Saturday, June 4, 2011
1st Air Commando Group ww2 - Burma
The 1st Air Commando Unit is another interesting group to study. Their exploits in ww2 Burma theater of operations was impressive and exemplary. Recently I saw the Movie "Objective Burma" about Paratroopers cut off behind the lines in Burma after destroying a Japanese radio station etc. These troopers had to cover 100 plus miles of jungle to reach a rendezvous point where they could be rescued by gliders. Kinda cool! turns out this story is based on fact. The 1st Air commandos were actually the ones who made this trek.
Anyhoo, check out the info below if interested.
Tomahawk - scouts out!
The 1st Air Commando Group is an inactive United States Air Force unit. It was last assigned to the Army Service Forces, based at Camp Kilmer, New Jersey. It was inactivated on 3 November 1945.
The unit was a United States Army Air Forces group of fighters, bombers, transports, military gliders and small planes operating in the South-East Asian Theatre of World War II. They were part of the U.S. Tenth Air Force providing close air support for the British Fourteenth Army in the Burma Campaign.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt, amidst the Quebec Conference in August 1943, was impressed by Brigadier Orde Wingate's account of what could be accomplished in Burma with proper air support. To comply with Roosevelt's proposed air support for British long range penetration operations in Burma, the United States Army Air Forces created the 5318th Air Unit to support the Chindits. In March 1944, they were designated the 1st Air Commando Group by USAF Commander General Hap Arnold. Arnold chose Colonel John R. Alison and Colonel Philip Cochran as co-commanders of the unit.
Alison was a veteran flight instructor of P-40 aircraft, and gained renown as a pilot with Major David Lee "Tex" Hill's 75th Fighter Squadron, part of Col Robert Lee Scott, Jr.'s 23d Fighter Group, the USAF successor of the AVG's famed Flying Tigers in the China-Burma-India Theatre. General Claire Lee Chennault lobbied to Arnold, who knew Alison from service at Langley Field, suggesting Alison be given the new command. Cochran was a decorated P-40 veteran pilot from the North African Campaign noted for his unconventional aerial tactics.
The group consisted of a squadron of 30 P-51 Mustangs led by Lt. Col. Grattan M. "Grant" Mahony, a squadron of 12 B-25H bombers led by Lt. Col. Robert T. Smith, 13 C-47 air transports led by Major William T. Cherry, Jr., 225 Waco CG-4A military gliders led by Captain William H. Taylor, Jr., and 100 L-1 and L-5 Sentinel liaison aircraft led by Major Andrew Rebori and Lt. Col. Clinton B. Gaty. The group tested the United States' first use of a helicopter in combat, six Sikorsky R-4s led by Lt. Col. Clinton B. Gaty, in May 1944.
John Masters' Chindit memoirs The Road Past Mandalay stated the Chindits' relationship with the Royal Air Force was problematic: "Whatever we asked them to do they declared to be difficult, impossible or against Air Force policy. Whatever they offered to do, we didn't need" Cochran earned their respect by allowing the Chindits to call in their own air support and evacuating a Chindit injured in a training accident by landing an L-5 in a field 400 ft (120 m) long when 600 ft (180 m) was the minimum.
Later in the campaign, they supported other units of the British Fourteenth Army during their drive to Rangoon. One of the glider pilots participating in landing the Chindits was actor Jackie Coogan.
After a glider training accident, the Commander of the Chindits, General Orde Wingate, sent the 1st Air Commando a message: "Please be assured that we will go with your boys, any place, any time, any where." It was adopted by the 1st Air Commando as their motto, and it is still used as an abbreviated form as the motto of the USAF Special Operations Command.
The unit was deactivated on 3 November 1945.
In April 1961, the Air Commandos were regrouped at Hurlburt Field, Florida in response to Soviet-supported insurgencies in Third World countries at the insistence of General Curtis LeMay. The unit had a two-fold purpose: counter-insurgency training and combat operations in Third World countries. It was the first unit of its kind in the Air Force. The 4400th Combat Crew Training Squadron (CCTS) was the official designation of the initial and parent unit; the designation was later changed to the 1st Air Commando Group with the name air commando applying to individuals as well as wings, squadrons or detachments.
"Jungle Jim" was a code name and nickname of the original 4400th CCTS and Air Commandos. Members wore an Australian-type green fatigue slouch hat in the style Johnny Weissmuller wore in the Jungle Jim films. The Air Commandos deployed to Laos and South Vietnam in October 1961, as part of Operation Farm Gate in the Vietnam War. The unit was re designated the 1st Air Commando Wing on 1 June 1963, the 1st Special Operations Wing on 8 July 1968, the 834th Tactical Composite Wing on 1 July 1974 and the 1st Special Operations Wing on 1 July 1975.