Air_Commandos
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A Quick Background
(or, why I wanted to be an Air Commando)

 

 

When the United States entered World War II, Phil Cochran was assigned to a P-40 fighter squadron
 based in Connecticut. Early in 1941, Cochran approached Milton Caniff, whom he had known at Ohio State,
 and asked him to design an insignia for the 65th Fighter Squadron group. Some months later, while watching
 Cochran and other pilots practice fighter airplane maneuvers near Groton, Connecticut, Caniff realized
 “what potential material they were for Terry and the Pirate characters.” After America’s entry into World War II,
 Caniff had Terry join the United States Army Air Forces. On August 3, 1942, he gave Terry a new companion,
 the swashbuckling Captain Flip Corkin, whom he based on fellow Buckeye and real life hero:
 Lieutenant Philip Cochran.

Cochran was soon at the front, having been assigned to lead a group of replacement pilots and planes to
 North Africa. Cochran’s group seemed forgotten in the mass confusion after the landings; wanting to see action,
Cochran took charge of his recruits and took off in pursuit of the war, eventually settling into a small airfield in
 southern Tunisia. With no unit designation—his men called themselves the “Joker Squadron”
—and using British equipment and repairmen, Cochran’s ragtag outfit took to the air, fighting
 German and Italian pilots, bombing ground units, and earning a reputation as a hard-fighting
 bunch of pilots. Even though he was an officer, Cochran fraternized with his pilots and
 considered them friends, which endeared them to him even as they respected his leadership.
His deputy commander recalled that Cochran was “a colorful individual, a natural leader.
 He was aggressive, but not ambitiously so.” American correspondents latched on to the colorful leader
 and soon his name was appearing in headlines around the country. His success also fueled a local
 war bond drive in Erie that netted more than $15 million in just over a month.

Back in the states to train pilots after the conquest of North Africa, Cochran was ushered into General
 “Hap” Arnold’s office for reassignment. Arnold, Commanding General of the U.S. Army Air Forces,
 wanted Cochran and his buddy John Alison to form a new air group to provide support for British forces,
 known as the “Chindits,” who were in India preparing for the invasion of Burma. Under the command of
 Orde C. Wingate, another unorthodox leader, the British were preparing to push the Japanese out of Burma,
 but needed air cover. Cochran and Alison were tasked with providing it.


Colonel Alison, General Wingate, Colonel Cochran

Thus was born the 1st Air Commando Group, comprised of fighters (P-51 Mustangs at first), B-25 bombers, helicopters,
 cargo planes (the big C-47s), and gliders. Wingate’s method of attack—long-range penetration—demanded special
 tactics. Using the gliders as attack aircraft, Cochran and Alison would fly behind enemy lines during in the initial
 waves of troop offensives, using jungle clearings as primitive airfields to enable the British and Indian troops to clear
 a larger area for the bigger transport planes to land.

Naysayers abounded, telling Cochran that gliders could not be used in the jungle. But Cochran’s infectious optimism
helped Wingate get through the tough times in early 1944. Lord Louis Mountbatten, the Allied theater commander,
 once informed Cochran that “you are the only ray of sunshine we have had in this theatre this year.” When Project
 Nine got off the ground, Cochran’s last-minute reconnaissance revealed that one of two clearings was impassible.
 Even so, the operation proved a resounding success, when 9,000 troops landed 165 miles behind the
Japanese front lines. Wingate’s interior raiding helped rout the enemy from Burma and pave the way for
 better supply lines to China.

 

 

 

After World War II, the concept of Air Commando or Special Operations nearly died out entirely until it was kept alive
by the vision of one man, who practically re-created the Air-Commandos in the early 1960s...

 

 

Harry C. Aderholt, Brigadier General, U.S. Air Force, Retired, was born in Birmingham, Alabama in 1920. He served during
World War II in North Africa and Italy as a B-17 and C-47 pilot from 1943 to1945. During the Korean War, General
Aderholt commanded Detachment II of the 21st Troop Carrier Squadron which was responsible for all covert
air support to Special Operations in the theater. Det. II also played a major role in the evacuation of Marines
 from the Chosin Reservoir. Following his Korean tour, General Aderholt was assigned as the Command
of the Air Training Branch of the CIA.

During this period, the tactics for low level night aircraft penetrations against the most sophisticated air defense
 systems were developed and tested. Following a tour at Headquarters USAF Europe, where he served in the
 Directorate of Plans as an unconventional warfare planning staff officer, Aderholt returned to Washington
with a second assignment to CIA as Air Operations Planner. In January, 1960, in Okinawa, he was instrumental
 in developing the airfield complex in Laos known as Lima sites. These fields were used throughout Southeast Asia
 as support sites for special warfare operations as “Jolly Green” helicopter forward staging bases for rescue
 and recovery operations in Laos and North Vietnam.

From 1960 to 1962, he was commander of the Tibet Airlift Operation, then served as a Special Air Advisor to the
 Commander of the U.S. Air Force Special air Warfare Center at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, 1962-1964.
 From there he became Commander of the famed 1st Air Commando Wing at Hurlburt Field, Florida.
During the Vietnam War General Aderholt was assigned to the 6200th Material Wing in the Philippines
 and also the U.S. Military Assistance Command, Vietnam.

In 1966, he was selected to activate, organize, and later command the 56th Air Commando Wing at Nakhon Phanom
 Royal Thai Air Force Base, Thailand. In 1968, he was reassigned to the U.S. Air Force Special Air Warfare Center,
 later designated U.S. Air Force Special Operations, at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida.

General Aderholt returned to Thailand in 1970 for two years as chief of the Air Force Advisory Group. He retired in 1972,
 but was recalled to active duty in 1973 and assigned as deputy commander, U.S. Military Assistance Command,
 Thailand and deputy chief, Joint U.S. Military Advisory Group, Thailand. In 1974, he organized and implemented the
 Cambodian Airlift. He became commander of both organizations in 1975, retiring later that year.

Since that time the General has lectured at the USAF Special Operations School, on low intensity warfare and became
one of the founders, and past presidents of the Air Commando Association. He serves as the president of
 McKoskie/Threshold Foundation, which with the ACA has shipped more than $300 million worth of medical
supplies, clothing, etc., to Asia, Central America, and other areas of the world since 1962.

Air Commando Association

 

 

 

And today: the Air force has seen the requirement to keep Special Operations as a permanent resource. We even have a
Special Operations Command which is in charge of the 1st SOW at Hurlburt AFB and other active and reserve units all over the world.
Special Ops has been a key player in every action from Panama to Iraq and some you'll never hear about.

 

                                                                               AFSOCOM                              1st SOW                                                                           

 

 

    AC-130                                                                                   MH-53

 

 

"ANY TIME, ANY PLACE".
 (Air Commando Motto)

 

 

A bit of trivia to think about --- at no time during the Vietnam War did the
Air Commando/Special Operations folks make up more than 5 percent
of the US Air Force manpower in the war. But they won 5 of the 12
Medals of Honor that went to Air Force men.

Maj. Bernard F. Fisher ...............A-1E .......earned 10 Mar 66
Lt. Col. Joe M. Jackson ...............C-123 .....earned 12 May 68
Lt. Col. William A. Jones III .......A-1H ......earned 1 Sep 68
1st Lt. James P. Fleming ............UH-1F ....earned 26 Nov 68
A1C John L. Levitow ................AC-47 ....earned 24 Feb 69