A self-taught pilot, barnstormer and soldier of fortune type pilot, who scouted the air flight links over the Himalaya Mountains to supply Chang Kia-shek's Nationalist Army should the Burma Road trade route be broken, was inducted into the Utah Aviation Hall of Fame at the Hill Aerospace Museum on Memorial Day.
Harold Arthur Sweet, born July 26, 1904, in Salt Lake City was reared and educated in Utah. Sweet taught himself to fly, purchased a U.S. Army JN-4 Jenny aircraft and when his mother and a sister moved to Lake Merritt, Calif., he went with them. After a marriage that lasted approximately one year, he moved to the Philippines and flew for the U.S. mail service for seven years.
He joined the Pan American-owned China National Aviation Corporation (CNAC). He pioneered air routes over the Himalayas, and subsequently became a personal pilot for Madame Chang and Chang Kai-shek, helping to supply the Nationalist Chinese Army, when the Japanese commandeered CNAC aircraft.
At age 37, shortly before Pearl Harbor, the U.S. Army Corps had determined the barnstorming pilot was too old for military service.
As a civilian pilot he nevertheless made several significant contributions to the war effort.
Van Twelves, son of a previous inductee into the Hall of Fame, led the introduction to this year's ceremony with a brief overview of Harold Sweet and other members of the Utah Hall of Fame, saying, "If there was ever a real Indiana Jones, Harold Sweet was that man."
Maj. (Ret.) Pat Gilmore, U.S. Air Force, described Sweet as a competent pilot who fearlessly flew by his own rules. "He was a misfit, a swashbuckler, an Errol Flynn type pilot and that probably attracted (attention) more than anything to our Daedalian Board for his membership in the Utah Aviation Hall of Fame."
The 32nd Flight (Pioneer) Order of Daedalians are the sponsoring and custodial agency as signified by the governor of Utah and work hard to keep the spirit and legacy of the Utah pioneering aviators and their contributions alive.
Harold Sweet's exploits included many daring feats carried out with cool aplomb. At one point the CNAC had a partially damaged DC-3 stranded in Suifu, China, with one wing entirely splintered by a 100 kilo bomb after a Japanese air raid. When the damaged DC-3 was deemed to be priceless to the Chinese government and it was determined that it could not fall into the hands of the Japanese, the CNAC engineers came up with a plan. A wing would be strapped to a DC-2's belly and flown to Suifu. The only thing was the only wing available was that of a DC-2 and it would be five feet shorter than the left wing of the damaged DC-3.
One of the engineers described events this way in a later account: He explained the plan to Hal and told him that it shouldn't affect anything except the top flight speed of the repaired DC-3. Hal would have to fly a DC-2 to Suifu with the strapped on wing and then fly the repaired plane back. When the aircraft was set to leave, the traffic agent had loaded the plane to normal capacity without regard for the strapped on wing on the belly of the aircraft.
When the engineer chided Hal that he should do a practice run, it is reported Hal said to him, "Well, you said that it would fly, so that won't be necessary."
Taking off in a blinding rainstorm he made the flight to Suifu with two stops on the way, disregarding reports of Japanese in the area, and then planned to return when the repairs were done to fly the DC-2 ¬½ -- as it was now being dubbed. He had contracted Dengue fever in the meantime and once he had recovered sufficiently after some rest he returned to Suifu to pilot out the aircraft.
He took off, trimmed the aircraft and spiraling with the right-wing heavy, made the flight to Chung King. When the traffic agent at the teaming airport needed a flight to take several people to Hong Kong, Hal made one more flight with the DC-2 ¬½ to Kai Tek, Hong Kong, where the CNAC engineers awaited him.
"We were very glad and extremely proud to see him," the engineer's account concluded, saying, "We promised him we would never call him by his nickname, 'Ferdinand,' again."
The flight made headlines around the world. He also made headlines when he flew a DC-3 with 3,000 bullet holes in it, which when patched with a missionary's canvas awning, ended up whistling so loudly from the fuselage that it was dubbed, "Whistling Willy. Steamboat Willy, a popular cartoon character at the time, was the forerunner to Mickey Mouse.
Said a military leader at an air base where Whistling Willy landed, "Why did you bother to call in? We could hear you 50 miles out."
Some of the canvas patches had failed and as a result the air screaming through the holes caused the high pitched sound.
Said Michael Sweet, first cousin, twice removed, who spoke at the ceremony, it was later rumored that the Japanese in the area didn't fly for three days, when they heard and saw the aircraft. Apparently the engine also sent out flames at one point, and there were rumors of a strange, fire-breathing, screaming apparition.
Michael Sweet reluctantly initially approached the Utah Hall of Fame at the request of his own father, Richard Sweet, a year ago.
Richard, the son of Victor Sweet, Michael's grand-dad was first cousin to Harold.
Victor made his son promise to do something to remember Hal. At a loss for what to do Richard bided his time until he heard about the Utah Hall of Fame. With poor health and advancing age, he approached his son, Michael, who said to Pat Gilmore, "Tell me this name doesn't qualify."
Gilmore assured him that the chances were probably not great as there were many applicants to the hall but after just a short amount of time and research he promptly told Michael, there actually was a good chance his relative might make an excellent choice.
Michael quickly was brought on board when he was brought up to speed on his distant relative's achievements and given accounts of some of the CNAC's accomplishments and his distant relative's contributions.
Speaking at the ceremony he relayed what an honor he felt this was, and that he had learned so much more about his grandfather's first cousin -- the man his own father had hero-worshipped as a boy.
One last interesting historic fact was that Hal had flown Ernest Hemingway and his new wife, Martha Gellhorn, as journalists during the outbreak of the Sino Japanese War, for their honeymoon. Later it was reported that they were actually working for the U.S. government during this time as spies. Hemingway presented Harold Sweet with a copy of his latest novel, "For Whom the Bell Tolls," at the time and inscribed it: "For Hal Sweet, wishing him all the best always, Ernest Hemingway," which he signed and dated.
Hal flew for the CNAC over the Hump (the Himalayan route) and took the role of leadership, never leaving China during the outbreak of war there. Because of that, American pilots who left and then returned to fly for the corporation, flew under his direction, as he assumed a stronger leadership role.
At one point he flew for another Pan American corporation, its African counterpart, but then returned to fly for the CNAC again. After the war he attempted an airline of his own in the Philippines where in 1934 he had met and married his second wife, producing 7 children through the years. When that business attempt failed, he returned to California with his family, settling at San Marino, and started an import export business. Three years later, he had a massive heart attack at age 43 on the Pinedale golf course and died the same day.
Michael Sweet believes that the sacrifices his family made, losing him so young and not having him at home during the war years impacted them greatly. He had not received any replies from that side of the family in regards to the induction into the hall of fame.
"The cost was high as you can imagine," said Gilmore of the flights through the Himalaya Mountains, after the overthrow of Ragoon made the flights over the dangerous routes necessary. "In one six month period during the three years of flying the Hump, 135 aircraft and 168 Airmen fell victim to enemy fighters, bad weather and treacherous terrain. This was in the days when transport aircraft routinely flew at nine or ten thousand feet so you can see the danger there -- the mountain peaks reached to fifteen thousand feet."
As Twelves said in his opening remarks, "We need to remember who we are through the things that others have done for us and the potential we have through the inspiring examples of what they have done and what we need to be.
"What is at stake? The history of the world makes it clear that liberty is a fragile blessing," Twelves said also quoting Thomas Jefferson:
"The only way to keep freedom alive is with a terrible vigilance."