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11-06-2015, 11:03

The Tlying Tigers

With the fall of Lashio, Allied forces retreated rapidly toward China. During this retreat, the American 'olunteer Group played an important role. A'G planes flying from bases in China were the alliesí only source of reconnaissance and intelligence and its pilots proided aluable air cover for the retreating Chinese and British armies. The men of the. W'G also prevented a Japanese adance from Burma into Yunnan by destroying the northern portion of the Burma Road and many of the bridges across the Salween River.



AG reconnaissance missions were inaugurated in March 1942. Although the pilots in the group disliked such missions, considering them a waste of resources, the switch from combat missions to patrol and reconnaissance was dictated by shortages of fuel and equipment; since Chennaultís mercenaries had no bombers at their disposal, they could not undertake ofl'ensive raids against Japanese bases in Thailand or Indochina.



Toward the Chinese border was stepped up, AVG pilots resumed limited combat activities.



The Allied evacuation to China necessitated the destruction of bases and supplies in Burma; in order to prevent thejapanese from crossing the Salween into China, the bridges across the river and roads leading to these crossings had also to be destroyed. Strafing and bombing raids carried out against the advancing Japanese armies were equally important, and optimum use was made of the limited number of planes left in the AVG.



To maximize the use of available aircraft and minimize equipment losses, AVG units were scattered over several bases in China; strikes against the Japanese were launched from many bases and planes were never immediately returned to the base from which they had taken off. Thus thejapanese were kept off balance by the groupís total mobility and consistently overestimated the numbers of planes available to their enemies. Undoubtedly, had they realized the real strength of the AVG, they would have taken even bolder steps in the Burma campaign.



In retrospect, the performance of the American Volunteer Group in Burma was impressive. Despite shortages in supplies and equipment, failing morale, and the deteriorating situation of the allies in Burma, the men of the group performed bravely and as effectively as circumstances permitted. Nevertheless, by the end of April, Japanese forces reached the Salween River, completing their occupation of Burma.



 

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