CBIVA Sound-off
Spring 1999 Issue

By Bill Tislow

Brief History and People of 51st FCS

No story, article, or even the mention of the name Assam would not be complete without mentioning the 51st Fighter Control Squadron and its area of operations. So, here goes . . .

In the military campaign leading to the liberation of North and Central Burma from the Japanese, one could hardly find an organization with a history surpassing that of the 51st FCS for action, length of service and successful performance of duty under all conditions.

The 51st FCS was actually made up of two groups. The first group, which came to India in March 1942, and then the second group, that came to the CBI during the spring and summer of 1944 replacing the first group who rotated back to Uncle Sugar in September 1944. Bob Fagelson and I call them the "old guys" and the "new guys."

The "old guys" landed in Karachi in March 1942 as the 35th Interceptor Control Squadron of the 35th Pursuit Group. Since there were no airplanes at that time, the "old guys" did MP duty for a while. Then in May 1942, they became the 51st FCS of the 51st Fighter Group. Immediately they went by train and plane to Kanjikoah, Assam, where on September 20, 1942, a Fighter Control Center was established and teams were sent into the Naga Hills as Visual Air Warning Systems. They remained in these Visual Air Warning Stations from September 1942 to May 1943.

For excellent reading on these VAW Stations, Robert Philips wrote a book on his experiences at one of these stations. The book Is entitled "KC-8, Burma." Bob, now deceased, along with James E. Griffin, Donald C. Craig, and Delbert Adams were awarded the Bronze Star for exceptional meritorious conduct during this campaign. Also, the Legion of Merit was awarded to Clinton C.

Breedlove and Peter J. Kunz. For dropping food and ammo under hazardous conditions, Andrew C. Hauge, William E. Russell, and Walter V. Wade were awarded Air Medals.

As the year 1945 approached, Japanese air sorties were almost nil and the 51st FCS assumed the duties at homing and direction finding stations accumulating a fantastic score in the number of planes and lives saved. During March 1945 - 82 aircraft were saved; in April - 157 saved; in May - 203 saved; in June - 68 saved, and in July - 34 saved. These aircraft were chiefly transports. This represented a sum of over 40 million dollars worth of aircraft, exclusive of cargo value. More important, however, is the number of human lives saved. The homing facilities were the greatest assistance to transport aircraft flying from India to China via the "Hump." On September 28, 1944, the Homing Station at Moran was commended by Brig. General A. H. Gilkeson of the 10th AAAF.

Personnel of the 51st FCS were scattered throughout the area of operations. You did not have a chance to really get acquainted. You were sent out (usually in groups of 6-8) to the hill stations, where all supplies were airdropped, or were on detached service with rations and quarters with some other unit operating AWS, Homing or Direction Finding stations. Only about a fourth of the squadron remained at the control centers (headquarters) for any length of time. After your tour in the hills, or where-ever, you returned to headquarters and in a few days out you would go again to another destination with usually an entirely different crew.

For the first time since September 1942, on September 14, 1945, the Squadron is finally together at Myitkyina preparing to embark for Dinjan on the Ledo Road. From there the squadron went by train to Piardoba, India, (former B-29 base), and after a month; departed by air to Karachi. The squadron departed Karachi aboard the Gen. R. E. Callan on December 31, 1945, and arrived in Seattle with a BANG and a BAND on January 31, 1946.

(The maps submitted by Bill Tislow to augment this article could not be adapted by Sound-Off so the map of the Stilwell Road on the opposite page is available for orientation purposes. - Ed.)

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