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Southeast Asia

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Southeast Asia

View of the Great Wall of ChinaIn the spring of 1944, the Allies had the Japanese on the defensive in Burma. The Japanese had failed to find an adequate way of maintaining logistical support to troops deep in arduous territory. The Allies now faced this same logistical problem.

The solution lay in air transport. Unfortunately, there was a shortage of aircraft. Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) Squadrons 435, 436 and 437 were China National Aviation Corporation C-47.formed in order to boost these numbers. Their base was at Gujrat in present-day Pakistan, and where they faced a shortage of provisions, including medicine and aircraft maintenance equipment. Despite the scarcity of provisions, Squadrons 435 and 436 managed to carry out necessary modifications to their Dakota aircraft by November 1944, after which they moved to Tulahil in the Imphal Valley in order to support the advance of Sir William Slim and the Fourteenth Army.

There were two methods of delivering cargo. The preferred was to land and unload. This proved problematic, as the airstrips were often precarious and rudimentary. Heavy loads also led to flat tires.

China National Aviation Corporation C-46, Calcutta, India<br> Calcutta.The other method was to make drops, either free drops or with parachutes attached. Pilots had to circle low, leaving the aircraft unprotected against fire from the ground. The Dakotas were also vulnerable to air attacks. They had little defences of their own beyond "knock-out" holes in the windows for rifles, and were rarely accompanied by fighters for protection. At this point in the war the Japanese were mostly using their air power to support their land forces. One attack on the supply aircraft, however, left two Dakotas Assam tea plantation, province of Assam, northeast India. destroyed and six airmen dead.

Rangoon was captured on May 3, 1944 after which the transport squadrons continued to operate, bringing food to local populations and supporting continued fighting in other parts of Burma. After the war in the Pacific was over, the squadrons conducted postwar operations in Northwest Europe.

Making repairs on an XT-542 in central China.During their time in Southeast Asia, the three squadrons racked up flying hours far beyond the norm, through terrible weather and inadequate facilities, maintaining a level of serviceability near 90 percent. This was a phenomenal rate given the conditions the crew were dealing with. Slim commented that "the heroes of this time were the men who kept the wheels turning and the wings flying."

Squadron 413, formed in Stanraer, Scotland in July, 1941, was also deployed to Southeast Asia, as part of the anti-submarine war. Flying Catalinas their job was to patrol the vast Indian Ocean in search of Japanese and German forces.

Cedric Mah The squadron flew its first patrol on March 31, 1942. On April second, Squadron Leader L.J. Birchall arrived. Two days later, he flew one of the most significant missions of the war. Flying 350 miles from Ceylon, Birchall was about to turn homeward, when he spotted a Japanese flotilla luring on the sea. Birchall banked towards them while his radio man sent a message to Ceylon, warning them of the impending Japanese attack.

The Catalina was attacked by the Japanese within minutes, crash landing in the water. Eight of the nine crew made it into the water. Subsequent strafing killed two more crewmembers, and three were badly wounded. All the survivors, including Burchall, were taken prisoner. Ceylon, however, was alerted to the Japanese fleet in time to repulse the attack. Birchall was henceforth called the "Savior of Ceylon".

Cedric MahOther than that, the Japanese were largely absent, and aside from once getting shot at by an errant RAF plane (which killed one crewmember) patrolling the vast Indian Ocean was uneventful. The 413 Squadron made four attacks on submarines during their time there, none of which were successful.

Royal Canadian Air Force pilot and Squadron Leader Edward Bryce Chase flew transport planes in Burma, among other tasks in Southeast Asia.

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