back there, and where they brought me originally with these people and they yakked and so forth and they finally gave me a little bowl of rice, but I was anything but hungry. And about this time it's getting dusk and an outsider came running in. He'd been running you could tell, I mean he was a militiaman and you could tell that they had some new information. He came up and I couldn't understand a word, but after a bunch of jabbering they indicated that they wanted me to go with them.. I didn't mind now, I knew that something. So we walked about another three miles down the valley to a larger compound and by this time its dark and here there were a lot of people, a pretty good crowd and they took me in a building that was completely crowded with people and worked me through the crowd up to the center of the building and all they had for light in there were some flares that they had on the wall and right out in the middle of this whole crowd was a militiaman sitting there at a little table, about half the size of this, and he had a telephone, a field telephone, one of these old World War One deals that you crank and he was jabbering and I though, what in the heck is going on and pretty soon they handed the phone to me and here was my buddy Hank and my first words to him I said, ``Do they know who the heck you are?'' ``Oh'' he says, `` Yes, we all had a belly land in a cemetery out here,'' he says, ``but nobody got hurt and they're wine'n' dining us.'' ``Well,'' I said, ``Please put somebody on to tell them who I am.'' So after jabbering a while I could see through the crowd, the whole atmosphere changed, they could understand what was going on. But it took us six days to get back to Kunming. That was quite an adventure in its own right. I rode a, I called it a donkey, a little burrow that to go meet these other fellas and this thing had a wooden saddle on it and when I'd get, if I'd reach my toes down I could touch the ground. Well it only tool, I was on there two or three hours and I had blisters on the insides of my thighs the size of half-dollars. So that was a kind of a funny trip back.

WALKER: Well that's one way to put it. Well do you have any medals? I noticed you brought a case here.

LAYHER: Yeah a few, yeah that's well, here's the deal.

WALKER: Okay and we'll make copies of this. The Distinguished Flying Cross.

LAYHER: Yeah. Here's the medal.

WALKER: It's beautiful.

LAYHER: Pretty one. And I got one from the Chinese government.

WALKER: Well based on your experience is there anything else that you'd like to add that we haven't covered yet? We have about five minutes left.

LAYHER: And…

WALKER: Did they tell you, on the back it tells you what they were saying.

LAYHER: And we got what was this, a unit citation for our group.

WALKER: Awesome.

LAYHER: But we have reunions, this was one we had last year and we wondered where they got these, they got these off our passports. I always liked to look at that because at one time I did have hair. <laughs and tape fades out>

Item Description

Copyright © 2007-2014 - Kansas Historical Society - Contact Us
This website was developed in part with funding provided by the Information Network of Kansas.