World War II “Hump Pilot” gets VIP sendoff from TPA and United Airlines
Lt. Robert Moore may not have had the most glamorous mission of World War II, but it was certainly an important one. This past Friday, Tampa International Airport had the honor of helping escort him and hear his story on his way to the nation's capital.
The 98-year-old St. Petersburg man -- one of the few remaining WWII Hump Pilots still alive -- arrived at Tampa International Airport for a trip to Washington, D.C. to be recognized for his service at the National Air and Space Museum.
Lt. Moore and other young pilots were tasked with the perilous job of delivering fuel and supplies over the Himalayan Mountains from India into China to help prevent an invasion by the Japanese. Pilots flew through the night, despite having no reliable charts, the lack of radio navigation and virtually no information about the weather.
Over 42 months, the India-China airlift delivered approximately 650,000 tons of supplies to the Chinese and Allied forces, but at great cost. An estimated 1,659 personnel were killed or declared missing along with 594 aircraft that went down over the unforgiving terrain.
“The Chinese remember perhaps better than we do the contributions that were made in World War II with the Flying Tigers and the Hump Pilots, and this is just a celebration of that event,” said Lt. Moore before his flight.
United Airlines heard about Moore’s trip and had an agent waiting curbside for the retired Army pilot and his two daughters. They received expedited check-in before being personally escorted to Airside A by Tampa Airport Police Chief Charlie Vazquez and members of the TPA Operations team.
Numerous passengers and airport employees saw what was happening and stopped to thank Lt. Moore for his service, with many even asking to take a picture.
“I didn’t expect any of this,” said Lt. Moore about all the attention. “At 98, I’m just pleased to still be here. I’m looking forward to getting together with this group and it should be very enjoyable.”
Not only were the Hump Pilots an important part of helping win World War II, but many returned to the U.S. to become commercial pilots flying some of the same planes they flew over China. According to the Lyon Air Museum, “The Hump had much to do with establishing the United States as the world’s airline leader. The United States began the postwar period with the airplanes, the pilots, and the air-transport management skills to build a worldwide airline system, all developed at least in part by flying The Hump.”
TPA and the employees of United Airlines salute Lt. Moore and all of the many brave men and women who served our nation. Thank you for your service!