9:45 | Fred Chiao’s 29th Squadron never lost any of the young American pilots flying for him. But he had to venture toward enemy territory in a small trainer to rescue one who had bailed out.
Keywords : Fred Chiao China Japan rescue bail out PT-19 trainer
As Japan overran much of China, Fred Chiao and other young Chinese airmen had to keep moving to stay ahead of the occupation. They finished their training despite the national crisis.
There were two lucky breaks in the Chinese air war, the arrival of Claire Chenault and the availability of surplus P-40’s. Fred Chiao recognized the genius of Chenault, but he says that flying the P-40 was like driving a truck.
Fighter Pilot Fred Chiao says the Chinese pilots were not impressed with the P-40 aircraft. The promise they heard was that the coming P-46 and P-66 would be improved. After all, the model number was higher, right?
Chinese pilot Fred Chiao remembers how homesick the young Americans were, sent to the Chinese front from their farms back home. But they got to rotate out after 24 missions while the Chinese got no reprieve from the fight for their homeland.
Chinese fighter pilot Fred Chiao was credited with shooting down 4½ Japanese planes. The first was after an emergency scramble when his base was attacked. He shrugs off the rest as “nothing” since the best enemy pilots had been sent to the Pacific front.
Memories of the air war against the Japanese, for Fred Chiao, include a non-pursuit policy, the use of horses for transportation by the enemy, the difference between a good leader and a good pilot and the art of signaling by aircraft movement.
Fred Chiao gave his P-40 a Chinese name and lovingly sanded the skin to make it smooth, but he had to bail out when he was hit while attacking advancing Japanese troops. Fighting for control of the plane, he realized a bullet had pierced his jaw.
When he bailed out, Chinese pilot Fred Chiao crawled in a winter rice paddy looking for water to drink. A blow from behind meant he was discovered but he saw a Tommy gun and knew he was in the hands of friendlies.
Recounting his travels and recovery after being shot down, Fred Chiao also remembers how he had no time to be afraid during the attack. Instinct and training took over. Only later, in the hospital, did he feel fear.
Chinese pilot Fred Chiao visited Japanese POW’s and tried to find the pilot who shot him down. He fondly recalls General MacArthur as a “wonderful soldier for history" and asserts that many later conflicts could have been avoided by listening to him.
Former WWII Chinese fighter pilot Fred Chiao was recruited by Col. Ed Rector to help build a new Chinese Air Force on Taiwan. Regional politics ensued as President Marcos used Clark Air Force Base as a bargaining chip with Washington.
Chinese pilot Fred Chiao tells how the ground crews of the Chinese American Composite Wing got around the language barrier. They only needed three words.
Bill Garrison was standing in a chow line when a man up the line suddenly dropped, shot dead by a sniper. That was only one hazard at the air fields in China; the others being Japanese air raids and infiltrators. (This interview made possible with the support of COL ROBERT W. RUST, USMCR (ret.) in honor of LtGen Lawrence Snowden & LtGen George Christmas.)
It was their third mission over Berlin and they were heading home. Four German fighters pounced on the B-24 and it was engulfed in flame and going down. Clyde Burnette fought for consciousness as the other crew in the back of the plane bailed out. He woke in free fall with no idea how he had made it out, and soon he was in German custody. Everyone made it out of the plane except George "Danny" Daneau, the nose turret gunner, who went down with the aircraft.
Two engines were out, a third smoking, and they were were losing airspeed and altitude, but they were flying level and pointed home. Then time ran out for the B-17 and Don Scott had to slip down the hatch into the slipstream. Part 2 of 3.
After a nerve-wracking mission to bomb Tokyo and a typhoon, B.E. Vaughan and the destroyer O'Brien suffered a second kamikaze attack which killed all three of his hometown pals who served with him on board. Then, began the grim task of collecting the personal belongings of the dead and preparing them for burial at sea.
The first operation for the 4th Division was the landing on Roi-Namur. Lawrence Snowden remembers that, though it was an easy victory, valuable combat experience and important lessons were imparted on the Marines.
B-24 navigator Jim Fleming describes the shell burst that caused his hearing loss. They gave him a Purple Heart for that, but he suffers more from the rough landing he took when he bailed out at 300 feet. He was told to just go back to work after that one.
Like many other young men, Harold Ford joined the ASTP program that sent draftees to college to study engineering. That lasted exactly one semester before the Army decided that it needed infantry more than engineers. It wasn't long before he was at the front line on the Rhine, where it was eerily quiet, except for that time he tried to see across the river.
When the German fighters attacked, the B-24's tightened their formation. The fighters were making a pass and turning up on one wing to slip through the tight space between the bombers. Jim Fleming describes what happened when one of the German pilots made a slight miscalculation.
It was a former Italian air base. The buildings were old and shabby and there was no heat or running water. The first thing Jim Fleming saw when he landed was a dead gunner who'd taken a direct hit from a 20 mm shell, which got his sober attention. He describes the dangerous flak faced on every mission and the relentless German fighters. For a short while, his tail gunner was shooting down German planes on every mission, so naturally, higher ups had to take action.
It was the coldest winter in twenty five years. Harold Ford was a mortar squad leader along the Rhine just before the Battle of the Bulge broke out. When it started, his division was left to hold a line that had been manned by seven divisions. The others headed north to join the fray and, meanwhile, three SS divisions headed his way.
The new man in Jim Fleming's barracks was known as Jojo. He had to bail out soon after he started flying missions and word soon came that he had been rescued by Yugoslav partisans and was on an island. The squadron commander wouldn't risk a flight to pick him up, so the men decided to take matters in their own hands.
He had been a POW in Germany, but after returning home, Harold Ford was still on active duty. After an interesting interlude as an MP, he got orders to prepare to go to the Pacific. Apparently, the Japanese heard that he was coming and promptly surrendered.
After navigator Jim Fleming flew 52 combat missions out of Italy, he went back to the States where he flew air and sea rescue missions. He had to leave that position after there was an issue over proper navigation. The system had beaten him again. Then he volunteered to be on a crew shuttling a C-46 to Burma. After that bad idea, he finished out the war at the least loved airfield in the country. Still, he laughed at it all.
Why volunteer for an unknown "rugged mission" in an unknown location? James Richardson thought he might get an overdue furlough. That didn't happen and he wound up in India, where the people and the wildlife were unlike anything he'd ever seen. As he marched toward the Himalayas, he was told to drop something he'd carried every day in the Army.
In the fight to retake Gambsheim, Harold Ford first had to dodge some friendly fire, then had to hide from some German tanks. With two others from his mortar squad, he hunkered down with a dozen wounded GI's and some French civilians in the cellar of a train station. They hid for hours, but, eventually, there came a sound from the top of the stairs.
When the city of Myitkyina and it's air strip was captured by Merrill's Marauders, it was the end of the mission for the famed unit. James Richardson had been in the field so long surviving on meager rations that he could hardly eat his victory dinner when he got back to India.
Jim Fleming had it in mind to become a pilot when he enlisted in the Army Air Corps. He qualified for pilot, navigator and bombardier, so when he was unfairly washed out of pilot training at the very end, he started over as a navigator.
When the draft came for Willie Weaver, he went to infantry training and prepared to ship out to Okinawa, but he got sick and missed the boat. All his friends were gone and, when he recovered, he was sent to Fort Benning as part of the training cadre. After the war, he began to question why the Army was segregated at the time.
The building was big and old and cold. The coal ration for the week lasted about thirty minutes and POW Harold Ford spent a lot of time in his bunk under a blanket. When the front approached the camp, he joined a long column of prisoners marching southward.
He didn't hear or see the source, but a piece of shrapnel hit James Richardson in the shoulder. He begged a reluctant buddy to dig it out with a knife, then got it dressed by a medic. He was told he could be evacuated, but that wasn't the way the way men thought in this particular unit.
B-24 navigator Jim Fleming was hit by some shrapnel, but it didn't penetrate his flak vest. He came a lot closer to dying when he had to bail out just as his plane reached safety in England. He couldn't convince the crew chief to jump and his refusal cost him dearly.
As he was recuperating in a hospital in the Philippines, Jack Fletcher befriended a nurse who made the rounds among the wounded troops. When he found out she was getting married, he made a beautiful gesture that only an aviator could make.
It was April of 1945 and thousands of American POW's were on the march as their German captors made them move in advance of the approaching front. The guards began deserting and Harold Ford was free on the road, but he went into the camp in Munich because there was food in there. Then, one day, came the sound of American machine guns.
There were plenty of interesting sights when Jack Fletcher landed in Japan. The C-47 crew chief was part of the supply effort for the occupation shortly after the war's end. He had no trouble there, but when he got back to Okinawa, he had to spend a long night during a typhoon trying to keep his aircraft safe.
After a long series of short hops, B-24 navigator Jim Fleming was in North Africa, waiting for the final flight to his destination in Italy. He drove a jeep to get coffee and donuts, which was the crew's only sustenance, when someone from another crew demanded he turn over the jeep. The guy was big, but Jim had some backup.
When Patton's army liberated the prison camp in Munich, the feeling for Harold Ford was indescribable. He had only been a prisoner for a few months, but he had dwindled to about a hundred pounds. He began to make up for this on the trip home.
Jack Fletcher's troop carrier squadron moved from New Guinea to Leyte, where there was still fighting. He just missed some Japanese paratroopers who landed on the other side of the air strip. While temporarily withdrawn to the beach during that battle, some Red Cross coffee was denied them, at least on a free basis. When it came time to transport those folks, it was payback time.