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U.S.A.A.F Combat Cargo Groups of the Second World War

 

1st Combat Cargo Group

Combat Operations

     The 1st Combat Cargo Group began air operations on September 1, 1944 when the British 177th Wing at Agartala requested that the group begin to fly reinforcements between Imphal and Comilla and evacuated the wounded to rear area hospitals

     On September 15, 1944 six aircraft from the 4th Squadron were sent to Kunming, China to aid in the evacuation of troops from the besieged bases at Kwirlin and Linchow. The Squadron was temporarily attached to the 332nd Troop Carrier unit. On September 16, 1944 17 planes from the 1st Squadron were sent on the same mission, only they operated out of Yunnanyi, China. Seventeen C-47s of the 3rd squadron left Sylhet on the September 19, 1944 also for Yunnanyi. These crews were on temporary duty attached to the Air Transport Command. The 1st Squadron and 3rd Squadron planes returned to Sylhet by October 2, 1944 The six 4th Squadron crews didn’t get back to Sylhet until October 16, 1944.

    While in the CBI the, the 1st Combat Cargo Groups four Squadrons called many places home. There were times when one of the Groups Squadrons would be in China, another Squadron would be in Burma and yet another Squadron would be India. On November 21, 1944 the Group made it’s first move, the 1st and 4th Squadrons with it’s 344th Airdrome Squadron (ADS) moved to airstrip at Tulihal, India. The 3rd Squadron along with it’s 346th Airdrome Squadron (ADS) moved to the airstrip at Sentinel Hill at Tulihal. The 2nd Squadron and their 345th Airdrome Squadron moved to their new home at Imphal. The Headquarter contingent of the Group finally moved to Charry Village at Tulihal on December 9. 1944. The 347th Airdrome Squadron finally arrived at Tulihal in early December 1944, finally the whole group was in theater.

     The Group continued supporting the British units who were fighting in the Chin Hills in the Arakan and Chindwin River sections of Burma. Returning Group flights carried the casualties from the fighting to the hospital at Comilla. Initially the entire Group participated in this operation. On December 21, 1944 the Group received orders which would send the 1st and 2nd squadrons along with the 344th Airdrome Squadron to Tsuying, China. The 4th Squadron with 63 members of the 345th Airdrome Squadron flew to Chengkung, China via the Himalayas. The 3rd Squadron along with the remaining 345th Airdrome Squadron personnel remained at Tulihal and continued supporting the British. In a effort to assist with the before mentioned move, eight C-46 Commando’s of the 4th Combat Cargo Group assisted in moving the 1st, 2nd and 4th Squadrons to their China destinations. When the move was complete the 4th Group C-46’s returned to their home bases. The 1st Groups, Squadrons which were now stationed in China came under operational control of the 14th Air Force. This was to set a pattern for this group until the end of the war.

     The two Squadrons assigned to Tsuyung enjoyed new barracks, called hostels in China, hot and cold running water and very adequate recreation faculties. This along with an ideal climate made this like paradise when compared to the airfields in Imphal. The 1st and 2nd Squadrons flew sortie upon sortie in to Paoshan, China. Here, Japanese fighter planes were a constant threat, so night missions were flown to avoid the Japanese fighters. These missions were hampered by poor navigational aids and bad weather. Also, the Japanese managed to jam airways, which garbled transmissions and blocked the non-directional radio beacons which really played havoc with the automatic directional finders located in the C-47s.

     Another problem arose, sabotage by Chinese or men who were dressed as Chinese soldiers was a problem. Japanese night air raids also managed to keep the base at a very high state of alert. Prior to an air raid, flash fires could be seen in the hills around the base and what appeared to be coded light flashes would appear from several directions. Group Intelligence Section (S2), which investigated these problems, finally managed to control the apparent sabotage effort by placing demands on the local officials and soldiers. A secret message received at the 1st Combat Cargo Group Headquarters which revealed "... that there had recently been acts of sabotage committed by Chinese Soldiers, or agents dressed like Chinese Soldiers, on troop carrying aircraft during troop movements and at night by infiltration...." . The Group headquarters then issued orders which helped solve the problem which stated that no one was to be near an aircraft except troops being loaded for shipment.

     During the Groups first 50 days (December 13, 1944 - January 31, 1945) in China, the Group recorded 11,207 hours flown, during which 23,133 Chinese troops plus 3,128 other passengers were transported. The two squadrons consumed 1,012.000 gallons of aviation gas in this effort. Twelve aircraft were lost, or destroyed, along with eight crews killed or wounded, due to either accidents or enemy action.

     On Jan 30, 1945, the 2nd and 4th Squadrons along with the 345th and 3478th Airdrome Squadrons moved back over the Hump to Dohazari, India. On April 7, 1945 the 3rd squadron and the 346th Airdrome Squadron, which had remained ad Tulihal were now ordered to Harhazari, India The 1st Combat Cargo Squadron remained on detached service to the 14th Air Force in China.

     As the war in Burma was begin to move in the allies favor, the 2nd, 3rd and 4th Squadrons of the Group were supporting the British XIV Armies drive on Mandalay. During this time the Group was called upon to perform several unusual missions.

     Dummy airdrops where made, which consisted of dropping contaminated food behind enemy lines. The sole purpose of this was to help hide movements of the British Army. These dummy drops caused the Japanese to believe that the British were now moving in a new direction. Japanese documents found later, revealed that the ruse worked, which explained the lack of Japanese resistance at points the British had anticipated heavy resistance

     The 2nd Squadron was called up to help the 931st Signal Squadron set up a radar beacon on the 10,018 ft high Mt. Victoria in south-central Burma. The Squadron air dropped food and materials to the construction crews as they made their way to the mountain. When the station was completed the radar equipment itself was air dropped on the mountain. The Squadron continued to drop supplies and maintenance materials to radar site. This airdrop probably goes on record as being made at the highest altitude of any airdrop in Burma.

     While training at Bowman Field the group spent some time learning how to tow a glider. Now in the CBI, the group would put this training to use in combat. The 4th Squadron towed eleven (11) gliders from Sinthe, Burma to Meiktila, Burma on April 18, 1944. On 21 April, 1944 the 4th Squadron towed eight (8) gliders from Meiktila to Lewe. Here the glider pilots experienced difficulty locating the smoke flares that marked the landing areas. Only two (2) gliders succeeded in landing at the designated landing area. The remaining six (6) gliders landed where ever they could. Fortunately this didn’t hamper operations, because they landed close to the designated area and because they landed outside the actual target area they actually saved several gliders when on April 24, 1944 the Japanese strafed the landing area at Lewe and shot up 5 of the gliders. On April 23, 1944 six (6) gliders were towed to Tennant from Meiktila. On April 25, 1944 the 2nd Squadron towed 2 additional gliders to Lewe.

     The British XIV Army thrusts into Burma were aided by these glider tows, most of their communication and engineering equipment required to reconstruct and operate new airfields were flown in to the forward zone aboard these gliders.

     Operations in China were very similar to operations in the India-Burma area. The major difference between the two areas was, that in Burma and India that while airdropping or landing loads, the crews experienced, at times, heavy gun fire. That was something the crews in China rarely experienced. In China, the weather and extremely rugged terrain were the main obstacles to overcome. Example, during April 1944 fourteen flying days were lost because of the weather. Another problem about being stationed in China was often the lack of essential repair parts to keep the aircraft flyable. A periodic shortages of aviation fuel were also experienced, due to the fact that all gasoline was delivered by the gasoline hauling transport aircraft.

     While the 1st Combat Cargo Squadron which had remained in China, was ordered to direct their main effort directly to the Hisian area of North-Central China. Hisian was one of the few remaining Chinese air bases in fighter range of primary Japanese targets. During their spring offensive, the Japanese advanced toward Hisian from two directions, the southeast and the northeast. Their goal was to overcome the Chinese army who was defending the vital airbase.

     At times, up to thirteen aircraft of the 1st Combat Cargo Squadron operated from Hsinching under control of the 312th fighter wing. Their main task was to supply the fighters and medium bombers that were as flying from Hisian in either offensive or defensive operations. At other times, up to fifteen aircraft of the 1st Combat Cargo Squadron would be based at Liangshan, while there they operated under control of the Chinese-American composite Wing. They flew missions in defense of the Hisian area to Peishyi, Ankang, Enshish, Kunming, Yunnanyi, Chichiang, Hanchung, and Valley Field. Valley Field was located behind the enemy lines to the east, but even that didn’t deter the 1st Combat Cargo Squadron, as they flew sorties into the field almost every day! This total operation was a complete success and by the end of April, the job was done without a single major accident.

     The 2nd and 4th Squadrons, which moved initially back to Dohazari, India after flying their Chinese missions were put under operational control of the British and the Royal Air Force. Here, incidents occurred here that sometimes strained the allies relations. Young, inexperienced British truck drivers damaged several of the Squadrons aircraft while positioning their vehicles for loading or off loading operations. Heavy padding was installed on the British vehicles, but this really didn’t help. The Squadrons aircraft were often loaded far beyond capacity and precious time had to be wasted reloading the aircraft before they could fly south to deliver their precious cargoes. While a Dohazari five C-47s along with eleven officers and ten enlisted men were sent on detached service to the 2nd Air Commando Group for special training. This training program proved to be a readiness move for the upcoming planed British Rangoon invasion. While the above men and aircraft were on detached service a few pilots of the Squadron began transitioning to the Curtiss C-46 transport.

     Again, the Squadrons moved, with the 2nd and 4th Squadrons joining the 3rd Squadron which had finally finished Chinese operations to Holazarhi, India. Here for a short time the three squadrons flew in support of the British Rangoon push. In fact the three Squadrons moved the entire British 9th Brigade south into the combat zone

     On the 1st and 2nd May, 1945 ten aircraft of the 2nd and 4th Squadrons participated in a 40-plane parachute drop over Elephant Point, south of Rangoon. These two Squadrons then aided the Gurkha paratroopers by delivery supplies to the paratroopers they had delivered to Elephant Point.

     After their Rangoon adventure, during May 1944, the 2nd and 3rd Squadrons were assigned to detached service with North Burma Task Force. Here the two Squadrons participated in Operation Disc. Operation Disc was a program to transport men, mules, ordinance, food, and miscellaneous field equipment of the Chinese 6th Army. Most of these flights terminated at Chanyi or Nanning. On June 23, 1944 these two Squadrons were separated from the North Burma Task Force and Operation Disc, and were assigned to the Air Transport Command. Meanwhile the 3rd Squadron continued to support the British 12th Army whose activity was still centered in and around Rangoon.

     The 4th Squadron still pursued its operations into south Burma under control of the British 342nd Wing by supporting the British 12th Army. At the same time the entire 3rd Squadron began transition into the Curtiss Commandos. A training program was worked into the tactical situation by simply training one day and flying air supply flights the next!

     The groups size at this time, including the airdrome squadrons, consisted of 1907 officers, and enlisted men. With such a large group and it’s many moves could have made support logistics very difficult. But good training and careful planing of the Groups Headquarters and the higher echelons involved, more often than not made these moves seem very smooth.

     By the end of June 1944 air operations all but ended, as the Squadrons again moved. Group headquarters was set up at Myitkyina East air field. (This strip, across the Irrawaddy river from the town itself. had been fighter airstrip after the fall of’ Myitkyina and during the advance of the Mars Task Force south towards Bhamo. ) The 3rd Squadron and the 346th Airdrome Squadron were also transferred to Myitkyina East.. The 2nd Squadron and the 345th Airdrome Squadron were sent 70 miles south of Myitkyina to the airfield at Bhamo. While the 4th Squadron and its 347th Airdrome Squadron, the 347th went to Hathazari. Total Group strength at this time was down to only 1,305 officers and enlisted men.

     August, 1945. The Japanese surrender: the war is over! But even the wars end would not prevent the 1st Combat Cargo Group from once again moving. This time the 3rd Squadron and the 346th Airdrome Squadron were transferred to the 10th Air Force on 23 August 1945. Where they made Kunming, China their home. The 4th Squadron and its 347th Airdrome Squadron was also transferred to the 10th Air Force on August 4, 1945. Liuchow, China became their new home. This left only the 2nd Squadron under 1st Combat Cargo Groups control. Remember the 1st Squadron was still operating under detached service and under control of the Chinese-American Composite Wing.

     On 29 August 1944 a radio message was received at Group headquarters ordering the 1st Combat Cargo Group to Liuchow. China, for a special mission. Two days later the move was complete. The 2nd Squadron also received moving orders. They packed up one more time and flew, over the mountains to Peishiyi.

     Some other interesting statistics were revealed during the British push to Rangoon, the 1st Group air crews had dropped 203 parachutists and during that time evacuated l.573 prisoners of war. On the down side of the ledger, the 1st Group lost 40 airplanes in combat. Seven additional aircraft were lost to accidents, not related to combat.

     At the end of September 1945, the 1st Combat Cargo Group was redesignated as the 512th Troop Carrier Group. It’s four Squadrons were redesignated as the 326th, 327th, 328th and 329th Troop Carrier Squadrons.

     On November 12, 1945 the newly redesignated 329th Troop Carrier Squadron (former 4th Combat Cargo Squadron) moved to Shanghai, China. There they boarded the ship "Adabelle Lykes", bound for Camp Stoneman, Ca, where they arrived on December 5, 1945.

     The balance of the Group was finally rotated back to the United States in December 1945. The Group was inactivated on 24 December 1945.

     Since 1947, Air Force Reserve units have continued the heritage that began with the 1st Combat Cargo Group. At Dover AFB, the 512th Airlift Wing, lineal descendent of the 1st CCG/512 TCG oversees the 326th Airlift Squadron, (formerly 1st Combat Cargo Squadron/326th Troop Carrier Squadron), flying the C-5.  The 327th and 328th Airlift Squadrons (formerly 2nd Combat CargoSquadron/32th Troop Carrier Squadron and 3rd Combat Cargo Squadron/327th Troop Carrier Squadron) operate C-130's at NAS Willow Grove, PA and Niagara Falls ARS, NY respectively.

     In fact the 328th Airlift Squadron, in the spring of 1998, adopted the original 3rd Combat Cargo Squadron patch as the basis for it’s new Squadron patch.  The 326th Airlift Squadron patch is based on the 1st Combat Cargo Squadron Patch, while the 327th Airlift Squadron patch is also based on the original 2nd Combat Cargo Squadron patch.    


This short History of the 1st Combat Cargo Group, no way tells the entire group history.  It's sole purpose is to give one an idea of what the Group endured during it's time during the Second World War.  For a more detailed report on the the Groups History, one needs to access the records of the 1st Combat Cargo Group and it's individual Squadrons at the    U.S. Air Force Historical Research Center at Maxwell AFB, Montgomery, AL.  These records are available in microfilm.

Bill Bielauskas rev 4. 2/07/99

References:                                                                                                                                    

 IT BEGAN AT IMPHAL, The Combat Cargo StoryJohn G. Martin, DMV,  1988

The Great Snafu Fleet,  A WW II History of the 1st Combat Cargo Squadron,   M/Sgt. Gerald A. White, 1995

M/Sgt.DaveTarnowski, 328th Airlift Squadron, (AFRC) Niagara Falls NY

S/Sgt. Herb Patton,  4th Combat Cargo Squadron, Combat Cargo Group

Cpl. John Van Lieu , 1st Combat Cargo Group, Headquarters   


Back to 1st Combat Cargo Group Page

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    I am looking for former members of the 3rd Combat Cargo Group,  1st, Combat Cargo Group, 2nd Combat Cargo Group and the 4th Combat Cargo Group.  In fact I would like to hear from anyone who flew over the Hump during WW II, or flew any Combat Cargo Missions at any time (Berlin Air-Lift, Korea, etc) 

Please e-mail comment, suggestions, corrections,etc to: bill@comcar.org

Imphal, the Hump and Beyond  Copyright 1999 , 2000 Bill Bielauskas  All rights reserved.

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