WITH LT. GEN. STILWELL'S FORCES IN NORTHERN BURMA - "I claim we got a hell of a beating. We got run out of Burma and it is humiliating as hell. I think we should find out what caused it and go back and retake it."
In May 1942 Lt Gen. Joseph Warren Stilwell made that frank statement after leading a tired, battered band of 103 officers, men and nurses on a 20-day march into India - refugees from the Allied rout in Burma.
Today Stilwell id back in Burma, leading the Chinese-American force driving into the Moqaung Valley, first move in the new Allied offensive in the Far East.
The general's personal guard is S/Sgt. Paul Gish of Wadsworth, Ohio, one of five enlisted men who walked west with Stilwell in 1942 and the only one who is back here walking east with him in 1944.
Stilwell's return to Burma is the result of two years of careful preparation, in which two major projects were developed. One was a Chinese-American training center in India, where U.S. Army officers and picked cadres of enlisted men taught Chinese soldiers the use of American tactics and equipment. The other was the Ledo Road, a supply route from India by which Allied troops moving into northern Burma could be equipped and provisioned. Both of these projects, criticized as impractical, are paying off big dividends today.
Since they began their drive in November 1943, the U.S.-trained Chinese forces have taken part in more than 30 actions and killed more than 2,000 men of Japan's crack 18th Division, victors at Singapore. The Chinese troops have been beaten back only three times, and each time they wiped out the reversal later on.
The most impressive engagement to date is the victory at the Patzi Hka (River), a dinky little stream in northern Burma whose banks are the graveyard for 325 Japs killed there on Jan. 25. Cornered near the foothills of the Wantuk Mountains, only a few of the enemy escaped across the lone trail to Taipha-Ga.
In the Patzi Hka action, one Chinese soldier charged a Jap machine gun nest that was delaying his unit's advance. Although wounded, he dove into the emplacement and attacked the Jap crew in hand-to-hand fighting. A Jap soldier stuck him with a bayonet but he was still on his feet and fighting when other Chinese soldiers arrived and helped him silence the gun.
Another Chinese soldier jumped in an enemy dugout, pulled the pin in his hand grenade and blew himself and three Japs to bits. Still another Chinese fighter, wounded and sent back to a U.S. field hospital, wrote a letter to his father in China, apologizing for having allowed himself to be injured and vowing to return to action as soon as possible.
The advance scouts for Stilwell's troops are Yanks and Burmese natives. The Americans, all volunteers, replaced British personnel in the scouting force a few months ago. They work principally in enemy territory, cutting their own trails through the dense woods to avoid roving Jap patrols.
Lone British hold-over in the scouts is Lt. Col. J.R. Wilson, former Assam tea planter who remained to supervise the transition and now directs the force together with Capt. William Cummings. Cummings, a U.S. Army officer from Newton Center, Mass., was born in Burma, where his father was an American Baptist missionary, and he has spent most of his life here.
Ranking noncom in the scouts is T/Sgt. Joseph Stahl of New Brunswick, N.J., who has learned a lot of jungle secrets - how to build a bamboo lean-to with a banana leaf roof or how to get drinking water from a bamboo tree. His squad includes S/Sgt. Martin C. Thrailkill of Dallas, Tex.; Cpl. Kenneth Miller of Kansas City, Kans.; Pfc. Edgar Buck of Johnstown, Pa., and Pfc. Howard Van Arsdale of New York City.
Van Arsdale is an American who was working in the Far East when the war began, fought in the British Army at Singapore and in the Arakan, was later commissioned and then resigned his lieutenancy to join the U.S. scouts.
Van Arsdale and the other Yank scouts have learned how to use the dah, favorite weapon of the natives - a long bladed knife used to lop off the heads of Jap stragglers on Burma's narrow jungle trails. The tribesmen wear colorful turbans, knee-length skirts known as longyis and no shoes. They sling the dahs over their bare backs in carved wooden scabbards hung from the left shoulder. They are also expert marksmen with rifles or shotguns.
One of the scout officers, Capt. Peter K. Lutken of Jackson, Miss., went on a mission by himself. Circling around a retreating Jap force moving south down the Hukwang Valley, he reached the new camp site before the enemy, reconnoitered their installations and headed back into the jungles through the enemy lines to report to the advancing Chinese forces. Before he left, he pinned a profane note as an unmistakable calling card on a tree in the center of the enemy camp.
By Sgt. Ed Cunningham - YANK Staff Correspondent - April 21, 1944 edition.
CHINA - For the GI, life in China is neither soft nor hard. There are in the world better and worse stations. The American soldier may live in barracks with a tile roof turned up at the eaves and corners like a pie crust. This is romantic and something like the China he expected from looking at Chinese prints and seeing Charlie Chan movies. However, his romantic roof is likely to leak when it rains and the mud walls of the building mat crack and buckle. Sharing his quarters are spiders, fleas, mosquitoes with a two-inch wingspread and fat rats.
Cut off from the rest of the world by the Japanese, the sea, the world's highest mountains and the wastelands of Mongolia, the GI well appreciates what the years of blockade have meant to the Chinese. His magazines, except for YANK (the CBI edition is printed in Calcutta) and the air edition of Time, arrive late or not at all. His Stateside mail takes from two weeks to two months to reach him.
China is one of the few U.S. stations where troops are not supplied with a beer ration. Across the Hump in India, U.S. soldiers receive regular rations, but air-freight space over the Hump is much too precious for hauling beer.
The one grudge China GIs have against YANK is the published photograph of a bunch of 'em at Fourteenth Air Force headquarters drooling over a case of Stateside beer. The picture caption announced that beer had at last arrived in China. Last Christmas the headquarters men, by some aerial sleight of hand, did manage to get a couple of cases over the Hump for a Christmas party. But that was the first and last time it happened. And China GIs feel that this picture (supplied to YANK by the Fourteenth Air Force PRO) was a vile slander.
China is one of the few places in the world today where the pay of the American soldier does not make him a relatively rich man. He can buy anything at all in China, from a 1942 custom-built Buick to a magnum of Piper-Heidsik champagne - if he has the dough. But a good restaurant meal costs him $2 to $4 in American money at the current 200-to-1 exchange rate. A $1 Brownie camera costs him $12. A 10-cent pocket comb costs him $2.50. And a bottle of good Scotch will nick him for $250.
There are, however, ways to beat this inflation at its own game. A carton of PX cigarettes, which costs the soldier less than a buck, can be sold to a barracks houseboy for $12 or to a shopkeeper in town for $15. Since the current ration is four cartons per man per month, an unscrupulous GI can thus add $45 to $60 to his monthly pay. If he gets really ambitious and a little crazy in the head, he can also sell his carbine; with two loaded clips, it will bring $750. And a jeep will bring 10,000 black-market U.S. greenbacks. The Provost Marshal's office naturally frowns on the sale of Government property, making it the quickest way for a GI to get back to the States (and Leavenworth).
The food dished out in China mess halls is not exactly sumptuous. Practically none of it is GI from over the Hump, and China is crowded and hungry. At one or two out-of-the-way stations where GIs are few, the food is tasty, well prepared, varied and plentiful. At other stations it consists mostly of water buffalo meat, potatoes, rice, eggs, strange local vegetables (including tons of cucumbers), small sweet cakes and indifferent coffee. At some forward bases, vitamin tablets are rationed daily, one to a man.
The great metropolitan cities of China - Shanghai, Canton, Hong Kong, Peiping and Hankow, with their paved streets, treasures of ancient art, movie houses, race tracks and Western hotels - are all still in Japanese hands. What the GI sees of China today is really its back yard - its farm country and its third and fourth-rate cities, jam-packed with refugees, poverty, disease and dirt. It is possible for a GI to spend 30 months of service back here (some have done it) and not once get out of his nostrils the smell of the human and animal manure with which the good earth of China has for centuries been fertilized.
Opportunities for recreation are limited. The Army maintains some rest camps, which provide soft beds, good food, and mountain and water sports. The Red Cross does what it can. And Special Service distributes overseas editions of popular U.S. magazines, runs USO camp shows (the Paulette Goddard and Ann Sheridan troupes have visited China this year), and arranges Sunday outings to lakes and mountains. But its still pretty dreary and monotonous.
Chinese customs are so strict that few girls of good family are allowed out with GIs, even if the GI manages to hurdle the language barrier and ask for dates. There are practically no Stateside women here except Army nurses, Red Cross workers and missionaries.
In most cities near Army posts there are plenty of "dancing girls" on duty at "night clubs," where wheezy Chinese orchestras play American swing tunes in fox-trot or waltz tempo. Here the lonely GI can dance with one of the girls for several hundred Chinese dollars an hour, and share with her a bottle of wine.
Aside from the noxious "fruit" wines and the almost-as-bad Yuna wines, there are two somewhat drinkable types - a mulberry wine, by-product of silk production, which tastes like a slightly alcoholic grape juice, and a colorless rice wine, otherwise known as jing bao (air raid) juice, which looks and smells like potato vodka and tastes like an industrial chemical.
As for dancing girls, some of them are ugly and most are passably attractive. A very few are beautiful. Even some who don't dance will take a walk with the lonely soldier. But the places they walk are generally off-limits. Venereal diseases are widespread in China; besides the usual varieties, there is a peculiarly unpleasant one known as "the Chinese rot."
Souvenir hunters in China can pick up embroidered and brocaded Mandarin coats ($100), Chinese officers' daggers ($7) and jade jewelry (the sky's the limit on this stuff). Also to be had are scroll paintings, ancient and modern; silver water-cooled pipes; sculptures in wood, ivory, jade, bronze and stone; and household utensils of flexible Foochow lacquer.
All in all, the people of China have been a pleasant surprise to the American soldiers. Within their war-limited means, many of the Chinese have been friendly and hospitable to GIs. Flyers of the Fourteenth Air Force, XX Bomber Command and Air Transport Command, who have had to bail out over China, have returned to their bases with stories of being housed, bathed, feasted and wined by people of each town they passed through. Many American lives have been saved in this way, and by Chinese guerrillas who have risked their own lives to lead bailed-out flyers back through Jap lines.
In the rear areas, particularly around Chungking, local Chinese magistrates have entertained as many as 200 GIs and officers at one time, with no rank distinctions.
Along with gunpowder and printing, the Chinese must also have invented courtesy. Everyone smiles here, the poorest and the hardest working, even the foot soldier trudging along a dusty road under a great weight of supplies.
The Americans doing the hardest fighting in China today are undoubtedly the pilots of the shark-nosed P-40s, who fly as many as four strafing and bombing missions a day. Next in line are the officers and men of the heavy and medium bombers who fly against the Japs as often as supplies of gas and bombs will permit.
Aside from the Air Force, Americans play only a small if vital part in the China war. There is not even a squad of American Infantry in China. But liaison, intelligence and communications men are up front with all the fighting Chinese units. It was M/Sgt. William B. Hayes of Lakewood, Ohio, who stayed with his air-raid warning equipment at Changsha until the city was surrounded on three sides by the Japanese. From a mountaintop he directed Fourteenth Air Force attack aircraft against Jap installations until the last possible minute, then made his way back through the enemy lines.
From the China terminus of the Hump air route, vast convoys of coughing and battered trucks, driven by armed GIs for as many as 17 hours a day, fan out toward the fronts carrying the materials of war.
These convoy life lines, supplementing the vast air-freight deliveries within China, are the roughest motor hauls in the world. Their tortuous mountain routes go so high in some places that the laboring carburetors pant for oxygen as if they were human. Occupational hazards for the GI drivers include wash-outs, landslides, bandits, unsafe bridges, air strafing and artillery fire. It is not as romantic to die under the weight of an ancient truck at the bottom of a roadside chasm as to be listed as "missing in air action over China." But Americans have died this way, and they are just as dead as the DFC men on the Air Forces' casualty lists.
By Sgt. Lou Stoumen - YANK Staff Correspondent - October 20, 1944 edition.
Jilted G.I.s in India Organize First Brush-Off Club
AT A U.S. BOMBER BASE, INDIA - For the first time in military history, the mournful hearts have organized. The Brush-Off Club is the result, in this land of sahibs and saris; as usual, it is strictly G/I.
Composed of the guys whose gals back home have decided "a few years is too long to wait," the club has only one purpose - to band together for mutual sympathy. They meet weekly to exchange condolences and cry in their beer while telling each other the mournful story of how "she wouldn't wait."
The club has a "chief crier," a "chief sweater" and a "chief consoler." Initiation fee is one broken heart or a reasonable facsimile thereof.
Applicants must be able to answer appropriately the following questions:
Membership in the club is divided between "active members" and "just sweating members" - the latter being guys who can't believe that no news is good news.
Members are required to give each other the needle; i.e., full sympathy for all active members, encourage "hopeful waiting" in the just sweating members. By-laws state: "As we are all in the 'same transport,' we must provide willing shoulders to cry upon, and join fervently in all waiting and weeping.
One of the newest members of the club was unanimously voted to charter membership because of the particular circumstances of his case. He recently got s six-page letter from his fiancée back in Texas. In the last paragraph she casually mentioned, "I was married last week but my husband won't mind you writing to me occasionally. He's a sailor and very broadminded."
This G.I., so magnanimously scorned, is now regarded as fine presidential timber.
Present officers of the club, all of whom are active torch-carriers, are: Cpl. Henry W. Asher Jr., New Orleans, La., president; Pvt. Francis M. McCreery, Marshall, Mo., vice president; Cpl. John McConnell, Garden Grove, Calif., chief crier; S/Sgt. George M. Lehman, Bozeman, Mont., assistant chief crier; Sgt. John Crow, San Jose, Calif., chief sweater; and Lt. Richard L. Weiss, Milwaukee, Wis., chief consoler.
CHINA - An early Allied victory is a far-fetched thing to think about in blockaded, mountain-locked China. For here, alone among the world's battlefronts, where the Second World War really started and where some of its final battles may be fought, is an Axis army still attacking and advancing against a poorly armed, war-battered neighbor.
Today there are two main fronts in China. To the south, on the borders of Burma and French Indo-China, Chinese troops - with the aid of the Fourteenth Air Force and a few American liaison and supply specialists - are making a successful advance against strong Japanese units over the highest battlefield in the war. These Chinese forces have crossed the Salween River, the Volturno of the CBI Theater, and are moving up the Himalayan windings of the China end of the Burma Road. Since Gen. Joe Stilwell's recent capture of Myitkyina in Burma, a meeting of his forces and those of the Salween (which means the opening of the new Ledo-Burma Road) has become a matter of only a short time. But that junction will not mean the end of the blockade for China in any real sense - the Hump route now carries more tonnage to China than the Burma Road ever did in its best days. What China needs is an open port.
The second land front, and the more important one, is in the east. And the fighting in the east is not going well.
Moving south from Hankow and north from Canton, strong Japanese armies are making steady progress in their dual drive to neutralize the forward airbases of the Fourteenth Air Force and to get control of the north-south railways from Hankow to Canton, French Indo-China and malaya, thus relieving pressure on Japan's depleted merchant marine in the China seas. Several advance American fighter and bomber bases in eastern China have already had to be abandoned, including the vitally important airfield at Kweilin. Jap forces have once again captured Changsha and overrun Hengyang after a sustained and bloddy siege.
Loss of the advance airbases is the more serious blow to Allied operations in China. Planes based on those fields, the forward echelon of Maj. Gen. C.L. Chennault's Air Force, performed daily prodigies of destruction of Japanese shipping, transport, supply dumps and field armies. Their forced withdrawal to rear bases reduces the striking power of the fighters and medium bombers against enemy targets on the South China coast, making tougher the softening-up process that was preparing the way for future American landings in that area.
The Chinese mean business in their defense of the vital eastern corridor. They recently executed a general who commanded front-line troops at Changsha, probably figuring that since he himself got out alive, he had not resisted the Japs sufficiently. Another general was also shot for failure to carry out instructions to defend Chuanhsien, a strategic rail town whose fall forced American airmen to abandon their Kweilin base.
Not many people in China talk any more about an internal Chinese collapse before the end of the war. Bales of crisp Chinese money continue to be flown over the Hump, and the inflation remains as tragic as ever. The people, except for a few merchants and profiteers, are threadbare and lacking in most luxuries as well as many necessities. A ricksha coolie may earn 800 Chinese dollars a day, after he has paid for the rent of his vehicle; but this is little to feed, clothe and house his large family where one noon meal just for himself may cost 150 Chinese dollars and a cake of good soap may cost 400 Chinese dollars.
But the ricksha coolie is a fortunate man compared with the people of the salried middle class, whose pay has not kept pace with inflation. A certain professor of a Chinese university, exiled from his campus because the Japanese have captured it, draws a salary of 4,500 Chinese dollars per month (about 23 U.S. dollars) with which to care for himself, his wife and four children. He ekes out a substistence br creating scroll paintings in the classic manner for sale to GIs.
Aside from economic troubles and the reverses suffered by its ill-equipped armies, major political difficulties beset the one-party government of Chiang Kai-shek. Without gas, motor vehicles and proper telephone service, it is difficult to administer the vastness of China from Chungking. Provincial governors levy their own taxes, control local armies and are often unresponsive to tactfully worded directives from Chungking. A vigorous "thought control" directed against political heresies is enforced upon newspapers, universities, students and public speakers by under-cover agents of the Chungking Ministry of Education. Many intelligent Chinese bitterly resent this "thought control."
There is also the major problem of the Communist areas. In northern Free China, centering in Shansi Province, a socialist-minded military leadership has instituted moderate land reforms, relatively honest administration and a program of mass education. The people of Shansi maintain large armies which could well be used for concerted action against the Japanese instead of operating chiefly as guerrilla forces behind enemy lines as they do now.
But Chiang Kai-shek has believed it necessary to establish a blockade within a blockade against Shansi, keeping large units - perhaps 500,000 men - of some of his best armies on the Yellow River frontier to watch over the armies of Shansi. As a result, a possible total of one million Chungking and Shansi soldiers are marking political time in that sector instead of fighting the common enemy.
Before the present war Chiang and his Kuomintang Party waged bloody war against these Communists, forcing them on their celebrated "long march" from southeastern China, where they had begun to organize cooperatives, to the mountain borders of Tibet and up to their present territory in the north.
The Chinese almost to the man hope that peace between these two factions can be achieved by democratic and peaceful means and that China can move steadily forward toward constitutional democracy. There are already signposts pointing in this direction. Chiang has promised that the Chinese Constitution, already published, will go into effect after the defeat of Japan. The right of habeas corpus has been officially granted by the Kuomintang Government. And it has been arranged for Chungking delegates to visit Yenan, the Communist capital, to exchange views.
Despite this disharmony and all the war-born economic and military ills, China will not collapse. Allied victories in Europe and the Pacific, as well as the China-based B-29 raids on Japan, have been powerful stimulants to Chinese resistance. The land of Cathay is ancient and patient and she has been fighting this war for more than seven years. She will bear more years of suffering and struggle.
China's soldiers have been beaten and beaten again. But they have also won local victories. They are good soldiers, as Americans who have fought beside them in Burma and China can testify. Without any of the heavy weapons of modern war, without even shoes and adequate food, they have fought bloody delaying actions against the modern Jap armies with dignity and heroism.
Typical of this fighting Chinese spirit was this simple last message to Chiang Kai-shek from the commander of the
By Sgt. Lou Stoumen - YANK Staff Correspondent - October 20, 1944 edition.
BEHIND JAPANESE LINES IN NORTHERN BURMA - Jap artillery was pounding Merrill's Marauders again. Three weeks before, the enemy guns had sent shells whistling into Marauder positions facing the Walawbum garrison. Two weeks before, a Jap battery had ranged in on the Marauders during their attack on the enemy supply route at Inkangahtawng. One week before, a couple of rapid-fire guns had hammered the Marauders all night after their capture of a section of the Shadazup-Kamaing road.
And now Jap artillery was concentrated on a unit of Marauders on Nhpum Ga hill. Another Marauder unit was driving through to relieve the outfit the Japs has surrounded.
As the 70-mm shell blasts reverberated through the jungles, Maj. Edwin J. Briggs of La Grande, Oreg., CO of the attacking unit, sent for a mule skinner and offered him a new job. S/Sgt. John A. Acker, the mule skinner, was an ex-mineworker from Bessemer, Ala., who had shipped overseas a year before with a pack howitzer outfit. The outfit had gone to New Guinea. After sitting around for months without going into action, Acker and several others grew restless. When a call was made for animal transportation men to join Merrill's Marauders, they volunteered. That was seven months before.
"Acker," said the major, "I understand you and some of the other mule drivers who used to be in the pack artillery would like to fire some howitzers back at these Japs. Is that right?" The Alabaman said it was.
"Well Acker," the major grinned, "this is an emergency. Two 75-mm pack howitzers will be parachuted to us tomorrow. Get two gun crews together and be ready to fire them."
Next day an expectant bunch of mule drivers stood on the airdrop field, watching brilliantly colored parachutes drift lazily down. When the parachutes hit the ground, the mule skinners became artillerymen again. They grabbed the dismantled howitzers and went to work assembling them. The guns were brand new and clean of cosmoline. Within two hours they were assembled, dug in on the airdrop field and firing.
A mile away the Marauder unit that was driving through Jap machine gun positions along the trail to Nhpum Ga heard the shells whistle overhead. "What the hell is that?" one rifleman asked another. "Jap artillery behind us, too?" Then a radio message explained that it was Marauder artillery. Soon infantry-directed fire was blasting the strong points holding up the rifle platoon.
Two days later Acker and his impromptu artillery crews put their howitzers on mules and climbed the winding trail for three miles. They emplaced their guns on a ridge overlooking the Jap positions between the trapped Marauder unit on Nhpum Ga hill and the attacking unit. While the guns were being set up again T-4 Robert L. Carr of San Luis Obispo, Calif., started for the front as artillery observer with a walkie-talkie.
The point platoon had run smack up against one of the strongest Jap positions yet. This was a perimeter atop a little knoll from which Jap machine gunners commanded a clear field of fire for several hundred feet down the trail. The steep sides of the knoll made flanking difficult. It would have to be taken frontally. The point platoon asked for artillery and mortar support.
Carr, the observer, took his walkie-talkie up to the first squad. "Jap position approximately 700 yards from guns," he radioed, adding the azimuth. "Fire a smoke shell, and I'll zero you in."
The smoke shell whistled over, followed by a few more as Carr adjusted the firing data. Finally he okayed both range and azimuth. Lacking an aiming circle, the only piece of equipment that was not dropped with the guns, Acker and his men were obliged to use an ordinary infantry compass to gauge azimuth.
The order came to fire five rounds. Up ahead all morning there had been constant mortar, machine gun and small arms fire. But as soon as the howitzers opened fire, Jap bullets began singing over the artillerymen's heads. All day the Japs reminded Acker's men that they were firing practically point-blank at 700 yards.
Just after the howitzers fired the five rounds, S/Sgt. Henry E. Hoot of Shepherd, Tex., radioman with the guns, shouted to Acker: "Holy smoke! Some infantry officer is on the radio. He's excited as hell. Says you're right on the target. And - get this - he wants us to fire 'Battery 100 rounds'."
There's no such order in artillery parlance; actually, the correct order for a lot of firing is "Fire at will." Acker chuckled at the order. "Okay, boys," he said, "Open those shell cases fast. Gun crews, prepare to fire at will."
In the next 15 minutes, the jungle hills rang as the two pack howitzers threw 134 shells into the Jap perimeter. The crews had been a bit slow two days before because they hadn't seen a howitzer in seven months, but now they performed as artillerymen should.
Up front the point platoon drove through. They found parts of Jap bodies in trees and all over the ground, virtually blown out of their holes. The dense jungle had become a clearing under the terrific blasting. A platoon leader going through the area, a few minutes after the barrage, discovered two shivering Japs deep in a foxhole, unhurt but moaning with fear. He killed them with a carbine. Apparently they were the only ones who had survived and stayed in the area. The platoon moved through unopposed.
For the next few days the artillery worked hand in hand with the point platoon in blasting other Jap positions. On one of those days Pvt. John W. "Red" Seegars of Kershaw, S.C., walked up to the guns with abroad smile. Seegars had been requested by Acker as No. 1 man on one of the howitzers, but because he was a rifleman and was needed in the drive, he had not been sent back to the guns. Now Seegars was wounded in the left arm.
"As a rifleman I can't crawl with this arm wound," said Seegars, "so they sent me back to the aid station for evacuation. But I'm not going. I can still pull a howitzer lanyard with my right arm." Acker was glad to get him.
MEANWHILE Carr, the artillery observer, found things pretty hot at the front. On an advance with a rifle platoon, he was pinned down on the side of a hill by Jap machine guns and grenades at the top. Two men were wounded near him. He left the radio and dragged each of them back through the fire to an aid man. Returning to his radio, Carr egged the Japs into revealing their positions be throwing grenades, thus drawing fire on himself. Then he radioed the howitzers to shorten their range and swing their azimuth until the shells burst near a Jap heavy machine gun 30 yards away.
All this time, a Jap dual-purpose antiaircraft gun was throwing 70-mm shells into the midst of the trapped Marauder unit on Nhpum Ga hill. Acker got a liaison plane to spot the ack-ack gun's position. Then the howitzers fired on it all day. At dusk the Jap gun tried to fire back at the howitzers, but its trajectory was too flat to hit them. The shells either hit an intervening hill or whistled harmlessly high over the artillerymen's heads.
And that morning the Marauder attacking unit broke through to relieve the unit that had been cut off by the Japs for 10 days. Acker and his men, mule skinners no more, fired a salvo to celebrate.
By Sgt. Dave Richardson - YANK Staff Correspondent - October 1, 1944 edition.
HEADQUARTERS, FOURTEENTH AIR FORCE, CHINA - Maj. Gen. Claire Lee Chennault, the school teacher from Water Proof, La., who built and commands the Fourteenth Air Force, thinks the war's end is a lot closer than it looks. "Japan," he says, "will fall within six months after the end of resistance in Germany."
"I base this opinion on the belief that Allied power will be shifted into use against Japan very quickly after the fall of Germany, or even shortly before. The airplanes can be flown over, and there will be plenty of tonnage for shipments by water."
I also believe that Japan has staked everything on offense, and that she has no resources for more than six months of defensive war against superior and aggressive enemies who will strike her from all sides."
The optimism of Maj. Gen. Chennault's prediction is somewhat paradoxical. For today, alone among U.S. Air Forces, the Fourteenth is harder pressed than ever and its forward airbases are fewer than they were six months ago.
In spite of the rabbit-like growth of the Fourteenth's forces and the hard blows it has struck against the enemy. Jap ground troops have in recent months captured or forced the Americans to abandon the forward fields of Hengyang, Paoching, Lingling, and Kweilin. The big difference between the Fourteenth and all other U.S. Air Forces (except the Twentieth and its B-29s) is that the others fight in close cooperation with well-armed offensive ground troops, while the ground troops of the Fourteenth are the underfed and under armed Chinese armies. As a result, a superior air force has lost its bases to superior ground troops.
On your way to see Maj. Gen. Chennault, you walk up a long curved road from the main airfield to Fourteenth Air Force headquarters. You encounter a convoy of horned water buffalo, hauling two-wheeled dirt carts toward a construction project. Mounted on the shaggy back of each animal is a Chinese child or an old person. (The full-grown and the strong are all in the Army, in the rice fields or doing heavy construction work.) You pass by this slow-moving caravan and presently enter the guarded gate of a walled compound. Its one-story building of mud brick, neatly painted with white lime, are Fourteenth Air Force headquarters.
You are a few minutes early so you inspect the general's small waiting room. The first fixture you notice is the general's brunette secretary.
On a low smoking table is an ashtray surmounted by a model of a shark-nosed P-40 that looks ready to bite the hand that feeds it ashes. Draped on one wall is a black banner brocaded with gold Chinese characters. On another is a Chinese painting with an English inscription: "Presented to Maj. Gen. Chennault by the Trades Unions of Hengyang." And you remember how the defenders of Hengyang fought to the last.
All these Chinese decorations remind you, too, that Maj. Gen. Chennault has been fighting this was since 1937, when he first came to China to train the country's embryo air force, to set up a system of airfields and an air-raid warning net and to study Jap air tactics by flying against them.
Then came the American Volunteer group, the first of a long line of shark-nosed flies Chennault threw in the Jap ointment. Next was the China Air Task Force - the China-based unit of the Tenth Air Force, organized in July 1942. Chennault, commissioned a colonel (he'd retired as a captain in 1935) commanded it. In March 1943, the China Air Task Force was reconstituted as the Fourteenth Air Force with Chennault as CG.
Your musings are interrupted by the good-looking secretary: "The general will see you now." You step onto a thin rug, the only luxury in his bare office, and salute. Outside, in the compound, things are very GI, but the general replies to your highball with a firm handshake.
The general's face looks its 55 years - creased and pockmarked, like the weather side of a rocky mountain. Somehow he reminds you, too, of a veteran football coach.
You ask him when he thinks the war will be over, and he gives you the six-months-sifter-Germany prophecy. Then you ask him about the Fourteenth's policy on rotating troops.
"The Fourteenth's policy," he says, "is the War Department's policy. Air crews are relieved whenever they show signs of war weariness or combat fatigue. When they really need it, air crews are given a rest and if possible sent home. Ground troops are rotated on the basis of 1 percent per month. Naturally those men who have the longest service overseas go home first. For physical disability or serious disease, air and ground men can be sent home at any time. However, I warned my men we had a war to win and would go home when the war was won."
You have noticed that the general is slightly hard of hearing. And you recall that this failing, common to old-time open cockpit flyers like Gen. Arnold and Lt. Gen Spaatz, was the reason for Capt. Chennault's retirement back in 1935, so you speak a little louder.
"General," you ask, "how do you expect the situation in China to develop?" "Well," he replies, "the present drive is economic as well as military. The Japs have wanted to wipe out our forward airbases, of course. But they also want to establish land lines of supply for food and industrial products. They want a north-south railway. Japan has lost a terrific amount of shipping to the Fourteenth and our Pacific forces, and the plain fact is that the remaining shipping will no longer sustain the Empire."
"We know that the Japs planned a two-month campaign. They picked the rainy season for it, thinking the weather would cause us trouble. But we sent many hundreds of sorties against them per month, more than they ever expected. Jap tactics have always been better than their strategy. It seems to me that they started the present campaign one year too late. Even if they should succeed in completing the drive from Hankow to Canton, it would take them months or a year to rebuild the railroad and get anything out of it. Now they are already behind schedule, their outer defense ring has been broken at Saipan and Guam, and it's too late for them."
"The Japs may realize this and decide to sit tight. Or, having accomplished the destruction of a sizable Chinese army, they may decide to withdraw, as they did before at Changsha. But it's likely they will pause to regroup - this will take a little time - and then try to push farther south."
Your next question concerns the tactics evolved by the AVG and the Fourteenth AAF. "I take a rather broad view on the use of air," the general says, "I've found that air can be used as infantry, as machine guns and as artillery. This is exactly what we've had to do in China. We've had to make up for the Chinese armies' lack of heavy weapons. We've worked very closely with the Chinese armies and have played the rolls of heavy ground weapons for them. They are courageous defensive soldiers, but they lack offensive firepower.
"In air combat our work has been more conventional. The AVG score from Dec. 20, 1941, to July 17, 1942, was 299 Jap planes confirmed. We lost eight planes in combat although there were also operational losses. We made a careful study of the relative advantage of Jap planes and the American planes furnished us, and exploited our strong points and avoided display of our weaknesses. We gave our pilots highly specialized training. We refused to maneuver. We avoided turning combat. We insisted upon two-plane-element teamwork. These principles produced results in safety to our flyers and losses to the Jap."
"The China war makes special demands on air power. We found it necessary to use fighters as bombers. We installed external racks on P-40s. Down the Salween we once destroyed a whole Jap regiment by fighter strafing and bombing. Up at Tungting Lake our P-40s have cut Jap steamboats in half by strafing alone."
"We've even used bombers as fighters. Last fall the Japs were giving our supply planes trouble over the Hump. So on Oct. 27 we sent a formation of B-24s over the Hump. The Japs mistook them for cargo-carrying C-87s - there's no way to tell the difference at a distance - and the 24s knocked down five Jap aircraft. On the way back, the formation was attacked by another squadron of Jap fighters and shot down six of them. Since that time we've had little trouble."
"The Jap is particularly vulnerable to surprise. We change out tactics, weapons and bomb types often to keep him on edge. We've been using a lot of parafrags over water. We've found that parafrags dropped on water will explode parallel to the water's surface and do a lot of damage. Another tactic we've been using is skip bombing."
You ask the general to describe the biggest nuts the Fourteenth still has to crack.
"Our biggest problem." says Maj. Gen. Chennault, "is getting enough supplies to operate with. We still have to cannibalize parts from one plane to put another in the air. I can get a new plane easier than I can get a box of paint."
"Gen Stratemeyer (Maj. Gen George E. Stratemeter, CG of the Eastern Air Command) and Gen. Hanley (Maj. Gen. T.J. Hanley, Jr., CG of the Air Transport Command) have been doing a very thorough supply job for us. But the Fourteenth is the most remote U.S. Air Force. We're blockaded; everything we get has to be brought to India and then flown across the Hump. It takes a long time to get us new weapons and crews. And we can't afford to expend time and supplies on training."
"I don't expect we will ever get enough so that my operations in China will be decisive in this war. But the steady and increasing attrition we are inflicting on the Jap is considerable. If we can support the main and fatal blows from the Pacific by containing a large Jap air force within China, we figure we will have accomplished a great deal and have done our job."
By Sgt. Lou Stoumen - YANK Staff Correspondent - October 20, 1944 edition.
BEHIND JAP LINES IN NORTHERN BURMA - There's been plenty of hocus-pocus in this jungle war ever since Merrill's Marauders first popped up here.
The magic show started within a week of the Marauders' arrival in Burma. The night before their first sneak around Jap strongpoints, a Jap reconnaissance plane droned over the Marauders' bivouac area. Before they could stamp out all their campfires, the plane had spotted the position.
Next morning, when the Marauders pulled out, Brig. Gen. Frank D. Merrill ordered a few men to stay behind. For several nights they lit campfires in the original bivouac area. And each night the Jap plane returned to circle the area again, its pilot apparently satisfying himself that whoever was camped there hadn't moved.
Meanwhile the main body of Marauders marched steadily into enemy territory over little-used native trails, lighting no fires or even cigarettes after dark. When they finally bumped into startled enemy outposts, they were well behind Jap lines.
The Marauders opened their bag of tricks again during an eight-day battle on a hill named Nhpum Ga. One night a Marauder unit set up part of its perimeter only a stone's throw from camouflaged Jap machine gun positions. Anxious to check on the location of these emplacements, but not wanting to risk men prowling around in the darkness, the Marauders shoved a pack mule out in front of the perimeter and started him walking toward the Japs.
As the animal rustled through the jungle underbrush, the Japs figured it was a patrol and opened up with their machine guns, thereby revealing their positions. Next morning the Marauders outflanked the Jap pocket and wiped it out.
They found the mule lying dead a few feet from one of the machine guns, its hind quarters neatly butchered. The hungry Japs, cut off from supplies, had eaten Missouri mule steak before dying for the Emperor.
Speaking of animals, the Japs thought up a slick way to guard themselves against Marauder booby traps along the narrow jungle trails. They sent dogs down the trails ahead of their patrols to trip the booby-trap wires. But a Marauder pioneer and demolition platoon countered this move by rigging up the traps in relays. After that, when a Jap dog romped down the trail a dozen yards or so in front of a patrol and tripped a booby-trap wire, nothing happened to the dog, but traps exploded at intervals all the way back down the trail, killing or wounding some of the enemy. Even after the Japs discovered this trick, there was little they could do about it; they had to stick to jungle trails or risk getting lost.
The old power of suggestion helped beat the Japs at another stage of the campaign. For several days the Marauders had been trying to break through a pocket of Japs dug in strongly on a razor-backed ridge along the only trail in the area. The steep sides of the ridge made outflanking next to impossible. The only way to get through was by frontal attack, and this was costing the Marauders a number of causalities. They pounded away with mortars, raked the ridge with machine guns and BARs, and staged one attack after another. But the going was painfully slow - a few yards a day.
One night the Marauders decided to try another method. A few men and mules set out on the trail leading up to Marauder forward positions from the rear. The men smoked tell-tale cigarettes, talked in loud voices and jiggled the mule saddles to make plenty of noise. Each time they reached the front, the men doused their cigarettes, turned around and silently withdrew to their starting points. Then they began all over again, keeping it up for three hours.
When the Marauders attacked the ridge again the next day, they pushed through easily. Only a couple of Japs were still there; the rest had pulled out. They had been fooled into thinking that all the noise and movement of the night before were reinforcements for a big attack.
One of the most valuable tricks in the Marauder repertoire was a variation of the Statue of Liberty play in football. It was used in attacking a series of Jap strong-points on high ground.
The CP long-range radio called for air support to soften up the Jap hill positions. Soon some P-40s came roaring over. Directed by air-ground radio, they went to work on the Japs, dive-bombing and strafing enemy emplacements on the crest of the hill. After each pass they zoomed up, circled around and attacked again.
The Japs scrambled down the back of the hill and huddled there for protection while the bombs and tracers chewed up their positions. But as soon as the planes finished their dives and roared away, the Japs crawled right back up the hill again and resisted the Marauder advance as stubbornly as before. This went on for several days, with the Japs defending one hill after another in the same way against air and ground attack. All that beautiful air support didn't seem to help much.
Then a Marauder officer suggested the Statue of Liberty play. He radioed the planes to make a few fake passes after they had completed their regular bombing and strafing runs. The pilots dived their ships at the emplacements just as though they were going to let loose with 500-pound bombs or .50-caliber slugs, but they pulled out without doing a thing except scare hell out of the Japs.
As soon as the planes began these passes, the forward Marauder platoon rushed up the hill and climbed into the vacated Jap positions. When the dummy passes ended and the planes went away, the fun began. Up the hill came the unsuspecting Japs to reoccupy their positions. The Marauders cut them down with automatic weapons fire.
By Sgt. Dave Richardson - YANK Staff Correspondent - September 8, 1944 edition.
An eyewitness report from a YANK correspondent who landed 150 miles behind the Japanese lines with Col. Phil Cochran's glider and transport flyers in one of the most daring airborne attacks of the war.
BEHIND JAPANESE LINES IN BURMA - Coasting down by moonlight onto an abandoned rice paddy, 150 miles behind Jap lines in the very center of enemy-occupied Burma, glider-borne U.S. Air Commandos carried out one of the most daring all-aerial operations in history. The American-piloted gliders, carrying U.S. airborne aviation engineers and a protecting British force of the famous Wingate's Raiders, landed in a jungle clearing that was rutted by buffalo bogs and elephant footprints and strewn with massive teakwood logs.
Twenty four hours later the rice paddy was one of the world's busiest airstrips. Working all night and all day with engineering equipment flown in by the gliders, the U.S. Engineers constructed a graded, well-lighted runway for U.S. and RAF transport planes. These transports, landing at night, in turn unloaded hundreds of Wingate's jungle troops, together with pack mules, light artillery and supplies.
That schedule was continued for the next five nights without the loss of a single transport plane. The airborne delivery saved the forces of Maj. Gen Orde C. Wingate a two month march through the jungles and put them squarely astride the Japs' chief lines of communication in northern Burma. (Wingate himself was later killed in a Burma plane crash.)
The all-aerial invasion was conceived by Gen. Henry H. Arnold, chief of the U.S. Army Air Forces, and planned by two young American fighter pilots whose instructions from the general were to "start dreaming." They did. The result was an invasion plan that made Buck Rogers look like Colonel Blimp.
The invasion planners were Col. Philip G. Cochran, 34-year-old Erie (Pa.) pilot, who is the real-life Flip Corkin of Milton Caniff's comic strip, "Terry and the Pirates," and another famous combat pilot whose name may not be
Cochran's Commandos hit the Japs just where they never expected to be hit - right in the middle of their own back yard. They did it with an integrated striking force that included seven types of aircraft, all regular components of the Air Commando Force. Gliders, towed by C-47s, brought in GI engineers with midget equipment to build an airstrip; single-engined C-64 supply ships and tiny L-5 reconnaissance planes came next; a fleet of C-47 troop carrier planes followed the next night with reinforcements.
Cochran protected his enemy-encircled landing party by daily bombings of nearby Jap airfields, beating them to the punch for seven days before they finally managed to organize a strafing attack against the new U.S. airstrip. His P-51 fighter-bombers carried a 1,000-pound bomb under each wing, the first time a single-engined plane has attempted such a heavy bomb load. Other P-51s carried 200-foot cables with weights attached; these planes swooped low over Jap telephone and communications lines, hooked their dangling weights on the wires and ripped off several hundred feet at a time. This trick was first used by Cochran himself in North Africa.
Even B-25 bombers of the Air Commando Force were flown by former fighter pilots, who peeled off as if they were handling P-51s to dive-bomb and strafe at treetop levels. Later Cochran stationed several of his fighter planes at the new airstrip to beat off enemy air attacks.
The first two gliders encountered Jap ack-ack while being towed to their objective, a flight that took them across the 7,000-foot Chin Hills and the Chindwin and Irrawaddy Rivers. With only the moonlight to guide them, the gliders coasted in blind onto a strange field, obstructed by ruts, logs and a large tree in the very center. Each glider carried tough British assault troops as a defense against Jap ground attack.
Maj. William H. Taylor of St. Louis, Mo., glider unit CO, piloted the first ship to land, with T/Sgt. Perry L. Garten of Kansas City, Mo., line chief of the glider ground crews, as his co-pilot. The second glider was piloted by 2d Lt.
As additional gliders coasted in, their pilots had to hurdle them over teakwood logs and buffalo bogs that suddenly loomed up in the way. Several accidents resulted, but only two caused severe casualties; the American and British dead were buried nearby after a Burmese chaplain conducted funeral services. Many gliders had to make 360-degree turns at almost treetop level to avoid hitting the disabled gliders on the overcrowded field.
In one freak crash, a glider coasted directly between two trees, less than 10 feet apart, shearing off both wings. A large piece of equipment that the glider was hauling, intended for the airborne engineers, was torn loose from its moorings.
The machinery hooked into the corner brace of the glider's movable nose, forcing it to unlock and throwing the nose into the air. Then the 4,195-pound piece of machinery hurtled out the nose, past the pilot and co-pilot, turning over three times and coming to a stop 10 yards from the glider. When F/O Gene A. Kelly of Milwaukee, Wis., pilot, and Sgt. Joseph A. DeSalvo of Cincinnati, Ohio, co-pilot, were released from their inverted cockpit, where they were dangling upside down, they had only minor injuries.
Nine GI Engineers and a shave tail, who became the unit commander when the CO was killed in a glider crash, went to work constructing the airstrip as soon as they landed. They dynamited the tree in the center, dragged off teakwood logs and crippled gliders with their equipment, filled in buffalo bogs and then - at 0600 - began grading a strip on which the transport planes were to land that night. Five hours later they had a very sizable strip ready for the Air Commando Force's L-5 planes, sent in to ferry out injured U.S. and British troops.
At 1900 hours, the engineers finished work on a much larger runway, to be used by the troop transport planes. Twenty-five minutes later the first one landed. The tired and hungry engineers - a crackers-and-jam lunch was their only food for 26 hours - watched the first 12 troop planes land. Then they bunked down on the ground for their first sleep in 38 hours.
The engineers were S/Sgt Raymond J. Bluhardt of Ogden, Kans.; Sgt. Stanley J. Ryniec of Long Island City, N.Y.; Sgt. William W. Geider of Brooklyn, N.Y.; Cpl. Ralph R. Hammond of South Coltin, N.Y.; Cpl. Walter J. Hybarger of Freeport, Ill.; Cpl. Merling E. Sneed of Springfield, Mo.; Pfc. Raymond Hylton of Clifton, Va.; Pfc. Paul F. Johnson of Proctorville, Ohio, and Pvt. Robert E. Wade of Houston, Tex. Their CO was 2d Lt. Robert Brackett of Los Angeles, Calif., a GI who went to OCS.
I was on the first troop transport to land on the second night of the airborne invasion of Burma. It was a Troop Carrier Command plane, piloted by Brig. Gen. Donald Old of Uvalde, Tex., and was loaded with men of a famous British
Many of the English soldiers were veterans of Norway and Dunkerque. They didn't seem a bit worried, even though they were flying in an unarmed and unescorted transport over enemy territory toward an invasion objective where they might be thrown into instant battle. Some read, others talked casually as they made last-minute checks on their Lee-Enfield rifles and Sten guns.
Since our take-off in India, a Lancashire steel worker in the next seat, Sgt. F.W. Hutchinson, has been reading a book. Just before we landed he finished it. I picked it up. It was Jeffrey Farnol's "Adam Penfeather, Buccaneer." The first sentence read: "The executioner adjusted his noose and spoke hoarsely in the doomed man's ear." I didn't read any further. For my money, that was one hell of a book to be reading enroute to an invasion.
Our C-47 hit the strip shortly after dark and rolled to a stop on the grass runway almost as easily as it would have done on concrete. Electric guide lights on both sides of the strip shone as brightly as if this were a Nebraska cornfield.
The airstrips "control tower" was located in a glider parked near the south end of the runway. Two enlisted communications men, using a radio transmitter set up on the glider's right wing, directed traffic as the first transports came in. The GIs took their orders from Cochran's deputy, who had piloted one of the first gliders that landed the night before.
Squatting on the glider's wing, the deputy gave radio instructions to four C-47s circling the field for a landing while another ship taxied out on the runway for a take-off. "Tower. Tower to the ships coming in," said the deputy. "The landing is from south to north. Wait for our green light before making your approach. Do you read me?" The first circling plane replied immediately. "7307 to Tower. 7307 to Tower. Roger." The other three planes gave similar radio replies.
"Give that guy on the runway the green light," the deputy ordered M/Sgt. Otto Grunow, communications sergeant from Grand Junction, Mich. Grunow flashed the green blinker on his biscuit gun. The C-47 roared past our glider perch and took off toward the mountains to the south, headed back to India for another load of Wingate's invasion troops.
Less than three minutes later the four circling C-47s were parked at the north end of the strip. Battle-equipped English and Ghurka soldiers, leading pack mules, stepped out of the transport planes, lined up and marched in formation toward their nearby bivouac areas. No shots or signs of opposition came from the nearby woods - only the noisy chatter of jungle birds. We might have been on maneuvers.
In the temporary traffic lull, the deputy remarked: "Do you guys realize where we are? We're right in the middle of Jap territory, causing a hell of a racket, and they're not doing anything about it."
"We're too damned busy to worry about it, sir," Grunow said. "But if we told the folks back home that we were operating an airport 150 miles inside enemy lines, they'd call us liars."
"Yeah they would," agreed T/Sgt. Alex McGregor, a radio operator from Chowchilla, Calif. "But I'll bet we're doing more business tonight than they are at LaGuardia Field. With electric landing lights, radio ground control, homing assistance and everything else. And the Japs still don't know it."
"They will," the deputy warned. "We'd better get some red flares up here in case of an air raid. The Japs have a field less than 10 minutes' flying time from here."
"Here comes another flight," he remarked, pointing to three red pinpoints high in the western sky. He picked up the microphone and Grunow switched on the radio transmitter.
"Tower. Tower to the planes approaching the field. Your landing is from south to north. Over." "Roger," came back the laconic reply. The three C-47s moved into the traffic pattern, swung into their base leg and started to set down. They came in so close together that it seemed as if the rear planes would crash into the lead ship before it could taxi to its parking strip.
I clocked them as they came in. The second plane's wheels hit the runway just 32 seconds after the lead plane landed. The third plane sat down 36 seconds after the second plane.
That precision-timed traffic went on all night. On one occasion six planes were landed, unloaded and headed back to India in 20 minutes flat. From the India side, planes were taking off every two minutes for this airstrip, with 20-minute intervals between each flight of six. The ferry service was as routine as the subway shuttle between Times Square and Grand Central Station in New York City.
American sergeant-pilots operated an equally effective ferry service from the Burma end, flying out British wounded in light planes, the first ones to land on the new strip the morning after the glider landings. After evacuating the first Allied casualties, the sergeant-pilots returned to carry out British and Ghurka soldiers who were wounded in later clashes with Jap ground forces.
The sergeant-pilots also flew daily reconnaissance patrols, spotting enemy movements and disrupting Jap pack animal supply trains.
Jap ground forces attacked the airstrip several days after the airborne delivery of troops was completed. From then on, the sergeant-pilots made their landings and take-offs in the face of heavy Jap mortar and machine gun fire. British patrols protected the Yank pilots during the loading of wounded soldiers onto the planes for mercy flights to hospitals in India.
The Japs established themselves at one end of the runway where an American plane was dispersed. They slashed the fabric with bayonets and punctured the gas tank with rifle fire.
Creeping through the trees to within 30 yards of the Jap positions, S/Sgt. James Oliveto of New York City made a run for the dispersal area, jumped into the plane and taxied it back to the Allied stronghold at the other end of the field, amid a shower of Jap bullets. There was just enough gas left in the punctured tank for Oliveto to start the engine and keep going until he got back to the Allied area.
But Oliveto was not finished. He went back again, this time even closer to Jap positions, to steal a spare wing tank lying in the dispersal area. With this tank, Oliveto, M/Sgt. Howard Class of Gwynedd Valley, Pa., and T/Sgt Fintain Maegerle of Tarrytown, N.Y., were able to repair the plane so it could be used to ferry out more Allied wounded.
The same night the first troop transports went into our airstrip, another fleet of Commando gliders landed at a second point in enemy-held Burma several miles to the south. Sudden up and downdrafts over the mountains forced the gliders
Coogan cut his glider loose from the tow plane at 1,000 feet, did a 360-degree turn and landed at 120 miles per hour on an unlighted field, covered with four-foot grass. While his load of Ghurka troops fanned out for security guard, he began setting out smudge pots to guide other gliders in.
All landed safely except one, which overshot the field and crashed, killing the pilot and two GI Engineers and destroying the engineering equipment it was carrying. Without the equipment, the other U.S. Aviation Engineers were unable to start work on an airstrip that night. They were ordered to lie low and keep out of sight all the next day; there were fewer than 150 Ghurkas on hand to guard against any Jap thrust.
At sundown the next night, the Ghurkas started cutting down the high grass with their kukri knives. They had cleared 12 acres of land when a glider coasted in at 2100 hours, bringing a piece of engineering equipment from India.
Shortly after, F/Os Billy Mohr of Portland, Oreg., and Vernon Noland of Port Neches, Tex., flew in with a glider from the first Burma strip, carrying another piece of equipment and Cpl. Hybarger to operate it. Other gliders followed with two more pieces of machinery and a jeep.
At 2115 hours, the Aviation Engineers, under 1st Lt. Jerome Andrulonis of Shenandoah, Pa., went to work. There were just five men on hand to operate the four pieces of equipment, the odd man doubling as mechanic for the other four and as chauffeur for the jeep, which raced around the field delivering messages or towing gliders off the runway, on which a C-47 set down at 0125 hours with British reinforcements.
Lt. Andrulonis and his men - Sgt. Joseph D. Walker of Richards, Tex.; Cpl Ronald J. Cain of South Lincoln, Mass.; Pfc. Robert Bennett of Monroeton, Pa.; Pfc. Kay C. Eminbitzer of Bellefonte, Pa., and the lend-leased Cpl. Hybarger - worked all that night and the next day, leveling and grading the runway for the third night's operations. All their tools, except a screwdriver and a crescent wrench, had been destroyed in the glider crash, so equipment repairs took plenty of ingenuity. At 0500 hours, Bennett fell asleep while driving one of the machines that was towing another operated by Cain. Bennett woke up as his vehicle ran off the runway. Looking back, he saw Cain sprawled on the ground. Cain had dozed off too, while standing up in his machine. Neither was hurt.
Three days after Coogan landed, the Jap bombers came over and ripped the strip to bits. But by this time it didn't matter much; all the British troops had moved out the night before, headed for a new objective, and the Americans had gone too, taking along their gliders and engineering equipment. All the Japs did was waste their bombs on what had been only a temporary landing strip for Wingate's Raiders.
On the one occasion when a serious counterattack was imminent, Cochran's fighters and bombers beat the Jap sir force to the punch.
The Japs had concentrated more than 100 bombers and fighters at three adjoining Burma airfields for an attack on either the first Burma airstrip or Cochran's headquarters in India.
While dive-bombing one of the enemy's airfields in Burma on the fourth day of the invasion, in a routine attack to keep the Japs off balance, a flight of P-51s spotted several Jap planes parked below and followed through with a strafing attack, setting fire to every enemy ship on the field. While the P-51s were engaged in strafing, 12 Zeros attempting to come into the field were intercepted and two of them were shot down by the four U.S. top-cover planes, at the cost of one of our aircraft.
Returning from a bombing attack on another Jap airfield, a second flight of P-51s spotted about 90 enemy aircraft on the ground at Onbauk. Strafing the field and setting fire to Jap planes, they headed for home when their ammunition was exhausted. As soon as the P-51s landed, Cochran sent B-25s back. Using fragmentation and incendiary bombs, they left installation and planes on the field in flames.
One-fifth of the known enemy air strength in the area was destroyed by that combined attack. The P-51s of the Air Commando Force accounted for 24 fighters, seven bombers and one transport, while the B-25s knocked out 12 fighters. 1st Lt. Hubert L. Krugg, a P-51 pilot from Fort Collins, Colo., hung up high score for the day with five Jap planes destroyed on the ground. Two other fighter pilots, Capt. Duke Phillips of San Antonio, Tex., and Capt. Lester J. Murray of Fresno, Calif., were credited with three Japs apiece.
Not until five days later were the Japs able to strike again, this time with 20 planes that strafed the first Burma strip. British Spitfires hopped them, shooting down five and forcing the others to break contact.
Cochran's Commandos went back into action again to help some British troops make a difficult river crossing. F/Os Jake Newland of Spokane, Wash.; Walter M. Steinke of Niagra, Wis.; Hadley Baldwin of Lisbon, N. Dak., and Troy Shaw of Hot Springs, Ark., piloted their gliders onto a sand bar at 2230 hours and unloaded several flat-bottomed, motor-powered collapsible boats, with which the British crossed.
On their return flight, towed by Capt. John N. Dehoney of Kansa City, Mo., and 1st Lt. Vincent L. Ulery of Newark, Ohio, the gliders brought back four Burmese traitors captured by the British forces, probably the first time prisoners of war have been transported that way.
Prize story and major mystery of the all-aerial Burma invasion concerns a Ghurka soldier who stepped where angels should fear to tread. He was in a glider 7,000 feet over the mountains when nature called. Invasion gliders have no facilities for such human frailties but that didn't deter the Ghurka. He simply walked to the rear of the fuselage, stepped on the frail fabric that is the only flooring in that section of the glider and made his own facilities. The pilot, F/O Charles Turner of Palo Pinto, Tex., almost fainted when he saw the Ghurka standing there. The fabric ordinarily won't support a five-pound weight, let alone a Ghurka and his hob-nailed boots. But it did; the footprints are there on the fabric to prove it.
By Sgt. Ed Cunningham - YANK Staff Correspondent - May 5, 1944 edition.
When a Chinese Merchant Asks $1,800
for a Souvenir, Give Him $700
CHINA - The purchase of native knickknacks and curios, which is apparently a major pastime for soldiers in other sectors of the global war, is no great shakes in China.
The best examples of Chinese art and craftsmanship are apparently available only in Occupied China, and the Japanese don't consider them worth including in the wares they smuggle into Free China to sell at a goodly profit. If you want good Chinese embroidery, silver or statuettes, you have to dig for them in the almost hidden junkshops and in that noble institution found in every respectable Chinese town, the Street of Thieves.
When, by snooping carefully under counters and behind screens, the shopper finds exquisite Chinese art objects, he must be careful not to admire them to any extent.
For a set of lacquered Fukienese nestled boxes or a splendidly painted figure of a hermit, done in the neighborhood of Peiping, the shopkeeper as a matter of course will ask a price at least four times as great as his estimated value of the piece. Then the haggling starts.
A surprising number of Chinese merchants are familiar with Arabic numerals and most of the bargaining is done by writing the ascending and descending prices on pieces of straw paper. The merchant writes, say "$1,800" on the paper; the buyer looks at it as if he can't believe his eyes, scratches out the figure and substitutes "$300." Depending on the location of the town and how near inflation has approached it, $300 may represent any amount of American money (known as "gold") from $3.75 to $15.38.
The buyer must display violent emotion. He must appear to be certain that the merchandise is cheap and tawdry, that it probably was made in the back room by the shopkeeper's daughter and that he intends using it as a paper weight.
After a time, the shopkeeper brings his price grudgingly down to $1,400 and the buyer hoots with derision and offers $400 for it. At this, the shopkeeper takes the object from the buyer's hand and starts to put it back in the showcase. He stops just in time, though, and comes down to $1,200. The buyer then ups his offer to $550. This, too, the shopkeeper rejects. The rock-bottom price, he indicates, is $1,200. The buyer lays the article on the counter and pretends great interest in some other item. The shopkeeper sighs wearily and offers the original article for $1,000.
Here the buyer either comes up to $600 or leaves his $550 offer as final. The shopkeeper rejects it huffily and refuses to come below $1,000. The buyer then states with great decision (all in pantomime) that under no circumstances will he give more than $600 for the merchandise. This, to the shopkeeper, is ridiculous. So the buyer starts for the door. All right, says the shopkeeper, I'm losing money - but you can have it for $90. The buyer laughs nastily and walks out.
Before he has reached the next shop, he is detained by the urgent hand of the shopkeeper, who drags him back inside. Let us part friends, says the shopkeeper; take it for $750 before I change my mind.
The buyer offers $700. The shopkeeper indicates that his dignity would not permit him to take less than $750. The buyer holds to $700. The shopkeeper, with great disgust, takes the $700 and the two part happily.
The soldier is proud of himself for having picked up an $1,800 piece of merchandise for $700; the merchant is pleased at having sold for $700 an article on which he places a maximum value of $150.
It is important in all deals of this sort for the soldier to keep calm enough in the haggling to be sure he's bidding for the object he wants. A master sergeant near here pruned a price from $2,200 to $400, thinking he was arguing for a beauty-aid set consisting of a toothpick, two ear cleaners and an amber pendant used for rubbing tired eyes. At the end of the transaction, he found that he had bought a Buddhist rosary of jade, amber and wooden beads.
By Sgt. Marion Hargrove - YANK Staff Correspondent - October 22, 1943 edition.
Changing terrain has called for changing tactics in Burma. In early days it was jungle fighting like in New Guinea. Now it is city fighting as in Europe.
WITH THE 38th CHINESE DIVISION BESIEGING BHAMO, NORTHERN BURMA - The battle for this city, the largest that Chinese and American forces have come upon in all their months of blasting the Japs out of northern Burma, has settled any GI's doubts about the trend of the fighting in this corner of the war.
One of the handful of American soldiers attached to this Chinese division summed up that trend as we sat near our holes in the darkness of the Burma night, listening to the swish of artillery shells, the slam of mortar bursts and the whine of snipers' bullets.
"You know," he said, "dammed if the war over here doesn't seem to get more like the war in Italy or Germany all the time nowadays - both our methods of fighting and the conditions we fight under."
Although none of us has been in Europe, we have a pretty good picture of the fighting there from magazines, theater newspapers, newsreels and broadcasts. Almost every day we find more similarities in this Burma war.
A year ago, Chinese and American forces began their drive into Burma, and Gen. Joe Stilwell declared they wouldn't stop until they'd reopened the road to China. In those days the fighting took place along narrow jungle paths, up and down tortuous mountain slopes and across hundreds of rivers and streams. The places they captured, with tongue-twisting names like Shingbwiyang, Taihpa Ga and Yupbang, were just tiny native villages that contained a dozen or so thatched bashas and had been turned into dug-in perimeters by the Japs. The fighting was done mostly with small arms and light mortars. It was jungle warfare at its simplest.
At Maingkwan, where the Chinese came out of the hills onto a grassy plain, light General Stuart tanks first went into action and artillery batteries began to boom out barrages. But further south, the jungle closed in again around Walawbum, where Merrill's Marauders turned up with advanced jungle fighting tactics tested by Wingate's Chindits and also in Pacific combat.
Advancing from the Hukawng Valley down into the Mogaung Valley, the Chinese and the Marauders kept on fighting the Japs in thick jungle. They were fighting for tiny villages that meant nothing in themselves but were important as mileposts along the narrow dirt road that would wind up hundreds of miles away in China.
At Inkangahtawng the Chinese and Americans came out into open country again. After Chinese artillery threw phosphorous shells into 12-foot-high elephant grass to burn it down, the first General Sherman tanks rumbled into battle, manned by both Chinese and American crews.
Meanwhile Merrill's Marauders climbed a range of mountains 6,000 feet high and sneaked southeast into the Sumprabum Valley, leading Chinese columns in the surprise capture of Myitkyina airfield. There gliders and transports rushed in more troops, and the battle for the city of Myitkyina began. From then on, the war in Burma became much more like the war in Europe and less like the war in New Guinea.
MYITKYINA, the third city in northern Burma, contained wood-frame and stone buildings, a railroad station, a hospital, a movie theater and warehouses. It was surrounded by flat, open country - as flat as Normandy. Jungle fighting tactics were useless in most sectors of the city, under siege for 78 days. The Chinese and Americans hauled out their bazookas to blast down buildings. They fought from street corner to street corner, from house to house. The place became the Cassino of Burma - a fiercely defended city that had to be reduced to rubble by artillery barrages and daily dive-bombing attacks. Myitkyina was finally taken, in the middle of the monsoon season, by infantrymen who waded through waist-high flooded areas and slogged through knee-deep mud.
Today, as far as the terrain and type of fighting go, we are finding Bhamo another Myitkyina. We walked down the main road from the north, covering the last 30 miles into the city's outskirts. In several sections we came across land mines, as slickly dug in as if Nazis had put them there.
BHAMO is next to Lashio as northern Burma's largest city. Its peacetime population was something like 8,000. Lying 114 miles south of Myitkyina, it was an important port on the Irrawaddy River and a vital base for Burma Road convoys before the war. It is more compact than sprawling Myitkyina. Before the 38th Chinese Division encircled the city, Bhamo was well stocked with ammunition and food by the Japs, who show no signs of any early collapse.
A tar-surfaced, two-lane highway, the finest road we have seen in the whole of northern Burma, brought us through the surrounding villages that are like suburbs to a city. Here we found not crude thatched huts but big solid homes and buildings, some of them two stories high. Most of them had hinged doors and windows, and some had corrugated tin roofs and modern furniture.
The people turned out to greet us almost as eagerly as we had heard they did in France and Italy. One beautiful Burmese girl even ran up and kissed the pilot of the first plane to land at a newly constructed evacuation airstrip. The welcome has not worn out. The villagers still invite both Chinese and American soldiers into their home for chow. All of us carry on a brisk trade with the local people for things to eat, and you're not surprised to see Chinese soldiers coming out of a village with chickens, eggs, fish or water buffalo meat. A few of the GIs in an Air Support ground team stop in with me for a cup of rich Burma coffee and a chat with the citizens almost every day.
These are more cultured people than the primitive Kachins we met from time to time in the hill country last spring. There are Indians and Burmese and Karens and Anglos. Most of them can read and write and a good number speak English.
Even the weather nowadays reminds us of America and Europe rather than the tropics. Around this time of year the climate here is brisk and bracing, just like autumn back home. The nights are so cool that we throw on sweaters and field jackets, and need extra blankets. On Thanksgiving Day, as we ate canned chicken and other holiday delicacies dropped to us by transport planes, one GI remarked: "What a day for a football game! Just like back in Springfield, Ohio."
There are hedgerows around Bhamo, just as there were hedgerows in Normandy. The countryside is open, dotted here and there with patches of woods, gardens, houses, ponds and streams. Although there's only the one tar highway, most of the other roads are gravel and in good condition. 6n the way to the front, you pass wrecked Chevrolet trucks,
We haven't seen any Jap tanks so far, however. A few nights ago, around midnight, there was a lot of firing - everything from machines guns and mortars to bazookas and artillery. After it was over, a Chinese officer near our bivouac area got a phone call and, after much excited talk, hung up and came over to us with a grin. "Big tank battle," he said, "Japs counter-attacked with 10 tanks. We knocked out two."
Next morning I went up to the battle scene expecting to photograph the Jap tanks. Arriving at the forward outpost of the area, we were greeted by two machines gunners who grinned sheepishly. Neither could speak English very well, but one said, "Mao tanks," which means "There weren't any tanks." He pointed to a spot about 75 yards from his emplacement. There in the morning sun sat two big yellow tractors. On the front of each in black letters were the words: "CATERPILLAR TRACTOR CO., PEORIA, ILL." Captured at an AVG airfield when the Japs invaded Burma, the tractors had been used to spearhead the counterattack, evidently in the hope that the Chinese would run in terror at their sound.
Despite the absence of tanks, there are plenty of weapons around here that make the fighting more like that in Europe than the early days in Burma. The Chinese pour barrages of 75-mm fire from all sides of the city. They hammer away all day and night with their 60- and 81-mm mortars, and lay in a few well-placed 4.2-inch mortar shells every once in a while. They are better equipped than ever with automatic weapons.
Always firm believers in digging deep when they capture ground, the Chinese have constructed an elaborate network of trenches, parapets, pillboxes and emplacements around Bhamo. Their strategy is to pulverize the area with artillery and mortar fire, then send in the infantry to mop up, instead of risking heavy casualties attacking strong defenses. To us impatient GIs, who like to get the worst over with quickly, this methodical strategy is too slow. But sooner or later it gets the traditionally patient Chinese where they want to go. After seven years of war, a few days one way or the other in capturing a place doesn't worry the Chinese.
The Japs meet this strategy with fierce counterattacks. About every other morning around 0500, they stage one of these attacks, rushing in with bayonets and battle cries. The Chinese meet each attack with heavy fingers on their Bren and machine gun triggers, fanning the front with long bursts of tracers until the remaining Japs go back to their holes. Occasionally individual Japs get up to the Chinese positions before they die and bayonet or grenade a few Chinese, but they never seem to learn that trying to take ground against such deep positions and superior firepower is useless.
In the daytime P-47 Thunderbolts roar overhead and scream down to dive-bomb and strafe the Jap positions. The Chinese follow each flight with glee, standing up in plain view of Jap bunkers 100 yards away to watch the planes come down, then laughing and pointing as the bombs explode. In the daytime the Japs do little rifle or machine gun firing. They just hammer away with 70-mm dual-purpose antiaircraft gun - the equivalent of the Nazi 88-mm - that the GIs around here have nicknamed the "Whiz Bang." That's what it sounds like, for its great muzzle velocity and low trajectory cause the shells to explode behind our lines almost immediately after we hear its muzzle blast, instead of several seconds afterward.
For observers and photographers, this Bhamo siege has been ideal. All through last year's jungle warfare, they griped at their limited view from most points during a battle. Here, however, there are OPs from which the view is as good as it must be in the hills of Italy. From one of these, a mound of earth covering a big gasoline storage tank, I could see half the buildings in the city. From others we can easily locate Jap bunkers across the fields and sometimes even see Japs running from place to place every once in a while. As a result, all the shelling and bombing is being directed with an accuracy seldom seen before in the Burma campaign.
While the siege of Bhamo goes on, other Chinese columns are pushing south toward the well-populated Shweli River Valley. There we will probably find even more similarities to the big-time war in Germany, for through the valley runs the Burma Road, dotted with prosperous built-up communities.
For the Chinese, the battles in this valley may well become the most important in their modern history, because it is the last Japanese stronghold blocking the land route to China.
We GIs who have walked hundreds of miles in the last year of fighting are also interested in the valley. "If the place is as civilized and modern as they say it is," said an American radio operator who has been through 11 months of jungles, monsoons, dead Japs and field rations, "I'll meet you in the biggest bar there, and I'll have a blonde with me, too."
By Sgt. Dave Richardson - YANK Staff Correspondent - January 12, 1945 edition.
The results were a surprise for every polltaker in the business. It wasn't food that was bothering the joes; it wasn't the slowness of mail, and it wasn't the bare shelves in the PX.
Number One on the gripe parade was the fact that officers were getting a jungle ration (a monthly stipend of Stateside booze) while the mistreated dogfaces got none. On paper the gripes seemed so loud and resounding it made military authorities feel that thousands of under-privileged Americans couldn't be wrong. The EM had spoken and the officers' jungle ration vanished.
Now, no longer do you see the enticing labels of VO, Old Grand Dad, Black & White or the other U.S. favorites. Instead there is an influx of Chinaside whiskies, rums and wines that have been dreamed up by the wildest imaginations of Cathay distillers. Labels and even bottles look fighting mad - which brings us to the favorite story to come out of the ration ban.
It's about a Pfc. His right hand was shy a thumb, first and second fingers. Nobody knew whether he was getting a section-eighted out of the Army or getting out on a CDD. It was Chinese rice wine - one of the newer and stronger brands that appeared after the ration ban - that claimed the Pfc's fingers.
The wine was a type called Mao Tai. It has an after-taste of Camembert cheese, but that's the most civil thing about it. Like most Chinese beverages, its ingredients and process of distillation are secret. All the buyer remembers about Mao Tai (if he remembers anything at all after a few slugs) is the price, the color and the after-taste.
Late one Sunday afternoon the Pfc (name withheld by request) came wobbling into his barracks off a two day pass. Bunk-mates said they never seen him in quite such unsteady condition, and they watched him curiously.
He sat on the edge of a lower bunk and from a musette bag in which he carried his Chinese currency, pulled out a bottle and set it down on the cover of a footlocker.
The Pfc drank from the bottle. Witnesses said they saw the tips of his ears turning bright red and they thought the Pfc was getting a new kind of Chinese malaria, because they never had seen a reaction like it.
He dug into his shirt pocket and produced a battered pack of cigarettes and a Zippo lighter. He managed to hit his lips with an S-shaped cigarette, but got only sparks out of the lighter. Muttering, "needs fuel, needs fuel," he pulled the lighter apart, picked up the bottle of Mao Tai and poured it into the Zippo and all over the top of the footlocker.
The pfc spun the Zippo's wheel. It burst into a ball of flame with a loud poof. The pfc snapped his hand back and the lighter fell between the footlocker and the barracks wall, still flaming. Devoted to the Zippo, he jammed his hand down between the box and the wall to rescue it. His hand stuck and before he could pull it loose from its fiery trap the flaming Zippo thoroughly fried his thumb, first and second fingers.
Howling with pain, he licked open the top of the footlocker, hoping to find something for the burn. When he kicked the locker open, the wine-saturated top was put in direct line with the flames from the lighter and fire raced up just high enough to ignite the mosquito netting on the lower bunk.
Before the other GIs in the barracks realized the seriousness of the fire, flames from the mosquito netting bit into the mattress of the top bunk, and from there the fire rose to the top mosquito net and, within seconds, the grass roof of the barracks was aflame.
Inside of 20 minutes, there was a two-alarm fire raging in the compound, and half-clad GIs watching moaned about the loss of personal belongings, souvenirs and pin-up pictures.
Nobody heard of the pfc again until about a month later, when he turned up without his thumb, first and second fingers but with orders to return to the States.
This was the first case of its kind against Mao Tai or any other Chinese vintage, but more are sure to come along as the market becomes flooded with newer and more volatile beverages. Even when the Stateside brands were available, Chinese champagne was getting a large share of publicity through re-told tales of how it reacted on some GIs. There was the T-5 who favored the Chinese champagne over everything. He said that every time he got looped on it, he had visions of being a sergeant charged with instructing a squad of Wacs in close-order drill, dressed only in web belts and side arms.
Having such an attractive aftermath, the champagne's demand soon exceeded its supply and the inevitable happened. "Fake" champagnes - those which produced no visions of any kind except for an occasional dragon - soon began to fill shelves in liquor stores. Two of these are Lucky Champagne and Lafayette Champagne. The former gets its name from the fact that you can consider yourself lucky if it pops and bubbles like the real McCoy. The latter comes from the quotation: "Lafayette, we are here," the whereabouts of the drinker being a moot point after a few rounds.
People with absolutely no basic training in the distillery business have invested interest and money (mostly interest) in the drink industry, and not all of them are Chinese. In Chungking there is a man named Morrisoff, "the last of the White Russians," who has introduced a modified Molotov cocktail. He was formerly in the pig bristle business but now is the manufacturer of Cowboy Gin and Hunter's Gin, the latter bearing a label of indescribable animals going at each others' throats in the middle of a thick jungle. Vicious labels like this one seem to be the choice of distillers, on the theory that the wilder the label the more saleable the product.
Morrisoff also sells two types of Death rum - White Death and Green Death. White Death has a purplish hue and Green Death is naturally green. Both are dual-purpose products. As canned heat they are better than Sterno (users say the Death rums burn hotter and longer).
From Army stills of isolated or jungle-bound moonshiners come some rip-snortin' products, too. The Army does not, of course, condone this type of sport on the part of GIs, but soldier-distillers are rarely apprehended. They manufacture nothing in commercial quantities, and only small stills are needed to produce enough for table use. There was a time in the Hukawng Valley when you could not escape the odorous trails of GI stills, but Army "revenuers" from the Criminal Investigation Division reduced the number, especially among those whose yield was unusually high.
One of the handiest things in a K-ration box, according to these moonshiners, is that little fruit bar. It makes a very tasty item when transformed into a bottled product. A drink called Cherry Squeezins was another savory snort that came out of GI stills. It was made from the cherries and juice put up for the Army in large-sized cans.
The most mobile and famed of recent GI stills was that the Deakum Death, whose rums, whiskies and guns bore the same name. According to reports Army "law" smashed Deakum Death.
Just a quick glance at the back-bar of the New York Saloon in Chungking will disclose these brands: Extra Special Lion Old Scotch Whiskey, Hennessey Three Star (the proprietor tells you it's made in Shanghai), Coffee Liqueur, Chocolate Liqueur, Lake Farm Mulberry Wine, Lucky Wine, Yuna Wine, White Port, Miss Kweilin, Vin Rose, Aroma, Double Ace, Ginette Special, Red Star, Red Plume, Tiger, Black Cat, Gold Star, Raven, Victory, Mono, Walnut Liqueur, Nellie's Belly and Joe's Vodka.
Simultaneous with the atomic bomb should have been an announcement of a GI concoction which originated in India. It is the Rum Cup, a drink with a rum base and all other alcoholic liquids that will fit into a ten-ounce glass, plus sliced cucumbers, bananas, mangoes and parsley.
Official surveys in the past have concluded that the GI of World War II is a more sober fellow than his father was, but failed to bestow on him the added honor of having the world's toughest stomach.
By Sgt. Jud Cook - YANK Staff Correspondent - December 7, 1945 edition.
"There's Mandalay," said someone over the interphone. Somehow the matter-of-fact way he said it didn't fit the fabulous city of Kipling's thumping song, the largest city in central Burma.
But this bomber's crew wasn't interested in cities, and Mandalay, for all its history and importance, wasn't the target today. The B-25 belonged to one of the most specialized bombardment squadrons in the world - the Burma Bridge Busters, who operate on the principle that destroying a bridge will do more to beat the Japs in Burma than bombing an enemy base. Today I was riding along with them to learn how they do it, and why.
The plane banked until the city was behind. Then it nosed into a flat, thundering 300-mile-per-hour power glide. The bomb-bay doors rumbled open. Suddenly twin banks of .50-caliber machine guns began to clatter along both sides of the fuselage, their tracers darting into the trees and the open ground below. Tripping the triggers of the nose gun, I added to the fire by spraying possible ack-ack positions. The whole ship shivered in response.
Then through a break in the foliage we spotted the target. It was a road bridge about 100 feet long, spanning a narrow river and mounted on two concrete piers. No sooner did we spot it than a puff of white flak blossomed dead ahead, almost directly over it. Crouched beside me in the nose, 2d Lt. L.P. Bloodworth of Ruidoso, N. Mex., the navigator, yelled: "Hope that's the last burst in that spot. We'll be there in about 10 seconds."
The plane leveled out and we quit firing. From his cabin just behind the "greenhouse," 1st Lt. John T. Reynolds of Hendrysburg, Ohio, the pilot, kept his eye close to the machine gun reflector sight that he bombs with and made final adjustments of the plane's course. The bomber jolted slightly - the bombs were away.
Just as the plane raced over the target, we noticed a railroad bridge upstream - or what had been a railroad bridge but was now nothing but a half-submerged mass of twisted steel. On the tracks near it were a dozen empty freight cars.
"We knocked out the railroad bridge eight days ago," Lt. Bloodworth shouted in my ear. "It's on the only rail line from Mandalay to the Japs in northern Burma."
The bomber flipped into a steep-climbing turn to get away from some ack-ack ahead as the bomb-bay doors rumbled shut. Almost simultaneously our delayed-action bombs exploded below, kicking the ship a solid boot in the tail.
"Tail gunner to pilot, tail gunner to pilot," crackled the interphone. "Our bomb missed the bridge - they landed short an to the left - but it sure as hell looks like the leaning Tower of Pisa now."
Banking away, we caught a glimpse of the next B-25 making its bomb run through the blue-gray smoke of our bursts. We passed another of the squadron's target-bound ships on our way home. By the time we landed, one of the bombers had radioed the field of a direct hit.
"That means," explained the squadron intelligence officer, "that we've cut the only railroad and the only good motor road to the Japs north of Mandalay. Of course they will float and hand-carry supplies across the river to trucks on the other side until they can build new bridges there. But that's a slow process - and as soon as they build a new bridge, we'll knock that out, too."
By doing the same kind of precision bombing week after week against enemy supply routes all over Burma, the Bridge Busters have destroyed 114 bridges and damaged 51 beyond use in less than a year - a record which id probably unequalled in the entire Army Air Force.
Strangely enough, what got the Bridge Busters started on this record-making rampage was a mission that failed. And stranger still, the type of bombing I had just seen, the type they have used in wiping out most of their bridges - hop-bombing - was hit upon purely by accident, although it has now become as standard a technique as dive or skip bombing.
Up until a year ago, the Bridge Busters were just another run-of-the-mill medium bombardment outfit, activated in December 1942 as the 490th Squadron of the Tenth Air Force in India. For 10 solid months they pulled the usual routine missions against such targets as Jap airfields, bases, supply dumps, ships and occasionally bridges. The crews had always dreaded bridge targets most of all, because they were hardest to hit. Whether planes of the 490th bombed in formation from 5,000 feet or attacked singly at treetop level, they seldom could hit a bridge.
One day at briefing they were told their target was the Myittha River railroad bridge, over which the Japs were pouring supplies into southern Burma for a possible invasion of India. The intelligence officer warned them that the bridge was probably the most important target they had yet been given and that the brass hats had declared it must be destroyed. The B-25s of the 490th went out in full strength that day and literally saturated the target area with bombs, leaving the surrounding territory a mass of bomb craters. But when the smoke cleared away, much to their chagrin the bridge was still standing. Even direct hits had plummeted right through the trestles, then exploded harmlessly deep in the river. The mission had been a dismal failure.
When the crews of the 490th came back to their field that day, some of them were humiliated and some of them were fighting mad. And everybody thought they were going to catch hell when the CO, Lt. Col. Robert D. McCarten of Fargo, N. Dak., called the combat crews together for a meeting. Instead, he told them: "That's the last straw. We're going to learn how to knock out bridges if it's the last thing we do."
After that, for hours a day, the 490th practiced by aiming dummy bombs at a target on a nearby rice paddy. Having read of the success of skip-bombing against Jap shipping in the southwest Pacific, they tried it against bridges. But they found that a bomb's skip cannot be determined on ground as it can on open water, especially with trees and houses in its path. Nor is a bridge something solid that will stop a skipping bomb, like a ship. The bombs either ricocheted off their course, skipped clear over the bridge or slid under it to explode on the other side.
They tried dive-bombing but found that the B-25 isn't built for the necessary steep dive and quick pull-out. They tried attacking at tree-top level but found that big bombs didn't have time to turn before hitting the ground; they would either hit on their sides and skid off at an angle or enter the ground sideways and not go off at all. To make the bombs turn sooner after leaving the plane at low altitude and prevent them from skipping, they tried air brakes on the fins, then spikes in the noses, then parachutes on the bombs. These tricks helped, but they were too much trouble and far from foolproof.
It was then, after all these weeks of experiments, that the 490th stumbled upon hop-bombing purely by accident.
The squadron's target on New Years' Day 1944 was the Mu River bridge, on the important railroad line from Rangoon to central Burma. Roaring in for the attack at treetop level, Maj. Robert A. Erdin of Paterson, N.J., squadron operations officer and that day's squadron leader, saw a large tree looming in his course. He gunned his plane upward to avoid hitting it. By the time he got back to the predetermined altitude of attack, he was already on the target, so he dumped his bombs.
The plane was then nosed downward in a shallow dive. Cursing the tree that spoiled the bomb run, the crew looked back to see how far the bombs had missed. What they saw changed the whole course of the squadron's history - and eventually had an effect on the course of the war in northern Burma.
Two trestles of the 480-foot bridge lay toppled in the river in the smoke of the bomb explosions. "That's it!" yelled Maj. Erdin to his crew. "That's what we've been looking for. Bring on those bridges!"
Arriving back at the field, Maj. Erdin (who is now squadron CO) explained what had happened. The shallow dive just as the bombs were released at low altitude sent them earthward at an angle which prevented them from skipping or failing to go off on impact. The squadron soon added other refinements to bring hop-bombing to perfection. The pilots learned to sight during the shallow dive through the machine gun reflector sight. They found that with their new technique, near misses would do more damage.
Two weeks after Maj. Erdin's discovery, the 490th got sweet revenge when Capt. Angelo J. Boutselis of Dracut, Mass., destroyed the Myittha River bridge - the target which the entire squadron had missed before - with only two bombs, using the new hop technique. Boutselis was so happy he conducted prayer-meeting hymns over the interphone and twirled his 10-inch mustache all the way back to the field.
Then the 490th started begging for bridge missions - and got them. The squadron's ships ripped apart the Meza railroad bridge, 800 feet long, over which had passed 90 percent of supplies and reinforcements for the Jap front lines in northern Burma. Exactly a month after stumbling upon hop-bombing, six of its B-25s destroyed three bridges on a single mission. A few days later, six other planes blasted out two more spans. Before the week was over, the squadron had accounted for eight bridges.
When the news reached Maj. Gen. Howard C. Gavidson, commanding general of the Tenth Air Force, he sent this message to Lt. Col. McCarten: "To you, your Bridge Busters and all the boys on the ground who keep 'em flying on their successful accomplishment, my personal congratulations. Your devastating results have been received with glee."
Although that was the first time anyone had ever called the squadron "Bridge Busters," the name stuck. From then on, even though the squadron kept its skull-and-wings insignia, it became officially known by the new name and has specialized in knocking out bridges ever since.
Within a few weeks, the Bridge Busters discovered that 1,000-pound bombs would do more damage with near misses than smaller ones, so they figured that putting more of these big babies on each ship would reduce the number of ships needed to wipe out a bridge. What they did about this would have turned an airplane designer's hair white. They loaded one more 1,000-pound bomb on their B-25s then the plane is designed to carry. When the ships still flew okay with this load, Capt. William C. McIntyre of Nashville, Tenn., squadron armament officer, decided to try still another.
"I'll bet you 150 rupees," declared a fellow officer, "that the B-25 can't get off the ground and go anywhere with that weight."
McIntyre took the bet, packed one more 1,000-pounder into each ship and won his 50 bucks hands down when the ships not only took off and flew, but five planes knocked out three bridges. The monthly average since then has been three to four planes to knock out one bridge.
Burma on a relief map looks like a huge strip of corduroy. It is just a series of mountains and valleys, mostly running north and south. In every valley are rivers; there are thousands of these rivers and streams. This means that any road must cross water at intervals along its length. This is why bridge busting became so valuable in hampering Jap supply.
The Bridge Busters' most spectacular mission was smashing the 11-span 1,800-foot Sittang River bridge - one of the biggest in Burma and vital link in the railroad connecting Rangoon with the only route to Bagkok, in Siam. To accomplish this, 1st Lt. William E. Cook of Fullerton, Calif., used the glistening rails as his guide in bright moonlight. His bombs toppled several hundred feet of the long span. But the mission nearly resulted in the loss of Lt. Cook's ship. Just as he banked sharply to evade ground fire after leaving the target, his left wing hit the spire of a Burmese pagoda, which ripped four feet of the wing tip away. He managed to nurse the lopsided ship 400 miles over the mountains back to the field. He was later killed in a crash.
Then there was S/Sgt. James D. Crain of Chattanooga, Tenn., who lowered himself into the open bomb bay over one target and kicked loose some bombs that had failed to release. There was T/Sgt. David N. George of Rifle, Colo., first crew chief to send a plane out on 100 consecutive missions without a mechanical turn-back. There was Cpl. Marvin Beckman of Inglewood, Calif., who bailed out of his ship when it was hit in a half-hour running battle with 25 Zeros, watched the Zeros strafe and kill everyone else in the crew as they parachuted down near him and then walked for five days in the jungle before staggering into an Allied outpost.
And then there were those like Lt. Arthur C. Sanders of Coronado, Calif., who turned the controls over to his co-pilot above Rangoon so he could photograph another running fight with Zeros with his amateur movie camera. Later he was missing in action. And 1st Sgt. Joseph W. Meier of Jersey City, N.J., who used to put up such bulletin-board notices as "Pay call 1300 hours. Crap games 1305 hours" and who, when he went up on just one mission to see how it was, got a Purple Heart as the only man on the mission wounded by ground fire.
When the battle for Myitkyina began last spring, the Bridge Busters had knocked out 40 bridges - every important span in the area - to soften up the Jap base for the kill. During the summer monsoon, they carried out 65 missions in four months through thunderstorms and low ceilings. When good weather returned in October, they opened up in full blast again by destroying 13 bridges in 13 days.
The Bridge Busters have had to do other kinds of bombing jobs, too. They joined other outfits of the Tenth Air Force in sinking river steamers that used to ply the Irrawaddy laden with Jap supplies. Although they do most of their bombing in daylight, they send a few planes out on moonlight nights to spot and wreck anything that moves in Jap-held Burma - trains, trucks or small boats - for the Japs do most of their moving at night. Every week planes pull missions against enemy bases or troop concentrations.
But the Jap engineers keep the Bridge Busters busiest in their specialty. The engineers either repair an important bridge that has been bombed out or build a by-pass bridge nearby as soon as possible after a bombing. While they are doing this work, the Bridge Busters just fly by occasionally to see how things are coming. As soon as they're sure a bridge is nearly rebuilt or by-passed, they pay another visit with their 1,000-pounders and knock it out again. The Squadron had to knock out the Bawgyo River bridge - the 100th bridge destroyed - twice in a few weeks.
Recently there have been two or three off-handed tributes to the bridge Busters' work. One was the discovery in a village taken by Chinese forces of 150 emaciated Jap bodies, all showing signs of having starved to death for lack of supply lines. Another was an official statement that the Japs are retreating from northern Burma, leaving only small delaying garrisons behind, partly because of their inability to get more supplies and troops up from central Burma.
And then there was the British engineer who buttonholed an American intelligence officer. "I say, old boy," complained the Britisher. "Would you mind telling those Bridge Buster chaps of yours that we think they are doing a bloody fine job but that actually old boy, it is making things blastedly inconvenient for us engineers. Every time our forces come to a river, they find the bridge bombed out."
By Sgt. Dave Richardson - YANK Staff Correspondent - March 9, 1943 edition.