Joseph Moye Eddins Sr., an Army Air Forces pilot who flew cargo missions over the Himalayas after World War II and later became a vice president of the Maryland Casualty Co., died Friday of heart failure at the Riderwood Erickson Retirement Community in Silver Spring. The former Towson resident was 83.
Mr. Eddins was born and raised in Troy, Ala., and during his senior year of high school passed the exams for the Army Air Forces cadet-training program. After graduating from high school in 1943, he reported to Dos Palos, Calif., and Taft, Calif., for training.
One of his fellow pilots during his training days was James U. Cross, who began flying in the China-Burma-India Theater in 1944.
"My father had been his co-pilot, and he later became a brigadier general and President Lyndon B. Johnson's Air Force One pilot," said his son, Joseph Moye Eddins Jr., chief photographer for The Washington Times and an Annapolis resident.
After completing advanced pilot training school and C-46 training in Texas, Mr. Eddins and his crew picked up a new C-46F at Hunter Field, Ga. They flew to Ledo, India, where they joined the 317th Troop Carrier Squadron on Sept. 4, 1945, two days after the Japanese surrender. Mr. Eddins' flight assignments then took him over the Himalayas, called the Hump.
"Our crew's first assignments were several trips over the Hump to help with the squadron's move to Liangshan, China, and ultimately to Hsian, China," Mr. Eddins wrote in an unpublished monograph. "Orders were to help relocating and or evacuating personnel, equipment and supplies to or from remote locations in preparation for sending troops back to the United States."
Mr. Eddins and his fellow Humpsters, as the pilots who flew over the Himalayas were known, were exposed to some of the most treacherous flying conditions anywhere.
"The Humpsters flew unarmed two- and four-engine cargo planes through some of the worst weather in the world. They suffered horrendous attrition, losing more than one thousand men and nearly four hundred airplanes over four years," wrote Richard Rhodes in a 1986 article in American Heritage.
Because so many planes had crashed along the route, pilots nicknamed it the "Aluminum Highway."
"Those Hump pilots didn't get much glory, but they did manage to keep four Japanese divisions occupied during the war," Mr. Eddins' son said.
Mr. Eddins also recalled flying into the city of Hsian, now Xian, in mainland China as the Communists were taking over territory occupied by the Japanese.
"On Nov. 4, 1945, we ceased operations and then departed the Hsian airfield. The city of Hsian had already fallen to the Communists and it appeared they were waiting until we left before making any further advances," the pilot wrote.
Mr. Eddins, who was honorably discharged in 1946 with the rank of lieutenant, remained an active Air Force reservist for several years.
He attended the University of Texas for three years before taking a position in 1950 as an actuary for the Texas Insurance Department.
In 1966, Mr. Eddins went to work for the Maryland Casualty Co. as vice president and chief actuary. He retired in 1989.
Mr. Eddins lived in Towson and later Timonium before moving to Fredericksburg, Texas, in 1993. He was an accomplished furniture designer and builder.
Since last year, he and his wife of 62 years, the former Reba Sue Hudnall, had lived at the Silver Spring retirement community.
"He was worried that the Hump guys would be forgotten when the World War II monument was unveiled in Washington. I sent him a picture of the plaque dedicated to the China-Burma-India pilots and he was so proud," his son said.
"He was a quiet guy whose service was a metaphor for his own life. He did what was needed to be done," the son said. "He was a very honorable and decent individual."
A memorial service will be held at 3 p.m. Aug. 15 at the Fredericksburg Funeral Home in Fredericksburg, Texas.
Also surviving are a daughter, Sheryl Sue Eddins of Kerrville, Texas; and a granddaughter.