Jake Beard ~ Flew the Hump!

By Pat Warner
Photographs by Bob Dunham

Jake’s interview was fun, interesting, and revealed a very precise man, passionate about flying and playing the flute. He shared, “As a youngster I was fascinated with airplanes, read everything printed about aviation, technical stuff, WWI combat flying stories and I soloed at age sixteen.”

Air Transport Command C-46 flying “The Hump” over the Himalayan Mountains. Photo courtesy of The Army Air Forces In World War II, Volume Seven “The Services.” New Imprint by the Office of Air Force History Washington, D.C., 1983. USGOV-PD.

During WWII, Jake was ineligible for the draft because he was married with two kids. He did, however, volunteer for a year as a primary flight instructor of the Army Air Corps Cadets. He later became an Army Air Corps Service Officer and served for thirteen months home-based in northern India. While en route to India, he stopped at Cairo, Egypt, to visit the Pyramids.

Jake flew C-46 and C-47 aircraft daily, during monsoons, over jungles, the Indian Assam River Valley and the high Himalayan Mountains which bordered India and Tibet; these mountains were dubbed “The Hump.” Jake continued, “I carried all kinds of stuff including dangerous heavy cast iron pipes for a pipeline being laid from India to Burma, 55-gallon fuel drums weighing over 300 pounds each, and I relied on the dependable 2,000 horse power Pratt-Whitney engines which never quit on me.

Take-offs were the most dangerous as the stressed engines had to lift the plane from zero power. I wore a pistol for protection in the event of a crash over dangerous terrain, but I was never shot at.”

Jake Beard stands next to a display of the service metals he received for serving in the Army Air Corps.

A frame with Jake’s military decorations hangs on his living room wall featuring his Service Pilot wings with an “S,” and flight suit patches which say “Pipe Eyed Pipers” and the “Hump Pilots Association China Burma India.” These patches refer to his flying the pipeline and the Himalayan Mountains.

As a civilian Jake became a test pilot for Fairchild Aircraft which was in his hometown of Hagerstown, Maryland. He tested transport aircraft from the factory before they went into service. “Fairchild tapped me to fly their executive DC-3 for years and later they recruited me for their sales department.”

Jake’s other passion is the flute which he took up the summer prior to high school. He started on the ‘C-Melody’ family saxophone which was passed around.

An excellent Dutch musician, who was the conductor of the Hagerstown Municipal Band, the Hagerstown Symphony Orchestra and the Hagerstown High School Band, taught Jake the saxophone and flute. Jake played flute all through high school and twenty years after his military service, he became the first chair flutist with the Hagerstown Symphony Orchestra.

Two girls and a boy completed the Beard family, who for decades resided in Atlanta, Georgia, before Jake and his wife migrated to a cottage in John Knox Village.

Jake pictured with his wife Ruth.

For three years Jake cared for his terminally ill wife Ruth before she died in Majestic Oaks. Jake remained in their cottage until recently relocating to Oak View Suites Assisted Living.

For many years, Jake managed the Hobby Shop, which he insists should properly be called the “Fix It Shop.” While in the Hobby Shop, he mainly fixed lamps which had become dangerous due to worn out switches and brittle insulation.

An amazing 104 years old, Jake still occasionally plays his flute but has stopped playing duets with Rosemary Malocsay and performing at resident shows. Jake explains, “The flute is difficult to play and a lot of practice is needed because it has no octave key and a lot of lip action is required.”

Laughingly, he shared, “I used to eat a lot of cereal, but now I am appreciating the dining room meals here at Oak View Suites!”