By Herbert A. Mason

A daring, unconventional use of yank air strength to aid British floor troops in Burma, Operation THURSDAY marked a serious improvement within the background of contemporary conflict. On March 5-6, 1944, the Allies performed an air invasion of Burma, in an try and ward off the japanese within the China-Burma-India Theater and reestablish the land direction among India and China. U.S. airmen shaped a different operations unit-the 1st Air Commando Group–to delivery troops to jungle destinations and resupply them, frequently within the line of fireside. The awesome luck of this operation lives on, fifty years later, one of the elite 1st Air Commando Group–a strength dedicated to assembly the problem of unconventional conflict any time, anywhere, at any place.

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14 From Rangoon Wavell flew to Chungking for what would be a disastrous meeting with Chiang Kai-shek. Wavell was scarcely charmed: Chiang, he wrote, ‘was not a particularly impressive figure at first sight: he speaks no English but makes clucking noises like a 20 friendly hen when greeting one. Madame [his wife] of course speaks perfect English. ’15 Chiang offered two Chinese ‘armies’ (roughly equivalent to a weak British division) to help Burma, but Wavell turned down the offer. Quite apart from scepticism (warranted) as to whether Chiang would make good on his offer, Wavell did not want the Chinese in Burma for a number of reasons.

All of them, British, 38 Indian and Gurkha, were gaunt and ragged as scarecrows. Yet as they trudged behind their officers in groups, pitifully small, they still carried their arms and kept their ranks, they were still recognizable as fighting units. 86 At last, on 15 May, the vanguard began entering Assam, and by the 28th nearly all the troops of BURCORPS had crossed into India, having accomplished a 900-mile retreat. Parties of refugees continued to dribble in until October. No reliable estimate has ever been attempted of fatalities on this grim march.

21 At first it was proposed to ‘sweeten’ Chiang by offering him command of the entire body, but Roosevelt soon had second thoughts. Knowing Chiang’s relish for 22 grandiose titles, he appointed him Supreme Allied Commander of the Chinese Theatre (which he effectively was anyway) and made Wavell Supreme Commander of ABDACOM. There was little Wavell could do once Churchill had agreed to the American proposal, but he must have seen that he was being offered a genuine mission impossible. After all, Japanese triumph in this precise area was all but complete.

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Operation Thursday Birth of the Air Commandos by Herbert A. Mason

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