January 1996 Issue
What was the purpose of the Century Club that was organized in CBI?
Morale was sometimes scraping bottom among CBI flghter and bomber pilots. "The main cause of low morale was a comparison of missions completed in CBI before rotation compared to missions completed in the European Theater before rotation," said Col. John C. "Jack" Habecker, one of the commanders of the 528th Fighter Squadron in Burma and China.
ETO combat pilots often got rotated back home alter 25 or 50 missions. The CBI fighter command recognized that the conditions were not identical in the two theaters. Antiaircraft fire, for example, was much more concentrated and much more accurate over Europe. But health and living conditions in CBI were the worst in the war.
The fighter command in CBI hit on the idea of a Century Club to honor all pilots who reached the mark of 100 combat missions. Although the Century Club was founded by the 528th fighter pilots, all combat pilots were welcome to join.
As of August 1945, 30 pilots of the 528th "Dragon Flys" Squadron had down 100 missions and were members af the Century Club. Fighter pilot Henry J. "Hank" Pascho had 165 missions. He was named president.
In recognition of "the huge contributions the enlisted men made in keeping the planes flying through horrible weather and working conditions" engineering personnel were made eligible for the Century Club.
"The Dragon Flys" fighter squadron was famous for the air support it gave to Merrill's Marauders.
The Century Club was founded in CBI to honor fighter pilots who completed 100 missions. Ground crews were also eligible for the honor.