Flying Tigers

JAAF deployments, Dec 1941 - Mar 1942

One of the best resources I had in writing Flying Tigers: Claire Chennault and His American Volunteers was the 1970 Japan Defense Agency history of the air war in Southeast Asia, Nanpo shinko rikugun koku sakusen. The maps were especially useful. More recently they were reproduced and annotated by Kameta Junichi and Jeffrey Stickley, who were researching a Flying Tigers war game based on that time period.

In the maps that follow, Jeff and Jun use Japanese organizational terms, sometimes with a literal but misleading translation into English. A Hikoshidan is the equivalent of a theater air force, like the 10th Air Force in India or the later 14th Air Force in China; this sometimes appears on the maps as an "Air Division." A Hikodan is an area air force, and a command level I generally ignored in my book.

A Sentai is the equivalent of a British or American group, though smaller in size and with a commander who flew in combat. A Chutai is a squadron, typically three to a group, though an Independent Chutai could, like a British squadron, operate on its own, without the support of a group headquarters.

There's an error in the December 23 map: the "21st Independent Sentai" was actually the 21st Hikotai, denoting a unit made up of mixed aircraft types. In this case, the hikotai based at Hanoi contained one squadron of Nakajima Ki-27 Nate fighters and a squadron of Kawasaki Ki-48 medium bombers -- the "Lilys" that tried to bomb Kunming on December 20, 1941. 23 Dec 1941: The Christmas campaign against Rangoon Deployment of Japanese Army Air
Force, 23 Dec 1941

The arc shows the combat radius of the Nakajima Ki-27 fighter, with Rangoon at the extreme outside range from the 77th Sentai base at Tah/Raheng. That would explain the interest in having an advance field at Mae Sot.

Rising Sun Over Burma

22 Jan 1942: Rangoon and Thailand are both reinforced

Deployment of Japanese Army Air
Force, 22 Jan 1942

Mysteriously, the JDA map doesn't show the advance field at Mae Sot, on the Burma-Thai border, but the evidence is strong that an airstrip did exist there. Mae Sot is now a major center for sewing up women's underwear, using Burmese women who cross the border every day from Myawaddy. You can see how the pressure is building on the RAF field at Moulmein, with its auxiliary field at Mudon to the south.

Remains - A Story of the Flying Tigers

18 Feb 1942: Singapore has fallen; the pressure is now on Rangoon

Deployment of Japanese Army Air
Force, 18 Feb 1942

Moulmein is now in Japanese hands, and Rangoon and all its airfields are within easy reach of the Nakajima Ki-27 fighter. Mingaladon of course is the main Rangoon airfield. Hmawbi is the RAF dispersal field known to the Allied pilots as Highland Queen. Hlegu was known as Zayatkwin to the RAF and was the base for its Bristol Blenheim bombers.

3 Mar 1942: The last days of Rangoon; the AVG has moved back to Magwe

Deployment of Japanese Army Air
Force, 3 Mar 1942

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Tales of the Flying Tigers

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