Jungle Emergencies

Jungle Emergencies,from which this article is derived, is the title of another in the series of lively authoritative booklets written by the Safety Education and Air Traffic and Safety sections, AAF, to help airmen forced down in unfamiliar areas of the earth, Other booklets include Arctic Emergencies (Flying, February, 1944) and Desert Emergencies, to be published in a future issue of Flying. The booklets have buttoned-over covers to protect and make them easier to carry. They are well-illustrated with drawings of edible and poisonous plants and diagrams explaining how to survive in strange environments. —Ed.

Bailing out?

Normally, a controlled crash landing, with fuel to spare, is preferable to bailing out because:

If, however, it is necessary to bail out, you should attempt to: General suggestions:

If you land your plane in a clearing, plan to stay with it a few days. If you crash-land in trees, camp near the wreckage temporarily. If you were following your normal flight course, your plane will be easier to locate than you will be.

In a multi-place plane, good quarters can be set up inside the plane by covering the door and cockpit openings with mosquito netting or parachutes. If your plane is intact and there is some chance that you may be able to fly it out, your first job is to secure it by digging hub-deep holes for the landing wheels and staking down wings and tail.

Your second job is to attempt to establish radio contact and set up signals. Place bright-colored or reflecting objects on the wings and around the plane. Cowl panels placed upside-down form good reflectors. Line them up side-by-side on the wings where they can reflect the sun.

Lay several fires within a few hundred feet of the plane, so they can be lighted when a rescue plane is sighted. Place a small can of engine oil and a can of water near one of the fires. Engine oil thrown on a fire will produce black smoke, water will send up billows of steam.

Do everything you can to make the plane stand out against its background. Orange life-preserver cushions are good for this purpose. If you have an emergency kit or a life-raft kit, use the large yellow-and-blue panel to signal.

Divide general duties among your crew. It will help prevent fears and panic. Post a guard every night. If you are not within, or dangerously near, enemy-held territory, keep a signal fire going continuously. This will conserve your signal-pistol ammunition or flares.

Fix your location by compass, octant or the stars. Make scouting trips in search of streams, making sure to mark a trail in the form of knife cuts on trees, bent branches, arrows, or bits of paper or cloth. It is very easy to roam in circles in thick forest or jungle.

If you find a stream, make careful note of its direction and position from your camp. It may lead you to civilization if you start to walk out. If you can't locate a stream for drinking water, dig a hole in the lowest depression near your camp. If you don't strike water down three or four feet, try another spot. Unless you are on high ground, water should be located in a few tries.

Animal trails will eventually lead you to water. With few exceptions; all animals travel towards water at dawn and dusk. Warning: All water for drinking must be purified either by boiling for three minutes or by treatment with Halazone tablets. Although not as effective as Halazone, tincture of iodine can be used as an emergency water purifier. Add three drops of iodine to each quart of water, previously boiled and cooled. Stir the water thoroughly and allow to stand for 30 minutes before drinking.

Be especially suspicious of water around native villages or their remains. The water is probably polluted.

If no natural source of water can be found immediately, the stems of lianas, jungle grape vines and large rattans contain a good water substitute. Cut them near the ground and drink the sap.

In forests, rain water often can be collected by digging a hole and lining it with your parachute. The larger lower leaves of trees also collect water.

Save your parachute or as much of it as you can. The shrouds can be braided into a strong rope. The canopy can be cut and folded to form a good tent. A double strand of shroud line will be strong enough to carry your weight with plenty of strength to spare, but it will chafe when run over rocks or tree bark.

Your parachute pack can be converted into a handy knapsack. The pack forms the base of the knapsack and the web straps form the shoulder straps. Additional equipment can be carried in your gas-mask bag. Check your equipment carefully before leaving plane. It is important to keep as dry as possible. If you have them, include extra shirt, pants, underwear and socks in your kit despite extra weight. You will sweat freely and should avoid rapid cooling of your body. Chilling reduces body resistance and can cause pneumonia, bronchitis, stomach cramps and skin infections.

Wet clothing should be changed for dry as soon as practicable. If you have no change of clothing, build a fire, strip, rub your body, arms, and legs vigorously to dry them and increase the circulation of your blood. Remain naked until your clothes dry.

Avoid tight-fitting clothing. Cotton shirts are better than wool, cooler and more resistant to snagging and fungus rot. Gloves will protect your hands against burrs, nettles and mosquitoes.

If you are traveling as a group, take your life rafts. They can often be used for transporting equipment if not yourselves. Two men can carry them swung on poles.

Before leaving your plane, burn all papers, technical orders and trip data that might be restricted, confidential or classified. Secret instruments should be smashed and the parts buried. If you are in or near enemy territory, burn the plane.

Travel in the jungle forest is slow. Try to follow a stream downstream. Stick to natural trails or native trails as far as possible. Don't try to break your way through.

If you can't find a stream or native trail, follow the swampy hollows which generally run in chains and eventually join a stream. In hilly country, the ridges are easier to follow than the valleys but precipices may make long detours necessary. In elephant country, follow the elephant trails. Elephants never go where they are likely to fall or get bogged. Elephant trails are three or four feet wide, other game trails are a foot to 18 inches wide.

You can't look through the jungle, but sometimes you can look under it. The heavy foliage generally ends about a foot above the ground. Often you can see more by getting flat on your stomach than by standing up.

Rely on your compass and your map but don't try to follow a direct compass line. It will take too long and be too tiring. Do your walking early in the day. By five in the afternoon very little light can penetrate. Start looking for a place to camp around three or four.

Take plenty of time for sleep and rest. Don't force yourself.

In picking a camp avoid the banks of streams and rivers. Pitch your tent back a few hundred feet. Try to find a slight rise. Half way up a hill is good. If jungle growth separates you from the stream, all the better.

Build yourself a fire every night. Even in rain forests comparatively dry wood can be found hanging in the network of vines and rattans. Any standing dead trees will be dry inside. Wet wood can be split and the heart wood dug out. If you are in palm country, scrape the fuzz from the bottom sides of palm leaves for tinder.

A simple fire maker can be made from a flat stick of soft wood and a foot and a half length of fairly hard sapling about 3/8-inch in diameter. Bore a cone-shaped hole in the stick with your knife and whittle a similarly shaped point on the end of the sapling. Put the point of the sapling in the hole, pile palm leaf tinder around it, and twirl the stick back and forth until tinder catches.

Before settling down for the night, gather a good supply of firewood and stow it inside the dry tent.

Build your fire small. Nearly all natives in the tropics arrange the wood in a radiating pattern, like the spokes of a wheel.

In just about 99 cases out of 100, jungle animals will be just as frightened of you as you are of them. If you want some form of protection at night, build a fire and pile on bamboos. They will go off like gunshots and scare away any nearby animals. In an emergency, a shot from your signal pistol will scare off an angry elephant or tiger.

Warning: One of your worst enemies in the jungle is the mosquito. Never go to sleep without some sort of protection. Either cover the upper part of your body with it, taking care that your hands and face don't touch the netting, or use it as a covering for the tent door. Be sure to kill all mosquitoes inside the tent after you have closed the netting door. In addition, apply mosquito repellant to your face and hands. Put a good quantity behind your ears.

Natural food is plentiful in most jungles if you know where to look for it and can distinguish between the edible and the poisonous. There are only three general rules beyond definite recognition:

  1. Eat nothing that has a bitter taste unless you are sure what it is.
  2. Avoid plants having a milky sap.
  3. Anything that you see monkeys eat, you can eat.

Fish are easy to catch in most tropical streams. A hook and line will generally bring results, but a spear made by whittling sharp double points on a bamboo shaft or a small sapling will yield more food in less time. If both of these methods fail, your parachute-tent can serve as a fish net. On small streams it can be spread across a narrow portion to trap fish as they swim downstream.

Don't eat any fish that have spiny or leathery skins. Skin all fish and frogs before cooking.

Fish should always be boiled, not only as a precaution against infection but to retain more of the food and vitamin value of the fish than either frying or baking.

Ground birds and small jungle animals require more time to catch and prepare than fish. The most common are ground pigeons, turkeys, jungle rats and monkeys.

Simple snares and traps [those for monkeys are shown below] are about the best means of catching these animals. They can be set out at night when camp is made and taken up in the morning.

Don't overcook meat, and use as much of the animal or bird as possible. Entrails, the heart, the liver and the kidney contain essential vitamins that will make up for any possible lack of greens and roughage in your diet.

As with fish, meat should be stewed rather than fried or baked. Chunks of meat one or two inches across should be dropped into a pot of cold water over the fire. Two minutes after the water has come to a boil remove the pot from the fire and place it to one side to cool. This permits the meat to cook thoroughly yet prevents over-cooking.

If you have no cooking pots, food can be baked by wrapping it in several layers of green leaves and burying it in hot ashes, keeping the fire on top burning until cooking is completed.

A similar but cleaner method is to place a number of very hot stones in the bottom of a shallow, dry trench scooped in the ground. Cover the stones with green leaves, place the leaf-wrapped food on the leaves, surround it closely with other hot stones, and cover the whole thing with more hot stones and a light topping of earth. It will take about two hours for most foods to cook.

Game or fish can be cooked on an improvised spit or stick.

Fat should be part of your diet. Save unused fat from animals killed. It may not always be possible to get birds and animals, so a reserve of protein and fat should be carried. Melt the excess fat in a pan, boil it for a few minutes, skim off any solid material, and pour it into a small can with a tight-fitting top — one or two empty friction-top coffee containers from your emergency ration kit will serve nicely. The fat then can be used for preparing starch plants and other foods.

In emergencies, two groups of jungle insects form a nourishing food source:

Four poisonous plants are:

Three things are absolutely necessary to your health — periodic doses of quinine or atabrine, the use of some sort of mosquito protection, and daily doses of salt or salt tablets to replace the salt removed from the body by excessive sweating.

Take the first dose of atabrine (one tablet) in the morning, and the second dose (one tablet) in the evening on the first day you are in the jungle. Skip three days, then repeat the doses as on the first day. Keep this up as long as you are in a malarial area. (This dosage for one and a half grain atabrine tablets.)

If quinine is in the jungle kit instead of atabrine, take two five grain tablets each day, as long as you are in a malarial area.

Dysentery caused by impure drinking water or food can be avoided by purifying all drinking water and by eating only food which has just been cooked or taken from a sealed container. If you become ill with dysentery, take only liquid foods and stay as quiet as possible until you are well. Add two salt tablets to each canteenful of drinking water.

If your first aid kit contains sulfaguanadine tablets take four tablets every four hours, day and night, until your bowel movements are normal. If there is no improvement in four days, stop taking the tablets.

Snake venom acts rapidly. Put a tourniquet on at once, placing it between the body and the bite. Apply it above the knee in foot or leg bites, above the elbow in hand and arm bites. The tourniquet should be loosened for 10 or 15 seconds every 20 minutes. Apply iodine around the bite, treat your pocket knife blade tip or razor blade with iodine, and make cross incisions one-fourth inch long and one-fourth inch deep across each fang mark. Then apply suction to the wound for 20 minutes before loosening tourniquet and keep up suction for at least three 20-minute periods. This can be done by mouth if you have no snake bite kit. Spit fluid out.

After the wound has been sucked for an hour, remove the tourniquet, apply iodine or sulfanilamide powder if you have it, and apply a clean bandage.

Ticks, fleas, body lice, mites or chiggers, kissing bugs and botflies carry serious diseases or cause painful sores. Leeches and vampire bats (only in South America) also are dangerous.

Remove your clothing twice a day and inspect it and your body for any trace of vermin.

Ticks can be identified by their flat oval body, small head, and comparatively large abdomen. They are carriers of relapsing fever and typhus.

Never squash a tick on the skin or attempt to pull it out. Instead, cover it with a good coating of spit. The tick will free itself and be easy to remove. If you try to pull the tick out, his mouth will be left under your skin. Apply iodine to the bite.

Avoid native huts and use your insect repellant.

Chiggers bore under the skin. They should be removed with a sterile knife-point and the bite treated with iodine.

To keep from getting lice, avoid close contact with natives and stay out of native huts. It is easy to kill the lice, but the eggs are more resistant. Steaming of the clothing, especially the seams, generally will be effective.

Kissing bugs are large, dark brown and black, having a narrow cone-shaped head, oval body, long legs, and well-developed wings. Common in Yucatan and Central America, they are carriers of Chagas' disease. They usually bite you on the face, so again mosquito netting is an important protection.

Botfly maggots burrow into the skin and cause a painful swelling that looks like a boil. A coating of oil or kerosene placed over the hole every few hours will generally cause the larvae to come to the surface of the skin where it can be expelled by squeezing the skin. Frequent applications of wet tobacco will also kill the larva which can then be squeezed out.

Leeches live in sluggish water or cling to low-lying brush and attach themselves to a passing man or animal. Unless removed carefully, their bites can produce painful infections.

Do not remove a leech by pulling. Instead apply iodine, salt or tobacco juice and it will release its hold and drop off.

Vampire bats, found in Yucatan and tropical America, often bite humans and are carriers of rabies and other animal diseases that infect humans. Immediate first-aid treatment consists of cauterization of the wound and applications of tannic acid ointment and a tight compression bandage.

With the exception of those in New Guinea and in parts of Assam, there are few dangerous jungle natives. When you encounter natives, try to appear confident but not aggressive. Stay away from the women. All natives are superstitious and suspicious. You can only win their confidence by appearing open-handed.

String tricks — the cat's cradles and spider webs that you did when you were a kid — are an almost universal pastime with jungle natives all over the world. If you remember any of them, pick up a piece of pliable vine and demonstrate them to natives you meet. In most cases it will serve as an immediate bond between you and them. If you can't do a string trick, go through the motions to arouse their curiosity.

Be particularly careful of your treatment of natives if you are in or near enemy territory. They can help you get back to your lines. Don't try to use terrorist methods.

Eat native food only when it has been well and freshly cooked and be sure all water offered you by natives has been boiled. Under no condition sleep in or near native camps or bathe in nearby streams. Avoid close contact with any native. Don't go around barefoot.

This article was originally published in the July, 1944, issue of Flying magazine, vol 35, no 1, pp 44-45, 88, 90, 94.
The PDF of this article includes drawings taken from the AAF original booklet.
Drawings credited to AAF.