Victory in China
WHEN Lt. Gen. Albert C. Wedemeyer arrived in China as Stilwell's successor on 31 October 1944, he immediately assumed the duties of chief of staff to the Generalissimo and of Commanding General, United States Forces in the China Theater. He was faced with many grave problems, some of which were long standing, while others, the more pressing ones, resulted from the Japanese victories of the preceding summer months. As Wedemeyer saw it, the original Japanese strategy, based upon the maintenance of an outer zone of defense in the Pacific by naval and air power, had been invalidated by the MacArthur-Nimitz advance, and an alternative plan, which called for an inner zone of communications to be defended by ground, sea, and air forces, was now being implemented. Within this zone, the Japanese proposed to maintain two major lines of communication between the home islands and their southern possessions-an inland corridor of rivers, canals, roads, and railways on the Asiatic mainland and, of secondary importance, a coastal waterway protected by naval units and land-based air power.1
Wedemeyer believed that the enemy in his summer campaign, by definitely limiting the capacity of the Fourteenth Air Force to interfere, had gone far toward reaching his strategic goal.2 The Japanese offensive driving south from Hankow had taken Kweilin before Wedemeyer's arrival in the theater. On 11 November, less than two weeks after he had assumed his new duties, Liuchow fell, and the Japanese forces coming from the north were clearly moving toward a junction with the troops advancing westward toward Nanning from Canton. On 24 November the Japanese captured Nanning, and this success was soon followed by the establishment of overland communications with
Indo-China. By the end of November, therefore, the major airfields of the Fourteenth Air Force had been occupied and communications between Manchuria and southeast Asia had been established. That the enemy would defend this new line of communications with utmost tenacity was not questioned. It was also believed that he would not remain quiescent in his "mole's tunnel" between Kaifeng and Hanoi, but would try either to burrow on toward Kunming or to push westward past the Yellow River bend toward Chengtu--it was even possible that the enemy might attempt both of these drives at the same time. Success in either of the moves might eliminate China from the war.
General Wedemeyer felt that the first contingency, the drive against Kunming, was the more likely move, and he made his plans accordingly3 The five months between 1 December 1944 and 30 April 1945 were to be dedicated to strategic defensive actions: Chinese troops were to be returned to China from Burma, additional Chinese troops in China were to be trained and equipped for combat, and the Fourteenth Air Force was to continue its counter-air activity and bombing attacks on enemy communications. Beginning on or about 1 May 1945, it was hoped that a powerful Chinese-American offensive could sweep the Japanese back toward Manchuria, sever the newly established line of communications, and force an evacuation of southeast Asia.4
On 29 November 1944 Chiang Kai-shek and Wedemeyer informed the Combined Chiefs of Staff and the Supreme Allied Commander, Southeast Asia, that a large part of the Chinese troops fighting with the Allied forces in Burma was needed in China.5 With the consent of the CCS.6 but over the protest of Admiral Mountbatten, Wedemeyer then called for the transfer from Burma to China of the Chinese 14th and 22d Divisions.7 In addition to the two Chinese divisions, which Southeast Asia Command finally agreed to give up,8 Chinese Sixth Army Headquarters, one heavy mortar company, one signal company, and two portable surgical hospitals were eventually included in the movement, which was made by air. The operation, coded GRUBWORM, was placed under the direction of the Tenth Air Force with that organization's deputy chief of staff, Col. S. D. Grubbs, in charge9 Although GRUBWORM sometimes seemed like an operation for the movement of "an unknown amount of cargo, with an indefinite number
of aircraft, to an undetermined number of air bases,"10 the plans for the transfer had to remain unusually flexible.
It was essential for the movement to be executed with the least possible interference with normal transport and combat operations then developing in Burma. Fortunately, the initial success which attended the Allied drive in Burma eliminated any necessity for the provision of fighter escort, Only a few combat aircraft from the Tenth Air Force were required to protect the fields from which take-offs were scheduled. Eastern Air Command transferred the 317th and 319th Troop Carrier Squadrons of the air commando groups to Myitkyina North, under the operational control of the Tenth Air Force for the duration of the troop movement, and the Air Transport Command furnished an additional contingent of aircraft to assist the operation. In this way no great strain was placed upon the Tenth Air Force, and General Davidson was enabled to continue his indispensable airlift to the ground forces advancing toward Mandalay.11
Operation GRUBWORM was carried out from five airfields in Burma-Myitkyina North, Sahmaw, Warazup, Nansin, and Myitkyina South-and from Ledo in Assam. Four of these six airfields had been constructed only within the previous two months by Tenth Air Force engineers, working directly behind the retreating enemy; the fifth field, Nansin, was completed the day before GRUBWORM began. At Nansin the transports were loaded so close to Japanese artillery that in one instance the take-off of a battalion was delayed while the troops searched the area for snipers.12 The whole operation was completed in a surprisingly short time: the first of the heavily laden transports rose from the Burma fields and headed toward China on the morning of 5 December 1944, and the last of the transports emptied its cargo on Chinese runways on 5 January 1945--exactly a month after the beginning of the operation. Actually, the total number of flying days was twenty-four, for a momentary improvement in the situation on the Chinese front brought a suspension of the operation from 16 through 22 December.
To provide for the administrative needs of GRUBWORM, the Northern Combat Area Command stationed a small, efficient group of personnel at each of the fields from which the transports were to take off. These officers and enlisted men, in cooperation with regularly assigned air personnel, followed prescribed methods in performing the chores which made the operation function smoothly. When troops arrived for transportation to China, they were quartered as near
as possible to the take-off field and were provided with food, water, and shelter, a ministration not without its difficulties. Every twenty-four hours the Tenth Air Force reported to NCAC Headquarters the number and type of aircraft that would be available at each field for the next day's haul, and this information was passed to the NCAC groups at the five fields. The encamped Chinese troops were then divided into plane-loads consistent with the type of aircraft in which they were to fly, and every attempt was made to keep the rations, equipment, and ammunition intact with the proper unit. As the empty planes were made ready, they were loaded by ground personnel, although each pilot determined the load he would carry and directed the placement of the cargo within the plane.13 Since the Chinese equipment depended upon the use of hundreds of draft animals, specially trained personnel were needed to load the animals aboard the planes. The responsibility for flying them across the Hump was delegated to the commandos who had a constant number of planes available each day.14
The 1348th AAF Base Unit of ATC's India-China Division, located at Myitkyina South under the command of Lt. Col. Frank Thornquest, acted as the coordinating and operational center for all ATC planes and for the China-based combat cargo aircraft flying out of Suyung. To transport the Chinese 14th Division, ATC used C-46's based in Assam and at Luliang; for the 22d Division, ATC used C-47's based at Chanyi, Kunming, and Chengkung, as well as the China-based combat cargo C-47's.15 Inasmuch as ATC operated on a twenty-four-hour schedule with planes based in China as well as in Assam, its participation in GRUBWORM was more complicated than that of the commandos or the Tenth Air Force. To maintain continuous operations, crews were changed at the end of each round trip, and since some of the pick-up fields were not operational at night, commando and Tenth Air Force combat cargo planes, assisted by tioop carrier C-47's when required, shuttled the troops to Myitkyina South during the day to fill the complements for night flights to China.16 Although there were exceptions to the rule, ATC procedures usually followed Tenth Air Force instructions: 1) crews already familiar with the pickup fields were selected for use in GRUBWORM; 2) crews were briefed and transports gassed at Myitkyina South; 3) the planes then flew to the designated field for pickup; 4) once loaded, the transports returned to Myitkyina South for refueling, unless the pickup field had adequate refueling facilities; 5)
the transports took off for China, calling the ATC tower at Myitkyina South on their way east; and 6) on return flights, the crews of the transports contacted the Myitkyina South tower again for instructions.17
Altogether, GRUBWORM required 1,328 transport sorties, of which ATC accounted for 597, the air commando squadrons for 488, and Tenth Air Force for 243. At the close of the operation, which must rank as one of the major transport achievements of the entire war, a total of 25,095 Chinese soldiers had been moved by air from Burma to China.18 In addition, the lift had included 396 American soldiers, 1,596 animals, 42 jeeps, 48 x 75-mm. howitzers, 48 x 4.2-mm. mortars, and 48 A/T guns.* Throughout the operation the weather was very unfavorable, and in many cases the crews were new to the Hump even though familiar with the pickup fields. Nevertheless, only three planes were lost: two of the 317th Troop Carrier Squadron's transports crashed into the first ridge of mountains crossing the route from Myitkyina to China, and one aircraft belonging to the 10th Combat Cargo Squadron disappeared, its fate unknown.19 All in all, the achievement was nothing less than spectacular.
On their arrival in China, the GRUBWORM soldiers became the nucleus of a larger force being organized, trained, and equipped by Wedemeyer during the winter of 1944-45. The troops were located in the general vicinity of Kunming, where they were meant to serve as a defense force in case this Chinese "port of entry" were threatened. Fortunately, the enemy did not immediately turn his attention to the west. Instead, he determined to eradicate the last strongholds of the Fourteenth Air Force in east China, and that decision gave Wedemeyer an opportunity to prepare for his own offensive.
Fourteenth Air Force Operations
While General Wedemeyer pushed preparations for an attempt to seize the initiative in China, the immediate combat burden fell
* The breakdown of personnel moved is as follows:
|1st Heavy Mortar Regiment||
|45th Post Surgical Hospital||
|60th Post Surgical Hospital||
|988th Signal Company||
heavily on the planes and crews of the Fourteenth Air Force . This was a familiar story in China. but the Fourteenth Air Force. except for the loss of its key bases in eastern' China. now enjoyed the advantage of unprecedented and growing resources . Whether considered in terms of manpower, planes, supplies, or fuel. Chennault's force had steadily increased in strength over the preceding months and was stilI growing. In January 1944 the Fourteenth Air Force had a total personnel strength of 5.758. of whom 1,520 were officers and 4,238 were enlisted men. Figures for the period from October 1944 to June 1945 are as follows:20
In January 1944 the air force had 194 fighters, 38 medium bombers, and 50 heavy bombers; for the 9-month period beginning in October of that year. the totals were:21
|Month||Fighters||Medium Bombers||Heavy Bombers|
Deliveries of fuel and supplies kept pace with this build up as the following table of ATC tonnage delivered to China shows:22
|Month||Total Assigned||Fourteenth Air Force|
After the reconquest of Burma in May 1945, Hump tonnage rose to the unprecedented totals of 55,386 tons in June and 71,042 in July. Although the stream of supplies to China during the last few months of the war was further increased* by the opening of the Ledo Road all the way in February 1945, the total delivered via Ledo Road through May, including the weight of trucks not returned to Burma, did not equal the tonnage hauled to China by ATC during the single month of June 1945.23 Until the summer of 1945 China remained primarily dependent upon air transport for the sustenance of military operations.
In November 1944 the Fourteenth Air Force consisted of thirty-six combat squadrons,24 grouped under the 68th and 69th Composite Wings, the Chinese-American Composite Wing, and the 312th Fighter Wing25 The 69th Composite Wing was composed of the 51st Fighter Group (the 16th, 25th, 26th, and 449th Fighter Squadrons) and the 341st Bombardment Group (M), consisting of the 1xth, 22d, and 491st Bombardment Squadrons; with headquarters at Kunming, its mission was the defense of the Hump route and southwest China. The 68th Composite Wing, made up of the 23d Fighter Group (the 74th, 75th, and 76th Fighter Squadrons) and the 118th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron, was given the job of supporting the Chinese ground forces along the Hankow-Canton railway, interdicting enemy lines of communication in south and southeast China, and maintaining a counter-air campaign. The Chinese-American Composite Wing was composed of the 3d Fighter Group, the 5th Fighter Group, and the 1st Bombardment Group(M), each with four squadrons; it had as its combat area central China, especially the regions south of the Yellow River and immediately west of the Ping-Han Railway, and as far east as the Nanking-Shanghai area. The 312th Fighter Wing, made up of the 311th Fighter Group (528th, 529th, and 530th Fighter Squadrons) and the 81st Fighter Group (91st and 92d Fighter Squadrons), had once been limited to defense of the Chengtu airfields,† but by
* Short tons delivered by Ledo Road are indicated in the following table:
|Month||Wt.of Trucks||Wt.of Supplies||Total|
† See above, p. 118.
the end of 1944 its mission was defined as the interdiction of the Tungpu, Ping-Han, Lung-Hai, Tsingpu, and Suiyuan-Peiping railways. In order to carry out this mission more effectively, the 490th Bombardment Squadron (M) was later placed under the operational control of the 312th Wing, and in February 1945 three squadrons of Liberators were also assigned to it.26
In a way, the 69th Composite Wing was somewhat cut off from the critical operations in China during the last two months of 1944 and the first six months of 1945. The wing's primary mission was in French Indo-China and that part of Kwangsi Province which lies south of the 24th parallel and west of the 110th meridian. Since it was also assigned to defend the Hump route, the 69th Wing supported the British in the last phases of the Salween campaign and the reoccupation of central Burma by sending into Burma Mustangs taking off from Salween bases; having dropped their bombs, the planes went on to Tingkawk Sakan where they reloaded and then took off to bomb another target in central Burma on their way back to China. After the occupation of central Burma, the 69th Wing devoted most of its attention to interdiction in Indo-China, giving generous support to the resisting French along the Yunnan border.27
Although the new power of the Fourteenth Air Force heightened the tempo of combat at the very time when the enemy appeared to be victorious everywhere in China,* the Allied airmen fought at a decided disadvantage. Not only had the enemy extended his corridor southward from Hankow, overrun the airfields at Hengyang, Kweilin,Liuchow, and Nanning, but he also surrounded and besieged the more easterly fields at Suichwan, Kanchow, Namyung, and Kukong, together with such staging strips as that at Kienow. Within that area a Chinese army of some 150,000 poorly equipped troops under Marshal Hsueh Yo continued to fight. For their assistance and in the hope of holding the airfields east of the Japanese corridor, Chennault in November organized the East China Air Task Force. Under a plan of operation designated STRONGPOINT, he divided the 68th Composite
* The impetus is clearly shown in the following table, which lists the number of sorties flown by aircraft of different types:
Wing: the 75th and 76th Fighter Squadrons remained west of the corridor, while the 74th Fighter Squadron and the 118th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron were located east of it. These two squadrons were strengthened by a detachment of Liberators from the 308th Bombardment Group (H), the ~1st Photographic Squadron, and a few transports. The task force was thus a small but versatile and effective unit.28As always in China, the main problem of the task force was supply.29 To keep the transportation requirements as low as possible, every effort was made to cut down the tonnage used: the fighter and reconnaissance squadrons were allowed less than 100 men each, although their T/O's called for 250, and the B-24's were denied the "luxury" of ground crews. In this way it was estimated that the task force could operate on as little as 1,100 tons monthly, and it was hoped that an additional 1,000 tons monthly could be supplied to the Chinese armies. That meant that a total of at least 2,100 tons each month had to be flown from Chihkiang, across the Japanese corridor, to Suichwan and Kanchow; from there the supplies could be taken by motor transport across the dry-weather roads to Marshal Hsueh's troops and to airfields within the enemy-surrounded area.30
On 12 November 1944 the first units of the East China Air Task Force reached Suichwan, and one week later Operation STRONGPOINT began when two B-24's took off on a reconnaissance flight.31 Already the enemy had begun to concentrate troops near Cha-ling and Anjen, eighty-five miles northwest of Suichwan, and this move suggested that the Japanese planned to overrun the remaining eastern airfields before venturing westward toward Kunming and its neighboring fields. On 15 January 1945 the Japanese struck along the Chaling-Lienhwa road. Meanwhile, the Fourteenth Air Force was finding it impossible to get 1,000 tons of ground supplies to the Chinese troops every month, not because of any failure on the part of transport services, but because the Chungking government obstinately refused to release the required materiel for the use of Hsueh Yo. This provoked some justifiably harsh comments among Fourteenth Air Force personnel concerning the real intentions of the Kuomintang. Naturally, under such unfavorable circumstances, the forces of Hsueh Yo had no choice but to retreat. For the first few days of battle, the weather was good, and the task force gave the Chinese infantry sufficient support to limit the Japanese to nightly advances. Then the weather
changed to make flying practically impossible at the altitudes needed for ground support, and the enemy took up his march in earnest. On 27 January Suichwan was occupied; Kanchow fell on 7 February. Meanwhile, a Japanese drive northward along the line of the Canton-Hengyang railway met only crumbling resistance as Kukong and then Namyung were lost. By mid-February the only field left was Changting, and Operation STRONGPOINT was over.32
Despite this early disappointment, the East China Air Task Force had made a valiant effort. Within the general vicinity of the STRONGPOINT operations, the enemy had been conceded to have overwhelming air superiority--perhaps as many as 160 bombers and 400 fighters.33 These enemy planes remained, however, remarkably inactive, perhaps because the Japanese lacked an adequate warning system. Time and time again the Americans swept over their airfields, strafing planes parked wing to wing, and met little or no opposition. The mission strength of the Americans was never very great, usually half of the planes being used for cover; they were free to strafe only after the initial attack had been delivered. All told, 747 sorties were flown by the two fighter squadrons and 110 tons of bombs were dropped. The East China Air Task Force claimed that as many as 312 enemy planes had been destroyed or damaged. AAF units lost no aircraft in aerial combat, but fifteen Mustangs were shot down by ground fire and thirteen planes were lost to other causes.34
These counter-air operations by the East China Air Task Force, while serving the immediate end of protecting the Chinese ground forces from interference by enemy planes, were also part of a general effort by Fourteenth Air Force units to keep the enemy air force pinned down throughout China. It was hoped that the attempt to gain complete aerial supremacy would give substantial assistance in holding the Japanese armies within their established lines, and that the Fourteenth Air Force at the same time could thus contribute to the Allied effort in the Pacific--an effort now reaching into the Philippine Islands.35 All of Chennault's command in some measure shared in the offensive, but the 312th Fighter Wing, now free of the responsibility for defense of the B-29 bases at Chengtu, played an especially active part. Situated west of the corridor at Sian, under the command of Brig. Gen. Russell E. Randall, the 312th's Mustangs between November 1944 and the end of February 1945 raided, among others, enemy fields at Puchou, Yuncheng, Linfen, Sinsiang, Anyang, Shihchia-chuang,
Tsinan, Suchow, Chuchiatai, and Peiping,36 The missions often involved operational hazards for the Fourteenth's airmen, but the Japanese air units added little to the difficulty. Whether because the better-trained and -equipped enemy units were committed to the hard fighting of the Pacific area or for some other reason, Japanese reaction in the air was largely confined to night attacks, never in great strength, against Allied airfields within the east China pocket. During November and December the Japanese bombed Suichwan twelve times with a grand total of seventy-four planes; Kanchow was hit eight times by a total of thirty-four planes. The bombings brought serious damage--6 fighters, 3 B-24 tankers, and 4,000 gallons of fuel were destroyed--but the effect on East China Air Task Force operations was slight.37
To restrict further Japanese expansion, the East China Air Task Force put interdiction of enemy communications in second priority after its counter-air activity. Although the interdiction strikes were constant, the scale of operations was limited by the small size of the force--one which counted as a "big show" the sixteen planes sent against Nanking and the thirteen against Hankong on 8 December 1944. Some assistance did come from the B-29'swhen on 18 December they delivered a devastating attack on Hankow.* Throughout January 1945 the 5th Fighter Group of CACW staged daily raids against the ammunition dumps of Hankow and Wuchang, and by February the enemy air force was so well in hand as to permit a concentration by most Fourteenth Air Force units on the interdiction program. The purpose was to cut down the supplies going to the Japanese Army, to disrupt its administration of the conquered provinces, and to prevent the development of effective overland communications with the southern parts of the Empire.38 Consequently, railway lines, locomotives, bridges, rolling stock, highways, canals, rivers, and motor vehicles became the chief targets. Thunderbolts struck bridges along the southern Tungpu and swept railroads and highways; Mustangs went against the Ping-Han bridges and, their range extended by wing tanks, carried their attacks against locomotives along the Tsingpu; night fighters took over after dark.39 Within a month intelligence reported that 142 locomotives had been destroyed and 37 bridges rendered temporarily unserviceable.40
* See above, pp. 143-44.
Intelligence also indicated that damaged locomotives had been hauled into north China for repair, especially at the repair depots located near Shih-chia-chuang, Anyang, Sinsiang, Tsinan, and Chenghsien. Accordingly, three squadrons of the 308th Bombardment Group's Liberators were taken off coastal sweeps and placed under the operational control of the 312th Fighter Wing for strikes against these repair centers.41 On 9 March 1945 thirty-one Liberators, with a fighter escort of twelve Mustangs from the 311th Fighter Group, took off from Hsinching and Kwanghan to strike Sinsiang. Photographs of the bomb patterns showed that the tracks leading into and from the marshalling yards had been buckled, that seventeen warehouses had been destroyed, and that seven locomotives had been damaged and possibly destroyed.42 A similar raid against Shih-chia-chuang, flown on On 16 March, resulted in comparable destruction43 On 23 March 28 Liberators, escorted by 16 Mustangs, attacked the Tsinan yards and a Yellow River bridge which ordinarily carried a daily supply traffic of 3,000 tons; the Tsinan yards and shops were smashed and the bridge seriously damaged.44
By the end of March, however, it was realized that the heavies were no more efficient than fighters in maintaining the interdiction program and, therefore, that the greater fuel consumption of the larger planes was not justified. Consequently, in April the heavy bombers of the 308th Bombardment Group were transferred to India for supply operations over the Hump.45 Even so, it became necessary to limit the fighter attacks, too, in order to conserve fuel. As a compromise, it was decided to restrict missions to the Tsingpu bridge and to points along the railway from Shih-chia-chuang to Hankow. To keep the efficiency of interdiction at a high level, the Fourteenth Air Force drew up a list of bridges within the assigned area of responsibility of each wing and gave an order to keep a definite number impassable at all times.46 In general, the fighters of the 312th Fighter Wing, the Chinese-American Composite Wing, and the 68th Composite Wing were used against the bridges, and the medium bombers were used only for the most strongly built structures, for railway marshalling yards, and locomotive repair facilities.47 Meanwhile, the 341st Bombardment Group and the 51st Fighter Group performed similar tasks in French Indo-China. From March through May 1945 the damage inflicted was heavy enough to interrupt permanently the traffic from Vinh to the
China border. By June, with three bridges unusable within a distance of forty miles, the Japanese abandoned rail transportation and turned to motor vehicles.48
Although counter-air activity and the railway interdiction program claimed the first attention of the Fourteenth Air Force, attacks on Japanese shipping were continued in so far as resources permitted. Between late November and the end of January claims of enemy shipping sunk reached a total of 73,850 tons, but this would appear to be an over-optimistic estimate, for the anti-shipping program is represented by only 37 heavy bomber sorties and 25 medium sorties.49 At times fighters supplemented the bombers, especially in attacks directed against targets on the Yangtze, in Formosa Strait, and at Shanghai and Hong Kong. These and other operations continued to suffer from the limiting effect of fuel shortages. Although deliveries over the Hump reached new records in the winter of 1944-45, consumption also reached new peaks and problems of distribution from Kunming to other airfields remained difficult.50 For example, at the end of the first week in January, the field at Kanchow had only 400 gallons on hand and Suichow only 950.51
Despite supply difficulties and the loss of the east China airfields, the Fourteenth Air Force continued to punish the enemy. With the airfields in north China at Sian, Laohokow, Ankang, Hanchung, and Liangshan expanded and strengthened, Yangtze River targets received such close attention that the Japanese on 21 March struck southwest from Lushan to try to overrun the northern airfields. At the same time, a column swept north along the Han River valley to provide a pincer movement against Laohokow. Lacking air cover, the enemy columns moved by night against only slight resistance by the defending Chinese ground forces. On 25 March the installations at Laohokow were destroyed by the Americans and all personnel were evacuated.52 Sian and Ankang were next in line for Japanese occupation, but Chinese resistance stiffened into a stubborn defense, and the Fourteenth Air Force provided excellent support. Bomb-carrying fighters from Sian and Ankang struck repeatedly against bridges and concentration points along the enemy's route of march and kept patrol over the enemy's road and river lines of communication. The 312th Fighter Wing concentrated its attacks north of the Yellow River, while CACW struck on the south. The 311th Fighter Group, the 81st Fighter Group, the 426th Night Fighter Squadron, and
CACWs 3d Fighter Group and 1st and 2d Bombardment Squadrons went all-out. During April ground controllers directed the pilots to their targets as the enemy took refuge in caves, foxholes, and bunker positions along the hills and in the villages. Laohokow was the last Chinese field to be surrendered.53
Meanwhile, on to April the enemy began another offensive, a drive aimed at the Chihkiang air base, which controlled the vital Hsiang valley. Its capture would lay open Kweiyang, and thus the approaches to Kunming and Changking.54 The Japanese began their drive from Paoching, with three flanking movements in support. The first was from Yuankiang, 180miles northeast of Chihkiang, and led to the occupation of Yiyang. The second flank movement, toward Sinhwa, began with a strong show of force but within five days dwindled to unimportance. The third came from Tunganhsien and took Sinning, at which point the offensive split into two columns--one drove almost as far as Wawutang, fifty-eight miles from Chihkiang, and the other got as far as Tangchiafang. The two columns then joined the main drive west from Pao-ching.55
The Japanese threw into this new offensive approximately 60,000 troops. The Chinese had 100,000, a numerical advantage which heretofore had not been sufficient to offset the superior equipment and training of the enemy. But this time the enemy found himself opposed by forces which were regrouping and re-equipping in accordance with Wedemeyer's plan to seize the initiative in China. Of chief importance was the Chinese Sixth Army, trained in Burma and flown back to China the previous autumn. For air support there were the 5th Fighter Group and the 3d and 4th Bombardment Squadrons (M) of CACW, and preparations for improvement of air-ground techniques were well advanced. Eight air-ground liaison teams, though some of them had not completed their training, were rushed to the battle area on 20 April. Each team was composed of one officer and two enlisted men whose duty it was to maintain as nearly as possible uninterrupted contact with the enemy; with the aid of panels and radios they directed fighters and bombers to the targets, many times at the request of Chinese commanders. These requests were relayed to a central control station at Ankang, where an air liaison officer filtered the information for transmission to the operating air units. After some experience, most of the requests were made directly from front-line air-ground stations to 5th Fighter Group Headquarters.56
The .50-caliber machine gun proved to be the most important single weapon used in support of the Chinese ground forces. The 5th Fighter Group alone fired an average of 1,800,000 rounds a month during the nearly 2 months of battle. For the most part, Japanese forces occupied hilltop positions; to strafe effectively, the fighters fired their guns during a 90° dive and did not begin the pull-out until a relatively short distance from the foxholes. Napalm bombs were especially effective as antipersonnel weapons, since they not only penetrated the foxholes but their heat drove enemy soldiers from nearby positions to expose themselves to the fire of the Chinese ground soldier.57 Despite the usual limitations imposed by inadequate supplies, the 56 fighter aircraft flew a total of 3,101 sorties during the 51 days of the campaign, thus averaging somewhat better than 1 sortie per plane per day. Since there were several days in the course of the campaign when weather prevented flying, it was at times necessary for each pilot to fly as many as four or five sorties on clear days. The medium bombers flew 183 sorties with an average bomb load of 1,040 pounds per sortie.58
As a result of the new spirit among the Chinese troops and the close air support given the Generalissimo's forces by the Fourteenth Air Force, the Japanese were decisively defeated in the Chihkiang campaign. By 15 May the Chinese troops were so definitely masters of the situation that the Japanese were in full retreat along the Hsiang valley. And this was the turning point in China. Within a few days it was also evident that the enemy was moving back toward the Indo-China border and that preparations were being made to abandon Liuchow.59 By June it was quite certain that the Japanese would not try to redeploy their troops south of the Yellow River, and before the end of that month hitherto strongly held coastal positions below Shanghai were being evacuated. There were even signs that the estimated 100,000 troops in the Canton region were also going to be moved out, and by the end of July central China and the China coast were nearly free. There remained the possibility of a tedious fight along the southern boundary of Manchuiria, but within another two weeks the enemy government had surrendered. With that surrender, "the China incident" was closed.
There is no evidence to suggest that the failure of the Chihkiang offensive in any way affected the Japanese decision to surrender. The American victory was won in the Pacific, and China remained at the
close of the war, as she had since the attack on Pearl Harbor, outside the main theater of combat. The enemy's decision to extend his grasp on China came too late to affect the ultimate decision and served chiefly to deny the Fourteenth Air Force the opportunity to play its anticipated part in cutting the enemy's lifeline through the China Sea. That U.S. Pacific forces were able to move speedily to the accomplishment of their purposes in the final phases of the war without substantial aid from China-based air forces is one more comment on the frustration which had plagued the history of AAF operations in China from the beginning of the war. For the men of the Fourteenth Air Force, however, there was the satisfaction of a fight well fought and of postwar testimony by ranking Japanese officers in China that, but for the Fourteenth Air Force, "we could have gone anywhere we wished."60
A Final Reorganization
At the end of the war Chennault no longer commanded in China, and plans for a complete reorganization of AAF forces on the Asiatic mainland were being put into effect. These plans had their origins earlier in 1945 in two considerations: the prospect of an early liberation of all Burma, and the desire to use all available AAF resources in Asia for cooperation with U.S. forces in the Pacific as they approached the mainland of China. Termination of the combined Anglo-American effort to expel the Japanese from Burma would re-emphasize the contrasting interests of the United States and Britain. The latter naturally looked southeastward toward the reoccupation of Singapore, but, on the other hand, the United States' primary aim in CBI had from the first been to help China. Strategic plans for the Pacific still rested to some extent upon the assumption that an amphibious landing on the China coast might be a necessary preliminary to the final assault on Japan; such a landing would depend in great measure for its success on an enlarged AAF force in China. Even if the idea of some lodgment on the China coast were wholly abandoned, there would be work enough for China-based planes in operations off the China coast in cooperation with Philippines- or Formosa-based planes of the Pacific air forces.
Before the inauguration of the final offensive in Burma, General Stratemeyer and his staff had looked forward to the dissolution of the Eastern Air Command and the transfer of its AAF components across
the Hump to China.61 Such a plan was in accord with AAF thinking in Washington, and by January 1945 Stratemeyer's planners had drafted specific proposals for the redeployment of AAF units from India and Burma to China at the earliest possible time after the liberation of Burma. These proposals, providing for an AAF headquarters in China to command both the Tenth and Fourteenth Air Forces, received the approval of Wedemeyer, Stratemeyer, and Sultan in a conference at Myitkyina on 15 January 1945.62 After further consideration led to some revision, Wedemeyer was to take the revised version to the Pentagon in person for final approval. Chennault was outspoken against the plan, and when Wedemeyer went to Washington in March he took with him Col. Howard Means as Chennault's personal representative; Maj. Gen. Charles B. Stone III, Chief of Staff, EAC, and several ATC officers also accompanied Wedemeyer.63 In Washington Colonel Means' chief argument against a great build-up of AAF forces in China was that the increase could not be justified in terms of the available logistical support.64 His argument was countered by a promise that the Hump lift would be augmented by the allocation of many additional C-54's,65 and the reaction to the proposed plan in Washington, where preparations for an early concentration against Japan itself were being pushed, seemed altogether favorable.
The special mission left Washington with no written directive, but with the firm conviction that the War Department was committed to the movement to China of Stratemeyer's AAF headquarters and the Tenth Air Force. Before a conference of AAF leaders at Hastings Mill, India, on 9 April 1945, General Stone explained that a plan aimed at the liberation of a China port and establishment of direct contact with the American forces in the Pacific had been approved by the Joint Planning Staff and the Joint Chiefs of Staff.66 The air phase of the plan, which was based upon the redeployment to China of Stratemeyer's headquarters and the Tenth Air Force, was then explained in detail.
It was anticipated that by July 1945, "sufficient tonnage being available and the United States Army Air Force participation in Southeast Asia Command Operations being terminated, air units of the AAF India-Burma Theater will be deployed to China as required."67 The Tenth Air Force, already organized along tactical lines, was to be based south and west of Chihkiang for direct support of the Chinese ground forces and for isolation of "the immediate area of the
battlefield by attacking railway and road lines of communication from Hengyang through Hanoi and down the West River to Canton-Hongkong."68 The Fourteenth Air Force, organized as a bomber command and based along the Chengtu-Yellow River bend, was to be charged primarily with strategic operations. Coordination of operations with the Far East Air Forces in the Philippines was to be worked out by a new headquarters, the Army Air Forces, China Theater.69 Stratemeyer, who would head the new organization, was to locate his headquarters close to Wedenieyer's,70 and although it was agreed that Chinese air units should also come under Stratemeyer's direction, for this the Generalissimo's consent was still to be secured at the close of April.71
By that time the campaign in south Burma was racing toward its triumphant end, with the occupation of Rangoon a matter of days. As the Allies closed in on the great port, fewer and fewer aircraft were needed to pursue the broken and hiding foe. Accordingly, plans were made for an early move of some Tenth Air Force units--especially ground personnel--to China, and on 5 May 1945 Wedemeyer gave the necessary authorization.72 But almost immediately he reversed his decision and informed Stratemeyer that a further study of Hump tonnage indicated the impossibility of receiving the Tenth Air Force in China on an operational basis. Marshall would be informed, but Wedemeyer wished first to offer Stratemeyer the over-all command of a much smaller air force in China with Chennault and Davidson dividing the command under him. General Wedemeyer hoped that the force in time might be built up to a strength commensurate with Stratemeyer's rank.73 The latter replied frankly that he did not want the job; were the need genuine, he would gladly take any position in China that might assist in winning the war, but he advised Wedemeyer to accept Stone as air force commander and make Chennault, Davidson, and "myself" available for return to the U.S.74 On 13 May Wedemeyer told Stratemeyer that he was notifying the War Department of his inability to receive the Tenth Air Force, and that same day Stratemeyer in a letter to Arnold explained some of the difficulties.75 It appeared that the original estimates, especially for ground force requirements in China, had been too optimistic. The difficulties of intra-theater distribution had been underestimated and recent reports on air transport requirements for the deployment of forces in Europe indicated that fewer C-54's would be available for the Hump
run than had been anticipated. After deactivation of the Eastern Air Command on 31 May 1945, some transport planes and perhaps one heavy bombardment group would be assigned to the Hump route; other cargo planes, together with one fighter group, would be sent to China for use by the Fourteenth Air Force. The Tenth Air Force, presumably, would be liquidated.
The decision to abandon the plan to transfer the Tenth Air Force to China had hardly been made when the situation which had governed the decision began to change. On 16 May Lt. Gen. Ira C. Eaker, Arnold's deputy in Washington, wrote Wedemeyer that in any event Chennault would be replaced as air commander in China.76 By 22 May a report that the promised C-54's were actually on their way to India revived some hope at Stratemeyer's headquarters.77 There seems to have been some serious failure in communications between China and Washington, for the War Department quite evidently assumed that plans for the transfer of Stratemeyer and the Tenth Air Force to China would go forward. Early in June Arnold left the United States for a tour of the Pacific,* and he was preceded by orders for Stratemeyer to meet him in Manila.78 At that conference, held on 16 June 1945.79 Arnold expressed surprise that Stratemeyer had not yet assumed command in China and informed him that he had recently been promoted to the rank of lieutenant general for that specific purpose.80
Arnold was obviously also resolved to avoid any complications arising from the presence of Chennault in China.81 When Stratemeyer left for China on 17 June, he carried a letter from Arnold to Wedemeyer advising him of the need in China for "a senior, experienced air officer, in whom both you and I have confidence."82 In view of his recent experience in Burma, Stratemeyer was proposed as one especially well qualified for leadership in "a war of movement, aimed at isolating the Jap in Indo-China and defeating him or at least containing a substantial bulk of his forces in Southern China.'' The letter continued:
General Chennault has been in China for a long period of time fighting a defensive air war with minimum resources. The meagerness of supplies and the resulting guerilla type of warfare must change to a modern type of striking, offensive air power. I firmly believe that the quickest and most effective way to change air warfare in your Theater, employing modern offensive thought, tactics and techniques, is to change commanders. I would appreciate your concurrence in General Chennault's early withdrawal from the China Theater. He
* See below, p. 687.
should take advantage of the retiqement privileges now available to physically disqualified officers that make their pay not subject to Income Tax. Otherwise he may be reduced and put back on the retired list at his permanent rank.
I understand that the tonnages which I am largely responsible for making available to you have been substantially allocated to the ground forces, thereby reducing the amount of tonnage available to air. This has resulted in your available air striking power being dissipated from India-Burma and China to other theaters and to the United States. There are no plans which I know of for increasing your air forces at a later date and I therefore recommend that you re-evaluate your present situation and create conditions which will permit the redeployment to China of essential air striking power now available in India-Burma. I feel that if you can do this, the Joint Chiefs of Staff will not object to the additional change in the air plans which will permit you to introduce into China these units, which I feel should be the bulk of those of the Army Air Forces, India-Burma Theater. Any units of the Tenth Air Force which you can program for employment in China can be held in India; the others will be redeployed as soon as we can get shipping.
I trust that in line with my comments above you will be enabled to put into effect the organization which you recommended to the War Department on your recent visit; that is, that you have a Commanding General, Army Air Forces, China Theater, directing the employment of the Tenth and Fourteenth Air Forces, one of these forces in a predominantly tactical cooperation with ground forces role, and the other a strategic force.
Arnold's unmistakably phrased letter had been preceded by a message of 8 June from General Marshall expressing surprise that Wedemeyer's original plan had been dropped and that Stratemeyer had not yet assumed command. Marshall also pointed out that Stratemeyer's promotion had been put through for the purpose of using him in China and asked to be brought up to date on Wedemeyer's latest plans.83
After receiving Arnold's letter, Wedemeyer on 20 June informed Marshall of his full concurrence with Arnold's recommendations on the organization of his air forces: Stratemeyer would command the "China Theater Air Forces," and under him Chennault would command the "Strategical Air Force" and Davidson the "Tactical Air Force."84 The available record is not full enough to explain the decision to keep Chennault; perhaps Wedemeyer sought only to give Chennault time to offer his resignation. At any rate, six days later General Chennault entered a vigorous protest against the whole plan85 and not until 6 July 1945 did he hand in his request for retirement.86 Stratemeyer promptly approved and designated Stone as Chennault's successor in command of the Fourteenth Air Force.87
During June a number of officers from India had flown to Chungking as a planning staff to arrange with Wedemeyer for the selection of suitable quarters and office space. The Tenth's own troop carrier
squadrons undertook the necessary lift over the Hump, with some help from the newly arrived C-54's. On 4 July a group of officers from Hastings Mill flew to Chungking to organize a Headquarters, Army Air Forces, China Theater. General Stratemeyer left for China twelve days later,88 and on 23 July the Tenth Air Force Headquarters opened at Kunming. When the war ended, the move to China was still in process. During these last days of combat, the Fourteenth Air Force carried on operations, but for the Tenth, its war ended, not inappropriately, with the problems of one more major reorganization engrossing the attention of most of its personnel.
Notes to Chapter 9
1. Msg., Wedemeyer to SACSEA, 5 Nov. 1944.
2. Msg., Wedemeyer to Marshall, 6 Nov. 1944.
4. Wedemeyer [?], Plan for Defense of Kunming, n.d., in "Information Book, China Theater, Chinese Army" in Wedemeyer file.
5. Wedemeyer, min. of mtg. #7 with the Generalissmo, 29 Nov. 1944; Dir. Intel. SACSEA, Japanese Future Operations in China, 2 Dec. 1944.
6. Msg., JCS to Wedemeyer, 1 Dec. 1944.
7. Msg., SACSEA to Air Ministry, 4 Dec. 1944.
8. Msg., Wedemeyer to Mountbatten, Sultan, Stratemeyer, 5 Dec. 1944; msg., Sultan to Mountbatten, 5 Dec. 1944; msg., Sultan to Mountbatten, 6 Dec. 1944; min. of Delhi Conference (Sultan, Merrill, Stone, Carroway, Means, Lucas, Bowland, and Matthews), 8 Dec. 1944; msg., Mountbatten to Stratemeyer, 8 Dec. 1944; msg., Wedemeyer to Sultan and Stratemeyer, 9 Dec. 1944; msg.,Wheeler to SAC, 17 Dec. 1944.
9. 10th AF Hist. Off., Operation GRUBWORM, 12 Jan. 1945.
12. Ibid.; Hist. 319th Sq., ATC, Jan. 1945.
13. Hist. 1348th AAF Base Unit, ICD ICW, Jan. 1945.
14. Ibid.; 10th AF Hist. Off., Operation GRUBWORM, 12 Jan. 1945.
15. 10th AF Hist. Off., Operation GRUBWORM, 12 Jan. 1945.
16. Ibid.; 10th AF Air Transport Opns., Feb. 1943-June 1945.
17. See also ltr., Stratemeyer to Arnold, 13 Jan. 1945.
18. 10th AF Hist. Off., Operation GRUBWORM, 12 Jan. 1945.
19. Ibid.; EAC Wkly. Intel. Sum., Nov.-Dec. 1944.
20. 24th SCU, 14th AF Annual Sum. 1944.
22. Statistics supplied by ATC Hist. Off., 8 Sept. 1948.
23. IBT G-4 Periodic Rpt., Quarter Ending 30 Sept. 1945, Table 13 B; Road Tonnage Highway, LOC, IBT, Oct. 1945. References supplied through courtesy of USA SS Hist. Div., 13 Feb. 1952.
24. 24th SCU, 14th AF, 1942-1945.
25. 24th SCU,14th AF Annual Sum. 1944.
26. Ibid.; Capt. George B. Sargent, Hist. 14th AF, Nov. 1944-Aug. 1945.
27. Hist. 14th AF, Nov. 1944-Aug.1945; Hist. 69th Comp. Wg.
28. 308th Bomb. Gp. Flight Opnl.-Intel. Rpts., Nov. 1944-Jan. 1945; Chennault, Way of a Fighter, p. 326.
29. Hist. 69th Comp. Wg., Nov. 1944.
30. Kanchow Base Hist., Jan. 1944; Lt. Col. George B. Hightower, Diary, Jan.-May 1945; Suichwan Base Hist., Nov. 1944.
31. 308th Bomb. Gp. Flight Opnl. Intel. Rpts., Nov. 1944-Jan. 1945.
32. Interview with Lt. Col. John Herbst, CO 74th Ftr. Sq., n.d.
33. 14th AF Wkly. Intel. Sum., 1 Nov. 1944.
34. Statistics supplied by 24th SCU.
35. 14th AF, Plans for Air Offensive, as modified Nov. 1944; Plans for Air Offensive presented 1943.
36. Hist. 312th Ftr. We, Feb. 1945.
37. Kanchow Base Hist., Jan. 1945; memo for A-2 14th AF from A-2 68th Comp. Wg., 4 Dec. 1944.
38. 14th AF Monthly Rpt., "Interdiction," Nov. 1944; memo for A-3 from Chennault, 1 Jan. 1945.
39. Table 17, Annex II, "Interdiction," Nov.1944.
40. 23d, 51st, and 311th Ftr. Gps., Flight Opnl.-Intel. Rpts., Feb,-Mar. 1945.
41. Hist. 308th Bomb. Gp., Jan.-Mar. 1945.
42. 308th Bomb. Gp., Flight Opnl. Intel. Rpt. #541, 9 Mar. 1945.
43. 08th Bomb. Gp., Flight Opnl.-Intel, Rpt. #543, 16 Mar. 1945; 308th Bomb. Gp., Bomb Analysis Rpt. #11, 31 Mar. 1945; "Interdiction," Nov. 1944.
44. 308th Bomb. Gp., Flight Opnl. Intel. Rpt. #545, 23 Mar. 1945.
45. Hist. 312th Ftr. Wg., May 1945.
46. 14th AF Ltr. 381, Program for Air Opns., 16 Apr. 1945.
47. Supplement to radio direc., Chennault to Randall, CAKX, 13 Apr. 1945.
48. "Interdiction," July 1945.
49. SCU Rpt. on Kunchow-Suichwan opns.
50. China ASC, Supply Plan for East China, 15 Nov. 1944; msg., Lt. Col. Claassen to Chennault, 19 Dec. 1944; msg., Lt. Col. McChristy, CO 21st P/R Sq., to Chennault, 21 Dec. 1944.
51. SCU, Gas Rpts.
52. 14th AF Wkly. Intel. Sum., 22-28 Mar. 1945; Hist. 7th Ftr. Sq., Mar. 1945; CACW Combat Hist., Mar. 1945; Capt. Martin, Evacuation of Laohokow.
53. 14th AF, Plan for Participation in Chinese Ground Offensive, 9. Feb. 1945; 81st and 311th Ftr. Gps., Flight Opnl. Intel. Rpts., Apr.-May 1945.
54. The Chihkiang Campaign, 10 Apr.-31 May 1945.
55. CACW Combat Hist., Apr. and May 1945; 14th AF Intel. Sum., 11 Apr. 1945.
56. The Chihkiang Campaign, 10 Apr.-31 May 1945; CACW Combat Hist., Apr. 1945; A Study of Air-Ground Teamwork during the Chihkiang Campaign; interview with Col. John A. Dunning, in CACW Combat Hist., Apr. and May 1945.
57. Dunning interview, as in n 56 above.
58. A Study of Air-Ground Team-work during the Chihkiang Campaign.
59. CACW Combat Hist., May 1945.
60. Interviews with Gen. Takahaski, C/S North China Armies, and with Col. Ogasaware, quoted in "Interdiction," Nov. 1945.
61. Hq. AAF IBS CBI R&R, AOX initialed ARL (Luedecke) to AC/S, 17 Aug. 1944; memo for AC/AS Plans from Col. J. L. Loutzenheiser, Chief, OPD, 27 June 1944; ltr., Maj. Gen. L. S. Kuter to Stratemeyer, 17 Aug. 1944; ltr., Stratemeyer to Kuter, 28 Aug. 1944; ltrs., Stratemeyer to Arnold, 30 Aug. 1944 and 9 Oct. 1944; ltr., Arnold to Stratemeyer, 18 Nov.1944.
62. Msg., Wedemeyer to Marshall for JCS, 17 Jan. 1945; msg., Wedemeyer to Stratemeyer, 31 Jan. 1945.
63. Hq. AAF IBT, Plan for China Theater Air Force Organization, 24 June 1945.
64. Msg., Wedemeyer to Stratemeyer, 20 Apr. 1945.
65. Interview with Col. Joseph S. Clark by Lt. Col. Gustav E. Johnson, 20 July 1945.
66. Min. of Conference on Plan RASHNESS, 9 Apr. 1945, pp. 4-5.
67. Ibid., p. 8.
68. Ibid., p. 9.
69. Ibid., p. 11.
70. Ibid.; Hq. AAF IBT, Proposed Basic Principles for Organization AAF CT, n.d.
71. Hq. 14th AF, min. of conference, 19 Apr. 1945; min. of conference, Bhamo, 22 Apr. 1945; Hq. USF CT GO 59, 1 May 1945.
72. Msg., Wedemeyer to Stratemeyer, 5 May 1945.
73. See n 65 above.
74. Msg., Stratemeyer to Wedemeyer, 6 May 1945.
75. Msg., Wedemeyer to Stratemeyer, 13 May 1945; ltr., Stratemeyer to Arnold, 13 May 1945.
76. Ltr., Lt. Gen. Ira C. Eaker to Lt. Gen. A. C. Wedemeyer, 16 May 1945.
77. Ltr., Stratemeyer to AM Sir Keith Park, 22 May 1945.
78. TWX, Gen. Hull to CINC Army Forces Pacific, et al., 4 June 1945.
79. TWX #39455, Wedemeyer (Chungking) to CINCAFPAC and Arnold, 16 June 1945.
80. See n 65 above.
82. Ltr., Arnold to Wedemeyer, 17 June 1945.
83. Msg., Marshall to Wedemeyer, 8 June 1945.
84. Msg., Wedemeyer to Marshall, 20 June 1945.
85. Msg., Chennault to Wedemeyer, 26 June 1945.
86. Msg., Chennault to Stratemeyer, 6 July 1945; ltr., Chennault to Wedemeyer, 6 July 1945; msg., Stratemeyer to Chennault, 7 July 1945.
87. Msg., Stratemeyer to Chennault, 7 July 1945; msg., Chennault to Stratemeyer, 8 July 1945; msg., Chennault to Wedemeyer, 26 June 1945.
88. Hq. AAF IBT GO 168, 16 July 1945.