* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Problems of Command
WHEN the Combined Chiefs of Staff assembled at Casablanca for their historic meeting of January 1943, they faced a problem in the CBI which was intrinsically complex and had been rendered more so by much acrimonious debate.
General Stilwell had persisted in the belief that it would be necessary to reopen a land route to China. To accomplish this purpose he would depend upon Chinese armies trained and led by himself. At Ramgarh, in northeastern India, he assembled during the summer and fall of 1942 some 45,000 Chinese troops for training as the X Force. In Yunnan Province, another force, which he hoped to increase to twenty-seven divisions, was put in training as the Y Force for collaboration with X in a pincer movement that would force the Japanese out of northern Burma. He planned to build a new road behind the X Force as it advanced southeastward from Ledo in India until land communications could be re-established with China by the juncture of the two forces.1
This strategy was bitterly opposed by General Chennault, who had been in China a long time and was convinced that Stilwell had overlooked a unique opportunity for employment of the air weapon. The reconquest of Burma and the building of a new road across the mountains, in Chennault's opinion, could only prolong the war by devouring materiel and manpower which otherwise might be used for the construction of additional airfields in Assam and China and for the buildup of an effective air force in China. As an alternative to Stilwell's plan, Chennault promised that, with 500 aircraft deployed from Chinese bases, he could destroy Japanese air power in China. The enemy's position on the Asiatic mainland, he argued, was peculiarly vulnerable to air attack. Occupied areas, stretching along the coast and serving as a flank for protection of vital sea communications, not only lacked depth
but were at all points virtually equidistant from central China, where American air units could be advantageously deployed. With a small but properly equipped air force, he could jab at will anywhere along the enemy's perimeter and thus piecemeal destroy Japanese air strength. This would speed the advance of American forces in the Pacific and permit their approach to the China coast without fear of land-based aviation. And if the Japanese chose to meet this threat by commitment to the mainland of enough forces to extend the occupied zone in China, their strength at other points would be seriously weakened. In other words, a modest investment of men and aircraft could not fail to pay off.2
Chennault's proposal necessarily rested upon the assumption that an expanded airlift from India to China could solve the problems of logistics. Stilwell, strongly supported by Marshall, had no such faith and proceeded with plans for a ground offensive that he hoped to launch by February 1943.3 In this hope, however, he met with little luck. The British objected to proposals for enlarging the Chinese army at Ramgarh and thus gave offense to the Generalissimo, who lost his enthusiasm for the proposed attack. Chiang Kai-shek had placed a condition on the cooperation of his Yunnan force, which was that the ground offensives should be coordinated with naval operations in the Andaman Sea, a possibility eliminated by the decision to invade North Africa in November 1942.4 As it became increasingly evident that Stilwell could not undertake his offensive for a long time, General Chennault enjoyed the advantage of promising more immediate results at a relatively slight cost.
A Separate Air Forcefor China
A significant part of Chennault's plan was the demand that he be given a free hand in the employment of air forces in China. Chennault disliked his subordination to the Tenth Air Force. Friction had developed between him and General Bissell,5 who came to the theater originally as Stilwell's air adviser and later became commanding general of the Tenth, purposely having been given one day's seniority over Chennault in the promotion to brigadier general.6 General Chennault enjoyed the special confidence of Chiang Kai-shek and the applause of the Chinese people. The Generalissimo had been disappointed by failure of the Americans to place a larger air force in China, and he was suspicious of British influence over the India-based Tenth Air
Force. He seems also to have anticipated that he might make use of the proposed change in command arrangements to resurrect the moribund Chinese Air Force, which had a number of trained pilots but no aircraft.7 And so it was that issues rooted basically in differing concepts of strategy tended to come to a focus toward the close of 1942 on the question of an independent air force for Chennault.
The War Department, under Marshall's leadership, had given its support to Stilwell's concept of the appropriate strategy.8 But Chennault had a unique advantage which enabled him to by-pass both the theater commander and the General Staff in Washington. The Generalissimo, aware that China perhaps held the key to future air operations against the Nipponese homeland, was prepared to use diplomatic pressure in Chennault's behalf. The latter had only to persuade Chiang, who then passed on the word to the Chinese Embassy in Washington or to Dr. T. V. Soong, his brother-in-law, who was also at that time in Washington. In addition to the normal diplomatic channels of approach to the White House, Dr. Soong enjoyed the personal friendship of Harry Hopkins, confidant of the President.9
When the decisions reached at Casablanca proved, as had been anticipated, extremely disappointing to China's hopes, the pressure in behalf of Chennault became stronger. Confirmation of an over-all strategic plan to give first call on Allied resources to operations against Germany, plus the tentative conclusion that operations against Japan in the Pacific Ocean areas might be prosecuted on a larger scale than theretofore had been considered possible,* left very little indeed for the CBI. It was agreed that British forces would continue operations in southern Burma for the recapture of Akyab, thus advancing Allied air bases closer to the main centers of Japanese control in Burma, and would establish bridgeheads across the Chindwin River as a threat to Mandalay. But it was decided that the major operations proposed by Stilwell for northern Burma could not possibly be undertaken before November 1943, if then. Meanwhile, the recently established India-China Wing of the Air Transport Command (ICWATC) should be reinforced.10
After the adjournment at Casablanca, Arnold took a plane, in the company of Lt. Gen. Brehon B. Somervell and Field Marshal Sir John Dill, for India and China. They arrived at New Delhi on 30 January 1943 and were joined there by Stilwell on 1 February.11 Shortly,
* See above, pp. 130-31.
Arnold and Dill went on to China with Stilwell. Long before the time of his arrival in China, Arnold had been made aware of the desire on the part of Chennault and the Chinese government to have the CATF become an independent air force. It was maintained that distance forbade continued attempts at tactical control from New Delhi of air units located in China. The probable increase in the importance of the Chinese zone of operations and the past success of the CATF argued for its establishment as a separate air force.12
But Arnold did not want an independent air force under Chennault, and said so to Marshall in a radiogram from China on 5 February.13 The controlling factor, said Arnold, in all air operations from China bases was the supply of fuel, which had to come by airlift from India. The lack of needed services in China and the delay which had been imposed on logistical support from the United States made air operations in China so dependent upon the base in India that complete independence of the CATF was impossible. While acknowledging his mastery of tactical operations, Arnold expressed the opinion that Chennault was weak on administration and advised that the CATF should be continued as part of the Tenth Air Force.
Though opposing the establishment of a second air force in CBI, Arnold promised substantial help for Chennault's command. The 62 transports currently operating with the India-China Wing of ATC would be increased to 137 by 15 March; furthermore, C-47's would be replaced by the larger C-46's as rapidly as possible. Ground and air crews should be well enough oriented by the end of March to keep a minimum of ninety aircraft operating at all times, and Arnold estimated that each of the operational craft would be able to make twenty round trips over the Hump per month. Since twelve of the new planes would be four-engine C-87's, he believed that by April the ATC lift into China could be raised from the 1,263 tons of January 1943 to a monthly rate of 4,000 tons, of which Chennault should get 1,500 tons. Arnold also promised that the 308th Bombardment Group (H), equipped with B-24's, would leave the United States within a few days for attacks from China against Japanese bases, ports, and shipping. He hoped that a light bombardment group could be added by 1 November 1943, and expressing the view that U.S. personnel in China should be kept at a minimum because of the logistical problem, he approved the idea of supplying aircraft for use by Chinese pilots.14
With these plans in mind, Arnold conferred with the Generalissimo,
C-87 Returns from China to Tezpur
Airlift to China
C-46 over the "Hump"
General Stratemeyer's Bosses
who demanded an independent American air force in China with a strength of 500 planes and an increase in the airlift to 10,000 tons monthly.15 Stilwell has quoted Arnold as saying after the conference: "I'll be God-damned if I take any such message back to the President."16> He did, however, take just such a message in the form of a letter, dated 7 February 1943, from the Generalissimo to Roosevelt.17 In this letter, Chiang repeated the demands made in person to Arnold. Chennault was presented as a man of genius who enjoyed the confidence of the Chinese people and with whom Chiang Kai-shek could work in complete cooperation. He should have an air force of his own. Expressing pleasure at the prospect of a 4,000-ton airlift, the Generalissimo insisted that the Burma offensive tentatively scheduled for November could not proceed on less than a lift of 10,000 tons monthly and that nothing of great value could be accomplished by Chennault with less than 500 aircraft.
The President seems to have determined very quickly after receipt of the Generalissimo's letter, despite Marshall's already expressed opposition,18 that Chennault should be allowed to have his way on the question of a separate air force. Wendell Willkie had laid the proposal on the President's desk as early as the preceding fall, when he returned from his round-the-world trip as special representative of the President bearing a letter from Chennault which set forth the general's concept of CBI strategy and his desire for complete freedom of action.19 Harry Hopkins too had taken an active interest in the proposal, and in November 1942 sent an agent to China for periodic and direct reports on the situation, by-passing the War Department. Hopkins thereafter regularly presented the President with appreciative evaluations of Chennault's plans and strategy. Indeed, Hopkins has been credited by some with having been largely influential in persuading the President to activate the Fourteenth Air Force.20
Though opposing the establishment of a second air force in the CBI, Marshall on 19 February informed Stilwell of a decision to organize AAF units in China into an air force that would be independent of Bissell's command but would remain under Stilwell as theater commander. Additional personnel to supply Chennault with a competent staff would be provided, and both Bissell and Chennault would be promoted. Chiang should be informed of these developments.21 A War Department draft of a reply to the Generalissimo's letter of 7 February restated the conviction that the opening of a land route through Burma
carried the real hope of delivering a death blow to Japanese forces in China, and promised the early arrival in India of 10,000 service troops and 25,000 tons of equipment for work on the Ledo Road.22 The President kept this in his final draft, but he added his own assurance of a purpose to increase the equipment of the new air force to 500 planes as soon as possible. In repeating Arnold's promise regarding an early increase in the Hump airlift, Roosevelt also expressed the belief that other aircraft could be provided eventually to bring the lift up to a goal of 10,000 tons per month.23
From a purely military point of view, the activation of the Fourteenth Air Force on 10 March 194324 was patently premature. The CATF, though not formally assigned to the Fourteenth until 24 April, became an independent command with its operational sphere extended to include the area north of the Yangtze, but responsibility for its supply remained with the Tenth Air Force, while extension of the offensive action of the fledgling air force depended upon the ability of ATC to increase its Hump traffic. On the other hand, Chennault had won a greater freedom of action in reward for his outstanding operational successes, and this, together with the promise of a substantial increase in Hump tonnage, of the early arrival of a heavy bombardment group, and of planes for the Chinese Air Force, brought a badly needed boost to morale in China. The action served also to bolster the prestige of the Generalissimo.25
The AAF moved promptly to carry out its own promises. The 308th Bombardment Group completed its movement to China in March.26 It was anticipated that its operations would impose no additional strain on the air transport line, for the group's B-24's would double as transports, hauling from India their own bombs and fuel. This group, plus the four fighter squadrons, one medium squadron, and a photo reconnaissance detachment already on hand, would represent the full strength of the Fourteenth Air Force until late in the following summer.
In February, when Arnold was in China, Chennault had asked for a bomber command composed of one heavy and one medium group, a fighter command of two groups, an air service command, and steps eventually to provide Chinese combat units under American leadership. In a letter of 4 March 1943 to Arnold, Chennault urged that the bomber and fighter commands be authorized immediately for later activation and that two fighter squadrons and a medium squadron
should be promptly activated in China with fillers to be provided later from the United States. Need for the air service command was not immediate and that could wait, but the fighter and medium squadrons, plus a fighter group headquarters and a medium group headquarters, represented urgent needs. He wanted also the immediate formation of one fighter and a medium or light bombardment squadron for Chinese pilots, these units to be expanded into full groups as soon as trained pilots and planes became available. For leadership in the development of these Chinese units, he urged the prompt return to China of AVG and CATF veterans in the United States. As for planes, he asked for a build-up to the minimum of 150 fighters, 32 medium bombers, and 8 photo reconnaissance planes in addition to the 35 heavy bombers of the 308th Group.27
Arnold's reply early in April indicated that the build-up of the new air force would have to proceed more gradually.28 No combat squadrons were to be activated in the theater, and a possible transfer of units from the Tenth Air Force to China constituted the only immediate promise of further reinforcement.* AVG and CATF veterans could not be returned in the near future. Convinced that the most pressing need of the new air force was high-caliber administrative personnel, Arnold listed for Chennault several officers being sent out and suggested assignments to fit their capabilities. Among them were Brig. Gens. Edgar E. Glenn and Julian B. Haddon for chief of staff and leadership of the service command, respectively.
The project for increase of the airlift to China proceeded approximately on schedule, so far at least as the delivery of aircraft was concerned. By 23 March there were 120 transport planes assigned to the India-China Wing of ATC, and on 27 March, 133 transports were either on hand in the theater or en route. By 8 June, moreover, a total of 46 of the 50 C-46's scheduled to leave the United States by 1 June already had been received.29
Meantime, while the reinforced ATC wing failed badly in its effort to raise the total airlift to the promised 4,000 tonsþ and with operations in China brought practically to a standstill for the want of fuel,30 the goal of 4,000 tons had been raised to 10,000. Activation of the Fourteenth Air Force had represented only a partial victory for the
* Stilwell objected to such a transfer until the Chinese government fulfilled agreements for the construction of certain bases.
þ See below, pp. 443-48.
Generalissimo's effort to strengthen air operations from China, and he evidently regarded the President's general promises for the future as insufficient. In the midst of preparations for the TRIDENT conference, which met in Washington during the first week of May, the President received a request from Chiang that General Chennault be called to Washington to explain a plan for an aerial offensive from China. In response, the War Department summoned both Chennault and Stilwell to appear before the Combined Chiefs of Staff in their May meeting.31
At TRIDENT the perplexities of the CBI received a thorough airing. Stilwell and Chennault, in presentations broken at points by bitter exchanges, agreed only insofar as they both expected aerial operations of gigantic proportions to be mounted eventually against Japan from bases in China. Stilwell continued to argue that the Hump flight could never be developed to a point removing the basic necessity for a land supply line to China. Until the Ledo Road had been completed, Chinese land forces in Yunnan should be given the bulk of the air freight in support of their part in the reconquest of northern Burma, an operation which retained first claim on available resources.32 Chennault argued that the Burma campaign would be long drawn out and that China might collapse before its completion. Taking a cue perhaps from certain proposals currently under discussion for a counterstrategy to that set forth for the Pacific in MacArthur's RENO plan,* Chennault also argued that the seizure of a port city on the China coast would be a more practical approach to the problem of getting forces into China for the final destruction of Japan. Every effort, therefore, should be made to build up the airlift for support primarily of the Fourteenth Air Force, which was in position not only to aid the Chinese immediately but to make extensive inroads into enemy merchant shipping and to do great damage to land supply, aerial installations, and troop concentrations. Development of air bases in Assam should be given priority over the Ledo Road. He had no fear that the Japanese might capture American bases in China, and he looked forward to a successful aerial offensive preparing the way for an Allied landing on the China coast.33
British leaders at TRIDENT agreed that development of the Assam air bases, for which they held responsibility, should have precedence over the Ledo Road. Influenced perhaps by their interest in long-range plans involving Bangkok, Malaya, and Singapore, and being not
* See above, pp. 133-34.
yet ready for large-scale operations in CBI, the British were inclined to favor delay in Burma. Chinese views, presented by Dr. Soong, recognized the desirability of the Ledo Road, but China could not wait on its completion. Chennault should be reinforced immediately and Hump tonnage greatly increased. The War Department admitted that the immediate problem was to keep China in the war, but it argued for continuance of plans for the Burma offensive, especially as against new ventures south of Burma. In the end, development of the air cargo route was given the highest priority and Chennault was promised the bulk of the freight. But Stilwell's Burma offensive was scheduled for the end of the monsoon in the fall, with coordinated amphibious operations now limited to efforts to retake Akyab and Ramree Island.34
An annex to the final paper of TRIDENT set forth the projected strength of the Fourteenth Air Force. Chennault was to have in addition to the 308th Group a medium bombardment group, but it would not be provided until ATC tonnage over the Hump reached 10,000 tons per month. The strength of his fighter command would be brought to two groups. Moreover, the Chinese would receive eighty fighter planes and forty medium bombers for operation under Chennault.35 As plans went forward, Arnold in July suggested to Stilwell a desirable shuffling of units between India and China. The 80th Fighter Group had been scheduled for India, and Arnold suggested that on its arrival the whole of the 51st Group might join the 16th Squadron in China. When the 311th Bombardment Group (311th Fighter-Bomber Group after 30 September 1943) became available for India, the India-based squadrons of the 341st Bombardment Group (M) could join the 11th Squadron in China.36 Thus would units long divided be reunited, and Chennault would have experienced personnel.
Failure over the Hump
Plans for the immediate assistance of China fell through because of failure in the operation which had received the highest priority at TRIDENT--the effort to increase greatly the airlift. During the month of June, the India-China Wing of ATC with more than 140 transport planes on hand, including 12 C-87's and 46 C-46's, lifted just above 2,200 tons into China; the existing schedule called for more than twice that figure. In July, when Chennault's share alone was to have been 4,790 tons, the total lift was about 4,500 tons. In September, when the
Fourteenth was to have received 7,128 tons, ICW moved no more than 5,000 tons for all purposes.37
This low tonnage cannot be attributed to failure in the delivery of planes. On 14 September 1943 the ATC wing had 230 transports, almost a hundred more than in June, and the number included 43 C-87's and 105 C-46's. The remaining 82 were C-47's and C-53's.38 To explain the failure requires consideration of many different factors; the record offers an excellent illustration of how far awry a plan can go when it depends upon exact coordination of many projects, not only among the several agencies of the armed forces of one country but among allies with diverging policies. The full story of ATC, including that of the India-China Wing, will be told later in this history,* but it is necessary here to go into one chapter of that story in some detail for an understanding of major developments in the theater.
The achievement on schedule of the goal set by TRIDENT could be said to have depended upon the accomplishment of four subsidiary tasks: (1) the provision of the requisite number of aircraft; (2) an increased flow of supplies along the Calcutta-Assam line of communications; (3) sufficient personnel and equipment in Assam for the processing and loading of freight; and (4) adequate airdrome facilities in Assam. As for the first of these, the planes were delivered on time, though there was serious trouble with many of them. The movement of supplies by rail from Calcutta to the Assam bases proved disappointingly slow, but rarely was there any acute shortage of supply in Assam, nor was there ever any paucity of freight on hand to be flown to China. However, heavy equipment needed for construction of airdromes did not arrive according to schedule, partially because of inefficiency along this LOC. Also motor transport and loading equipment destined for airdromes in Assam was frequently tied up either in Calcutta or en route thence. As a result, handling of freight at the Assam airdromes was not as efficient as it should have been and tended to slow down operations.39 The lack of proper airdrome facilities in Assam was, in all probability, the greatest single factor which doomed the program to failure, especially during its first few months.
There were no difficulties with regard to airdromes in China, as commodious fields were already available.40 In Assam, however, the picture was entirely different. The British had assumed responsibility for having five forward and three rearward fields ready by May and three
* See Vol. VII.
additional fields by the first of October.41 Rainfall, excessive even for a region notorious for its rains, greatly impeded construction; native laborers, panicked by Japanese bombings, fled the area in droves; construction equipment and vital materials failed to arrive on time.42 On the eve of the date for completion of the eight fields, there were only two serviceable airdromes, with fourteen hardstandings, available to ATC in all Assam.43 Of these two, Jorhat could not be used by the heavy four-engine planes because its taxiways were not yet paved. This meant that all B-24's of the 308th Group, which hauled its own supplies to China, and eighty-odd other planes were using Chabua.44 So crowded was this field that ATC had been forced to park more than fifty C-47's, C-87's, and B-24's on the airdrome in daylight hours, with an estimated 147 enemy aircraft based within two and one-half to three hours' flight.45 Two other fields, Mohanbari and Sookerating, were unpaved and were not usable because of the very heavy rains. The drome at Dinjan was occupied by the China National Aviation Corporation and the fighters which protected the area.46
Handicapped as they were, the British continued their work, obtaining the services of 4,500 additional native laborers. They asked, however, that three American engineer battalions with full equipment be sent to Assam to help in maintenance of completed fields and to assist in construction of the remaining ones. It was believed that the addition of American troops would help morale in case Japanese air attacks were repeated and also would give a much higher proportion of skilled labor. British authorities also requested that delivery of machinery and vehicles which had long been on order from the United States be expedited.47
On 22 June, Brig. Gen. Howard C. Davidson, on a theater tour of inspection, reported that the airdrome situation was slowly improving, even though the lightly constructed Chabua runway was going to pieces under the heavy four-engine planes and in the future would be used only by the two-engine craft. Dinjan, which could not stand up under the heavier transports, was still being used by CNAC and by fighters; Sookerating had been completed with a good concrete runway suitable for all types of aircraft; Mohanbari was still under construction but would be ready for use by 1 July; Jorhat had a good runway suitable for heavy aircraft but had to be shared with the RAF.48 By 13 July, Brig. Gen. Edward H. Alexander of ICW reported fifty-nine hardstandings with connecting taxiways available, chiefly
at Chabua, Sookerating, and Jorhat, and with none yet completed at Tezpur or Mohanbari.49 On the whole, the progress was reassuring and promised a marked improvement in the airlift during August.
For the continued disappointments, serious bugs in the new C-46 offered one explanation. Eventually all of the C-46's had to be grounded for modifications. The extra maintenance problem occasioned by the defects in the C-46 aircraft was aggravated when overhauls made at depots in India proved unsatisfactory. The effort to handle the maintenance and repair in Assam, moreover, completely overwhelmed the personnel there.50 During the month of August, an average of more than 100 ICWATC planes were grounded per day. This month was also marked by an increasing diversion of ATC planes for trans-India flying and for food-dropping missions in northern Burma.51
Meanwhile CNAC, an efficient and well-organized commercial line manned by personnel of long experience in the theater and equipped with flying instruments not always available to ATC planes, gave some indication of what could be accomplished. In a four-week period during June, ATC, with 146 planes assigned, delivered 2,219 tons to Kunming, while CNAC with only 20 small Douglas craft moved 761 tons to the same destination. Within that period, in other words, CNAC transported 38 tons per plane while ATC moved only about 15 tons per plane. In the four weeks ending 28 September, CNAC moved 1,134 tons with 23 planes on hand, while ATC lifted 5,198 tons with more than 225 planes on hand. At that time, it should be noted, ATC had 43 four-engine C-87's and more than a hundred C-46's, both models having a larger capacity than the types being flown by CNAC, in addition to 82 craft of the same models as those of CNAC. Yet CNAC was lifting 49 tons per plane over the Hump while ATC was moving 23 tons per plane.52 Regardless of the difficulties which ICW had with the C-46 and with diversion of planes to duties other than flying the Hump, ATC operations were obviously less efficient than those of CNAC. And as if to point out more clearly that there was something wrong with the ICW which did not meet the eye, newly arrived troop carrier squadrons, inexperienced in the theater, carried out more efficient operations in their first month than ATC squadrons.*
Authorities in Washington had been concerned with the peculiar
* The troop carrier units then with the Tenth Air Force were the 1st and 2d Troop Carrier Squadrons which had arrived in the theater the previous spring.
problems of the ICW for some time, and reports from Maj. Gen. George E. Stratemeyer, Chief of Air Staff, and Edward V. ("Eddie") Rickenbacker after visits to the theater in the spring made it clear that the situation in Assam was serious.53 Stratemeyer's report evoked a reply from Maj. Gen. Harold L. George of the Air Transport Command, in which he pointed out that ICW was a relic of the 1st Ferrying Group which in the spring of 1942 had been assigned, over the protests of Brig. Gen. Robert Olds of the Ferrying Command, to the Tenth Air Force.* ATC had not been able to overcome all the inheritances from past mistakes.54 There was something in this argument. Supplies and equipment for the ferrying unit had gone into a theater pool; personnel and aircraft had been regularly given assignments which had no connection with ordinary transport activities; and in other ways, customs at variance with the principle of ATC independence had carried over. The ferrying group had done well in developing the aerial cargo line on a shoestring, but bad living conditions, outrageous mail service, scarcity of supplies, slow promotions, and absence of replacements had caused the initial high morale to deteriorate until, in the autumn of 1942, it had reached a dangerous point. In December, ATC had taken over the India-China Ferry from the Tenth Air Force. Under Alexander there had been marked improvement in morale, but the transition was not easy and relations between the Tenth and ATC at times became quite bitter, each calling the other "robber."55 As for the difference in operational efficiency between troop carrier units and ATC squadrons, General George argued that troop carrier materiel sent to CBI was inviolable, while ATC supplies were still being appropriated by other organizations in the theater.56
With a wealth of experience in civilian aviation, Rickenbacker was able to put his finger on other weaknesses. He rejected the explanation that the difference in efficiency of CNAC and ATC was the result of vast difference in pay for the same work but called attention to the comparative inexperience of many of the ATC pilots. The limited number of airdromes, a shortage of expert weather, communications, engineering, and maintenance personnel, and the lack of radio aids and direction finders received mention. Rickenbacker shared with General Bissell the opinion that control of ICW should be returned to the theater commander.57 This last, of course, ran counter to a basic concept
* See Vol. I, p. 507.
on which the Air Transport Command was built,* and neither Stratemeyer nor Davidson shared Rickenbacker's view.
It is easy enough, however, to understand Bissell's feeling that control should be returned to the Tenth Air Force, for the independence of the ICW could appear as one more step toward division of responsibility in an operation already marked by many such divisions. The construction of fields in Assam was planned by Americans and accomplished by Indian labor under British supervision, using materials supplied by the British. Later, American engineer troops would be brought in to aid in construction and to share maintenance duties. Flying of cargo ships into China was done by the ICW, troop carrier units, and CNAC--in other words, by American military organizations and a Chinese-American civilian concern--but the responsibility for moving freight into Assam from Calcutta was British. The fields in Assam were used by American, British, and Chinese aircraft. Ghurkas guarded the equipment on these fields, as did Chinese soldiers at Kunming, but antiaircraft defenses were largely American.58 Functions which were strictly American also suffered from separation of responsibility and authority. The Air Transport Command did not control loading and unloading of aircraft, a function of SOS and theater troops. ICW policies were determined in Washington, but priorities on its freight were controlled by a theater board which sat in New Delhi, hundreds of miles from Assam. Chennault's force, whose very existence depended upon the air supply line, had no representative on the priorities board. Aerial protection for the terminal bases, a responsibility once shared by the British, was now divided between the Tenth and Fourteenth Air Forces.59
Stilwell had been aware of the difficulties inherent in such an organizational setup, and he had tried in April 1943 to clarify for Bissell the exact responsibilities of the Tenth Air Force with reference to Assam. The outcome of subsequent discussions, during which the observations of Stratemeyer, Davidson, and Rickenbacker were considered, was a decision to create for the Assam area a new command, which, in addition to its defensive responsibilities, would act as a coordinator of all air activities. Accordingly, the Assam American Air Base Command (later American Air Base Command I) was projected. Because of his experiences in the theater with ferrying and combat responsibilities since early 1942, General Haynes was peculiarly fitted for this new
* See Vol. I, pp. 364-65.
assignment; he was soon relieved of his post with IATF and given command of the new organization.60
On 13 June, Bissell personally outlined to Haynes the mission of AAABC and his responsibilities as its commander. The primary mission was active defense of ICWATC, and the secondary mission was destruction of the enemy. Haynes was to coordinate in Assam the activities of the Tenth Air Force with ICWATC, X Air Service Command, CNAC, AAF Weather Service, Army Airways Communications System, and elements of the Fourteenth Air Force operating there. The new command was to be composed of the 51st Fighter Group (less 16th Squadron), 679th Air Warning Company, 2d Troop Carrier Squadron, all antiaircraft batteries in the area, the Anti-Smuggling Detachment, and any other Tenth Air Force units which might be assigned later. A B-25 with full combat crew was placed at the disposal of Haynes, who arrived at Dinjan and assumed command on 16 June.61
On the day of his arrival, Haynes submitted a table of organization calling for twenty-one officers and sixty-seven enlisted men, and he specifically requested the assignment of certain officers who had served with him in IATF. Approval of the table of organization was granted only after its reduction to sixteen officers and twenty-five enlisted men, and Bissell also refused to approve the request for the individual officers. Many of the personnel were not immediately reassigned, and for two months Haynes faced his peculiarly difficult assignment with insufficient personnel.62 Before the new command was given a fair chance to make improvements in the Assam area, a new theater organization changed the entire setup, and Hump tonnage continued to lag through the months of another major reorganization.
It was evident enough that the American military organization in Asia, shaped partially by the exigencies of war and partly by political necessity, was not ideal. All U.S. Army forces in CBI were under the command of Stilwell, who maintained a forward echelon headquarters at Chungking, where he spent most of his time, and a rear echelon at New Delhi. The Tenth Air Force, operating from Assam and Bengal, had headquarters at New Delhi. The Fourteenth's headquarters was at Kunming, some distance from Chungking. The India-China Wing of ATC had its headquarters at Chabua.
The majority of the American troops in the theater were AAF, and the principal function of ASF troops had been support of air operations. The approaching ground offensive in Burma could be expected to alter this situation, however, and Stilwell's emphasis on the importance of the Ledo Road caused apprehension among AAF leaders that the air effort might suffer from diversions to that project. Accordingly, it seemed to them advisable that a high-ranking AAF officer should be placed on Stilwell's staff.63 For different reasons, Stilwell himself had made a similar suggestion as early as March 1943. Anticipating an effort to gain for Chennault the command of all CBI air forces, he had suggested the appointment of some other officer as theater air commander.64 It is altogether possible that this suggestion had some effect on the decision to send General Stratemeyer on a special mission to the Far East in the spring, and that even this early Marshall and Arnold had him in mind for the proposed command. In any case, Stratemeyer, following his return to Washington early in June, possessed firsthand information regarding the problems of CBI which made of him a logical choice. On 28 June 1943 the President informed the Generalissimo that General Stratemeyer would be sent with a small staff of air officers to straighten out the movement of personnel and supplies through India and Burma to China.65
As senior air officer in the theater, it was to be expected that Stratemeyer would have command control over the Tenth and Fourteenth Air Forces. The Generalissimo had previously objected to such an arrangement, however, and the President's communication of 28 June gave assurance that the new commander would be instructed not to interfere with the special relations between Chennault and Chiang. Stilwell quickly protested the concession to Chiang, asking permission of Marshall to withhold the President's message from the Generalissimo until the whole question could be reconsidered.66 But General Marshall informed Stilwell on 1 July that the question had already been discussed with the Generalissimo by Dr. Soong, and that the condition stated in the President's letter represented the only one upon which Stratemeyer could be appointed.67 Stratemeyer would have only advisory authority over the Fourteenth Air Force. This decision led to a division of the AAF in CBI into the India-Burma Sector (IBS) and the China Sector, with Stratemeyer given little more than control of the Tenth Air Force. Taking advantage of the organizational changes pending in CBI, the Generalissimo also sought to end the Chennault-
Bissell friction by requesting on 17 July that the latter be removed by the President.68 Three days later the decision was made to replace Bissell, and on 20 July, Davidson was appointed commanding general of the Tenth Air Force. Davidson assumed command on 19 August, and the next day Stratemeyer assumed command of Headquarters, USAAF IBS, CBI.69
Patience and tact were of the highest importance in the ticklish position Stratemeyer assumed. The Air Adjutant General on 28 July had authorized activation of "The Headquarters of the Commanding General, Army Air Force Units, India-Burma Theater and Air Adviser to the Asiatic Theater Commander," and directed that it be activated at the earliest possible moment by the commanding general of the United States Army Forces in China-Burma-India. The letter did nothing to clarify the situation, for at that time there was neither an "India-Burma Theater" nor an "Asiatic Theater"; nor was Stratemeyer to be vested with command of all air force units in the CBI. Nevertheless, on authority of the above letter, Stilwell announced on 20 August 1943 the activation of Headquarters, United States Army Air Forces, India-Burma Sector, China-Burma-India, under the command of Stratemeyer.70 At the same time Stilwell announced activation of Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron, China-Burma-India Air Service Command (Prov.) and asked authority to inactivate the X and XIV Air Service Commands, the latter of which had been activated on 19 May. He notified the War Department that the Karachi American Air Base Command, which since early 1943 had engaged in the training of Chinese pilots, was to be inactivated and announced the activation of Headquarters, China-Burma-India Air Forces Training Unit (Prov.) at Karachi under Brig. Gen. Julian Haddon. Thus training of the Chinese-American air units, control of which theretofore had been exercised indirectly by Chennault, passed to the theater air adviser.* Stilwell also announced that the headquarters of the Tenth Air Force would be moved to Calcutta as soon as possible, at which time the India Air Task Force would be inactivated. Meanwhile, the following units were assigned to Stratemeyer's command: Tenth Air Force; Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron, China-Burma-India Air Service Command (Prov.); China-Burma-India Air Forces Training Unit; 10th Weather Squadron; 10th AAC Squadron; and 22d
* See below, p. 529.
Statistical Control Unit. Included with these, of course, was the air base command in Assam.71
Stratemeyer's duties, then, included direct control of the Tenth Air Force and the CBI Air Service Command. Furthermore, he was responsible for the supply and maintenance of the Fourteenth Air Force in China and for protection of the Hump route. In addition, he was expected to coordinate activities of the India-China Wing, ATC with theater operations, assist Stilwell in over-all planning for air warfare, and supervise the air training of Chinese personnel at Karachi.72
Because of geographical and political considerations it was contemplated that Stratemeyer's headquarters should be small and highly mobile.73 Consequently, on 21 August 1943 a selected group of officers reported for duty, and on 23 August were given their new assignments. These included: Col. Charles B. Stone, III, Chief of Staff; Col. Edward P. Streeter, Deputy Chief of Staff; Col. Alvin R. Luedecke, Assistant Chief of Staff, Plans, Operations, Training, and Intelligence; Col. James H. Higgs, Assistant Chief of Staff, Administration; Col. W. Frank DeWitt, Surgeon; Lt. Col. Joseph S. Clark, Jr., Management Control; Lt. Col. Frank R. Schneider, Deputy Chief of Management Control. Personnel of the Tenth Air Force and X Air Service Command were used to round out the staff.74
Despite this economical utilization of personnel, it soon became evident that an organization different from that originally contemplated was required. Lack of adequate communications and the necessity for Stratemeyer to have ready access to various administrative and policymaking agencies with which he had to work were important considerations. The location at New Delhi of British and Indian authorities, of the U.S. Services of Supply, of Stilwell's rear echelon, of the British army's GHQ, and of Air Headquarters, India Command, RAF made this the only logical location for Stratemeyer's staff. Plans for a mobile group had to be abandoned in favor of a permanently located headquarters, and hope for establishing the headquarters in a forward area near the actual scene of combat was given up. After it was seen that mobility of headquarters was impracticable and that doing double duty was working hardships on officers serving in dual capacities, Stratemeyer asked that allotment of personnel for his headquarters be increased.75 On 1 October 1943 approval was granted for 302 officers, 16 warrant officers, and 1,004 enlisted men; but even this substantial increase represented only 75 per cent of the personnel requested.76
Almost simultaneously with these changes in the American military organization came plans determined upon at the QUADRANT conference, meeting at Quebec in August 1943, for even more far-reaching organizational changes in Asia. As the time for offensive action in Burma approached, the need for closer cooperation between the Allies became more acute. The creation of a unified command with a supreme allied commander was an obvious procedure, but selection of a commander acceptable to the United States, Great Britain, and China, not to mention the fixing of geographical limits for such a command, presented almost insuperable obstacles. A British commander for the entire theater would not be acceptable to the Chinese. An American commander might satisfy the Chinese, but the British could not agree to such a plan because of the necessity for bolstering the Empire's prestige. A Chinese commander was not seriously considered.
Once more the political situation was the governing force which led to further confusion of an already complicated organizational setup. At Quebec the Southeast Asia Command (SEAC) was established, and Lord Louis Mountbatten was designated Supreme Allied Commander-in-Chief, with Stilwell as Deputy Supreme Allied Commander. From the operational sphere of SEAC, however, China, Indo-China, and India were excluded.77 Mountbatten would have no control over American-trained Chinese ground forces except through Stilwell in his capacity as chief of staff of the Chinese army, which meant, of course, that ultimate authority rested with the Generalissimo. Although SEAC did not include India, the major part of its assigned forces would have to be based there. Mountbatten's command did not include the large Indian army.
Meanwhile, Stilwell continued in his capacity as commanding general of United States Army Forces in China-Burma-India and as such was in direct command of all American troops, whether in India, Burma, or China. The position to be occupied by Stratemeyer in this new organization was not immediately clear. It was contemplated, however, that he would be in command of all AAF units assigned to SEAC. The difficulties were recognized, and on 28 August 1943, General Arnold wrote letters to Stilwell, Stratemeyer, and Chennault, asking each to do his best to make the unwieldy organization function.78
To Stratemeyer he said: "This new command setup and your relationships with Generals Stilwell, Mountbatten, and Chennault are somewhat complicated and will have to be worked out to a great
extent among yourselves. We feel that it can be made to work efficiently. The success of this complicated command setup depends in a great measure on personalities. If a true spirit of cooperation is engendered throughout this command, it will work. If the reverse is true, it is doomed to failure." In his letter to Stilwell he wrote: "We feel here, however, that best results can be achieved by designating you as senior representative of the War Department in India, China, and in the Southeast Asia Command.... The attitude the Generalissimo will take toward this new organization has caused us some concern. You and Chennault can do much to allay his fears." Arnold's misgivings about the Generalissimo also appeared in the letter to Chennault: "Mountbatten's relationship to the Generalissimo is that of two neighboring commanders engaged in fighting a common enemy.... In your association with the Generalissimo you canÉ impress upon him the purpose for which this new command was organized."
The exact place that Stratemeyer was to have in relation to his fellow commanders became more and more vague, although it was clear enough that his responsibilities as a quasi-ambassador would be expanded. It was apparently incumbent upon him to work out from the most general instructions his more specific duties, and in spite of vigorous efforts to carry out the terms of his assignment as he understood them, the process of clarification dragged on for weeks.
In the organization of Mountbatten's command, selection of the air commander of SEAC was of the highest importance. The Americans felt that Stratemeyer's background of administrative experience eminently fitted him for the position and that the major role to be played by American air units in the theater justified appointment of the senior American air officer as air commander of SEAC. At the request of Brig. Gen. Benjamin G. Ferris, commanding general of Stilwell's rear echelon at New Delhi, Colonel Stone prepared a memorandum setting forth reasons for Stratemeyer's selection. The memorandum cited his long and varied experience and followed with quotation of figures to show that the AAF had been more actively engaged in the theater against the enemy than had the RAF. In the preceding three months, May, June, and July, Stone reported, the AAF had dropped more than 2,200 tons of bombs while the RAF had dropped less than 600 tons, and this in a period when the RAF had 502 planes compared to 237 for the AAF. A recent decision that the AAF would be responsible for maintenance and supply of all American-built aircraft used by both
the RAF and AAF and the responsibility of Stratemeyer for training Chinese and American airmen in the theater were also advanced as arguments for his designation.79
Meanwhile, Stratemeyer and his staff were also concerned about the place of the USAAF IBS in the new command. In working out an operational plan, the staff assumed that the two operational spheres, China and India-Burma, "must out of necessity be coordinated and integrated into one unified command." The plan was predicated upon certain other assumptions which were not acceptable. It assumed that operations in the theater would be combined as distinguished from joint; that China would accept the principle of a combined command; that there would be an integration of units and staff personnel; and that the senior American air officer would be SEAC air commander and equal in stature to the SEAC naval and ground commanders. It also contemplated the establishment of "staffs and commands--composed of allies working as one and the same team against one and the same enemy, as distinguished from various national teams working on a project in which there is mutual self interest." It was felt that there should be "unity of purpose, a unity of organization and a unity of command whose sole mission is the destruction of a dangerous enemy."80
China, however, had not been included in the SEAC, and the British were unwilling to grant the top air position to an American lest the action be construed by the enemy and malcontents in India and Burma as a British admission of weakness. British wishes prevailed, and Air Chief Marshal Sir Richard Peke was named Air Commander Southeast Asia, with Stratemeyer as his deputy. Once this question had been settled, the problem of the integration of staffs was attacked. On 26 October, Stratemeyer recommended that his headquarters provide certain officers for the staff of Air Commander SEAC and that Air Commander SEAC in turn send certain British officers to serve on the staff of the commanding general of USAAF IBS. Similar integration of American and British officers for combat units was also recommended, but because of the peculiar functions of the CBI Air Service Command, and because the Air Transport Command was primarily concerned with China, Stratemeyer did not feel that integration of these commands was necessary or desirable.81
During the morning of 28 October 1943 the subject "Integration of American and British Air Forces within South East Asia Command" was discussed at a meeting held in the office of the supreme commander
and presided over by Mountbatten. A proposed organizational diagram was discussed, the stated purpose of which was "to set out the ideal organization for command and administration of the American and British Air Forces within the South East Asia Command, regardless of the decisions at the Quadrant Conference on this subject, and regardless of directives that may have been issued by the Air Commanders." American officers immediately made it clear that they could not afford to ignore previous decisions and directives. Neither Stilwell nor Stratemeyer was willing to subscribe to a proposal which failed entirely to take into consideration the primary American commitment to China, a commitment which admittedly complicated the problem of an organization for SEAC but could not be ignored. In view of these objections, Mountbatten ordered that the chart be completed with certain minor changes but that a note be prepared suggesting amendments to certain existing agreements so that there would be no conflict. He declared that he would write to Air Chief Marshal Sir Charles Portal and to Marshall and Arnold in an effort to obtain clarification.82
When the minutes of the meeting were sent to Stratemeyer for comment, he stressed the point that Stilwell might be forced to withdraw the Tenth Air Force from the SEAC to protect commitments to China. And in view of plans then being formulated for the employment of the new B-29 from Chinese bases,* Stratemeyer desired that the American air commander be in a position to concentrate all available American air forces in China without the embarrassment of definite commitments to the SEAC. He also thought that he should be sufficiently independent of British control to be able to insist upon obtaining adequate facilities and equipment for the B-29 project in India, and that he could achieve these results more effectively if he were not personally responsible to Peirse for all air operations over Burma. Stratemeyer again recommended separate AAF and RAF units fighting on a cooperative basis. He was willing to go along with Mountbatten's plan, however, provided it was made clear that the Americans reserved the right to withdraw any or all American forces for the purpose of protecting commitments to China. In the exchange of communications during the next several days, he stood firm on the point that he could not agree to any plan which ran counter to his previous directives or which would in any way prejudice prior American commitments.83
* To be discussed in Vol. V.
The relationship of AAF IBS to the supreme commander was still not clarified as late as 10 November. Certain conclusions, however, had been reached by American officers: the supreme commander had no control over the Air Transport Command, for the coordination of which Stratemeyer was responsible directly to the commanding general of USAAF; Mountbatten also had no control over the supply and training establishments of the Fourteenth Air Force in India, for which Stratemeyer was responsible through Stilwell to the Generalissimo; nor could Mountbatten control units assigned to defense of the air cargo route and the Indian air transport terminals, for which Stratemeyer was responsible through Stilwell to the American chiefs of staff. Stratemeyer was responsible, again through Stilwell, to the supreme commander for operation of AAF units committed to the SEAC, but the only unit thus committed at that time was the 1st Air Commando Group.84
Many of the difficulties encountered in these attempts to define command relationships are traceable to the somewhat vague instructions issued from QUADRANT. As previously pointed out, the immediate problem was to keep China in the war, a major consideration in evolving any system designed to obtain maximum support for operations in Burma. Mountbatten, described soon after QUADRANT by Somervell as occupying an "unenviable position,"85 necessarily had to take his title of Supreme Allied Commander-in-Chief with a certain degree of seriousness. Despite sincere efforts to arrive at a workable agreement, little was accomplished before the SEXTANT conference at Cairo in November and December 1943, at which Mountbatten and Stratemeyer were present.
By that time, Stratemeyer was able to inform Arnold of a general agreement in the theater that all AAF and RAF units assigned to SEAC should be integrated, with Stratemeyer holding operational control under Peirse.86 Brig. Gen. Laurence S. Kuter, AC/AS, Plans gave his indorsement to the idea,87 and on 3 December 1943, Arnold by letter informed Mountbatten of a CCS decision that the supreme commander should have command responsibilities for all operations and all Allied forces--land, sea, and air--operating in SEAC, except for ATC and certain agreed elements of the British navy.88 The supreme commander's authority over U.S. and Chinese forces in operations against Burma, however, was limited to operational control. Mountbatten was
to accept responsibility for defense of all ATC facilities in SEAC and leave responsibility for supply with U.S. commanders.
Upon his return from Cairo, Mountbatten issued a directive integrating the Tenth Air Force and the Bengal Command of the Royal Air Force under the ultimate, unified control of Air Chief Marshal Peirse, the purpose being to form within the administrative organization of Air Command, South East Asia a well-integrated operational unit. The combined forces thus merged were formed into a unit subordinate to Air Command, South East Asia and designated Eastern Air Command (EAC), for command of which Stratemeyer was chosen. In effect, the British, while retaining the top-ranking position in the air organization, had relinquished operational control of all combat units to Stratemeyer.89
Ever-present complications, strategic and political, made the organization of EAC a problem demanding careful planning and mature decisions. There were fighters and bombers in both the Tenth Air Force and the Bengal Command. It seemed logical, since the forces were to be integrated, that for operational purposes they should again be divided, forming a tactical and a strategic force, one under command of an American and the other under a Briton. Subsequently, Air Marshal John Baldwin of the Bengal Command was selected for the tactical force and Davidson of the Tenth for the strategic.90
On 15 December 1943, Stratemeyer assumed command and issued General Order 1,91 announcing the appointment of Air Vice Marshal T. M. Williams as assistant commander of EAC and giving the general organizational plan. EAC was to be divided into four components: a strategic air force, composed of AAF and RAF heavy and medium bombers, under Davidson, who continued in administrative command of the Tenth; a tactical air force, composed of fighters and fighter-bombers of RAF and AAF, under Baldwin; a troop carrier command, composed of AAF and RAF troop carrier units, under Brig. Gen. William D. Old; a photographic reconnaissance force, under a commander to be announced later.92
It was specifically stated in the order that in exercising operational control the respective commanders would retain the integrity of AAF groups and RAF wings. Administrative control and responsibility for maintenance and supply were to remain under the respective AAF and RAF commanders, but operational staffs of the four components were to consist of both RAF and AAF personnel in such proportions as the
commanders deemed necessary. American staff officers were immediately assigned to Baldwin's staff and RAF officers to Davidson's. The other components were subsequently organized along similar lines.93
General Stratemeyer addressed to his new command an appeal for the closest cooperation in carrying out the mission of the new command:
We must merge into one unified force in thought and in deed--a force neither British nor American, with the faults of neither and the virtues of both. There is no time for distrust or suspicion. I greet the forces of the Bengal Command, and their Commander, Air Marshal Baldwin, as comrades in battle, as brothers in the air. A standard of cooperation which we must strive to surpass has been set by the inspiring examples of joint achievement of our colleagues of the Northwest African Air Force. We must establish in Asia a record of Allied victory of which we can be proud in the years to come. Let us write it now in the skies over Burma.94
American contribution in December 1943 to the Eastern Air Command was much greater than would have been possible a few months earlier. Since Davidson assumed command of the Tenth Air Force in August, the 80th Fighter Group and the 311th Fighter-Bomber Group had arrived and gone into action. The 51st Group had finally moved to China, and movement of the remainder of the 341st Bombardment Group (less the 490th Squadron) was imminent. An additional medium bombardment group was en route to take the place of the 341st in India. Thus the AAF contributed one heavy bombardment group (the 7th), one medium group, one fighter group, and one fighter-bomber group to the Strategic and Tactical Air Forces which were to take over operations in the India-Burma Sector. In addition, the 5306th Photographic Reconnaissance Group was assigned to the Photographic Reconnaissance Force, and four AAF troop carrier squadrons, the 1st, 2d, 27th, and 315th, were integrated with the Troop Carrier Command. Other AAF units were added to EAC early in 1944. The entire command setup in the CBI remained most complex, and final arrangements for the organization of EAC and SEAC were still in progress as 1943 drew to a close.
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