64th TROOP CARRIER GROUP



Source:  Imphal, The Hump and Beyond - U.S.A.A.F. Combat Cargo Groups of the Second World War

64th Troop Carrier Group
Detached Service in the CBI

With the Japanese assault on the Indian City of Imphal in full swing and not enough transport aircraft to aid in the supplying and relieving the beleaguered British Garrison, it became very evident that another Transport Group would be required immediately in the Theater. 

On 1 April 1944 the 16th, 17th, 18th and 35th Troop Carrier Squadrons of the 64th Troop Carrier Group   were notified that they, along with the 4th TCS of the 62nd TCG, were to leave forthwith for detached service in the China-Burma-India Theater of Operations.

The 35th Squadron, first to take off, left the airdrome at 0600 on 2 April 1944.  The other squadrons followed, and the last plane got away on 5 April.  The trip was made via Bengasi, Cairo, Abadan, Karachi, and Geya.  After reaching their destination, the 16th and 17th Squadrons began operations from Lalmai, Lower Bengal, and then from Dinjan, Upper Assam - and RAF 216 Squadron working out of Chandina, the Group through April, May, and the first half of June was instrumental in supplying Merrill's Marauders in the Ft. Hetz Valley and 170,000 troops besieged at Imphal.  According to one authority, the war in Burma was shortened two years by reason of the troop carrier units' heroic contribution.  And a truly heroic contribution it was.

"This was an entirely different type of warfare than ever encountered by this group.  The cooperation of the 10th AF was splendid.  Weather conditions were awful.  Loads varied from 5500 lbs.  Minimum to 7000 lbs. maximum with a full load of gas.  All parachutes and pararacks were discarded.  Crews at times flew days and nights.  One radio operator flew 240 hours in 30 days with no relief.  Crews often consisted of pilot, radio operator, and either a crew chief or navigator.  C-47s assigned to operate in CBI Theater are equipped with two 50 Cal. machine guns.  (The 64th's planes were unarmed and unarmored)... Every sortie flown was over Jap lines and our aircraft were constantly being alerted for Zeros...."

The alerts were not idle ones.  One of the Group's C-47s was jumped by two Zeros, one of which crashed into the tail of the transport and sheared off all but a foot of the vertical stabilizer; the Zero crashed, and the pilot of the C-47 received credit for downing one Jap.  Skillful pilotage landed the C-47 at a friendly base without injury to crew members.  Another of the Group's aircraft was jumped by three Zeros; the pilot, through evasive action, made his escape from them.  After the plane was safely landed, it was found to have more than a hundred bullet holes in it; the radio operator and fifteen passengers were wounded in the one-sided fight.  Another C-47, jumped by three Zeros, was shot down, landing in a swamp.  All crew members were wounded but made their way to Allied lines.  Still another of the Group's planes had its aileron controls shot away, but was landed safely at a friendly base.  The attacking Zero crashed; since the claim could not be substantiated, the pilot received credit only for a probable.

The 64th's C-47s frequently flew as many as three round trips a day into the Imphal Valley.  Every sortie meant two pay loads.  Replacements, food, ammunition, and other supplies were flown in; casualties and "useless mouths" were flown out.

"During April only 744 sick and wounded men were evacuated but in May the fighting was much heavier, and the number flown out rose to 4,400.  The characteristic determination of the Japanese to fight on even though defeat was inevitable made June the bloodiest month of all, and 5,295 casualties were evacuated, making a total for the whole battle of 10,439...."

The "useless mouths" were "the administrative and logistic personnel, military and civilian, who had been needed when Imphal was a supply base but who had so little combat capability that they were a burden when the Plain became a battlefield."

"From a tactical point of view, the evacuation of useless mouths from Imphal was more important than the evacuation of casualties.  Almost half the approximately 50,000 service troops in the Plain walked out over the Bishenpur-Silchar Track before that route was cut by the Japanese, but the remainder were flown out by transports which had unloaded supplies on the Plain.  The number flown out during April was only 550, but in May almost 27,000 departed by air.  The largest number carried out on any one day was 2,600 on 14 May, but more than 2,000 were lifted on two days, and more than 1,000 on twelve days.  The movement of useless mouths was almost completed during May, leaving 2,190 to be evacuated during June."

The Group lost a total of seven planes during its stay in Burma.  A C-47 belonging to the 35th Squadron left Dinjan, India, and was never heard from after take-off; it was believed to have crashed into a mountain in Burma.  The members of the crew, all of whom-except the radio operator-were from the 2nd Troop Carrier Squadron, were listed as Missing in Action; the radio operator was a member of the 35th Squadron.  Several members of the Group were wounded.

The Tenth Air Force awarded to members of the five AAF Squadrons that participated in the Burmese operations 197 Distinguished Flying Crosses; including 3 Oak Leaf Clusters; 294 Air Medals, including 90 Clusters; and 5 Purple Hearts.

Although the 64th's Detached Services in the CBI was originally intended to end in May 1944, it was actually mid-June before the wanderers got back to the MTO and their base at Comiso, Sicily, MTO.

Prepared by USAF Historical Division, Research Studies Institute, Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama, September 1956.


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