1943 - 1945
Fourteenth Air Force Operated primarily in China during WWII, and subsequently served ADC, CAC, and the AFR. Established as Fourteenth AF 5 Mar 1943. Activated 10 Mar 1943 at Kunming, China, assigned to US Army Forces, China-Burma-India Theater. Assigned to US Forces, China Theater, c.24 Oct 1944. To Peishyi, China, 7 Aug 1945 and to Fort Lawton WA 5 Jan 1946. Inactivated 6 Jan 1946.
"By May 1942, the Japanese Army completed their conquest of Burma, leaving China accessible to the outside world only by air. Every item of equipment, from buttons to ammunition had to be flown from India over the towering Himalayan range (nicknamed 'the Hump') to China. The 500 mile route combined obstacles such as bad weather, forbidding terrain, and attacks by Japanese fighter planes, which made flying the Hump the most dangerous transport operation of the war." - -
This well stated excerpt from A Brief History of the Fourteeth Air Force offers a lead-in to difficult accomplishments of that prestigious organization, as well as highlighting the efforts which the cargo crews had to overcome to keep supplies flowing to the combatants in China.
At this time the American Volunteer Group, the 'Flying Tigers', was completing its one year contract, leaving an outstanding record of kill/loss ratio against enemy aircraft, as well as an enviable ground target record. Chennault, recalled to active duty with the rank of Bigadier General, assumed command of the "China Air Task Force" (CATF) and the 23rd Fighter Group, which absorbed the aircraft and some of the pilots of the AVG. The CATF was assigned the primary mission of defending the southern and eastern approaches to the Hump and the transport terminals in China. Chennault employed rapid mobility, the element of surprise, and some subterfuge, such as repainting spinners and tailnumbers, to efectively keep the enemy guessing. His strategies were so effective that a Tokyo radio announcer vowed, late in 1942, to destroy the Chennault's 200 aircraft, when, in reality the CATF had but 29 operational aircraft at the time!
Unfortunately, all of the supplies which the overburdened C-47 aircraft and their Air Transport Command crews were able to get over the Hump were still insufficient to support the three main recipients, Chiang Kai-shek, General Stilwell's Chinese troops, and Chennault's CATF. The CATF was subordinate to the Tenth Air Force, and the priorities for the disposition of supplies were set by Generals Bissel (10th AF Commander) and Stillwell (Theater Commander). In addition to the CATF's stock of gasoline, munitions and spare parts being at the end of the world's longest supply line, the portion allocated to the CATF was at the discretion of men with whom Chennault had major differences. The difficult became the nearly impossible, for the CATF.
Much like its predecessor, the AVG, the guerilla-like CATF had to fight with what it had, while living up to its inherited tradition and reputation. In addition to the constant lack of parts and munitions, everything had to come across the Hump, sufficient numbers of personnel were lacking as well. Pilots working alongside mechanics and armorers to ready the aircraft for combat was almost a normal occurance. The tools and ground transportation available, had all been inherited from the AVG, as had the "Flying Tigers" nom de plume. During its months of trials and tribulations the CATF was sent additional combat units by the AAF.
On 5 Mar 1943, by special order of President Roosevelt, the "Flying Tiger" organization was constituted as Fourteenth Air Force, and activated in China on 10 March with Gen Chennault commanding. Taking over for the China Air Task Force, to be the USAAF's China air command, the organization's original combat components were the same as those of the CATF, including the 23rd Fighter Group with the 74th, 75th, 76th and 16th Fighter Squadrons and with 11th Bomb Squadron (341st Bomb Group) attached. Being created in a war zone made the Fourteenth unique among number Air Forces. This uniqueness carried over in its being the first to be dependent on an airlited supply line, and its being the only one to operate in an area of the longest coninuous aerial combat by an American force against the Japanese. Effectively, the Forteenth had been established for a particular leader - - Claire L. Chennault.
The outstanding accomplishments of the AVG and the CATF, along with the Flying Tigers logo, were inherited by the Fouteenth, along with General Chennault's thorough knowledge of enemy tactics, his experience at countering those tactics and the experienced, effective ching pao air raid notifcation system.
During the next fourteen months it would grow to four fighter groups, two bomb groups, a photo recon squadron and a troop carrier squadron.
We believe that Kenn C. Rust & Stephen Muth best sum up the Fourteenth's activities in their book, 'Fourteenth Air Force Story'. Quoting from pages 10 & 11 of that book:
"The mission of the Fourteenth in the days to come -- based in part on policies evolved by the CATF -- would be sixfold:All in all, a very limited number of planes and men, under the most difficult of conditions, had placed the Fourteenth Air Force in the ranks of great military organizations.
The Fourteenth Air Force moved to the US in Dec 1945-Jan 1946, and was inactivated on 6 Jan 1946.