The problem! To determine the need for, extent, and results of air operations in the China-Burma-India Theater. Facts bearing on the problem!
(1) The critical condition of the Chinese prior to World War II. China’s critical condition, as a result of Japanese aggression, motivated the extension of aid, to China. Credits first granted in 1933 and 1934 were renewed in 1938 for $25.000.000 and, with additional loans, reached a total of $170.000.000 by the end of 1940. Economic support with the United States withdrew from Japan was extended on a growing scale to China.
(2) The strategic importance of China to the United States after hostilities with Japan opened. The attack on Pearl Harbor and subsequent capture of islands in the Pacific denied us the natural bases for an offensive against Japan from the mainland of China. It made India, at best, a difficult and possibly temporary way station.
(3) The inadequacy of the Chinese Air Force to support her ground forces or provide adequate protection to the supply lines against Japanese air attacks.Overland transport into China rather than oceanic shipping to Burma and India proved to be the bottleneck of China-Burma-India supply. The Burma Road was China’s lifeline to the outside world after Japan had occupied the coast and established a naval blockade in 1938. The distance by air from Lashio, the railhead in Burma fed by the port of Rangoon, to Kunming in Yunnan Province, is 260 miles. The Chinese began to build it late in 1937 to circumvent the Japanese blockade. The first traffic in 1939 brought supplies into China at the rate of 3500 tons a month, rising to 12000 tons monthly in 1941, with the introduction of American methods of maintenance; though a large proportion of the tonnage went for gasoline to fuel the trucks. From the middle of 1941 to the fall of Burma, which closed the Road, it was protected by the Flying Tigers, officially the American Volunteer Group under Gen Claire L. Chennault. This small group shot down 286 Japanese planes with the loss of only eight pilots.
(4) The seriousness of the supply situation in China after the Japanese blocked the Burma Road and tightened her blockade on the East and South of China. Realizing the importance of the China, Burma, and India area and the magnitude of the subsequent operations to be conducted therein, the China-Burma-India Theater was established early in 1942. Gen Joseph Stilwell was placed in command of the United States troops.
(5) India and China were in danger of being overrun by the Japanese after the conquest of Burma. Concurrent with the formation of the China-Burma-India Theater, plans were made for the expansion of air effort in the India-Burma and China Theaters. The Tenth Air Force was activated and became operational in the Theater, in the summer of 1942.
(6) Importance of strategic locations of Burma and India to the United States. The 10-AAF flew from India bases with a three-fold mission of guarding the ‘Hump Line’ of the Air Transport Command, into China, and attacking enemy supply in Burma and Thailand. It bombed 150 targets, including Rangoon, the Moulmein and Akyak docks, Lashio and Henzada storehouses, and the rail junctions of Rangoon, Mandalay, and Sagaing, almost denying the enemy use of rail lines in Burma. In its career, the 10-AAF destroyed 622 enemy aircraft, losing only one plane to every two planes destroyed. It flew some 96000 sorties and dropped approximately 47600 tons of bombs on the enemy successfu1ly disrupting Japanese supply lines in Burma and preventing the enemy drive toward India.
(7) The employment of air transport to overcome terrain obstacles in the movement of supplies. Prior to the activation of the 10-AAF, the Chinese were being supported by the American Volunteer Group, which became operational in Dec 1941. With the termination of their contracts with the Chinese Government on Jul 4, 1942, they were replaced by the China Air Task Force. Although a part of the 10-AAF, excessive distance and lack of adequate communication precluded close supervision for the 10-AAF. Operating independently, with the same mission as their predecessors, they destroyed 182 enemy aircraft and probably destroyed 87. During their operations, they dropped 350 tons of bombs and sunk 50000 tons of enemy shipping.
(8) The only American units committed to combat in the China Theater were air force organizations. On Mar 10, 1943, the China Air Task Force was re-designated the Fourteenth Air Force, operating directly under the Theater. Though numerically small, the responsibility of the 14-AAF was a man-sized job. It had to conduct effective fighter and bomber operations along a 2000 mile front, which extended from Chunking and Chengtu in the north to Indo-China to the south; from the Tibetan Plateau and the Salween River (in Burma) in the west; to the China Sea and the Island of Formosa in the east. Taking full advantage of their interior position, the 14-AAF jabbed the enemy off balance and kept him guessing. Although extremely handicapped, due to lack of adequate supplies, the results of their operations indicate the degree of success attained.
(9) Air operations were conducted in the China-Burma-India Theater by the United States Army Air Force, and The important contribution of airpower in the China-Burma-India Theater to the ultimate defeat of Japan. From the birth of the China Air Task Force in Jul 1942 to the end of May 1945, the US forces in China destroyed 2348 Japanese aircraft, with another 778 probably damaged. Japanese shipping losses amounted to 2.267.389 tons. They destroyed or damaged 3918 locomotives and a larger number of railroad cars. During the operations, the Air Transport Command protected by the 10-AAF and 14-AAF transported troops, supplies, and equipment to all parts of the CBI Theater. The 20th Bomber Command, based in India and China, operated their B-29s to strike at targets out of reach of the other air forces.
(a) Contribution of AirPower. A partial indication of air power’s contribution to the victorious result attained in the China-Burma-India Theater is listed above. In spite of their impressiveness, the listed data does not present the overall objectives gained as a result of the victories indicated. The following presentation covers these objective.
(b) AirPower in India-Burma. 1. Airpower not only played a major role in preventing the Japanese occupation of India but completely isolated the Burma battlefields. This action proved demoralizing to the enemy and had an adverse effect on his war-making capability. (2) The Air transport operations on which survival of the ground depended, and the forces operating on the ground, were rendered free from air attack by the enemy with the attainment of air superiority in the India-Burma area. (3) By direct attack on enemy troops, installations, equipment end lines of communication, airpower aided to destroy the Japanese force in Burma. (4) From India-Burma, airpower supplied the military effort in China in the greatest air transport effort of its time.
(c) AirPower in China. (1) Airpower was instrumental in preventing the occupation and control of all of China by the Japanese armies. (2) Strikes on shipping and interdiction of North China’s railways and highways, and very heavy bombardment attacks on Japanese home islands by China-based aircraft, materially assisted in the disrupting of the entire Japanese war economy and war-making potential. (3) Operations of China-based air power forced the Japanese to dissipate logistical potential to campaigns in China, which otherwise might have been more effectively employed in the Pacific. By attaining air superiority, China-based airpower assured the allied forces and operations protection from enemy air attack. (4) China-based airpower contributed heavily to the attrition of Japanese military power.
(a) Air operations in the China-Burma-India Theater have given rise to the formulation of new doctrine and provided strategic planners with a wider range of thought in determining operations for the future. (b) The Potentiality of Air Transport Conclusively Demonstrated, prior to 1942, air transport was confined in the main, to carrying passengers, limited supplies, usually of an emergency nature, mail, aid for cargo transport on a limited scale. The situation in China demanded that some form of aerial transport be initiated since the terrain and the enemy prevented the use of the conventional land and sea lanes of communication. (c) Initial successes soon proved that only the numbers of available aircraft and airfields limited the amount of cargo that could be airlifted. As these planes were supplies, new airfields constructed and personnel made available, the intensity of the ground and air operation increased. (d) The ability of air transport to adequately provide for combat forces isolated from the land and sea lanes of communication was amply demonstrated. (e) The acceptance of this new doctrine, new because it was not accepted by strategic planners prior to 1942, gives rise to three ideas: (1) Land or sea lines of communication to battle areas are not essential, though the size force supported will be governed by limitations discussed previously. The aerial line of communication is particularly adaptable to operations in areas where: (a) difficult terrain forms a barrier to landlines; (b) sea lines or waterways are not available or enemy-controlled; (c) a combination aforementioned conditions; (d) the use of an aerial line of communication may be required where speed rather than the economy is the governing factor. (2) Force may be masses, supplied and sustained anywhere in the world. (3) Air transport will provide flexibility in the defense of an extensive area, where the resources of a nation preclude the establishment of a defense of the entire area, and the exact location of the enemy strike is unknown.
Edward M. Hudak
Major, Field Artillery
Critical Condition of China Prior to World War II
Beginning with the Marco Polo Bridge outbreak on Jul 7, 1937 (#), China steadily lost its fight with the Japanese. Ill-equipped, and having lost her best armies and meager air force in the initial engagements, she offered little effective or sustained resistance to the Japanese advances. By the end of 1938, superior Japanese forces overran Shanghai, Nanking, Hankow, Canton, and the strategic Pearl River Delta.
Japan now controlled China’s northern railroads; had sealed off the Yangtze River and the Yellow River; controlled ninety-five percent of China’s modern industry; had possession of the major seaports and held key areas in eleven Chinese provinces.
Secure in the belief that they now held strategic and economical control of China, the Japanese settled down to a gradual attrition of China’s resources as the most convenient means of achieving their objectives in China. Knowing that China did not possess sufficient armed strength to counter-attack, the Japanese expected an early capitulation by the Chinese Government due to the strangulation effect imposed by the blockade. The Chinese were able to hold out, however, on the meager supplies coming in on the Burma Road, through northern Indo-China, the Trans-Siberian Railway and via their lone airway from the coast to the interior from Hong Kong.
(#) Tensions between the Empire of Japan and the Republic of China had been heightened since the Japanese invasion of Manchuria in 1931 and their subsequent creation of a puppet state, Manchukuo, with Puyi, the deposed Qing Dynasty Emperor, as its head. Following the invasion, Japanese forces extended their control further into northern China, seeking to obtain raw materials and industrial capacity. A commission of enquirer from the League of Nations made a critical report into their actions, leading to Japan pulling out of the League.
The Kuomintang (KMT) government of China refused to recognize Manchukuo but did agree to a truce with Japan in 1933. Subsequently, there were various ‘incidents’, or armed clashes of a limited nature, followed by a return to the uneasy peace. The significance of the Marco Polo Bridge Incident is that following it, tensions did not subside again, instead, there was an escalation, with larger forces committed by both sides and fighting spreading to other parts of China. With hindsight, this small incident can, therefore, be regarded as the starting point of the major conflict.
Under the terms of the Boxer Protocol of Sep 7, 1901, China had granted nations with legations in Beijing the right to station guards at twelve specific points along railways connecting Beijing with Tianjin. This was to ensure open communications between the capital and the port. By a supplementary agreement on Jul 15, 1902, these forces were allowed to conduct maneuvers without informing the authorities of other nations in China. By Jul 1937, Japan had expanded its forces in China to an estimated 7000 to 15.000 men, mostly along the railways. This number of men, and the amount of concomitant material, was several times the size of the detachments deployed by the European powers, and greatly in excess of the limits set by the Boxer Protocol. By this time, the Imperial Japanese Army had already surrounded Beijing and Tianjin.
During the night of Jul 7, the Japanese units stationed at Fengtai crossed the border to conduct military exercises. Japanese and Chinese forces outside the town of Wanpin – a walled town about 10 miles southwest of Beijing – exchanged fire at approximately 2300. The exact cause of this incident remains unknown, but, when a Japanese soldier, Shimura Kikujiro, failed to return to his post, the Chinese regimental commander Ji Xingwen (219th Regiment, 37th Division, 29th Route Army) received a message from the Japanese demanding permission to enter Wanping to search for the missing soldier.
The Chinese refused. And, although Shimura returned to his unit, by this point both sides were mobilizing, with the Japanese deploying reinforcements and surrounding Wanping. Later during the night, a unit of Japanese infantry attempted to breach Wanping’s walled defenses and was repulsed.
An ultimatum by the Japanese was issued two hours later. As a precautionary measure, Qin Dechun, the acting commander of the Chinese 29th Route Army, contacted the commander of the Chinese 37th Division, Gen Feng Zhian, ordering him to place his troops on heightened alert. At 0200, on the morning of Jul 8, Qin Dechun, executive officer and acting commander of the Chinese 29th Route Army, sent Wang Lengzhai, mayor of Wanping, alone to the Japanese camp to conduct negotiations. However, this proved to be fruitless, and the Japanese insisted that they are admitted into the town to investigate the cause of the incident. At around 0400, reinforcements of both sides began to arrive. The Chinese also rushed an extra division of troops to the area. About an hour or so later the Chinese Army opened fire on the Japanese Army and attacked them at Marco Polo Bridge (690 feet west-southwest of Wanping), along with a modern railway bridge (1095 feet north of the Marco Polo Bridge).
At 0445, Wang Lengzhai had returned to Wanping, and on his way back he witnessed Japanese troops massing around the town. Within five minutes of Wang’s return, the Chinese Army fired shots, thus marking the commencement of the Battle of Beiping-Tianjin, and, by extension, the full-scale commencement of the Second Sino-Japanese War at 0450 on Jul 8, 1937. Col Ji Xingwen led the Chinese defenses with about 100 men, with orders to hold the bridge at all costs. The Chinese were able to hold the bridge with the help of reinforcements but suffered tremendous losses. At this point, the Japanese military and members of the Japanese Foreign Service began negotiations in Beijing with the Chinese Nationalist government. A verbal agreement with Chinese Gen Qin was reached, whereby an apology would be given by the Chinese to the Japanese; punishment would be dealt with those responsible; control of Wanping would be turned over to the Hopei Chinese civilian constabulary and not to the Chinese 219th Regiment, and the Chinese would attempt to better control ‘communists’ in the area. This was agreed upon, though Japanese Garrison Infantry Brigade commander Gen Masakazu Kawabe initially rejected the truce and, against his superiors’ orders, continued to shell Wanping for the next three hours, until prevailed upon to cease and to move his forces to the northeast. (Wikipedia)
(Photo) Chinese Army logistics soldiers assist wounded Chinese troops from the battlefield during the Third Battle of Changsha. The Third Battle of Changsha was fought from Dec 24, 1941, to Jan 15, 1942, and was the first major offensive in China by Imperial Japanese forces following the Japanese attack on the Western Allies. The offensive was originally intended to prevent Chinese forces from reinforcing the British Commonwealth forces engaged in battle with the Japanese in Hong Kong. However, with the successful capture of Hong Kong on by Imperial Japanese forces on Dec 25, 1942, it was decided to continue the offensive in Changsha in order to maximize the blow against the Chinese government. The offensive resulted in failure for the Japanese, as Chinese forces were able to lure them into a trap and encircle them. After suffering heavy casualties, Japanese forces were forced to carry out a general retreat. (Changsha, Hunan, Republic of China. Jan 1942.)
Air OPs CBI continue
Little ground was given up by the Chinese during 1939, 1940, and 1941, but she still suffered losses. Her economic difficulties increased in scope as Japanese pressure tightened the blockade which limited China’s contact with the outside world. This limited contact was further curtailed when the Japanese gained control of northern French Indo-China and the British, acting under Japanese pressure, closed the Burma Road.
War between Russia and Germany in 1941, cut off the trickle of supplies coming in on the Trans-Siberian railway and the northwest Russian highway. The fall of Hong Kong in Dec 1941, eliminated the only air route between the Chinese coast and the interior. Though the Burma Road was reopened in Oct 1941, the Lend-Lease supplies that dribbled in, about 15.000 tons a month, were inadequate to materially affect the scale of China’s war effort. At the end of 1941, the Chinese Army was stalemated along a broken 2000 miles (3200 Kms) front, and forced to operate on very meager rations and extremely limited amounts of all type supplies and equipment. Morale was at a low ebb. The Nationalist Government, established at Chungking, was rapidly losing prestige as her people were subjected to mounting economic hardships. Her air force was reduced to practically a paper air organization. The American Volunteer Group in China provided the only air defense available, but this small force was not adequate to drive the Japanese out of China.
American Interest in and Aid China Prior to WW-2
The attitude of the USA towards the Japan’s aggression had been one of moral disapproval rather than overt opposition. As China’s position became more critical, however, there was a growing tendency to stiffen those measures which implied a warning of more concrete action if Japan persisted in her course.
Japan’s blockade of China in 1938, crystallized the thinking of the United States and prompted the extension of aid to China. Credits first granted to China in 1933 and 1934 were renewed in 1938 for $25.000.000 and with additional loans, reached a total of $170.000.000 by the end of 1940. The economic support which the United States withdrew from Japan was extended on a growing scale to China.
Small as this aid was it helped China to sustain its resistance to Japan. In August 1941, the United States sent a military mission to the aid of China. The mission included technicians to assist to improve the Burma Road and a staff of military advisers. Lend-lease was extended to China in Apr 1941. Small initial shipments of Lend-Lease items arrived in China in the summer of that year. China’s appeal for American engineers and pilots was answered by a number of United States citizens who volunteered their services in various categories. Among the latter was a retired USAAF Officer named Claire Lee Chennault. Under his able leadership, the American Volunteer Group (AVG), known as the Flying Tigers, was formed in 1941, and provided China’s first air defense against the Japanese since the loss of her own air force early in 1938.
Strategic Importance of China after Hostilities with Japan Opened
The importance of China in the conflict with Japan resolves itself into the following considerations: (1) If China were to capitulate, her resources of men, materiel, and food, as well as her geographical location, would be of material assistance to Japan; (2) If she remained free, her strategic location on the flank of Japan’s extended line of communication would provide a base for air operations against the lifelines of the Japanese Empire: (3) Similarly, if China remained in the war against Japan, a base was available for attrition operations against a considerable portion of the Japanese war machine; (4) loss of bases in the Pacific, early in the war, placed the United States in a position remote from Japan’s home bases, thus creating a requirement for an operating base from which to strike at and cripple Japan’s industrial potential. In brief, the United States was committed to keep China fighting, to deprive Japan of her assistance and to provide a base on the enemy’s flank from which to attack his war machine.
To strike at the Japanese homeland, on the ground or from the air, the USA required bases within aircraft operating ranges and additional bases from which to launch ground operations, concentrate supplies, and in general provide extensive logistic support for size-able operations. It appeared quite evident that a corridor into China from India and Burma must be kept open so that supply to bases in China would be insured. With the tempo of Japanese air attacks on the Burma Road increasing, firm steps were taken to increase the air defense of the Burma Road and increase the air operations in support of China. With the ports of China under Japanese control, supplies would have to be brought in at the available ports on the Burma and India coasts.
There is little about, either Burma or India to recommend them as theaters of operation. Their chief disadvantage is their great distance from the United States. No available sea route is less than 13.000 statute miles (20.000 Kms). Available port facilities are limited. Transportation and communications facilities are inadequate. The railroad system, lacking sufficient rolling stock and complicated by the existence of various gauges, would prove of little usefulness. The climate subtracts from their desirability, running into excesses of temperature and humidity. Burma is the gateway to China’s roads. Conquest of all of Burma would be most dangerous because of the threat to the land routes from India to China.
The following considerations are of added significance in determining the importance of India and Burma to the overall operations in the theater: (1) If India and Burma were overrun, their combined resources and potential would be made available to the Japanese and similarly denied to the allied war effort. The value of China as a base for air operations against Japan would be lessened to a great degree if not completely nullified while the ability of China to maintain sustained resistance against Japan’s advances would be jeopardized. (2) If one or both remained free, allied operations could be conducted according to plan. It is therefore apparent that their geographical proximity to China and allied considerations, coupled with the tactical situation, declared India and Burma to be of vital importance to the Allied Nations.
The Jap advance towards the southern approaches of China and penetrating into Burma in the early months of 1942, threatened the lifeline of China. The loss of this road would not only be disastrous for China but would seriously hamper the entire allied effort against Japan. Plans were therefore made for creating the China-Burma-India theater of operations, with Chinese, British, and American officials occupying commands positions. In February, Gen Stilwell was appointed Commander of US Forces in the new theater. At the same time, Japanese penetration into the Netherlands East Indies foretold the dissolution of the ABDA (American, British, Dutch, Australian) Command operating in that area.
Faced with these expected losses and the growing seriousness in the CBI, plans were made to establish an air force in the India-Burma region and Australia. The India-Burma force would supplement the assistance China was now receiving from the AVG and the RAF operating in China. With the decision now made to establish an air force in the India-Burma region, HQs USAAF India-Burma was established at Delhi in Mar 1942. This location was selected to effect better coordination with the British. A planning group, headed by Gen Brereton started making plans for increased, air operations in the theater. Their material assets consisted of $250.000 in American currency, one LB-30, and five war-weary B-17s. Their gigantic task was made bleaker by Japanese advances throughout southeast Asia, toward the subcontinent of India, where they could deliver a severe blow to the Allied cause in the Orient. Demands from other theaters and the policy of concentrating first on the elimination of Germany gave the CBI a low priority. This situation formed an obstacle in the obtaining desired personnel and equipment for the 10-AAF.
Though it was activated on Feb 12, 1942, at Patterson Field, Ohio, it was not until May 17, 1942, that the HQs and HQs Squadron arrived in India. In addition to defending India from the skies, the 10-AAF would also be required to provide an aerial supply line to China; assist the Stilwell’s forces in Burma; develop India, apart from its own defense, as a base for striking the Japanese wherever they may be within bomber range. With its force now consisting of six B-17s, two LB-30 and ten P-40s, limited patrol and transport operations were undertaken without any appreciable delay. Extensive operations had to await the arrival of more planes, procurement of suitable type of aircraft, training of personnel, and provision for facilities.
Requests for badly needed P-38s equipped for photographic work were turned down. Lacking adequate fighter protection, bombing attacks had to be matte at night under very unfavorable conditions. During this early period, organizational difficulties were corrected to the extent possible, with the major portion of the time spent in training, developing techniques, and preparing plans for subsequent operations. Most of the aircraft arriving from the United States were in need of major repairs and, in some cases, complete overhaul before they could be put into combat. Many of the planes brought to Karachi in need of engine replacement had to wait for weeks before replacement spares arrived. The unsatisfactory climate, absence of recreational facilities, sporadic delivery of mail from the United States, all had an adverse effect on the morale of the personnel. The inactivity resulting from a lack of proper equipment for operational and training activities did little to bolster their spirits. The prospect of being overrun by the advancing Japanese further aggravated an undesirable situation.
AVG – American Volunteer Group
The American Volunteer Group provided the first organized air resistance the Japanese had faced since the beginning of the Sino-Japanese War in 1937. Beginning operations on Dec 21, 1941, the AVG kept jabbing at the Japanese whenever and wherever they could. The combined effort of the AVG and the British RAF kept the important Port of Rangoon open for almost three months after the first enemy assaults began. During its six months of operation over Burma and China, the AVG destroyed 297 enemy aircraft in air combat, while losing 14 of their own P-40s.
The air supply route over the Hump (Himalaya) was successfully defended, as well as the supply bases depots in Kunming. Air operations by the 10-USAAF were officially inaugurated on Apr 2/3, 1942, in an attack by B-17s on shipping at Port Blair, Andaman Islands in the Bay of Bengal. This and similar operations entailed the use of an advance base near Calcutta, a distance of 1200 air miles (1900 kms) from the home base at Karachi. Subsequent operations were characterized by the same difficulties of distance and the shortage of aircraft as well as unfavorable weather conditions. Consequently, these early missions were little more than harassing missions.
During this same period, the India-China Ferry conducted operations transporting supplies from India to Burma and China. Service facilities, supply, and maintenance installations were also in the process of being built. Operations, in the main, were still of a defensive nature due to the inadequacy of equipment, personnel, and supplies, coupled with Japanese capabilities, which indicated still further advances in the China-Burma-India Theater.
Improvement of the Allied situation in the Indian Ocean permitted movement of airbases eastward. Late in June, the 23d Fighter Group and elements of the 11th Bombardment Squadron were assembling in China. This regrouping was partially in anticipation of replacing the AVG whose contracts would expire on Jul 4, 1942, but mainly to provide increased air support for British and Chinese forces operating in China. The China Air Task Force became operational on Jul 4, 1942.
In order to bring important enemy targets in southern China within bomber and fighter range, operations were conducted from a string of bases running in a northeast-southwest line starting from Henyang, followed by Lingling, Kweilin, Liuchow, and Nanning. To guard the ferry over the Hump, aircraft operated from Yunnanyi, in western China, and Dinjan in Assam. Bomber strikes included attacks on important Japanese airfields at Nanchang, southeast of Hankow, and Tien Ho airdrome, at Canton, in an effort to reduce Japanese numerical superiority. Fighter aircraft challenged every Japanese bomber raid over Free China, accounting for a number of enemy aircraft during every engagement.
During their eight months of operation, from Jul 4, 1942, to Mar 10, 1943, the claims of HQs China Air Task Force included 182 enemy aircraft destroyed, and 87 probably destroyed. During the operations, 350 tons of bombs were dropped on Japanese installations and 50.000 tons of enemy shipping sunk. During the same period, 24 American aircraft were lost to enemy action.
The India Air Task Force organized in Oct 1942, had very little available combat power during its organization period. To add to their difficulties, the equipment required for an adequate early warning system was not available. Late in October, the word was received that the 10-USAAF was to be relieved of the responsibility of operating the Ferry, effective Dec 1. Before any of the forces could be deployed, the Japanese attacked Dinjan on Oct 25. Approximately 100 planes bombed and strafed the field at Dinjan, as well as the newer fields at Chabua, Mohanbari, and Sookerating. Due to the inadequacy of the early warning system, the Americans suffered heavy losses. Five transport aircraft, five P-40s, and two P-43s were destroyed, while four cargo planes and 13 fighters were badly damaged. On the next day and the 28th, however, when the enemy came over again, the India Air Task Force squadrons were able to destroy fifteen Japanese raiders with little damage to themselves. For several weeks while the India Task Force was being built up, Gen Haynes employed his forces defensively with only occasional offensive missions by small flights of heavy bombers.
The opening attack of this campaign occurred on Nov 20, when eight B-24s carrying 40.000 pounds of bombs attacked the marshaling yards at Mandalay. From Myitkyina in northern Burma to Bangkok in Thailand, and Port Blair in the Andaman Islands, the India Task Force strafed at a low level and bombed from high altitudes. In 17 heavy bombing raids between Nov 20 and Dec 31, they dropped 414.000 pounds of high explosives on enemy targets.
From Apr to Dec 1942, heavy bombers flew only 179 sorties and dropped 299 tons of bombs. Medium bombers from Jul to Dec flew 331 sorties and dropper 346 tons of bombs. Fighters from Jul to Dec 1942 flew 791 sorties and dropped 24 tons of bombs. The total tonnage dropped was 669 tons. During 1943 the India Air Task Force concentrated on the active defense of the Ferry Route between India and China, the airfields and equipment in the Assam area. During 1943, bomb totals of the India Air Task Force had been stepped up to an unusual degree. In Jan, the total of bombs dropped was about 200 tons; by May, it reached 400 tons. From Nov 1942 through Sep 1943, heavy and medium bombers performed 714 missions, flew 4.792 sorties, dropped 6.158 tons of bombs, and destroyed 44 enemy planes, with 39 probable destroyed. In all, the India Task Force lost only 12 planes.
By Nov 1943, the 10-USAAF was making headway in gaining limited air superiority over Burma. That Nov, the 10-AAF joined Gen Stratemeyer’s Eastern Air Command, which in turn, was a part of the Southeast Asia Command under Lord Louis Mountbatten. Heavy bomber sorties for the year 1943 mounted to 2.751, with 4.651 tons of bombs dropped. Light bombers flew 4.003 sorties and dropped 4.243 tons of bombs. Local superiority, gained in the latter part of 1943, was maintained in 1944. During Jan and Feb counter-air force operations were mainly defensive in nature. This was primarily due to the fact that the newly activated Eastern Air Command was in the process of planning its operations.
In Feb 1944, in attempting to attain local air superiority in support over the battle area of his Arakan Offensive, the enemy expended a major effort against the allied air forces. However, the newly acquired Spitfires of one group took such a heavy toll that he was forced to abandon the effort. Verified Allied claims for Jan and Feb were 40 enemy aircraft destroyed, 19 probably destroyed and 102 damaged. During Mar, Apr and May offensive fighter action by Army Air Force units over Japanese bases, substantially broke the Japanese dominance of the air over Burma, destroying 224 aircraft, probably destroying 29 and damaging 58. The combined AAF and RAF score during Mar, Apr and May was 309 enemy aircraft destroyed, 56 probably destroyed and 193 damaged.
In Jun 1944, a marked change in operational policies by the Japanese was evidenced. The enemy seemed to have turned to a form of hit and run guerrilla warfare. As a result, the number of enemy aircraft destroyed by the Allied Air Force, in the last half of 1944 never reached the totals amassed during the period Mar, Apr, and May.
The enemy did, however, conduct nuisance raids during this period and continued to send out photo and visual reconnaissance missions. The latter very seldom were permitted to return to their bases. This lack of air reconnaissance intelligence eventually led to complete Japanese disorganization and utter ignorance of the penetration movement which captured Meiktila. By the end of 1944, as a result, air superiority in Burma had been supplanted by air supremacy.
Air Operations – India-Burma – 1945
It was obvious that the main Japanese air strength had been withdrawn to Siam. On March 15, 40 P-51s of the American Second Commando Group, flew a 1600 mile (2500 Kms) round trip from Cox’s Bazaar and attacked Don Mouang Airfield, 12 miles north of Bangkok. They achieved complete surprise and destroyed 26 enemy aircraft, probably destroyed 6 and damaged 51, for a loss of one P-51. Allied bombers continued to bomb Rangoon and the Don Mouang area with little or no opposition.
By the last of Apr 1945, there were only 12 enemy aircraft fighters in Burma and they were based in the Moulmein area. These, plus a few that could be brought in from Siam, occasionally showed themselves over the fighting front but were ineffective as a defensive or offensive force. The Eastern Air Command, which included the Tenth Air Force for a period, destroyed probably destroyed or damaged 1114 enemy aircraft between Dec 15, 1943, and Jun 1, 1945, in India-Burma.
Tenth Air Force Operations in China
In addition to operating with its major forces in the India-Burma area as discussed in the preceding paragraphs, the Tenth Air Force (10-AAF) was responsible for certain operations in China. Air Operations on the Salween River; during the period Sep 1944 to Jan 1945, the 10-AAF fighter-bombers, flew approximately 1800 sorties from Burma bases against Japanese positions on the Salween front. China Offensive; in Apr, HQs 10-AAF was ordered to China. The advanced detachment was located in Luliang when a change of decision was made on May 2, 1945, removing the 10-AAF from China and standing it down from combat operations at Piardoba, India. In the last week of June the decision was changed and the 10-AAF was again ordered to China, closing at Piardoba and opening at Kunming on Jul 26, 1945.
The basic conception of the reorganization in China, established the Fourteenth Air Force (14-AAF) as the strategic air force to operate generally north of the twenty-seventh parallel on Japanese lines of communications and strategic targets, and the Tenth Air Force as the tactical air force to cooperate with the Chinese ground armies operating south of the twenty-seventh parallel.
Postwar Occupation, Evacuation and Supply
With the end of the war, the 10-AAF was selected by the commanding general, Army Air Forces, China Theater, as the operating agency for all intra-China air transportation. HQs 10-AAF moved back to Kunming on Aug 25, 1945. A partial indication of air power’s contribution to the victorious results attained in the China-Burma-India Theater is provided in a tabulation of statistical data based on claims submitted by the operating air forces. In spite of their impressiveness, the listed data does not present the overall objectives gained as a result of the victories indicated. The following presentation covers these objectives.
Air Power in India-Burma
Airpower not only played a major role in preventing the Japanese occupation of India but completely isolated the Burma battlefields. This action proved demoralizing to the enemy and had an adverse effect on his war-making capability. The air transport operations on which survival of the ground depended, and the forces operating on the ground, were rendered free from air attack by the enemy with the attainment of air superiority in the India-Burma area. By direct attack on enemy troops, installations, equipment, and lines of communication, airpower aided in the destruction of the Japanese forces in Burma. From India-Burma, airpower supplied the military effort in China in the greatest air transport effort of its time.
Air Power in China
Airpower was instrumental in preventing the occupation and control of all of China by the Japanese armies. Strikes on shipping and interdiction of north China’s railways and highways, and very heavy bombardment attacks on Japanese home islands by China based aircraft, materially assisted in the disruption of the entire Japanese war economy and war making potential. Operations of China based air power forced the Japanese to dissipate logistical potential to campaigns in China, which otherwise might have been more effectively employed in the Pacific. By attaining air superiority, China based air power assured the allied forces and operations protection from enemy air attack. China based air power contributed heavily to the attrition of Japanese military power.
Air operations in the China-Burma-India Theater have given rise to the formulation of new doctrine and provided strategic planners with a wider range of thought in determining operations for the future. Prior to 1942, air transport was confined in the main, to carrying passengers, limited supplies, usually of an emergency nature, mail, aid for cargo transport on a limited scale. The situation in China demanded that some form of aerial transport be initiated since the terrain and the enemy prevented the use of the conventional land and sea lanes of communication. Initial successes soon proved that only the numbers of available aircraft and airfields limited the amount of cargo that could be air lifted.
As these planes were supplied, new airfields constructed and personnel made available, the intensity of the ground and air operation increased. The ability of air transport to adequately provide for combat forces isolated from the land and sea lanes of communication was amply demonstrated. The acceptance of this new doctrine, new because it was not accepted by strategic planners prior to 1942, gives rise to three ideas: (1) Land or sea lines of communication to battle areas are not essential, though the size force supported will be governed by limitations discussed previously. (2) The aerial line of communication is particularly adaptable to operations in areas where : (a) difficult terrain forms a barrier to land lines; (b) sea lines or waterways are not available or enemy controlled; (c) a combination aforementioned conditions; (d) the use of an aerial line of communication may be required where speed rather than economy is the governing factor. (3 Force may be massed, supplied, and sustained anywhere in the world. (4) Air transport will provide flexibility in the defense of an extensive area, where the resources of a nation preclude the establishment of a defense of the entire area, and the exact location of the enemy strike is unknown.
Edward M. Hudak
Major, Field Artillery
Air Organisation India-Burma
During the period Dec 7, 1941, to Oct 30, 1942, the 10-AAF was as follows:
India Air Task Force
China Air Task Force
Karachi American Base Command
10-AAF Air Service Command
India-China Ferry Command
During the period Oct 3, 1942, to Dec 15, 1943, the British RAF and the USAAF air units operated under separate command. Coordination was by mutual agreement.
Dec 1, 1942, The India-China Wing of Air Transport Command was activated at Chabua, Assam and took over the Hump operations.
Mar 10, 1942, The 14-AAF was activated from the China Air Task Force and became an independent air command.
Jul 29, 1943, HQs USAAF, India-Burma Sector was activated.
Dec 15, 1943, the Southeast Asia Command was created for the joint British and American prosecution of the war in Asia. Following major commands resulted: Eastern Air Command; 222nd (Coastal) Group, RAF; 225th (Coastal) Group, RAF; Air Transport Command; 20th Bomber Command; 14-AAF and HQs Army Air Force India-Burma Sector, CBI Theater.
230th Fighter Group
51st Fighter Group
230th Fighter Group
(P-40 & P-51)
Group (P-40 & P-51)
The India-China Ferry
As part of its mission, the 10-AAF contributed heavily to the early Allied effort in the China-Burma-India Theater by its ferrying operations. Though confronted with shortages of personnel and equipment, lack of suitable fields and adequate protective facilities, the 1st Ferrying Group, continued operations, transporting supplies into Burma and China. While the Japanese were closing in on important bases along the route, they evacuated wounded soldiers and civilian refugees to the limit of their capacity.
Due to operational difficulties, the original plan of establishing two commands, the Trans-India, to operate from Karachi to Dinjan in Assam, and the Assam Burma China, to operate from Dinjan to Kunming, China, was discarded in favor of one command, the India-China Ferry. The Assam Burma China Ferry, under the command of Col Caleb V. Haynes retained its identity, however, for several months. Immediate attention was given this route due to the necessity of transporting supplies to China, whose morale had suffered a serious setback with the fall of Rangoon. The carrying capacity of the Ferry Command was increased by an addition of ten Pan-American DC-3s from Africa.
Early in April, these planes were utilized in transporting 30.000 gallons of gasoline and 500 gallons of oil to airfields in China. This fuel will be used by sixteen B-25s which were moving across the Pacific aboard an aircraft carrier, preparatory to executing a daring attack on the Japanese homeland, (Doolittle Tokyo Raid). Later these transports were employed in accomplishing greater tasks. When the Japanese major advance through Burma threatened to overrun the British and Chinese defenders, the DC-3s carried ammunition and supplies into the battlefield area, and evacuated the refugees and wounded personnel.
After the fall of Mandalay on May 1, the planes were loaded to capacity evacuating as many passengers as possible before the Japanese could close on points along the ferry route to China. Though the planes were unarmed and subject to enemy attack, not one transport was lost in these operations.
The susceptibility of Dinjan to Japanese attack, forced the pilots and crews to get the planes off the field at dawn. Planes and pilots were working to a maximum, even after the fall of Myitkyina, on May 8, in dropping food and supplies to the retreating defenders of Burma. The fall of Burma dictated a change in the air and ground plans of operations. Heretofore, the Ferry service was considered merely as a supplement to the regular supply lines. It was now necessary to build an air cargo service with capacity enough to replace the Burma Road. From this standpoint, the ferry operations during April, May and June provided an experience which later assisted in developing aerial cargo service over the Hump on a much larger scale. The loss of bases in Burma and the heavy rains of the monsoon season reduced the amount of supplies carried over the Himalayas to about 800 tons a month. The Japanese would be ready for the big push into India when the heavy rains ceased to fall.
The initial work on the establishment of ground services essential to air combat was accomplished during the Burma operations, utilizing the few reinforcements arriving at Karachi for the 10-AAF. On May 1 the 10-AAF Air Service Command was activated under Gen Elmer E. Adler. Necessary cadres were taken from other units of the 10-AAF. The main depot was located at Agra, approximately 700 miles east of Karachi. Later in the month the 3rd Air Depot Group arrived at Karachi, the 3rd Air Depot being established at Agra on May 28. The immediate task was the construction of barracks and an airdrome in which native workers assisted. To provide front line service to the combat units, the 59th Materiel Squadron was divided into small base units and located at Allahabad, Xunming, Agra, Dinjan-Chabua, Chakulia and at Bangalore, where an aircraft manufacturing plant was being converted into a repair and overhaul depot.
Early Operations of the 10-AAF
While elements of the 10-AAF were involved the preparation of supply depot facilities and transporting supplies and evacuating refugees, the bombardment groups were preparing for air strikes against the enemy. The night of Apr 2/3, 1942, marked the beginning of bombing missions. A flight of two B-17s and one LB-30, led by Gen Lewis Brereton,attacked shipping at Port Blair, Andaman Islands in the Bay of Bengal. Another attack was scheduled for targets in the Rangoon area but wasn’t completed due to difficulties occurring during the take-off. These operations entailed the use of an advanced base near Calcutta, a distance of 1200 air miles (1900 kms) from Karachi. Subsequent operations were characterized by the same difficulties of distance and shortage of aircraft, as well as by unfavorable weather conditions.
Consequently these missions were little more than harassing missions. Bombers operating from the advance bases at Asanol and Dum Dum, Burma bombed Rangoon shipping and air facilities. Due to lack of spare parts and major repairs required the bombing missions were restricted to the limited operational aircraft available. During this period operations were suspended for a two week period while necessary repairs were being made. Operations were further hampered during the summer of 1942 due to the adverse weather at times grounding all bombers for weeks.
Taking advantage of this respite the 10-AAF improved early warning and AAA facilities in the Assam and Calcutta areas. Improvement of the Allied situation in the Indian Ocean permitted movement of airbases eastward. The 436th Bombardment Squadron moved on Jun 1, to Allahabad, joining the 9th Bombardment Squadron, HQs of the 7th Bombardment Group moved to Barrackpore, near Calcutta. The 51st Fighter Group was moving units into Kunming and Dinjan, while the 23rd Fighter Group and the 11th Bombardment Squadron were assembling in China. This latter move was partially in anticipation of replacing the AVG in China whose contracts would expire on Jul 4, 1942, but mainly to provide increased air support for the British and Chinese forces operating in China. The situation for the 10-AAF was taking on a brighter hue by June. Definite policies had been established in defining the mission of the air force. Relations between the theater commander and the air force and disposition of forces in China had been decided upon. As stated before, ferry and service organizations were operating and the badly needed combat units with personnel and equipment were due in.
Operations in the main were still of a defensive nature due to the inadequacy of equipment, personnel and supplies, coupled with Japanese capabilities which indicated still further advances in the China-Burma-India Theater. Late, in Jun 1942, the British suffered a major defeat in the Battle of Knights-Bridge, in Cyrenaica. Gen Brereton, with all available bombers, was ordered to the Middle East. He left India on Jun 26 with key officers to establish operations in the Middle East. This left a seriously crippled 10-AAF in India under the command of Gen Earl L. Narden.
China Air Task Force
Initially, the China Air Task Force was composed of the 23rd Fighter Group, the 16th Squadron of the 51st Fighter Group, one flight of the 9th Photo Reconnaissance Squadron, and several flights of the 11th Squadron (M) of the 7th Bombardement Group. Operational aircraft numbered approximately seven B-25s and thirty P-40s.
This force faced the problem of conducting a 5000 mile (8000 kms) front extending from Chungking and Chengtu to the Indo-China Red River in the south, the Tibetan Plateau and the Salween River in the west and the China Sea in the east. In order to bring the important enemy targets in southern China within range of the B-25s and the P-40s, operations were conducted from a string of bases running in a northeast southeast line starting at Hengyang, followed bu Lingling, Kweilin, Leuchow and Nanning. In order to guard the ferry operating over the Hump, aircraft operated from Yunnanyi, in western China and Dinjan in Assam. Although operating against numerically superior forces, the American flyers continued to inflict losses to the enemy with minimum loss to themselves. Bomber strikes included attacks on important Japanese airfields at Nanchang, southwest of Hankow, and Tien Ho airdrome at Canton, in an effort to reduce the Japanese numerical superiority. Fighter aircraft challenged every Japanese bomber raid over free China, accounting for a number of enemy aircraft during every engagement.
The excellent warning system developed in China was an invaluable aid to this air war in China. Fighter planes were given ample time to become airborne and gain an advantageous position for interception thereby depriving the Japanese of their chief weapon of surprise. As with the AVG who preceded them, the China Air Task Force was forced, into periods of inactivity due to unfavorable weather, combat fatigue, exhausted supplies of bombs and fuel and need for aircraft repairs. These periods were used to improve their weapons, developing operating technique and planning future operations.
On Aug 9, five B-25s and three P-40s attacked an important Indo-China Port of Haiphong, marking the first time the task force had reached outside of China or Burma to hit the enemy. A 4000 freighter was sunk in the harbor, large fires which burned for three days were started in the dock and warehouse area, while direct bomb hits on Japanese headquarters caused a number of casualties variously estimated at 100 to 400. The task force was successfully employing guerrilla, hit and run, tactics against the Jap and keeping him guessing.
Time after time the enemy would bomb a strip and later discover that the planes had previously moved to another field. In one of these moves, late in August, the bombers were transferred to Yunnanyi in Southeast China to bolster the Burma Campaign. During the last week of the month, the B-25s twice bombed Lashio, important rail center and air base. They crossed the border of Indo-China to attack enemy supply dumps at Hoang Su Phi and Phu Lo; and on the last two days of August they bombed Myitkyina, a northernmost depot of the enemy in Burma.
Following this series of tasks, the bombers returned to Hepyang and Kweilan, leaving the Burmese operations during September and October to the two B-25s and a few fighters which had been stationed at Dinjan. The main part of the task force, in the meantime, carried out raids over occupied China, harassing shipping on the inland waterways, disrupting rail communications and destroying enemy aircraft on the ground and in the air. Early in October the bombers turned their attention southward in order to aid the Chinese who were opposing renewed enemy attempts to cross the Salween River. Eleven missions were flown against enemy targets in Northeast Burma, including supply depots at Tengchung, Mangshih, Wanling, Chefang and Lichiapo.
With the end of the monsoon, the enemy was expected to increase his air operation to the ferry service particularly along the western end of the route which terminated at Dinjan. The 10-AAF, charged with both operation and protection of the ferry service, was barely in a position to carry out either task. Some improvements had been brought about in the cargo service by leasing transport planes from the China National Airways Company. In order to provide a more effective defense of the ferry and to aid Chinese resistance along the Salween, all the American combat units in India were organized as the India Air Task Force.
India Air Task Force
The India Air Task Force was organized on October 30 under Gen Caleb V. Haynes as commander. With the major units of the 10-AAF operating in China, or with Gen Brereton in the Middle East, the initial strength of the India Air Task Force was almost negligible. To provide a measure of protection, the 26th Squadron and Headquarters 51st Fighter Group were moved to Dinjan. Difficulties were encountered in establishing an early warning system due to a lack of adequate equipment. Late in October, word came that the Tenth Air Force would be relieved of the responsibility of operating the Ferry, effective Dec 1. The First Ferrying Group was to be taken over by the Air Transport Command.
Ferry operations were to be taken over by the India-China Wing of the Air Transport Command with Col E. H. Alexander as the head. The 10-AAF was still to have the responsibility of providing protection for the aerial lifeline to China. Before any of the forces could be deployed the enemy attacked Dinjan on Oct 25. Approximately 100 enemy planes equipped with belly tanks for the long flight from the distant airbase at Lashio, bombed and strafed Dinjan as well as the newer airfields at Chabua, Mohanbari, and Sookerating.
The Americans received little warning, consequently suffered heavy losses. Five transport planes, five P-40s, and two P-43s were destroyed, while four transport and thirteen fighters were badly damaged. On the next day and on Oct 28, when the enemy came over again the India Air Task Force Squadrons were able to destroy fifteen Japanese raiders with little damage to themselves.
These assaults had a telling effect on the dire need for the return of the heavy bombers which had accompanied Gen Brereton to the Middle East and added emphasis to his requests that these bombers be returned to Assam.
During the month of Oct, B-25s which had replaced some of the older B-17s conducted bombing operations north of the Yangtze. The presence of the long-range Liberator in the China-Burma-India Theater gave the 10-AAF a wider choice of targets and made it increasingly difficult for the enemy to predict where the next blows would fall. For several weeks, while the India Task Force was being built up, Gen Haynes employed his forces defensively with only occasional offensive missions by small flights of heavy bombers.
This period marked the beginning of a six-month campaign against the enemy which ended only with the arrival of the monsoon. The opening attack of this campaign occurred on Nov 20, when eight B-24s carrying 40.000 pounds of bombs attacked the marshaling yards at Mandalay and caused great damage there. From Myitkyina in Northern Burma to Bangkok in Thailand, and Port Blair in the Andaman Islands, the India Task Force strafed at a low level and bombed from high altitudes.
In 17 heavy bombing raids between Nov 20 and Dec 31, they dropped 414.000 pounds of high explosives on enemy targets. It may be said, that the American war effort in Burma was kept alive by the India Air Task Force. The port of Rangoon and the approaches to it were attacked by our heavy bombers, which also began a patrol of the Gulf of Martaban as far south as Tavoy Island and as far west as the Andaman Islands.
During 1943, the India Task Force concentrated on the active defense of the Ferry Route between India and China and the airfields and equipment in the Assam area. This included the maintenance and operation of an adequate air warning system, continuous fighter protection for the area, offensive patrols in northern Burma with a concentrated effort to neutralize enemy airdromes, patrol of the Air Transport Command route through Burma, and escort of the Air Transport Command planes when necessary.
American planes operating during the wet monsoon months in 1943 proved that operations could go on regardless of the weather. As a result, up to Oct, almost 65% of the rail facilities of Burma were destroyed, a great amount of shipping was sunk, whole areas of Japenese installations were devastated. By Nov 1943, the 10-AAF was making headway in gaining limited air superiority over Burma. That November, the 10-AAF joined Gen Stratemeyer’s Eastern Air Command, which in turn was a part of the Southeast Asia Command under Lord Louis Mountbatten. Its bomber forces were integrated with the RAF bombers to form the Strategic Air Force, while its fighters united with the British fighters to form the 3rd Tactical Air Force. In Jun 1944, the 10-AAF re-assumed direct operational control of all its units.
During the interim period, the Japanese really began to feel the weight of the American bombs. The strategic targets selected for the 10-AAF, whose headquarters had moved to Calcutta, were merchant shipping, docks, storage and repair facilities, including terminals, rail centers, important bridges, river shipping, rolling stock with particular emphasis on locomotives, and barracks.
In seeing, approximately 15 miles (20 km) north of Rangoon, one of the biggest railroad yards and the only one of its size in left to the Japs, was destroyed on Nov 27, 1943. Heavy bomber sorties for the year 1943 mounted to 2751 with 4651 tons of bombs dropped. Light bombers flew 4003 sorties and dropped 4243 tons of bombs.
Commencing in the fall of 1943, the 10-AAF offered aerial protection to Allied ground forces in north Burma. These forces, originally the Gen Joseph Stilwell’s American-trained Chinese forces, were later joined by the famous American Jungle Fighters known as Merrill’s Marauders, the 5307th Composite Unit, Galahad.
The high degree of mobility and secrecy which resulted from air supply as one of the chief reasons for the success of the Marauders. Casualties were evacuated by L-4s and L-5s based at Ledo. Landing and drop areas, rice paddies, or gravel bars along the river, these light planes flew the wounded to rear echelon airstrips or to collection and clearing companies along the Ledo River.
In Feb 1944, in attempting to attain local air superiority in support over the battle area of his Arakan offensive, the enemy expended a major effort against the Allied Air Forces. However, the newly acquired Spitfires of one group took such a heavy toll that he was forced to abandon the effort. In pressing counter-air action, Allied fighter cover soon dominated the Arakan battlefield, permitting hundreds of transports to fly in supplies to the besieged Seventh Division. A potential defeat was rapidly changing into a decisive victory.
On Mar 27, 1944, the Japanese Air Force made its last major effort against north Burma, the Assam air bases, and the Hump route to China. Eighteen enemy bombers and twenty fighters, in attempting to raid the Assam area were intercepted by P-40s and P-51s of the AAF 5320th Air Defense Wing. In the resulting air battle, eleven enemy bombers and thirteen enemy fighters were confirmed destroyed, at a loss of two American fighters.
The last serious effort of the enemy to challenge Allied air power in central Burma came in May 1944, when he sent fighter sweeps of as many as 20 to 30 Oscars, into the Imphal area to assist the Japanese forces in the drive to Kohima and to destroy Allied transport aircraft supplying the besieged Imphal garrison. He was consistently intercepted and came off the loser in the ensuing battles. The combined AAF-RAF score during Mar, Apr, and May was 309 enemy aircraft destroyed, 56 probably destroyed, and 193 damaged. In Jun 1944, a marked change in operational policies by the Japanese was evidenced. The losses he suffered in the preceding months, coupled with air superiority now enjoyed by the Allied forces caused the enemy to employ conservative tactics. Japanese air activity almost ceased during the monsoon season. Fewer and fewer aircraft were active offensively, until finally, during the closing days of the Burma Campaign, few enemy fighters rose to defend even the most important installations.
In the face of Allied air pressure and ground advances, the Japanese air activity shifted south to Pyinmana during Feb 1945. By advancing their airbases the Allies were in better positions to strike at bases deeper into the Japanese rear areas. During March, Toangoo and the surrounding airfields became the most important Japanese bases north of Rangoon. On Mar 8, AAF P-51s again attacked the main airdrome at Rangoon, Mingladon but were unable to find and destroy more than three enemy aircraft. On Mar 9, 1945, 70 B-24s and a P-47 escort bombed Rangoon against very weak aerial defense. The next day, 24 B-24s again bombed Rangoon targets, this time without any fighter interception whatsoever.
In preparation for the move on Rangoon by the Allied Forces, strikes were made against Moulmein and airfields in Siam. So effective was the reduction of the Japanese force in this area that not a single enemy aircraft attempted to interfere with the Allied occupation of Rangoon. At the time Rangoon fell, the Japanese Air Force strength in Burma was zero and an estimated maximum of 50 aircraft was based in Siam. The role of the 10-AAF in China may be divided into three headings: (1) Direct assistance to the China Theater while based in Burma; (2) Air movement of the Fourteenth and Twenty-second Divisions from Burma to China, Dec 5, 1944, to Jan 6, 1945; (3) Air operations on the Salween River in support of China Expeditionary Force, Aug 1944 to Jan 1945.
Postwar occupation, evacuation, and supply
Air Operations on the Salween River
To augment the support of the Chinese Expeditionary Force by the 14-AAF, the 10-AAF established 8 radio links between their Headquarters in Burma and the Sixth-ninth Composite Wing of the 14-AAF. This enabled the 14-AAF to call for airstrikes by the 10-AAF on targets holding up the advance of the Chinese Expeditionary Force. The additional airpower proved necessary since the 14-AAF was insufficient supplies to provide all of the air effort required.
The operations of the 14-AAF can conceivably, be considered as starting with the action of the American Volunteer Group, which went into action in Dec 1941. For six months thereafter, the Flying Tigers were almost, the sole hope of the Chinese forces, which for more than four years had been fighting desperate battles with little help from the Allies. In fact, the American Volunteer Group provided the first organized air resistance the Japanese faced since the beginning of the Sino-Japanese War in 1937. The second prologue to the story of the 14-AAF is provided by the operations of the China Air Task Force which was activated in battle on Jul 4, 1942. Chennault, who headed the American Volunteer Group, was recalled to active duty as a brigadier general and named as Commander of the China Air Task Force. The mission given to the China Air Task Force was to (a) defend the southern and eastern approaches to the Hump air route and its China terminals; (b) attack and destroy hostile aircraft, shipping, personnel supplies and installations in other areas when munitions are available and when such operations do not jeopardize the primary objective; (c) give air support to the Chinese ground forces.
The China Air Task Force was assigned to the 10-AAF, but due to control difficulties, it was permitted to operate independently in the formulation of air plans and in carrying out air operations. The China Air Task Force operations represented a modest expansion of the American Volunteer Group effort. With the American Volunteer Group, a controlling factor that limited operations to a great extent were the shortages of aircraft, personnel, spare parts, gasoline, and other supplies. During its eight months of operation the China Air Task Force accounted for 182 enemy aircraft destroyed, 87 probably damaged, 350 tons of bombs dropped on enemy installations, and 50.000 tons of enemy shipping sunk.
On Mar 10, 1943, the 14-AAF was activated from the China Air Task Force and became an independent air command responsible directly to the China-Burma-India Theater Commander. The 14-AAF grew steadily from a small force to a relatively large force with a strong striking potential. It conducted effective fighter and bomber operations along a 5000-mile front which extended from Chanking and Chengtu in the north to Indo-China on the south; from the Tibetan Plateau and the Salween River, in Burma, in the west, to the China Sea and the Island of Formosa in the east.
The basic over-all mission of the Fourteenth Air Force was to prevent the Japanese occupation of all China and subsequent capitulation of the Chinese National Government. To accomplish this ambitious but imperative mission, the Fourteenth struck and harassed the enemy from strategically located airbases in China.
Taking full advantage of its interior positions, which were spotted on the hub of a semi-circle stretching from Ichang to Hankow and down around the coast to Canton and Hong Kong, the 14-AAF was in a position to effectively attack the Japanese concentrated around the ring of this huge tub.
The 14-AAF jabbed the enemy off balance and kept him guessing by jumping all over the huge map of China. If the weather was unfavorable in northeast China. Chennault’s fighters and bombers concentrated their efforts on the rich targets to the south, often for days in succession. Time and time again the Japanese rushed reinforcements to the target area, thinking the Americans were intent on a prolonged attack on that particular spot. Having thus forced the opponent’s hand, Chennault would then either send his planes to strike at a relatively undefended area or concentrate on the target which the enemy had reinforced, whichever promised the better results.
In studying the operations of the air forces in China it is evidenced that the extent of the operations was tempered to a large degree, especially in earlier operations, by the limitations imposed by lack of adequate supp1y, coupled with the extreme difficulty of transporting supplies from India, and the subsequent distribution within China. Starting with 872 tons received in Apr 1943, the amount steadily grew each month reaching 6234 tons delivered in May 1944; thereafter the tonnages delivered increased from 12.537 tons in Jun 1944 to a peak month in Jul 1945 of 34.164 tons.
The increase in tonnage paralleled the growth in strength of the 14-AAF which reached its peak operating strength in 1945. In conducting counter-air force operations, the 14-AAF employed the same units that were charged with the air defense of their own bases. Numerically inferior in aircraft to the Japanese until the early part of 1945, the Army Air Forces proved more than a match for the enemy, as evidenced by the eventual gain of air superiority in Jan 1945 which later was projected to complete supremacy of the air over China later in the year.
An example of the disastrous result experienced by the Japanese in their conflicts with the 14-AAF is expressed in an analysis of the five major attacks by the Japanese against the airfield on Kunming in 1943. The enemy employed between 21 and 30 bombers and 20 to 50 fighters in each attack. Losses sustained destroyed, probably destroyed and damaged, totaled 150 aircraft. Opposition to these raids averaged twenty-five P-40s, one of which was lost and four of which were damaged.
As a result of these high losses, the Japanese abruptly terminated their daylight bombing program in China. Thereafter, during the balance of 1944, they attacked at night in smaller numbers but with greater frequency. Lacking AA artillery and night fighters, the 14-AAF employed day fighters in an attempt to break up these attacks. Only rarely were the day fighters successful when used at night. Japanese bombing was not accurate, however, and relatively little damage was done.
During the period Nov 26, 1943, and Jan 20, 1945, major offensive strikes included attacks against the Shinchiku airdrome, Formosa; Pailochi, China; Tsinan airdrome, China; Tsingtao, China; Shanghai airdrome, China. In addition to inflicting substantial damage to the facilities in the areas, partial losses to enemy aircraft that rose in opposition amounted to 209 destroyed, 31 probably destroyed and 116 damaged.
During the years 1943-1944 the Army Air Forces encountered determined opposition from enemy fighters defending critical installations. During 1945, however, the enemy showed a marked and increasing unwillingness to commit aircraft, even in the defense of his most important installations. By Jan 1945, Allied ground and air installations in China were immune to enemy air attack, and Army Air Force aircraft were ranging at will over Japanese occupied areas without an interception. Air superiority has been established.
During the period 1942 to 1945, the Army Air Forces in China destroyed, probably destroyed or damaged, on the ground or in the air, a total of 4412 Japanese aircraft with their own losses for the same period totaling 468 aircraft. In addition to defensive, and counter-air offensive, the 14-AAF conducted extensive attacks on shipping, mining operations, railway and highway interdictions, attacks on troop concentrations, warehouse facilities, supply installations, and close support of the Chinese ground forces.
Attacks on shipping during the period 1942 to 1945, including small boats resulted in claims totaling 2.292.249 tons of enemy shipping sunk, probably sunk or damaged. The principal water area covered in these attacks embraced the sea lanes of traffic from the northern end of Formosa to Saigon. The area included Swatow, Hong Kong, Canton, Hainan Island, the Gulf of Tonkin, and the Port of Saigon. Minelaying operations constituted another phase of air force strategic air programs. Coordinated with sea sweeps of the southeast and south China Coasts, mining of harbor areas at Haiphong, Canton – Hong Kong and at Shanghai were designed to reduce the availability of these ports to coastal shipping.
Mining of the approaches to Canton was probably the chief factor in the prevention of a Japanese drive north from Canton in the summer of 1944. There can be no doubt that the mining operations took a substantial direct toll of Japanese shipping and had the indirect effect of markedly reducing the efficiency of shipping turn around time. More intensive than the mining of coastal areas at irregular intervals was the continuous mining undertaken against shipping in the Yangtse River. In the seven months beginning with Oct 1944, B-24s laid nearly 200 tons of mines in the Hankow, Seymour, Ward, and Blakenley reaches at and immediately downriver from Hankow. The damage caused by these mines has not been definitely ascertained, however, it can be said that the additional difficu1ty caused had a reducing effect on his ability to move supplies and, troops on the Yangtse River.
As easily as the American Volunteer Group, strafing and bombing of railways, locomotives, freight cars, rail yards, and facilities have been lucrative and effective missions. These attacks continually disrupted the enemy movement of troops and supplies and were especially important as the Japanese advanced deeper into the interior. Tactical plans, in many instances, were altered when the supporting rail lines were rendered useless or incapacitated by American air action. The enemy tried for six years to build up the capacity of the railroads to a level commensurate with their needs. At least 75 percent of their failure can be attributed to the successive damage caused by the limited Allied air power in the China theater.
It appears logical, therefore, to estimate that, had a relatively small increase in airpower been available to permit the attack of the Tsinpu railroad and its key installations, the whole system would have collapsed, with consequent earlier termination of the Japanese campaign in south China.
The Chinese Army sorely lacked air support in its earlier campaigns. They provided targets which the Japanese bombed and strafed at will, with virtually no opposition from the air or in the form of antiaircraft guns. Lacking this support they were repeatedly cut up and forced to withdraw to fight on terrain which afforded them the most natural protection. The little assistance provided by the American Volunteer Group and later the China Air Task Force immeasurably increased their morale and combat capability. As the support increased with the arrival of more aircraft operating with the 14-AAF, coupled with an increase in ground force strength provided by the United States and Britain, they were able to undertake offensive operations. The halt of some of the Japanese major drives can be traced directly to the close support provided by the Allied Air Forces. The best summation of the effect of Allied Air Force support of ground operations is indicated by the substance of statements made by high Japanese officers. They all agreed that their conquest of China Burma and India would have been successful, had not the Allied Air Forces interfered with their operations.