(Courtesy of Mr. Lee Schnur, 2nd ATS)


By Tillman Durdin
New York Times
December 28, 1944


Self-contained Mobile Air Transport "Task Forces" capable of shifting operations rapidly from one base to another are providing one of the solutions for the problem of transporting troops and materials quickly from one place to another across the vast, rugged expanses of the China and India war theatres.

Officially known as Air Transport Squadrons, these specially trained and equipped units are one of the means the India-China Division of the Air Transport Command has developed for meeting the extraordinary demand for air transportation in Northwest China and other war areas where ground transportation facilities are meager and distances are great.

Each mobile Air Transport Squadron possesses all personnel and equipment necessary for the operation of an Air Transport Base, for ground duties and for flying. Yet personnel and equipment are kept at such a low minimum of men and effects that both can be loaded aboard the squadron's own planes and in a few hours be flown to a new base for the performance of new tasks.

The first air transport task force to operate on a fully mobile basis on the Asiatic mainland is the Air Transport Squadron Mobile. This squadron is based at a Yunnan airfield from which it engages in particularly hazardous air transport sorties, ranging from Burma to East, Central, and North China. The Squadron's performance has been outstandingly efficient and successful and is serving as a prototype for other new transport outfits being formed.


The squadron has big Curtiss Commandos of the new type used by the hundreds in the India-China Division since Air Transport Command pioneered in the use of Commandos in military air transportation over the Hump between India and China last year. Besides crews to fly the planes the squadron has men to maintain them on the ground and engineering equipment necessary for all kinds of repairs except major reconstruction jobs.

The squadron has the staff and equipment needed for the operation of an air base, from radio control functions to the planning and ordering of sorties. The unit even has its own ground transportation, six jeeps with trailers. It has its own Post Exchange, its own ordnance supplies, its own finance and personnel staff, equipment for its own mess and its own tents for housing the several hundred men.

Everything is completely portable, even the appurtenances of the squadron's own Officers' Club, of the Enlisted Men's Club and of the snack restaurant. The squadron recently demonstrated the mobility of its type of aerial task force when it left a base in India and transferred to China.

It got orders to move at 3 P.M. and by 8 o'clock the next morning had packed all equipment and supplies plus sixty-five pounds of personnel luggage for each man, had loaded everything on planes and was ready to depart. Though all set to go, the squadron did not get orders to leave until late in the day.


The next day found the squadron in Yunnan Province in China. Within the hour after the squadron's planes had landed, loads and men had been hustled off, the operations staff and equipment had been assembled at one side of the airfield and planes had begun taking off on sorties connected with the squadron's new assignment.

Within a few hours time the squadron under the Executive's supervision, A.J. Luck of Tucumcari, New Mexico, had fully established itself at the new base. Tents had been erected for housing the men and plane maintenance was under way in and around a tent that sheltered the Engineering Section. As in other ATC Mobile Squadrons its equipment is specially selected or designed to facilitate quick packing and loading.

The shift to China was the fourth in eight months for the squadron. It was organized in the United States from specially picked high-grade personnel collected from many air stations and was a Bomber Support Group for the XX Bomber Command.

It picked up everything overnight at Homestead, Florida, and flew to Egypt, where it was set up in a few hours and operated for two and one half weeks. During this period the squadron pioneered in special Casablanca-to-Karachi air transport.


When orders came suddenly for another move the men were summoned, some from their baths and others from Cairo hotel verandas, and the Squadron picked up and moved in a few hours to India.

Present duties involve some of the most hazardous transport flying in the world, in comparison with which the squadron pilots call the Hump Route the Milk Run. Squadron planes are now flying supplies almost within artillery range of the Japanese, shuttling men and cargoes all the way from snow-covered Northwest China to the jungles of North Burma.

The Squadron Commander is Major Frank Sylvester of Santa Barbara, California, a lanky 37-year old flying man with a long record as a civilian pilot and in Army ferrying jobs. His outfit is known as Sylvester's Circus, a highly appropriate cognomen for a tent-living, fast-moving, free-and-easy, high performance organization such as this Mobile Transport Squadron.


1st Lt., Air Corps
Public Relations Officer
2nd Air Transport Sq. (Mobile)

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