CHINESE-AMERICAN COMPOSITE WING



Ex-CBI Roundup
May 1958 Issue

By Samuel M. Chao
Reprinted from China Correspondent, 1944


A GULL-WINGED Mitchell bomber with the white sun of China painted on its body dove through a hole in the clouds upon a Japanese freighter. The Chinese pilot pressed his fire contrcl button and streams of bullets poured into the ship. A bomb skipped over the blue waves and cut the ship in two. The American navigator of the plane, watching the pilot with a critical eye, put up his thumb and yelled, "Ting Hao!" - a Chinese expression roughly translated as "tops!"

The Chinese pilot smiled and called his answer, in purest American, "O.K."

The navigator and the pilot, with the help of other American and Chinese members of the crew, have sunk another vessel which Japan could not afford to lose.

The Chinese American Composite Wing (CACW) is a force of Chinese and American airmen trained side by side, flying wing tip to tip, fighting shoulder to shoulder. Officially part of the Chinese Air Force, the command is entrusted by the Generalissimo to Major General Claire L. Chennault. The Composite Wing is equipped with modern American planes, uses battle proven American aerial tactics, operates from Chinese bases with the help of Chinese intelligence. To the Americans, its value lies in the striking power is adds to the 14th Air Force. To the Chinese it is the punch of a powerful Chinese air arm.

The CACW is General Chennault's baby. Plans for the composite wing were suggested to Lt. Gen. H. H. Arnold. U. S. Army Air Corps Chief, by General Chennault not more than a year ago (1943). Quick action set up the Chinese-American Operations Training Unit in India, where planes and gasoline were more readily available. Group after group of Chinese and American pilots flew in from China and America. Under the dazzling blue Indian skies these men spent hundreds of hours flying B-25's and P-40's, and in studying tactics, motors and equipment. Dark blue fatigue suits of the Chinese mingle with the khaki of the American GI's on the field. The cordial atmosphere makes visitors think that two groups of men are working together, not that one is teaching and the other being taught.

China Theater

After completing their training in India, the men of the CACW fly their planes to China. Flying the Hump is no easy task and a successful flight is recorded as a "mission accomplished." The rugged Himalayas offer few places for forced landings. Treacherous air currents play havoc with the light fighter planes.

Lt. Lung Cheng-tseh, flight leader in the Flying Dragon Fighter Squadron was flying his P-40 ever the Hump when his engine stopped dead above a mass of jagged peaks. He turned back trying to glide to safety. After losing 10,000 feet of altitude and finding himself trapped below the snow-clad peaks, his engine suddenly picked up again. Lt. Lung was bathed in sweat when he landed on an airfield in India, and the hot sun was not the cause.

The first squadrons of the CACW went into action in China within five months of the day when General Chennault first spoke of a composite wing to Lt. Gen. Arnold. Two days after Armistice Day, 1943, four flights of Mitchells were sent on a sea sweep off the Kwangtung and Fukien coasts. They sank two Japanese freighters and a gunboat at the cost of one bomber lost, due to bad weather. One month later fighter squadrons arrived and the CACW became an increasing danger to the Japanese.

The fast-moving, heavily-armed B-25's of the CACW bombardment squadrons are among the most flown bombers in the world. Only extra heavy overcasts and rains keep them on the ground. Otherwise the planes are always active ranging the Tongking Gulf to the south, the Formosan Strait to the east and the Yangtze valley to the north. One bombardment group carried out 92 missions in four months, averaging three missions every four days. Another squadron sank 36 Japanese ships of a total of 101,626 tons, not counting probables.

The Bomber Pilots

The pilots of the CACW bombardment groups are famous among their Chinese and American comrades as fine formation fliers. Lt. George F. Grottle of the "Flying Submarine" squadron of the 14th Air Force once flew a mission with Chinese piloted bombers. He looked to the right and found a Mitchell almost sawing off the wing of his plane. Turning to the left he saw another Mitchell almost touching his left wing. He nosed down to shake off the two only to find that they had followed as if attached to his ship. He pulled up sharply. The two planes followed like two shadows. After this he did not look back again. He knew the CACW planes were in expert hands. Since then he has nothing but praise for the Chinese who fly B-25's.

The courage of the Chinese is so high that it sometimes amounts to recklessness. In a river sweep on the lower Yangtze at the beginning of March, American trained 2nd Lt. Chang Tien-min found several Japanese gunboats and river steamers anchored in a river bend protected on three sides by hills. He knew that anti-aircraft fire from the gunboat and gun positions on the hills would be too heavy for him to face alone. Nevertheless, he dived in for an attack. Fellow pilots saw him sweep across the river 100 feet above the water, saw him attack and sink one of the steamers. He was seen no more. The attack was suicidal and he knew it. But he had a job to do, and he did it.

The Crew

Navigators, bombardiers and gunners have their share of honor. Colonel Branch has great praise for the late Lt. Chou Ming-ho. The colonel said he was one of the best navigators in any air force. "Chou navigated by instinct. His estimated time of arrival never missed the mark by a minute. In the three days of January 23 to 25, Mitchells attacked and sank 13 Japanese ships totalling 41,000 tons, besides damaging four more. It was Captain Derward Blake Harper's fine leadership that made possible the success of the three-day attack. But most of the credit must go to Chou, who brought the planes each time to the dodging convoy off the Fukien coast in spite of very bad weather.

"On the second day, while fighting off attacking Zeros, Captain Harper's plane was badly damaged. The radio was put out of commission. The compass was shot away. Taking a dime compass out of his emergency kit, Chou led the flight back through heavy rain to an advanced base."

An American lieutenant told about the gunners of the CACW bomber crews. "I watched the Chinese gunners hit their targets every time," he said, "We know they are good." Perhaps the most colorful figure among the gunners is Master Sergeant "Pop" Lo Kwei-sen, a 40-year-old six-footer from Shantung. He is easily the oldest man in the outfit, but certainly not the poorest shot. In the raid on Kiukiang on February 24, "Pop" Lo shot down one Zero confirmed and one probable.

The most experienced gunner is Master Sergeant Wei Ching-chung, an infantryman before joining the air force. During the raid on Kowloon in early December, he shot down a Zero with 30 rounds of ammunition. A few days later, in the heat of the Changteh battle, he shot down one enemy fighter and probably another. He recently was awarded the Chinese air medal by order of Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek.

The Fighters

While bomber pilots of the CACW are famous for their ability in flying formation, the fighter pilots are known as the men who stick to their charges. Come what may their P-40's are always between the attacking Zeros and the bombers. In a joint CACW-14th Air Force mission over Canton last December, the CACW fighters doggedly followed the heavy bombers throughout a fight with more than 20 Zeros. "That's where air discipline comes in," said Lt. Colonel Stickland. "I am damned proud of them."

Two young Chinese pilots on this mission used to good advantage the training they received. Second Lieutenant Chou Shih-lin of Hunan, caught an enemy plane on the tail of his leader. With one salvo he sent the Zero down in smoke. Pulling up, he saw another enemy climbing for the bombers. He dived for it. After a few maneuvers he sent the enemy spinning down and claimed it as a probable. One of his wingflaps was shredded and half of his horizontal rudder shot away during the engagement.

In the same fight, Second Lieutenant Chao Yi-hsin suddenly found a Zero flying in front of him. The Jap concentrated on Chao's leader and forgot his own position. With forty rounds Chao sent the Zero smoking down to destruction.

"But I was green as any victim on this job," Chao said. "For when I was concentrating on him, another Jap sent six bullets through my cabin, one foot from my body. I took a sharp turn and nosed down to safety. Just then I saw one of our bombers falling, the only escorted bomber we have lost so far. Two parachutes mushroomed in the air. So I nosed over and followed them for several hundred feet and chased a Zero away. He was trying to shoot Americans hanging helplessly under the umbrellas. I sent some bullets into the enemy and damaged it. But I got in return two 20 mm shells on my right wing."

All for One - One for All

Comradeship between the Chinese and American personnel of the CACW leaves nothing to be desired. As Major Li Hsueh-yen, Chinese commander of a bombardment group said, "We work together like two fingers on the same hand. We have to. For we are fighting the same battles in the same planes and to help our 'brothers' means helping ourselves."

Each squadron occupies a hostel run by the War Area Service Corps. The men eat under the same roof but at different tables. Americans have foreign-style meals. The Chinese have Chinese meals. A mixed mess was tried in the beginning. Both races found it unsatisfactory because of differences in eating habits - for instance, the Chinese prefer to have soup last and Americans first. Nevertheless one sees Chinese and Americans sitting at the same table in restaurants with the Chinese airmen teaching their American friends the use of chopsticks and the drinking of yellow wine.

Both Chinese and Americans think the CACW a successful venture in United Nations cooperation. Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek is more than satisfied. Recently he decorated more than 20 CACW bomber crew members with the Chinese air medal for their achievements.

Major General Chennault said, "The work of the CACW has been extremely good. The Chinese members of the wing have more than justified the confidence placed in them. They are eager to fight the enemy and have shown good combat discipline and effectiveness both in air combat and bombing."

But the value of the CACW in the opinion of Colonel Bennett is not limited to air combat and bombing alone. "We are here to further the best of international relations." he said. "We are making and such friendship lasts. We are doing a darned sight betrer than the diplomats can do. The wing confirms by belief that there is no such thing as an insurmountable difficulty in lasting cooperation and understanding between China and the United States." - THE END.


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