This was a C-87, 42-107262, assigned to the Air Transport Command. The plane crashed on January
25, 1944, with one survivor, on a mission between Jorhat, India and Yangkai, China. Two crewmembers were buried in Section
E Plot 128 at the Zachary Taylor National Cemetery on September 8, 1949.
James T. Cunningham, Jr., Pilot Zachary Taylor National Cemetery
Robert D. Campbell, Copilot Buried at the Honolulu Memorial Cemetery
William R. Gunn – Zachary Taylor National Cemetery
Paul J. Beauchamp – Only survivor
Research by relatives of the crew has revealed this information. There was
one survivor. He bailed out successfully after the pilot gave the order and with the help of Tibetan natives joined the Chinese
army 38 days after the crash. The crash site is in a very remote area of the
"Hump" (The Himalayas) and according to the survivor the Chinese Army made the recovery.
pilot remembered that a helluva storm swept across the area. He told of hail stones that had broken out the canopy of a C-87.
The crew draped GI blankets over their heads for protection. The C-87 wings were normally straight with no dihedral but these
had a decided droop and the aircraft was towed to the junkyard.
This crew was lost when their C-87, 43-30575, crashed in the Himalaya Mountains on March 18, 1944. They were assigned
to the 1st Air Commando Unit that supported the Chindits operating in the Burmese jungle. The British men were
with the 1st Battalion, Lancashire Fusiliers and the Royal Engineers. They were all interred January 26, 1950 in Section E
249-250 at the Zachary Taylor National Cemetery
1/Lt Edwin Stapp
2/Lt Louis H. Veling.
S/Sgt Elmer A Hill Jr
Sgt Howard W. Vorbeck
British Fusilier G.S. Lane
British Fusilier William Henry Mace
British Combat Engineers Sapper F. Still
A sapper may perform a variety of tasks under combat conditions. Such tasks typically include
bridge-building, laying or clearing minefields, demolitions, field defenses as well as building, road and airfield construction
and repair. In other words, the sapper's tasks now involve facilitating movement of allied forces and impeding movement of
the enemy's. This British soldier would be called a combat engineer by the Americans.
“Chindits” was the name given to the Long Range Penetration (LRP) groups that operated
in the Burmese jungle. They were named after the Chinthe, a mythical Burmese beast that was half-lion and half-eagle. To the commander Major General Orde Wingate this symbolized the need for close air-land
co-ordination. The Chindits were the largest
of the allied Special Forces of the 2nd World War and operated deep behind enemy lines in North Burma in the War against Japan. They were trained in Commando methods to infiltrate behind the Japanese lines. For many months they lived in and fought the enemy in the jungles of Japanese
occupied Burma, totally relying on airdrops for their supplies.
were two Chindits expeditions into Burma, the first in February 1943 Operation Longcloth, consisted of a force of 3,000 men
who marched over 1,000 miles during the campaign. The second expedition, Operation Thursday, in March 1944 was on a much larger
scale. It was the second largest airborne invasion of the war and consisted of a force of 20,000 British and Commonwealth
soldiers with air support provided by the United States Army Air Corps, 1st Air Commando Unit. The full force was marched
or landed in the jungle on makeshift air-strips by glider or Dakota aircraft 200 miles behind enemy lines in March 1944. Tragically
their leader, General Wingate, was killed a few weeks after the launch of Operation Thursday. The Chindits were very much
an International Force, which included British, Burma Rifles, Hong Kong Volunteers, Gurkhas and West African Serviceman. The
R.A.F. and First Air Commando Unit of the United States Army Air Corps provided air support.
This B-25 Mitchell, 43-4259, and crew were assigned to the 5318th Provisional Air Unit.
On March 29, 1944 this unit became the 1st Air Commando Group. On
March 4, 1944 the aircraft departed Hailkandi, India with the intended destination of the Irrawaddy River on a combat mission.
The plane crashed near Rangoon, Burma. On September 29, 1949 the four crewmembers were buried in Section E Site 172 at the
Zachary Taylor National Cemetery.
1/Lt Dillard, Murrell J.
S/Sgt Klaus, Joe B.
T/Sgt Postlewait, William H.
Pfc Winn. William J.
CHINDITS Special Force Burma 1942-1944
1st Air Commando, USAAF
Project 9 At the Quebec Conference, the United States offered to support the
2nd Chindit offensive into Burma with American air power.
General Henry H. (Hap) Arnold, Commander of U.S. Army
Air Forces, who was always keen to explore new ways of using air power, selected two young veteran fighter pilots, Lt. Col.
Philip G. Cochran and Lt. Col. John Alison, to devise and assemble an aerial task force to meet the needs of the Chindit operation.
objective was to build a lean, self-sufficient force capable of sustained operations for up to 90 days, operating during the
dry season before the monsoon. This operation was given the codename Project 9.
After discussions with Wingate, the Americans came up with the idea of flying in the Chindit force into Burma to save weeks
of jungle marching. This was to be the first ever aerial invasion in history.
Cochran and Alison identified the main
roles of the aerial task force to be,
- fly-in of troops
- evacuation of casualties
- supplies by air
- air superiority
To meet these requirements the aerial task force was to consist of the following three main elements,
1. An airlift force with gliders and transport planes for the fly-in and transport of supplies.
For this role the following planes were selected,
C-47 Skytrain/Dakotas for their ability to carry heavy loads and
for use with short landing strips.
UC-64 Norseman planes for smaller loads and utility work.
Waco CG-4A large
2. An assault force with fighters and bombers for attack, close air support and to establish the required
air superiority. The planes used for this were,
P-51A Mustang fighters which were excellent for dive bombing and strafing.
Mitchell bombers, an attack version armed with canon and machine guns in the nose for forward firing allowing it to act as
a gunship as well as a bomber. These were flown by fighter pilots.
3. A light plane force for evacuating the sick and
L-1 Vigilant and L-5 Sentinel were selected as both could operate from crude airstrips in jungle clearings.
Six experimental helicopters were also included in the light plane force for rescue missions.
The force assembled by Cochran and
Alison consisted of 523 men and the following aircrafts,
Light Planes (L-1/L-5)
Large Transports (C-47)
Small Transports (UC-64)
5318th Provisional Unit (Air) The force was assembled in America and then transported to India during
November and December 1943. On their arrival in India they were moved to two bases in the Assam region, 100 miles west of
the Burma border. The transport and gilder planes were stationed at Lalaghat and HQ, fighters and bombers went to Hailakandi.
The light plane force was divided between the two bases.
Once in India the unit was re-designated the 5318th
Provisional Unit (Air). The unit's planes were given markings of five white diagonal stripes banding the fuselage behind the
cockpit. These markings were to give the unit an identification and also "to let the Japanese know who was dominating the
skies of Burma".
Airborne Engineers 5318th was then joined by the 900th Airborne Engineer Company. They were equipped with air transportable
tractors, road graders and bulldozers, they would be flown into Burma by gilders and it was their role to construct the airstrips
behind enemy lines for use by the transport planes.
training exercises with the Chindits commenced on 29th December 1943. Mechanisms for transporting the animals were devised
and rehearsals of towing gliders and landing them with Chindits on board were carried out. The procedures to be used for directing
air strikes by radio from RAF officers on the ground were developed and airdrop of supplies were also practised.
Any Place, Any Time, Anywhere One training mission went tragically wrong when two gilders on tow collided
with each other during takeoff resulting in one of the gliders crashing killing the 3 Americans and 4 British troops on board.
The Americans had feared that this accident would mean that the British would now be less willing to fly with them, instead
they received a note from a Chindit commander saying "Please be assured that we will go with your boys any place, any time,
anywhere". This phrase became the motto of the unit.
1st Air Commando Group The unit commenced operations in February 1944 attacking enemy targets in Burma
to prepare for the Chindit invasion.
In March the 5318th PUA was officially named 1st Air Commando Group.
well as supporting the Chindits directly the 1st Air Commando also contributed by attacking the enemy's transport systems
and supply centres. Targets included road and railway bridges, warehouses, truck conveys and river barges.
Chindit fly-in, Operation Thursday, was launched on 5th of March 1944 with 1st Air Commando spearheading the invasion.
Operation Thursday officially ended on 12th March after the successful fly-in of 2 Chindit brigades behind enemy lines without
Japanese knowledge or interference. The unit then continued with its support role.
Air Superiority Air superiority was vital to the Chindit operation. The Chindits were totally dependant
on air supplies and it was vital that transport planes could always get through and that the Chindits were not subject to
heavy Japanese air attacks.
On 8th March an attack was launched against a Japanese airbase successfully destroying
48 enemy planes, this was one fifth of the known Japanese air force.
Enemy planes did not shoot down any transport
or light plane during the entire operation. Air superiority was achieved with significant contribution from the Air Commandos.
Close Air Support The Chindit columns did not possess artillery, instead this was provided by the 1st
Air Commandos in the form of 'aerial artillery'.
Mortar smoke was used to identify the target area and RAF officers
on the ground would direct the air strikes against enemy positions using radio. Great accuracy was achieved and the close
air support proved very successful. The accuracy achieved by this method allowed enemy in close proximity to be attacked from
the air. Newly developed rockets were used in combat for the first time.
Evacuation In the first month of operation over 1,000 Chindit casualties were evacuated by light planes. The L-1 was supposed
to carry a maximum of 3 passengers but was known to sometimes carry as many as 6 to 7.
Casualties were normally flown
to Broadway and then transferred to transport planes to continue their journey back to India. Urgent cases were flown directly
to India by the light planes.
Helicopters When a L-1 plane, carrying 3 wounded,
had to make a forced landing in Japanese controlled territory was rescued by helicopter, it made aviation history with the
first ever combat rescue mission. In total the helicopters flew 23 sorties rescuing 18 Chindits.
Withdrawal Wingate only
expected his men to be able to operate effectively behind enemy lines for a maximum of 90 days, therefore the air task force
was only planned and designed to operate for 90 days.
Withdrawal was planned for 1st May but with the movement of the
Chindit force towards Mogaung and the establishment of the new Blackpool block, the 1st Air Commando agreed to extend the
operations for a few weeks at the request of the Chindits.
The monsoon season then started and the arrival of the rain
hampered missions and made the runways at the bases inoperable. 1st Air Commando finally withdrew with the last plane leaving
Hailakandi on 23rd May.
The 1st Air Commando had played a critical role by providing an airborne weapon to the Chindits
on the ground.
General Henry H. (Hap) Arnold coined the term "Air Commando" in early 1944. This term referred to a group of Air Corps
personnel established in India to support British long-range penetration forces in Burma. Its lineage began with the highly
secret Project 9, the organizing and recruiting stages in the United States. Project 9 became the 5318th Provisional Group
(Air) in India, which airlifted British General Orde Wingate’s Special Forces into Burma during Operation THURSDAY in
March 1944. Before the end of the month, it had changed, in name only, to the 1st Air Commando Group (1 ACG).
This B-24, 42-41253, was assigned to the Air Transport Command,
1330 Army Air Force Base Unit. The plane was lost on a cargo hauling mission from Jorhat, India to Chengkung, China on March
19, 1945 when it exploded in midair. (MACR 13130) Five men on board lost their lives. 2 crew members were buried at Zachary
Taylor National Cemetery on site E031 on April 8,1949.
Raymond Armoska, Captain, Pilot
Bryan R. Gilliam, Flight Officer
The Air Transport Command
did play a very large and important part in the China-Burma-India (CBI) Theater during the Second World War.
In early 1942 the Imperial Japanese armed forces completed final isolation
of China by land and sea when they invaded Burma. This cut off supplies to China moving over the Burma Road, the last
remaining land route capable of handling large loads of military supplies in support of China’s war against Japan.
The only remaining access to China was by air. The only air route available was over far northern Burma.
This aerial route crossed
over a generally north-south spur of the Himalaya Mountains, the “Hump”. Highest elevations along the route
extended from approximately 16,000 feet MSL to the north to approximately 12,000 feet MSL to the far south. The
mountain valleys of northern Burma contained dense jungles, occupied by uncivilized native tribes and wild animals.
The eastern end of the route fell over the mountainous and plateau area of western China enroute to the main Yunnan province
airbase at Kunming. Other satellite airports in the general area of Kunming were also used.
This was a start-from-scratch operation. There was no precedent for it.
The route was an area of extremely violent weather, with a wet monsoon weather period occurring from May to October, and heavy
thunderstorms, severe aircraft icing and extremely strong winds aloft occurring during the winter months. Navigational
facilities were poor and dependable weather reports were scarce. Initially no air traffic control was available, except for
terminal control towers. All instrument approaches were non-precision approaches, normally made on low frequency homing
The operation began in April 1942, and lasted until November 15, 1945, a
period of approximately 3 ½ years. The first operation occurred when the U. S. Army 10th Air Force, based
in the Assam Valley, hauled gasoline and oil from India to China for refueling the Doolittle Raiders following their raid
The main Hump operation
started in May 1942, from far western India, with 27 DC-3 aircraft (converted U. S. airliners) and approximately 1,100 support
personnel provided by the USAAF Ferry Command who were attached to the 10th AF. During the first two months
of operation 96 tons of supplies were carried to China. Additional Douglas C-47s were provided for the operation later
in 1942 and in early 1943. During the early days flights were generally conducted as daytime, VFR operations.
Living conditions in the humid, jungle-like atmosphere of the Assam Valley were very primitive.
Personnel lived in tents and bamboo bashas. Food was military C-rations as no eating off base was permitted for health
reasons. Dysentery and malaria were always health threats. All drinking water had to be purified before use.
Personnel had to sleep in mosquito net covered beds. Entertainment was very limited.
Other aerial supply operations over and around the Hump area were conducted by the Troop Carrier and Combat
Cargo Commands of the 10th Air Force, Air Transport Squadrons of the 20th Air Force and combat operations
by the 10th, 14th and 20th Air Forces. These operations were conducted primarily in
support of their Command objectives.