“1st Air Commando Grp. P-51A"
During the Quadrant Conference in
Quebec Canada, August 14-24, 1943, Col. Orde Wingate proposed that his Long
Range Penetration (LRP later coined as Chindit’s by the news media) concept be
expanded to include eight brigades, four for combat operations and four brigades
in direct relief. President Roosevelt approved this idea and agreed
to supply aircraft for support of these LRP units. The initial request by
Wingate was for one bomber squadron per LRP unit for close air support and a
light aircraft force for each LRP unit to help evacuate the injured and sixteen
(16) C-47’s. Fighter aircraft would also be needed to protect these LRP
forces and transport aircraft from marauding Japanese fighters. General
Hap Arnold saw this as the chance to regain the initiative in the CBI Theater
and became determined to build a new Air Group that would be wholly dedicated to
the support of Wingate Chindit’s
In August 1943 Supreme Allied
Commander of SEAC, Lord Louis Mountbatten, met with General Arnold to discuss
plans for American support for these British Chindit expeditions into Burma.
The new unit changed name's five times as it evolved, from Project 9 to Project
CA 281, then to 5318th Provisional Unit (Air), then to Number Air Commando Force
and finally 1st Air Commando Group. The phrase ‘Air Commando’
was allegedly coined by General Arnold to honor Lord Mountbatten who earlier had
commanded British Commandos.
Two individuals were considered for
command of the group, first was Lt. Col. Philip G. Cochran, who was a very
confident, aggressive and imaginative officer who had an excellent war record as
a fighter pilot in North Africa. (He was also the model for the character
of Flip Corkin in Milton Caniff’s ‘Terry and the Pirates comic strip).
The second was Lt. Col. John R Alsion, an ‘Ace’ who had flown with Major
General Claire L. Chennault’s 23rd Fighter Group. After the
selection and interview with both men by General Arnold, it is said the General
Arnold ended the session with these words, ‘To hell with paperwork, go out and
The two new commanders were given
complete freedom to gather men and materials. Thirteen (13) C-47’s were
acquired along with one hundred (100) CG-4A Waco Gliders for transport
operations. Twenty-five (25) TG-5 training gliders were acquired for glider
transport use into remote areas. A dozen (12) Noorduyn C-64 Norseman
airplanes were acquired, these to serve in a capacity between that of the C-47
and the gliders and the planned light aircraft which would be used to evacuate
the sick and wounded. For light aircraft, one hundred (100) Vultee L-1
aircraft were chosen due to their ability to carry 2-3 stretchers. It soon
became apparent that this number of L-1’s was not available, so the balance of
the light aircraft became the Stinson L-5 Sentinel. The L-5, although
faster than the L-, it could only carry one stretcher and required a longer
take-off area. Last but not least, Lt. Col. Alison convinced the higher
ups at Wright Field to send a Technical Representative to India to put to the
test, the new Sikorsky helicopter, the YR-4, under actual combat conditions. The
fighter requirement was covered when thirty (30) North American P-51A Mustangs
Although Lt. Cols. Phil-lip Cochran
and John Allison's men were Air Commandos from the beginning, the 1st ACG was
officially constituted on March 25, 1944, and activated on March 29, 1944. The
1st ACG continued to support British forces in Burma through April in an
impressive manner. The P-51 fighter assault element and B-25 bombers provided
close air support for Wingate's columns. A Royal Air Force officer on the ground
would pin-point targets by using mortar smoke to direct the Air Commando
aircraft to their prey. On other occasions light planes based behind enemy lines
dropped down to tree-top level to mark targets with smoke bombs. On April 4,
P-51s armed with rockets attacked a concentration of Japanese aircraft at a
northern Burma base. Caught by surprise, P-51s destroyed 26 Japanese aircraft
along with two probable’s and eight damaged in this seven-minute attack;
whereas a single P-51 took only a bullet to the wing. Col. Cochran also used a
trick he had developed in North Africa, by equipping his Mustang with a weight
on the end of a cable, zooming in low over Japanese telephone lines and ripping
them out with the dangling cable. The small force of USAAF P-51/P51A Mustangs
was rapidly depleted in combat and stateside training accidents. The Air
Commandos had received the P-51A out of necessity and its rugged Allison engine
proved to be well-suited to the Air Commandos' primitive operating environment.
The 1st Air Commando Group
inactivated after World War II on Nov. 3, 1945. It appeared that the group was
doomed to remain a non-entity, especially after the Air Force disbanded the
organization on Oct. 8, 1948. However, events in Asia during the 1960s revived
the need for the type of air warfare developed by the 1st ACG during World War
Mustang. I have built the Accurate
Miniature versions also, and would say the ICM detail is comparable. The only
thing is the lack of locator pins to match the fuselage halves and tabs for the
flaps, but overall the kit is not bad and is about the only 1/48th Mustang
“A” kit available in this scale. You can find a smattering of the Accurate
Miniature kits in hobby shops or at model shows at times.
I chose to build; “Carols Daddy”
#18 from Broadway Strip Burma – 1943 and Col Cochran’s Mustang from
Hailakanda India in 1943.The B-25H shown is the first 1/48 Monogram B-25 kit. I
picked up SuperScale #48-992 and built “Barbie III” piloted by Capt. R.T.
Smith, flying out of Hailakanda, India.
Click on images below to see larger images
I used SuperScale #48-1089 P-51A
Mustangs of the First Air Commando Grp. The sheet comes with three aircraft
options and two sets of stripes, one set is for “Carolyn’s Daddy”, the
other set you need to decide between Cochran’s plane or “Mrs. Virginia”. A
note before you apply the US insignia across the stripes, I would recommend
putting some sort of white backing first over the stripes. You will notice on
Cochran’s plane the stripes slightly bled through of the insignia.
I am curious of the dates on the
decal sheet as they reference planes from 1943 and it is noted that the 1st ACG
was constituted in March of 1944 and used the Broadway strip in April of 1944.
But I will leave that to the reference contributors of the decal sheet.
On Cochran’s plane I used Tamiya Olive Drab spray AS-6, AS-7 USAAF Gray and Testors Silver for the prop nose. On “Carol’s Daddy” used Testors Olive Drab Spray, Tamiya AS-7 USAAF Gray and Testors Silver for the prop.
Mark L. Rossmann
Click on images below to see larger images
Photos and text © by Mark L. Rossmann