Grandview Heights moment in time
When Frank L. Higgs, then known as “Junior,” graduated from Grandview Heights High School in 1926, he became intrigued by airplanes and flying. After attending Hanover College and Ohio State University, where he was nicknamed “Dude,” he joined the US Army Air Corps and was deployed to China as an aviation instructor. Higgs resigned from his commission in 1941, just after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, so he could take a more active role in the war.
When he left the Air Corps, he went to work for the China National Aviation Corp. as chief pilot. A few days after joining the CNAC, he participated in the evacuation of Chinese civilians from Hong Kong after the Japanese invasion.
Under cover of night, Higgs flew planes with up to 80 passengers (the aircraft’s capacity was 25) to safety in China. He flew transports over Burma and was credited with rescuing Madame Sun from China when he performed a daring rescue flight there. The mission was recounted in William Leary’s book on the CNAC, titled “The Dragon’s Wings”:
“The first plane, a DC-3 piloted by Frank L. Higgs, took off from the Kai Tak runway at 7 p.m. for Namyung, a small airfield about 200 miles north of Hong Kong.”
Higgs and nine other pilots, including many ground staff, managed to recover five planes, plug crater holes at the airfield, and transport as many people to safety in Free China as possible.
At other times, it carried famous people such as Chiang Kai-shek and Madame Chiang, as well as Wendell Wilkie, when he was touring China as a candidate for the presidency of the United States. One of her favorite passengers was American author, politician, later U.S. Ambassador to Italy and rabid anti-Communist Clare Booth Luce, who devoted several paragraphs to meeting them in a story she wrote for Life magazine. He took her on a rescue mission from Burma as the Japanese threatened an invasion.
Many of his experiences were immortalized in his Ohio classmate Milton Caniff’s comic book “Terry and the Pirates”, in which Higgs was portrayed as “Dude Hennick”. (The name Hennick referred to a popular business near Ohio State called Hennick’s.)
On October 20, 1945, Higgs was flying between Shanghai and Canton, supposedly with a few bankers on board (and a lot of gold and currency). The plane crashed into a mountain, killing everyone on board. A newspaper clipping from Manila said 20 passengers were on board. Many experts considered the accident to be sabotage, but this has never been confirmed.
When Luce heard about the crash, she wrote to her friend Milton Caniff:
“I was so, very sorry to hear of his death… he was an extremely gallant man. I will always feel a sense of gratitude to him for the hitchhiking he gave me in Burma during (Joseph) Stilwell’s days of retirement. Things might have been different with me if he hadn’t come to Lashio on the bombed terrain and took me to Kunming. “
He is shown in this photo taken by Luce, standing in front of the Douglas transport with his army semi-automatic firearms. The inset photo shows Higgs standing outside the family home on Lincoln Road when he was in high school. Higgs was honored several years ago as one of Grandview’s distinguished graduates.
This historical account of the Grandview Heights / Marble Cliff Historical Society was provided by Wayne Carlson.