Chinese Gen Chiang Kai-shek, head of the Nanking government at Canton with Gen Lung Yun, chairman of the Yunan provincial

China, Hankow, 1938 – A teenage Chinese soldier. In July 1937, Japan ordered an attack on China. The Japanese rapidly conquered all of northern China, up to the Yangze River. Chiang Kai-Shek, President of China, and head of the Nationalist Party moved the capital to Chongqing (Chungking), while Japan established a puppet government in NanjingEven though united under the Nationalists, China remained a confederation of rival warlords who were responsible to raise and equip their own armies. Chiang was a powerful individual, but his power came from balancing the opposite, distrustful poles of the confederation and a common enemy, not from the national referendum. Chiang could not forget that after defeating the disease of the skin, the Japanese; he would have to defeat the disease of the heart, the communists. Yet, for the first time in modern history, China was united. Chennault sailed from the US aboard the USS President Garfield and debarked at Kobe, Japan, where he was met by McDonald. They toured Japan for several days in late May of 1937. Their sightseeing, note-taking, and photography focused on ports, harbors, shipping bottlenecks, military posts, airfields, and war industries. The two tourists arrived in Shanghai in early Jun 1937. Years later, Chennault was surprised that his notes and photos contained more information on Japanese targets than the War Department’s intelligence files. The department’s files were so void that in the spring of 1942 Col James Doolittle canvassed American firms with Japanese ties to secure intelligence prior to his famous raid. The plight facing Chennault in China was pathetic. In Shanghai, he immediately met William H. Donald and Madame Chiang both would help him. Donald, an Australian, knew the power politics of Asia as few men ever will.

A beautiful portrait of Madame Chiang

Wings For Real Fighter who Fighted during WW2 - Chinese Pilot WingsMadame Chiang was in charge of the Chinese Air Force (CAF). Nanking, in the summer of 1937, was a political hotbed with student protests against the Japanese. Reports flowed in from the north about Japanese soldiers abusing the Chinese. The invader’s army also demanded to train and garrison their troops on Chinese soil. Chennault began his survey of the CAF weeks before the Japanese invasion. The CAF was a danger to itself. The Italians, under Gen Scaroni, had the largest training contract that cost the Italians nothing and simultaneously funded the expansion of the Italian aircraft industry. The organization was corrupt. Every pilot who survived the Italian flying school earned his wings, regardless of ability.

This Italian method saved the Generalissimo embarrassment from politically reliable parents of cadets but ruined the air force. Chennault found that on paper the air force had over 500 planes but only 91 were ready for combat. Chennault saw that the Italian-trained pilots were a menace to aviation. Pilots crashed doing basic maneuvers and had up to five accidents per day. Madame Chiang and Chennault stood and watched as five Italian-trained pilots crashed while returning from a mission in the summer of 1937. The Italians were far more interested in making money than in raising and training an air force. With the notable exception of a small German-trained force of 300.000, China’s Army was conscripted, without adequate equipment and training. Chiang’s German advisers, led by Gen von Faulkenhausen, did outstanding work. They overcame some of the same astonishing difficulties that Chennault faced such as incomplete cooperation, widespread illiteracy, and outdated industry. The Germans successfully created a strong Central army and China’s general staff. As the Japanese invasion rolled south from 1937 to the end of 1938, Chennault witnessed the largest mass exodus in history. People moved banks, 400 factories, libraries, and their society, including 40.000 university students, into the interior of China to flee the Japanese aggressor. In one year the capital of Chungking grew from 200.000 to over one million as the province grew from 50 million to over 200 million.

Wartime PropagandaThe 1940 fall of France and the Low Countries (Belgium, Holland, Luxembourg) provided Japan with new fields for easy conquest in Indo-China. After Thailand‘s surrender on December 8, 1941, Hong Kong capitulated on December 25, 1941. The Japanese moved into the British Malaya, producers of half the world’s rubber, and a quarter of the tin. In April 1941, Chennault and Arthur N. Young, financial adviser to China, studied probable Japanese lines of operation into Burma. When Young presented the project to the Allies they scoffed that an invasion through the impenetrable jungles would be too hard. Dating from the 1900s, the US policy toward China had been commercial and not political, but the Japanese expansion began changing the old political realities. American attitudes did not change until the Japanese expanded into the European Colonies of Southeast Asia and culminated with the raid on Pearl Harbor. President Roosevelt planned to treat China as a great power.

In China, he saw an emerging major political power. He viewed Chiang Kai-shek as his counterpart and the vital major leader who eventually unified China. America would give Chiang all the aid America could spare to defeat the Japanese aggressor. Roosevelt knew that aid would be meager as the US‘s vital interest lay in Europe and in the Central Pacific. Chiang had 3.8 million men in his army but they only had a million rifles. In July 1941, Roosevelt approved the clandestine creation of three American Volunteer Groups (AVG) and a bomber force totaling 500 airplanes and other military aid for China. Shortages of planes and pilots meant that Chiang only received 99 planes before December 7, 1941. This postponed the allies’ plans to bomb Japan from late 1941 until the spring of 1942.

Chennault was a great advocate of pursuing aviation. He carried the ball, almost boringly so. He was a pain in the ass to a lot of people. He did turn out to be quite right, as many people who are pains in the ass do.

Gen Pete Quesada

Wartime PropagandaIn 1940 and 1942, Chennault authored his strategy to defeat the Japanese. In both cases, the Army decried it while the politicians embraced it. His plan was to attack the Japanese with a small air force based in China. Japan, void of any natural resources, was dependent upon sea power to sustain herself, and her industries, and to then project her domination over the Pacific and Asia. Chennault’s plan was to maintain the tactical defense while taking the strategic offensive by projecting airpower and, later, seapower against the belligerent’s sea lines of communication and vital industries. He vigorously advocated the use of incendiaries against Japanese cities – not in tacit approval of Douhet’s theory, but rather in a real appreciation gained from incendiaries’ offensive destructive power observed first-hand as the Japanese burned the Chinese paper cities.

Chiang Kai-shek, Soong May-ling or Soong Mei-ling, also known as Madame Chiang Kai-shek (traditional Chinese or simplified Chinese) Sòng Meilíng; Mar 5, 1898 – Oct 23, 2003) was a First Lady of the Republic of China (ROC), the wife of former President Chiang Kai-shek and Gen Claire Lee ChennaultSix years later the Army arrived at the same conclusion and initiated the firebombing of Japanese cities and industries using the 20-USAAF and the 21-USAAF. Chennault’s strategy threatened the Japanese lines of communication using a larger scale of the same type of operation that Capt Chennault criticized Gen Kilbourne for not allowing in the 1934 wargames.

Kilbourne prevented the Air Arm from attacking the enemy when they were most vulnerable, on the ships. He also prevented the Air Arm from attacking the enemy while they disembarked their landing craft on the beach when they were also very vulnerable. Further, he and many ground commanders of the time prevented the Air Arm from attacking the lines of communication and operation from the ships to the beachhead to the front lines.

The 1923 Field Service Regulations, which stated, the ultimate objective is the destruction of enemy forces by battle, went largely unchallenged by the War Department until well into WW-2. The Army’s view of the Air Arm’s role was limited to the immediate support of ground forces at the point of contact.

Chiang’s and Chennault’s thoughts were in concert because Chennault was a meticulous observer and fought in China years before the American entry into the war. Chennault realized that Chiang faced a greater battle after the war with Japan in continuing to unite China under the Nationalist flag. Chiang likewise became a great believer in airpower for two reasons. First, he saw what it could accomplish even in small numbers when skillfully handled both by Chennault with the China Air Force of 1937-38 and the Russian squadrons aiding the Nationalists. Secondly, Chiang became a believer largely by being victimized by its effects almost daily from 1937 through 1941. His interior wartime capital of Chungking became the most bombed city in the world from 1937 until well into the war when London and Malta stole the infamy.

G3M2 Genzan Kokutai on their way to bomb Chungking

Chennault saw no value in routing the Japanese from Burma, Siam, and French Indo-China. The Japanese, in essence, had become prisoners of war in the Southeast Asian jungles much like the conquering Turks in an earlier war on another continent became prisoners within their conquests of Mecca and Medina to T. E. Lawrence and the Arabs. Chennault advocated letting the Japanese Army swelter in the jungle by cutting their sea lines of communication with allied air and sea power. Gen MacArthur came to the same conclusion regarding frontal jungle assaults against the Japanese after his experience at Bougainville where his losses exceeded those sustained earlier at Guadalcanal.

Suifu, China, there were some old hangars of wooden poles with bamboo mats with some obsolete airplanes in them like this Curtiss Hawk with a Wright Cyclone engine. Curtiss sold a number of them to China in the 1930s. The airplane was intact, looked good and had even had air in the tires

Chennault had the ends and the ways, he merely needed the means to prove his theories and defeat Japan. Acquiring and husbanding the means to conduct war were hallmarks of Chennault’s warfighting. A casual observer can retort that it is obvious that every commander needs the means to conduct war, but being the smallest air force in the largest geographical theater of war, Chennault’s command became masters of improvisation. Chennault was assured. Chennault had a penchant for letting experience be his teacher of choice. He was not beyond learning from others as long as their conclusions were grounded in experience and logic. He had long come to terms with the differences in World War historical facts, post-war exercise results, logic, theory, and the conclusions that the military authorities drew in the 1930s. On many issues, he agreed with their conclusions while on others he took issue. What makes Chennault’s theories cogent is that he published them long before the war and provided a unique opportunity to prove them on the battlefield and during the campaign. Afterward, he was able to synthesize them in his memoirs and articles. With his history and military theory foundation, he keyed in on two ideas. The first idea was the destructive potential of the bomber in trained hands and the second was the theoretical imperative for a balanced Air Arm. Regarding the bomber, he wrote that it is strictly an offensive weapon and that the greatest danger, lies in the possible failure of military authorities to appreciate its power. Regarding the balanced Air Arm, he used his historical and theoretical background to attack the precept of bomber invincibility that had led the air arm to propose an unbalanced, bomber-heavy force.

Another old airplane in the pole-and-bamboo hangars at Suifu, China. This is a Russian Tupolev SB-2, obsolete by World War II. With more modern engines and propellers it was widely and successfully used in World War II. When it first appeared it was faster than most fighters. I looked it over carefully from an engineering point of view and concluded that it was well designed and well built

Chennault noted that Douhet’s bombardment theory made two serious assumption errors. The first error was that a nation would plan for a war of bombing terrorism, directing strikes against civilians while utterly neglecting all active defense against the same weapon in the hands of the enemy. Chennault stressed that it is the population of a state which wages war and that it is inconceivable that their government would only prepare for offensive war. The second serious assumption error of the Douhet theory is that the defense will culminate in its effort against the leading attacks of the enemy bombardment. Conservation of force is one of the fundamental principles governing the employment of military forces. The defense’s ability to conserve resources is its great advantage. Planning to sacrifice this advantage by committing all defensive forces available against the leading offensive bombardment forces would be nonsensical. When he penned the Role of Defensive Pursuit in 1933, Chennault noted the paradigm of warfare had changed markedly from previous wars. The stereotyped war formula had been in five phases. The first phase was distrust, breaking diplomatic relations, and declaring war. In the second phase, armed forces would invade, and in, the third, armies and navies would fight. Fourth, after victory, armies would occupy the capital and industrial centers of the vanquished. Fifth, the peace treaty was signed. Chennault noted that prior to and in the early years of the World War, individual citizens had little impact on the war or peace but merely contributed taxes and men for the draft. The World War’s stalemate and the next Great War changed this equation to where the militaries alone could not win the war and millions of people from the warring nations would become involved.

A Captured Japan Mitsubishi Zero wearing Chinese Markings

The closing phases of the World War witnessed a war of populations. This was coined the National Resistance or The Will of the People to Resist. Chennault realized this was not wholly new, but that the coming great war would integrate all the means of the combatants. People throughout the depth of the country would be subject to combat effects as never before. At the macro-level he predicted that ground engagements would follow the general outline of the World War with long, laborious conflict, ending only when the resources of one nation have been exhausted. He concluded that there could not be a quick blow to destroy the enemy’s means or will to resist since technology greatly increased the powers of defense. Chennault noted that the Air Arm is personal and affects the morale of an entire nation more directly than other weapons. He cited the success of the British Royal Air Force in enforcing the political mandate over Mesopotamia as an example of the effect of aerial action upon the moral or will-to-resist of a people. Operating against tribes with a widely scattered population living in caves; with no centers of industry, wealth, or population; with no established routes of communication or lines of transport; it is a matter of record that every rebellious tribe voluntarily capitulated within a very short time. It has been generally accepted that the subjugation of a scattered population devoted to pastoral pursuits and inhabiting a rough, mountainous country with numerous natural caves offers the most difficult objective for an air force.

I am not expert in Airplane, but I think that this one is a Boeing P-26A used by the CAF

The RAF’s freedom of maneuver negated all of the tribes’ advantages. While Chennault reasoned that he was unsure if the Air Arm alone could be decisive, he also noted its historical power. Chennault argued that the next great war would begin with aerial bombardment operations and that an attack was most likely at a remote installation such as Oahu or the Panama Canal, far removed from large concentrations of land-based aircraft. Chennault notes that many theorists agreed that the Air Arm would be employed early and vigorously in the next conflict and that practically all experts appreciate the value of the aerial offensive but added that very few have any real conception of the defensive. Chennault organized his thoughts into separate strategies and tactical considerations. First, he framed his thoughts around the broad framework of offense and defense. He wrote that the bomber was an offensive weapon and strengthened the offense more than any other weapon since the World War, but noted that in the defense it fights in its own element. Chennault argued that the offense was not limitless noting that the bomber will not always get through regardless of hostile opposition. Chennault noted, that if true, bombardment’s invincibility was the first exception to the ancient principle that for every new weapon there is an effective counter weapon. Paraphrasing Clausewitz, Chennault wrote: Obviously, this lack of regard for hostile opposition is a theory that has no foundation inexperience. Centuries of military experience on both land and sea indicate that the tactical range of any offensive effort penetrating hostile areas is limited by the amount and effectiveness of the defensive efforts that are opposed to it. The experience likewise indicates that the strength of the defense increases rapidly in proportion to the depth of penetration.

CAF Old Airplanes used before WW2

From this foundation, Chennault proposed four planks for fighting the next war. First, the protection of warring nations demands the use of integrated passive defense measures for both civil and military populations. Second, enemy detection must be achieved with ground information or intelligence net. Third, an enemy interception occurs when coordinated with the first two planks, and the proper numbers and types of pursuit and bombardment weapons are used. The fourth plank was the destruction of the enemy’s bombardment, establishing air superiority, and destroying the enemy’s means to wage war. Protection through passive defensive measures, base and LOC defense, and mobility to neutralize the effects of the hostile bombardment was the first plank in Chennault’s theory. He called for extensive protection taken by both civilian and military authorities. Chennault cited passive defense measures taken by some of the same European Nations that professed the theory of the bomber. Passive defense in Italy included sandbagging and using sanitary and anti-chemical squads, and the operation of an ambulance service was all regulated and rehearsed. Detailed passive defense in France included the piecemeal removal of essential factories and their rebuilding. Base and LOC defense was an amalgamation of Chennault’s tactical doctrine and Sun Tzu’s deception and finesse. Theodore White termed Chennault’s genius for mobility as flick and back, flick and back as Chennault flicks his bomber force around like you’d flick a whiplash. Chennault often used Scipio Africanus’s defense of Rome to portray the protection afforded by mobility.

St Augustine Record December 8 1941

Detection and intelligence were the cornerstones of Chennault’s theory. He extensively studied the defensive record of the World War. He wrote in Figbing for Observation, that before World War the European Powers did not think aerial observation was worth spending considerable money on. There was no appreciation of the necessity for denying aerial observation to the enemy. Presumably, the enemy was welcome to all the information that his unreliable air service could obtain. The pursuit was born of the requirements to maintain observation and to deny freedom of action to the enemy’s aviation. Ground force success became more reliant upon aerial observation, often finding that it was vital for success.

The fight for it intensified. Like the ground force’s need for aerial observation, Chennault argued that the Air Arm is dependent upon the formation of effective ground information or an intelligence net. He envisioned a sprawling, spiderweb-like net with numerous ground observers and a central command post. The airborne pursuit alone would not suffice due to the limitless nature of airspace and the eye’s difficulty with 3-dimensional viewing. It would result in the exhaustion of the defending force with no commensurate return. Conversely, pursuit planes on the ground near the defended point are unable to intercept hostile bombers.

Effective defense occurs when the pursuit force meets and engages the airborne enemy well before the enemy reaches its target. Paramount importance is preventing the enemy from striking his target, of secondary importance is destroying the withdrawing enemy. The net must centralize its information for evaluation and direct interception because the attacking bombers may change course, split or join flights from one reporting station to the next. Therefore reporting must occur at frequent intervals. Finally, evaluating the information occurs by trained experienced personnel at a central command post. This single authority command post directs the interception, during daytime or at night using searchlights, all based upon the flight route and competent assessment of the probable target. Island or coast defense necessitates marine listening posts using submarines and boats of all types. He wrote that from the studies of the World War the general average of experience … indicates that Douhet’s doctrine of bombardment invincibility is sound. But his study of active and passive actions that some Europeans were writing about was different. Alone, the British decided that the pursuit plane had a role in the defense of her islands.

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