Levi Chase & the 2nd Air Command Group

Source:  USAAF MTO Aces of World War Two

Levi R. Chase was born in Cortland, N.Y., on December 23, 1917. He entered the Army in November 1940, and was accepted as an aviation cadet. As a member of Class 41-G, he received his pilot wings and commission as a second lieutenant in September 1941 at Maxwell Field, Alabama.

Assigned to the 58th Fighter Squadron, 33rd Fighter Group, flying P-40s, Chase had his first taste of combat during the invasion of North Africa in November 1942. Newly promoted to captain, he scored two kills flying with the 58th - his first a Messerschmitt 109 on 18 December and a JU-88 four days later. Later, as commander of the 60th Fighter Squadron, then-Major Chase continued to run up his score, downing seven BF-109's and a Macchi 202 between 31 January and 5 April, 1943 Flying P-40's he downed 10 Axis planes in the MTO. The 33rd Fighter Group, also known as the "The Fighting Nomads." However, because of the tactics they were forced adopt to deal with superior Luftwaffe forces, parts of the unit became known as the "Red Scarf Guerillas." The group gained notoriety also for being led for a time by Phil Cochran, who served as the prototype hero for the "Terry and the Pirates" comic strip. Cochran dubbed Chase his "One-Man Wave of Terror" for his aggressive and relentless pursuit and attack of enemy targets.

The following excerpt is taken from "Damned to Glory" by Col. Robert L. Scott, Jr., published in 1944 by Charles Scribner's Sons, New York:

"Soon after Cochran's arrival, the reputation of the Red Scarf Guerrillas began to grow. As Phil Cochran explained it: The French began to call us up and tell us about tanks and trucks they saw on different roads. We'd go out and look for them--sometimes we didn't find them. Gradually we became big operators.

I remember one of these operation in particular. One day Captain Levi Chase, my operations officer, went out by himself and destroyed eighty-four guns and a few trucks. Altogether we must have destroyed about three hundred trucks--we became so damn efficient in this type of work that the Jerries and Eyeties weren't able to move a truck anywhere in Tunisia by daylight.

After we had done that for a while, we got to know the country pretty well ourselves and began to cook up other things to do. For instance, we knew that the enemy had only about a dozen locomotives on all their little lines down there, so we got to blasting them--for sheer diversion, we went after their oil and munitions dumps. Chase, my "One-Man Wave of Terror," was the best man I've ever seen in spotting those things from the air. One time he strafed a lot of haystacks and they all exploded, proving that he was right--the enemy had hidden ammunition under them.

We used to hunt light tanks all over southern Tunisia, and when we found them we would strafe them with our fifty-calibers. They would play dead, and then at night the crews would run them into Arab courtyards or dry gullies and camouflage them. So we'd track them down and shoot more holes into them before they could be repaired. We didn't have armament to blast them, but our "fifties" kept them out of action. Often we would observe troop movements, report them to the French and then go back and strafe them, and the French would occupy one or more towns.

Finally, the people back at headquarters saw what a job we were doing and sent us a squadron of bombers to fool around with--we had plenty of fun thinking up bombing missions and then escorting the jokers."

Major Chase returned to the States in July 1943, where he spent a year before deploying to Burma with the 2nd Air Commando Group. He later became commander of the First Provisional Fighter Group and was credited with two Japanese Oscars.

He planned and led one of the longest (if not the longest) raids of WWII by fighter aircraft. Flying P-51 Mustangs from their base at Cox's Bazaar in India, the two squadrons of the 2nd Air Commando struck at Don Muang Airfield north of Bangkok for the first time on March 15, 1945. The raid covered over 1,500 miles (2413 km) round trip. The mission called for precise navigation and fuel management, but accomplished the task of deep penetration to strike at what were supposed to be secure rear staging areas for the remnants of the Japanese Air Force in the China-Burma-India theatre. The details of the raid and the Counter-Air campaign of the 2nd Air Commandos appear in the Spring 1994 issue of Air Enthusiast Magazine by Edward Young. The fighter squadrons of the 2nd Air Commandos received a Distinguished Unit Citation for the raids on Don Muang Field and Major Chase was awarded the Silver Star for his role in planning and leading the mission.

Source:  Air Commando Association

Levi Chase Story

Born:  December 23, 1917 Cortland, New York
Died:  September 24, 1994 Cortland, New York

Levi Chase joined the Army Reserves on February 10, 1941, and was commissioned a 2nd Lt, and rated a pilot on September 26, 1941 at Maxwell Field, Alabama (Class 41-G). He transferred to the 8th PG in October, but on December 22, 1941 he transferred to the 33rd PG, 58th PS. On November 10, 1942 he flew off the carrier Chenango, during the invasion of North Africa. While flying P-40Fs over North Africa, Capt Chase shot down an FW-190 on December 18, 1942 and followed that up with a victory over an He-111 (or Ju-88) on December 22. On January 5, 1943 he became CO of the 60th FS, which was formerly under the command of Maj Philip Cochran. The newly promoted Maj Chase then shot down an Me-109 and damaged a second on January 31. Flying P-40Ls during the period March 15, 1943 - April 5, 1943, he shot down an Italian Mc.202 fighter and five Me-109s raising his score to ten kills over North Africa.

He returned to the US on July 1, 1943.

In 1944 he became Ops Officer, and later Deputy CO, of the 2nd Air Commando Group, which moved to India in December 1944. In February 1945 He became CO of the newly formed 1st Provisional FG combining the 1st and 2nd Air Commando Groups. On March 15 and 26, 1945 LtCol Chase downed two Japanese Oscars over Don Muang Air Field, Bangkok, Thailand and Hmwabi Airfield, Rangoon, Burma, respectively. During the engagement over Hmwabi Airfield, he was shot down by flak, but rescued by fellow Air Commandos, Robert Eason and Bobby Span in an L-5 He was one of three aces to have shot down enemy aircraft of all three Axis Powers. He returned to the US, and in May 1945 was placed on inactive status. From 1946-49 he attended Albany Law School in New York. He was recalled to active duty during the Korean War, serving as Deputy Operations Officer of the 51st FIW, and later as CO of the 8th FIG, flying the F-86 and the F-80. He was promoted to Col on April 9, 1952. He was CO of the 15th TFW from July 6, 1965 to October 4, 1965, and of the 12th TFW in Vietnam from October 8, 1965 to October 8, 1965. Those two wings were the first in the USAF to become combat ready in the F-4C Phantom. After serving in Vietnam he saw tours at Kadena AB, Okinawa, as Vice CO of the 313th Air Division and then Chief, of the Air Section of the Military Assistance and Advisory Group, Taiwan. He was promoted to MGen on July 1, 1971, and retired from the Air Force on December 1, 1973.

Tally Record:  12 confirmed and 1 probable
Decorations:  3 SSs, 5 DFCs, LM, BSM, 21 AMs, 2 DFCs (British)

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