Lee Noble McEachern You wouldn't know from the smile on that young man's face in the photo above that he was about to embark on a dangerous wartime mission in which he and his fellow airmen risked their lives in ways that no one ever had before. Lee Noble McEachern, Pfc. Radio Operator-Mechanic, survived nearly 200 air transport flights over the Himalayas "The Hump" during World War II, ferrying munitions and supplies from India to China. Threading the unarmed C-46 aircraft between the highest peaks in the world and the occasional Japanese Zero fighter planes, the men of this famed airlift braved conditions no previous aviators had faced: High altitude ice build-up on their wings, which could crash a plane in five minutes, temperatures below zero in cabins with heaters removed to save on weight, unreliable charts and few navigational aids to guide them home. A high percentage of the flights ended in tragedy and as the months went by, Lee counted an increasing number of bright aluminum reflections shining up from the ground below. He accepted the Distinguished Flying Cross with pride but refused a Purple Heart, which he was awarded due an injury suffered in an attack on his airbase, reasoning that he deserved it less than men who were more badly wounded. It was all so very far from home for Lee, born in Birmingham, Alabama, February 15, 1921 and a recent graduate of the University of Alabama. And it felt so very, very far from his wife and the love of his life, Anne Farrar (Smith), whom he had married in a brief ceremony officiated by an Army chaplain just before flying to the other side of the world in defense of his country. The airlift over The Hump kept China in the war against the Japanese, which was vital to the Allied war effort. But Lee never talked in such grand terms; he was just glad when it was all over and he was back home with Anne Farrar. They settled in Memphis, Tennessee, where Lee began his career as a radio and television broadcaster at WHBQ radio and television, hosting shows with a success that brought him and the family to the Bay Area in 1958. His broadcasting career extended another 20 years at KFRC radio, KRON TV and the FM radio stations KRON and KFOG. During those years Lee and Anne Farrar raised a close family of four children in Corte Madera. Lee Noble McEachern died in San Francisco on January 27. Anne Farrar passed away three years earlier and Lee looked at death as his golden opportunity to be reunited with her. Dad is survived by Linda and Chet Wood of Danville, Lee McEachern Jr. and Cris Jones of Greenbrae, Laura and Terry Bart of Jackson, Wyoming, and Lon McEachern and Carol Czyzewski of Santa Clara. Granddad is survived by Matthew Wood, Brian Wood and Carla Wood Mallol, Emily Wood, Lee III and Aimee McEachern, Britt McEachern and India McKinney, Kyle McEachern, Ryan McEachern and Colleen McEachern. And he is survived by Juliana Laura Wood, born just 27 days before her great grandfather's death at the age of 91. The family suggests contributions to Big Brothers and Sisters of the North Bay, 1618 2nd Street, San Rafael, CA 94901. Services will be private.
Published in Marin Independent Journal from February 6 to February 10, 2013