1st Air Commando Group

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The 1st Air Commando Group was a U.S. Army Air Forces group of fighters, bombers, transports, military gliders and small planes that operated in the South-East Asian Theatre of World War II. It was part of the U.S. Tenth Air Force and provided air support for the British Fourteenth Army in the Burma Campaign.

Organisation

During the Quebec Conference in August 1943, President Franklin D. Roosevelt was impressed by Brigadier Orde Wingate's account of what could be done in Burma with proper air support. [p.176 Busch, Bryan Cooper "Bunker Hill to Bastogne: Elite Forces and American Society 2006 Brasseys] To comply with Roosevelt's proposed air support for British long range penetration operations in Burma, the USAAF created the 5318th Air Unit that was redesignated "Provisional Composite No. 1 Air Commandos" and tasked with supporting the Chindits. Eventually they were designated the 1st Air Commando Group in March 1944 by General Hap Arnold. As commander of the unit, Arnold chose Colonel Philip Cochran (1910-1979), a model for a main character named "Flip Corkin" in the "Terry and the Pirates (comic strip)" [http://www.explorepahistory.com/hmarker.php?markerId=958] and Colonel John Alison.

The group consisted of 13 C-47 air transports, 225 Waco CG-4A military gliders, a squadron of 30 P-51 Mustangs, a squadron of 12 B-25H bombers, and 100 L-1 and L-5 Sentinel liaison aircraft. [p.2627 Various authors "Marshall Cavendish Encyclopedia of World War II" 1985] The group also tested the United States' first use of a helicopter in combat, six Sikorsky R-4s, in May of 1944. [ [http://www.nationalmuseum.af.mil/factsheets/factsheet.asp?id=518 Sikorsky R-4 history] ]

Operations

The Chindits were delighted to hear they had their own private air force. John Masters' Chindit memoirs "The Road Past Mandalay" stated that the Chindits' relationship with the Royal Air Force was problematic saying "Whatever we asked them to do they declared to be difficult, impossible or against Air Force policy. Whatever they offered to do, we didn't need"Masters, John "The Road Past Mandalay" Michael Joseph (1961)]

Cochran earned the Chindits' respect by agreeing to letting them call in air support themselves and evacuating a Chindit injured in a training accident by landing an L-5 in a field 400 feet long when 600 feet was the minimum.

Later in the campaign they supported other units of the British Fourteenth Army during their victorious drive to Rangoon. One of the glider pilots who participated in landing the Chindits was actor Jackie Coogan.

After a glider training accident, the Commander of the Chindits General Orde Wingate sent the 1st Air Commando a message::"Please be assured that we will go with your boys, any place, any time, any where."It was adopted by the 1st Air Commando as their motto, and in an abbreviated form this is still used as the motto of the USAF Special Operations Command.

The unit was deactivated on November 3, 1945.

Other Air Commando Groups

The 2nd Air Commando Group was formed in Lakeland, Florida on 22 April 1944 and were sent to India under Colonel Arthur DeBolt. The unit served in the China Burma India Theatre of operations with the fighter units also flying missions over Bangkok, Thailand. Following the collapse of the Japanese in Burma, the 2nd Air Commando Group was sent to Okinawa to prepare for the invasion of Japan, but the war ended. The unit was sent to the United States and disbanded on 12 November 1945.Yancey, Madonna "United States Air Force Air Commandos" 2000 Turner Publishing. p.6]

The 3rd Air Commando Group was formed in Lakeland Florida on 1 May 1944 under Colonel Arvid Olson. The unit was sent to New Guinea, then the Philippines where it served as part of the 5th Air Force. The unit was disbanded on 25 March 1946.Yancey, Madonna "United States Air Force Air Commandos" 2000 Turner Publishing. p.20]

Post World War II

In April 1961 the Air Commandos were reformed at Hurlburt Field, Florida in response to Soviet-supported insurgencies springing up in Third World countries as an idea of General Curtis LeMay. The unit had a two-fold purpose: counterinsurgency training and combat operations in Third World countries. It was the first unit of its kind in the Air Force.

The 4400th Combat Crew Training Squadron (CCTS) was the official designation of the initial and parent unit; the designation was later changed to the 1st Air Commando Group with the name air commando applying to individuals as well as wings, squadrons, or detachments. "Jungle Jim" was first a code name and later a nickname of the original 4400th CCTS and Air Commandos. Members of the unit wore an Australian-type green fatigue bush hat in the style that Johnny Weissmueller wore in the "Jungle Jim" films. The Air Commandos soon deployed to Laos and South Vietnam in October 1961 as part of Operation Farm Gate in the Vietnam War. The unit was redesignated the 1st Air Commando Wing on June 1, 1963, the 1st Special Operations Wing on July 8, 1968, the 834th Tactical Composite Wing on July 1, 1974 and the 1st Special Operations Wing on July 1, 1975.

ee also

* Former United States special operations units

References

Further reading

* Jon Latimer, "Burma: The Forgotten War", London: John Murray, 2004 ISBN 0-7195-6576-6
* [http://www.hurlburt.af.mil/basewide/airpark/mainmemorial/mainentancememorial.html USAF website to the Memorial of 1st Air Commando Group]
* [http://www.geocities.com/Pentagon/Quarters/4807/1acg.html 1st Air Commando Group]
* [http://www2.hurlburt.af.mil/library/factsheets/factsheet.asp?id=3387 Operation Thursday]


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