Transcribed from "The Command Post", Vol 1. No. 17 June 30, 1944
Courtesy of Mr. William Johnson


The close air support rendered to Lt. Gen. Joseph W. Stilwell's Chinese-American forces by fighters, fighter bombers and dive bombers of the Third Tactical Air Force, Eastern Air Command, has been a significant factor n the spectacular advance on Myitkyina.

These planes - U.S.A.A.F. P-40's, P-51's and A-36's under the immediate jurisdiction of Brigadier General John F. Egan's Northern Air Sector Force - operate from advanced bases in North Burma. Some of their missions are flown against predetermined targets. Other flights, assigned specifically to give direct air support to ground troops, keep up a continuous patrol over areas where fighting is proceeding, with instructions to take their directions from the ground.

When the flight reaches its assigned area, it is told to stand by for instructions. The ground commander selects the building - which he wants attacked, and transmits this information to a fighter control team of U.S.A.A.F. personnel with whom he is in constant touch. These teams, who have previously familiarized themselves with the terrain by flying over it in liaison type aircraft, are thoroughly acquainted with the problem faced by the pilot, and have the additional advantage of being able to talk to him in language he understands.

The air control officer contacts the fighter flight by radio and "talks" it into the target with the use of gridded photographs, maps, and their specialized knowledge of the terrain. Panels and other signals at the front lines may also be used.

This air-ground co-ordination proved highly successful during the advance on Myitkyina and in the siege of the town. In one case fighter pilots were strafing a target only thirty seconds after the ground commander had told the fighter control team he wanted it to be hit.

The following conversation illustrates a typical operation by General Egan's flying artillery as they are directed by the fighter control team on the ground. In this case the ground commander had just discovered that there was a large Japanese gun, camouflaged, about a mile south of Myitkyina. The fighter control team, working with intelligence officers, found the precise location of the gun on a photograph. The air control officer dashed back to his portable radio.

Air Control Officer:  "Hello, Dragonfly Red Leader, this is Ground three one. Over."

Flight Leader:  "Hello, Ground three one, this is Dragonfly Red. Over."

Air Control Officer:  "Hello D.F. Red, I have a target for you. Go to co-ordinate King one nine and I will describe the target to you. Over."

Flight Leader:  "Roger, Ground three one, will do… Hello, Ground three one, I am now circling the area. Over."

Air Control Officer:  "Roger, D.F. Red. Do you see that point where the auto road running north and south crosses the rail-road? It forms a cross. Over."

Flight Leader:  "Roger, I see where they cross."

Air Control Officer:  "O.K. About 300 yards west of there you'll see a cleared-out area - looks like a rice paddy - with small trees on the south and east sides. In the center of the clearing there is one large tree. Do you see that area? Over."

Flight Leader:  "Roger, I believe I have it spotted. Is there a small creek running east and west of the target area? Over."

Air Control Officer:  "Roger, D.F. Red, that is correct. There is a large Jap gun, well camouflaged, in the trees on the south side of the clearing. Do you see any signs of it or of camouflage? Over."

Flight Leader:  "No, I see the trees you mention on the south side but nothing showing there. Over."

Air Control Officer:  "Roger D.F. Red, see if you can put some bombs right in those trees. A direct hit will get him. Bomb from west to east and then strafe. Over."

Flight Leader:  "Roger, ground three one, will do. Out."

The planes can be seen beginning their dive on the target from the air liaison post on the ground. A moment later the explosion of their bombs is heard. The conversation resumes:

Flight Leader:  "Hello, Ground three one, this is Dragonfly Red. Over."

Air Control Officer:  "Hello, D.F. Red, this is Ground three one. Over."

Flight Leader:  "Hello, Ground three one, we got two direct hits in those trees. There is a big column of smoke coming out of there. Over."

Air Control Officer:  "Hello, D.F. Red. Good work boys, two direct hits are bound to have got the gun. Over."

Flight Leader:  "Roger, Ground three one, we are resuming patrol. Over."

Air Control Officer:  "Roger, D.F. Red, and thank you. Out."

The use of the technique described above has resulted in the destruction of scores of Japanese installations. This technique was first developed by Col. Philip Cochran in Burma, and was used with great success by his Air Commando Group in furnishing air support to the Chindit Forces under the late Major General Charles O. Wingate and his successor, Major General W.D. Lentaigne.

Taken by the signal corps guys at Myitkyina Airfield - about 17 May 1944. You can see the loop in the Irrawaddy River on the map Sandy has spread out in front of him. A movie clip matching this photo was part of the Oliver North "War Stories" segment on the "Forgotten Front and the 1st Air Commando" (aired November, 2004).

Photo also used in article, above, with caption, "At the microphone of his portable radio set, Lt. Ernest L. Sanford, of Wichita Falls, Texas, (second from left) directs a flight of dive bombers of the Tactical Air Force, Eastern Air Command, over a target in the Myitkyina area. He used the gridded photograph before him to give instructions to the aircraft overhead. At the extreme left is Lt. Herman F. Bloon of Denver, Colorado, a fighter pilot attached to this fighter control team. (EAC Photo.)"

Taken as Sandy was accompanying the truck convoy on the newly opened Ledo-Burma-Stilwell Road. He was in touch with the pilots flying air cover over the convoy, including some from Pao-shan or Yunnanyi, China, 25th FS.

Shadruzup, Burma.  Bill Thompson, "Sandy" Sanford, Leo Vacillio resting after the Myitkyina glider landing and capture of the air strip. Has a note that the tent in the background is Stilwell's HQ tent (June, 1944).

Artwork done by Cpl Cecil James, 1st Tactical Air Communications Squadron and provided courtesy of Mr. Michael James

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