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 The Story of the Airways and Air Communications System (AACS) 

An der Geschichte der Luftfahrt interessierte Besucher dieser Internet Plattform werden sicher wissen wollen, was sich hinter dem Titel dieses einmaligen Buches von Louis Shores aus dem Jahre 1947 verbirgt. Es enthält die Geschichte des US-amerikanischen "Airways and Air Communications Service" (AACS) seit seinem Entstehen als militärischer Flugsicherungsdienst im Jahre 1938 bis zum Ende des Zweiten Weltkriegs, publiziert vom Autor im Jahre 1947, der selbst vier Jahre lang dem AACS angehörte.

Die AACS-Einheiten dienten allen US-Militärgattungen im Zweiten Weltkrieg und danach mit Funknavigations- sowie Tast- und Sprechfunkeinrichtungen und deren Betrieb in fast allen Teilen der Welt, Nord- und Südamerika, Afrika, Europa, Asien, Australien, an den Küsten des Atlantiks und Pazifiks und ihren Inseln. Nach Kriegsende war ein weltumspannendes Netz von Flugsicherungseinrichtungen entstanden, betrieben von 10.000 Technikern, Funkern und Fluglotsen, welches die Grundlage für das zwischen 1944 und 1947 im Rahmen der ICAO entstandene globale Flugsicherungssystem und seinem Streckennetz bildete. Viele der ehemaligen Einrichtungen bestehen heute noch an den damaligen Standorten, nunmehr mit moderner Ausrüstung. Sie stellten die Wiege des heutigen Systems dar. Der Bericht von Louis Shores schildert die Einzelheiten der teils dramatischen Entwicklung während des Krieges im Detail. Man denke nur an die Filme über die Kriegshandlungen im Pazifik. Seine Schilderung ist kein technischer Bericht. Sie ermöglicht uns noch heute die gesamte damalige Entwicklung zu verfolgen und führt den Leser zu Handlungen an Orten wie Dakar, Poltava, Tehran, Kunming, Frankfurt am Main, Casablanca, Sidi Slimane, Orly, Narsarssuak, Abadan, Accra, Adak, Amchitka, Atka, Attu, Bathurst, Belem, Benghazi, Bougainville, Cordoba, El Alamain, Eniwetok, Finschafen, Gander, Guadalcanal, Hengyang, Iwo Jima, Kweilin, Nandi, Neapel, Natal, Nome, Okinawa, Prestwick, Ryukyu, Reykjavik, Unmak und vieler anderer mehr.

Diese Geschichte in ihrer Gesamtheit ist die Schilderung einer Pioniertat größten Ausmaßes mit ihren Auswirkungen bis zum heutigen Tage. Ohne die Leistungen des AACS hätte dieser Krieg von den vier Alliierten nicht gewonnen werden können. Die digitale Luftfahrt-Bibliothek stellt das komplette Werk "Highways in the Sky" nachstehend als Volltext zur Verfügung. Alternativ kann diese Dokumentation auch als elektronisches Buch frei und kostenlos als PDF Dokument heruntergeladen werden. Alle Seiten im PDF Dokument sind via Texterkennung (Optical Character Recognition, OCR) erfaßt worden, d.h. innerhalb des Buches kann komfortabel über die Suchfunktion nach Namen, Themen und Begriffen recherchiert werden.

PDF Dokument
Highways in the Sky: The Story of the Airways and Air Communications System (AACS)
von Louis Shores, PDF Dokument, 144 Doppelseiten, 44 MB

The Story of the AACS

around the world in 80 hours
It is six weeks after V-J. In our nation's capital a C-54 takes off for Bermuda, inaugurating a regular, weekly, passenger, round-the-world flight. Santa Maria, Casablanca, Tripoli, Cairo. Abadan, Karachi, Calcutta, Manila. Honolulu, San Francisco, and back to Washington. The flight is made unerringly and a little ahead of schedule. The C-54 is a good plane. The crew that man it know their jobs. But, above all, the highways in the sky are straight, smooth, and well-marked.
Highways in the sky? Yes. They were put there months before. Put there by a civilian army. A civilian army recruited right out of classrooms. Out of business, trades, and professions. Out of the regular Army, too. That civilian army built highways in the sky. It began building them before the war. It kept building them during the war. It will continue to build them until Congress and the people tell it to stop.
Seven years ago this world system of highways in the sky began to build. It began in the United States and built from coast to coast, from Canada to the Gulf, and in much of the sky space in between. In less than two years it was building in the air outside—in the skies over our possessions, in Alaska and Panama, in Puerto Rico and Hawaii. And when fortuitous lend-lease brought other air spaces, we built in Newfoundland and in the Caribbean Islands.
War came. We did not stop building. It was in our blood. It was in our tradition. We had built highways before where no man had ever been. Nature and Indians had confronted us then. Nature and the Nazis would daunt us no more now. So we built highways in the sky-over the North Atlantic and across the South Pacific. We built roads in heaven from the Arctic Circle to the Australian Bight. We built them in South America and in North Africa. We built them in the Near East and the Far East. We built them across Europe into Berlin and even to Poltava. We built them over the highest mountains into China, and over the biggest ocean right into Tokyo. We built highways in all the skies over this world so that man might fly safely wherever he chose.
We built highways because il wax In our American blood. We liwvc always built highways, for, somehow, highway.* Nymholi/c our love of progress. And when there was no more land on which to build highways, we built them in the sky.
It was not easy. It had not been easy to build roads on our land. The struggle toward that achievement made one of the greatest stories in our history. Building highways in the sky is in the best tradition of our nation.
This is that story. The pioneers of our world skyways are part of the Army Airways Communications System. On V-J their strength was barely three full divisions. Yet, they operated a thousand airways stations in every part of the world. They maintained over 100,000 miles of highway in the skies. They sped aircraft to every fighting front and back, on every conceivable mission of war and peace. Transport of cargo and troops, evacuation of the wounded, bomber and fighter strikes, delivery of V-mail and of dignitaries en route to conferences—all these the AACS made possible during the war. And now with the peace, AACS highways in the sky point to a new free world— a world in which the air is as safe for travel as the land and sea, only swifter.
Highways in the sky have made that possible. Highways constructed in seven short years. Seven short years that stretched from a troubled peace through a devastating war and to a new world of promise. Seven years of an American saga for the world.
This is that saga. This is the story of the men who built highways in the skies all over the world. This is the biography of the AACS.

In the Army everything begins with a directive.
On the morning of November 3, 1938, OCAC (Office of the Chief of the Air Corps) was stirred by a directive. The stir began at the top and rippled down through channels in descending rank, from desk to desk, until the directive reached Major Wallace G. Smith. Opposite his name on the buck slip, in bold red letters, was the word "ACTION."
Wally Smith quickly glanced at the top and the bottom of the directive, saw that it emanated from the War Department and was signed by the Adjutant General. "Highest authority" flashed through his mind us he concentrated on the contents of the directive. In effect, it said:
On November 15, 1938, a new military organization will be activated. It will function under OCAC. Its name will be Army Airways Communications System. Its mission will be the maintenance and operation of airways communications for military aircraft. As of that date, this new organization will take'over the communications centers at the Army Air Corps' thirty-three landing fields in the United States, and at such other places as may be later designated. For the purposes ol administration, the System will be organized into three regions of operation—western, eastern, and central.
Wally Smith read and reread the directive, with its increasingly prosaic specifications. To him, however, it was not prose. It was pure poetry. In biblical miracle language it said: "Let there be highways in the sky." At long last, the Air Corps and the people of the United States had heard the pleas of the few radio-minded pilots and taken the firs! step to protect the movement of our aircraft. Silently Major Smith offered thanks and placed the directive in a inanila folder, which he neatly labelled, "AACS." On that day, Wally Smith later reminisced, lie fell very much like the business man who told the Rotary Club he Ittrted In*, ten million dollar mail order house in the third left-hand
di.iw. i ol he. desk.
It was a big assignment. Wally Smith realized -it oner, not only
loi OCAC bill loi him, 111« duties, an Chiol «>l the Communications Sec tion m ()< \< i Division "I Operations and Training, wen- already
considerable. From past experience with the American taxpayers' lethargy toward the subject of preparedness, he knew he could count on very little additional assistance to carry this new burden. Nevertheless, Wally Smith was truly thankful. He had at least legal authorization to go ahead and build highways in the sky. That directive meant to him that at last we were going to have military airways. It meant that, if we were attacked suddenly, we should have facilities to send quickly and smoothly to the scene of the attack the few planes we then owned. That was important in November, 1938. No one, or at least no one concerned with the defense of our country, any longer doubted that Hitler or Hirohito, or both, would some day attack. And against that day Wally Smith knew that he must give this country the very best military airways system man could devise.
Lack of airways, no less than lack of planes, had made us fall behind our rivals. Lessons of air force, taught us by our own Billy Mitchell in the twenties, had been learned and followed almost immediately in Germany, Italy, and Japan. But here, late in the thirties, these lessons were still unlearned, still unfollowed, except by a few air-minded men. To these men Wally Smith turned for guidance. He knew them all, had worked with them on experimental airway undertakings, was aware of the background of that order from the War Department now so neatly filed in his desk drawer. *
How long and hard a few of them—the radio-minded pilots—had talked and planned and pleaded for this program, few would later recall. Distinctly, these pilots had been in the minority in the Air Corps, and they were certainly not appreciated outside. The man in the plane, and not the man on the ground, held the public's imagination. To the people, all that was necessary to fly was a plane and a pilot. Certainly that was all there was when Alcock and Brown first crossed the Atlantic in 1919; and that was all there was, eight years later, when Lindbergh flew his epochal New York to Paris non-stop. Even as late as 1938, the aviation "we" was still the exclusive team of plane and pilot.
Of course, occasionally "we" took off into "the wide blue yonder" and were never heard from again. There was Paul Redfern, for example, as good as they came. Somewhere over the Caribbean he dropped out of sight and sound, a permanent mystery. There was Amelia Earhart. The vast spaces over the Pacific swallowed every list trace of her and her plane. And so it would be as long as (lying remained a stunt with which to capture public imagination, instead of a well-planned carrier business, safe and routine. For almost every lucky "we" there would be some unlucky one, just so long as the skv spuces remained unmarked, uncharted and unpavedi
Wally Smith knew that. He had been in the Air Corps a long time. Enlisting as a private during the first World War, he succeeded toward the end of 1918 in earning both his commission and his pilot's rating in the Aviation Section of the Signal Reserve Corps. The double interest in signals and aviation led him into communications and a growing appreciation of the complementary possibilities of radio and plane. After nerving as a post-communications officer at Langley Field, he continued his communications study at the Sheffield Scientific School, Yale University. From that time on, Wally Smith served the Air Corps in a iininber of communications assignments, in Hawaii with the 23rd bombardment Squadron, at Chanute field as an instructor, and for nearly six years at Wright Field with the Radio Unit of the Air Corps \! iteriel Division. Out of this rich communications experience came hi* inevitable advancement to the post of Communications Officer in
I" \(:.
In view of this background, it is easy to see why OCAC on Noveniber t. 1938, bucked for action the directive activating an airways communi-
■ ii.....s system. In the entire Air Corps there were not over a dozen
pilots with comparable qualifications. Wally Smith knew every one of these, and would undoubtedly call on them for help in developing this w outfit. For these radio-minded pilots were still unique in the Air rpi They were still in the minority. Most pilots carried a lingering |tldice against radio, a prejudice that dated back to the days when a Hdio del in a plane was not only a hazard but also a luxury that could ill I., afforded in preference to fuel or pay load. There was, besides, the Ittural pilot's prima donna propensity that spelled individualism in
....... lights. No one on the ground was going to tell him how to fly his
Mp lind with a radio set he was in the position where he had to receive Hill lliing from below that sounded dangerously like orders. All this H.. radio minded minority in the Air Corps had to overcome, not only li. tin ..v. rage second lieutenant pilot, but in the top-ranking airmen
I.....inly experiences with radio in the days of ignition interference
With ie. eptiou, iiid fires from faulty wiring, resulted in powerful preju-llli.
I ........uti lv there were a few pilots in the Air Corps who believed
.....Iln lull ie. '-I.....gty as Wally Smith. For example, there was Harold
l. i I. II ..,.1
i ||| ||ily III, I'll I, I ,i. ill. n. ml ( lolonel Henry II. Arnold, chief disciple ,,1 Mills Mil. hell mid delendei ol ail power, had led a mass flight ol I> \m.,\ I.....ibeis nvei 8(HK) miles I.....i Washington, l>. (to Alaska,
■'i...... . mlxluip lot he hud been awarded the Mackay trophy.
I f}| I lint he been upplaiided m establishing the lafety ol the air
plane for long-distance travel and transport. The fact was, however, that he had actually proved that highways in the sky are necessary before airplane travel can be safe and regular.
Before he took off for Alaska, he built himself the semblance of a highway in the sky. There would be no "iron compass" flying on this trip, no pilot peering below for railroad tracks and flaming pines. This was no cross-country run, no stunt, no heroic example of "pasture" flying. This was a serious attempt to prove that air travel was here to stay—that it could be made regular and safe; that fast transportation demanded fast communication—the fundamental of a highway in the sky.
So Arnold put Harold M. McClelland, Wally Smith's friend, in charge of communications. McClelland was one of the few pilots, in those early days, who understood the importance of radio in relation to flying. Most of the other so-called "hot" pilots would not even tolerate a radio set in the plane. Lindbergh had made his transatlantic hop without one. Many distance records had been established without radio communications. Pilots generally preferred to travel without the contraption in the cockpit.
Now, this was no unreasonable prejudice. Before Arnold's flight, and not so much before, at that, reception in an airplane was annoying, if not absolutely impossible at times. The whir of the engine and the interference of ignition created a rasping static. What was more serious, crude and complicated wiring introduced a hazard that had more than once forced a pilot to bail out because of fire. No wonder, then, that pilots, in spite of regulation, conveniently "lost" their headsets overboard.
The Arnold flight was different. It had the advantage of a fully bonded and shielded engine in the B-10. Its planes were equipped with radio sets that provided excellent reception. Nevertheless, to overcome any lingering prejudice, McClelland was placed in charge of all communications on the flight. Arnold knew that McClelland would enforce radio discipline. Only one month before, the Army had completed a period of carrying the mail. Arnold knew that no small portion of the later success was the result of McClelland's communications effort. McClelland, and his assistant Ivan L. Farman, recognizing from the start the importance of highways in the sky, had worked day and night to install and maintain good radio equipment on their planes. The results had shown in a remarkable record for regularity and safety 01) their portion of the route. As a result of their communications efforts, the Army had done something with the mail that had been little publi cized. It had flown more mail with one less fatality than the I-ohium-m air lines ever had, for a similar period of time.
As Communications Officer for the Alaskan flight, McClelland also piloted one of the three liaison planes. Arnold himself flew the lead plane and McClelland assigned to it, as crew chief, a veteran air-communications man named Walter B. Berg. But most important of all, McClelland arranged with the War Department to have every Signal radio station along the route alerted to use such range facilities as were then available. There were the elements of the highway in the sky— l>t>int-to-point, air/ground, navigational aid and airdrome control. Available, too, for the first time were airmen aloft who were skilled in the use ul the radio components of the airway.
The success of the Alaskan flight, during the summer of 1934, led to a Labor Day conference in Arnold's office with McClelland. Both agreed that airways communications had been one of the significant reasons I«-i the success. Both set about planning a permanent airways-communications system that would make mass flights of planes safe and ri inlar at all times. To McClelland went the assignment.
M.Clelland enlisted the help of Wally Smith in OCAC. Wally belonged to that cortege of airmen who believed in the airways that radio llone could create for the airplane. Together they studied the fine sys-i. in «il civil airways under the aegis of the Department of Commerce it in I the commercial air lines. By 1934, there were operating some thou-Mudfl of miles of good airways connecting the principal cities of the United States. These airways included point-to-point communications M teletype, as well as by radio, between airports for flight messages. I In \ provided also for air/ground and ground/air communication between these airports and planes in flight. Through the inventiveness of | |t 1,1 in radio engineers like Leuteritz of RCA, the radio range was being lM»pro\ i < I and new navigational aids, such as direction-finding, were be-ini Inlioduced. An excellent system of airdrome control, already devel-nped im luded collection and dissemination of meteorological information In l.oit. the aviation ball that had been carried by the military in |)t< Iw i nties was now largely being advanced by civilian agencies.
\ comparable military airway was needed to connect Army bases, nlteii as not. were ofl the civilian routes and at some distance
.........11. . McClelland saw that, and so did Wally Smith and the other
nluded airmen, but McClelland and Smith saw also that the ..I the undernourished Aii Corps could never support thing no elaborate as the civilian airways. In inh Aiiiin mi bases as Mitchell Field in New York, Boiling
|ii lil in \\ i 1111n'iciii I ) < Selliidge Field iii Michigan. Kelly Field in i Match Field In ( lallforuia. and perhaps a ore of other military
I llnlilUlunenti had mane ol the element* ol airways stations They op
Brigadier General Ivan L. Farman
General of the Army Henry H. Arnold
General Carl A. Spaatz
erated point-to-point radio and, in a few instances, maintained control-towers and radio ranges. But what were lacking were coordination and full-time devotion to airways communications. Under the system then existing, radio and tower operators, for example, could be used to service planes, to do KP, to perform messenger duties—to undertake a thousand and one things not directly related to airways service. Each post commander made rules for his base, and those who worked at the airdrome were subject to the varying demands of the individual posts.
Even more serious was the fact that radio stations were geared to ground operations and ground thinking. All messages had to await their turn. A flight message would receive no priority over an administrative message. All messages had to clear through the adjutant, first, and then proceed through channels, first to the corps headquarters, then to the corps headquarters of the destination field, and finally to the field itself. Even a slow airplane would complete its trip long before the flight message heralding its departure. It was no wonder that "aircom" men quipped, "Send it with the pilot. It's faster."
The problem was even more serious than that. Air maneuvers had gone awry because of just such faulty communications, and planes had missed their rendezvous or never arrived at all. One irascible general, disgusted with the slowness of air communications, had in exasperation filed his message with Western Union. And the story is told that, during one of these maneuvers, a message intended for General Marshall ended up in the hands of Admiral Byrd in Little America.
Wally Smith had all that background in 1938. Indeed, three years before, he had assisted the Air Communications Officer to initiate an alert system at these various fields in order that flight messages and airplanes aloft might receive some precedence. The plan had not been too successful, principally because the base commander was still boss and there was no outside communications agency to enforce uniform procedures. If communications is anything, it is integrated. It recognizes no state lines, no corps boundaries. It is concerned with speed of transmission, and the fewer barriers the better.
All that, Wallv Smith knew. All that, he knew, had been impossible to remedy before. But now he had a letter from the War Department, from the highest authority in the military, and it said, "Let there be highways in the sky." So, on November 3, 1938, Wallv Smith went to work in the Operations and Training Division of OCAC to create something new—the Army Airways Communications System.
The War Department letter had designated eight states to comprise the First A ACS Region: California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Nevada, Utah, Wyoming and Montana. There, Wally Smith was directed to build highways in the sky.
He had wanted Ivan Farman for that job, because Farman was one of the few pilots who knew communications. It was Farman who had helped McClelland fly the mail so successfully on the west coast route in 1934. It was Farman, too, who had participated in the Hudson River tests of air communications for the Army with the Columbia Broadcasting System, way back in 1931. Farman would have been just the man to organize the First AACS Region.
The new Air Corps Weather Service, however, anticipated him. In the preceding months, the versatile Farman had turned to meteorology at California Tech, had been drawn into the Weather Service, first as Officer in Charge of the Weather Station at March Field, and later as Regional Control Officer for the First Weather Region. So Farman was out for the present.
But Farman recommended another communications-minded pilot, Captain Russell A. Wilson, and on November 29th Wally Smith had orders out, designating Wilson as the Regional Communications Officer for the First AACS Region. The choice was. a wise one. Wilson had just the equipment for the job.
A West Pointer, Wilson had gone on to Signal Communications S( hool after graduation. Somewhere along the line, also, he picked up a master's degree at Yale, and then went through pilot training, as well us courses in tactical and chemical warfare. When Wally Smith found him, he was living with a bomber squadron and was known to air communications men up and down the Pacific coast.
Mrii who knew Wilson tell manv stories about him. He was a small u. hi with unlimited energv, a fierv temper, contempt for danger, and a tpaiklmg sense of humor. Mis characteristic operational pose was with I..' .Hiked, leet on desk, delivering rapid-fire orders. For a West Pointer, he was startlingly free ol inhibitions at times, and dangerously
Ileal in .iil.ui.liiiation at others. Hut he was alwavs a good soldier. His men would die foi him.
In one recently recruited private who reported to his office five
........les lair. Wilson said, "What's the matter, Scott, don't von like the
^ • •. nil." replied the petrified private.
"All light Hi' ii. let in. .. . von }'.• I I" " "H time You aic to icpoil
back at exactly 1400. Set your watch." Scott set his watch by the office clock, saluted, about-faced, and marched out. At exactly 1400 by his watch, Scott returned, knocked on the door, came in and glanced at the office clock. His heart quaked. It was five minutes past. "I'm sorry, sir . . ." the private began. But Wilson waited a few seconds, then smiled, and said, "Okay Scott, I moved the clock ahead five minutes." The private is a captain now, and confesses that punctuality has been a religion with him ever since.
Wilson's first job, on assuming command, was to recruit communications men for his squadron. He established his headquarters at March Field, and set to work at once to create there the first real airways station. For his NCOIC (Non-Commissioned Officer in Charge) he selected Walter B. Berg, the same veteran air communications man whom McClelland had placed in Arnold's plane on the Alaskan flight. Since 1919, Berg had been living and talking communications. He pioneered early distance experiments with ground to air, applied the results in directing border patrols from a plane in Texas, and served with the famous Panama Observation Squadron, which made a record in its use of air communications. Wilson assigned Berg to head his net control station, the headquarters from which the highways in the sky would radiate. By the end of January, a grown-up airways center with eleven men was fully operating at March Field.
There were six more stations to be taken over and put on a paying basis—six stations from the old air alert system that Wally Smith had tried to make work, but without success. Two of these were in California, at Hamilton near San Francisco, and at the Sacramento air depot. There Wilson proceeded to proselyte. He knew the good communications men, and hand-picked them. For their part, they knew Wilson and thev were attracted to the possibilities of an outfit which, for the first time, was devoted solely and undividedly to their work. One after another thev joined, and before long Wilson had two more stations on the air, with highways in the sky connecting the three major air bases in California.
Then, like the itinerant missionary, Wilson went up the coast to Med-ford, Oregon, and found four good disciples there for a fourth AACS station. There were also two airfields in the state of Washington. So he set up stations at Cray, near Fort Lewis, with six men, and at Pearson with four more. The nucleus for the system was now nearly complete, except for one station at Salt Lake City, Utah. There Wilson picked up three more men and completed the first region of highways in the skv.
When Wilson returned to March Field, however, he found eonil
martial proceedings about to l>e instituted ngainsl him I'm n Weil
Pointer, Wilson certainly had not observed the military customs. His order had directed him to set up an airways-communications system on the west coast. Like a good soldier he lost no time, went out and hand-picked his men, assembled equipment, and went on the air in a matter of weeks. Wilson knew the men he wanted, knew where they were, interviewed them, and signed them up without bothering even to call upon their commanding officers. For this oversight a half-dozen offended post commanders were ready to hang him professionally. Fortunately, they were dissuaded.
By the first of February, Wilson had forty-nine men operating seven stations in eight western states. Here was the first military system of highways in the sky. Just what that meant to the pilot who took off from March Field for Sacramento, or any other destination on that system of sky highways, can be briefly summarized.
As the pilot taxies into position for the takeoff, one of Wilson's boys ut the point-to-point radio position taps out a flight message to Sacramento. It probably says something like this:
ETA (ESTIMATED TIME OF ARRIVAL) SACRAMENTO 1130." Hut to Wilson's boys it means something like this: "Start sweating out that plane, brother. If he doesn't get there by 1130, there will be hell to pay for all of us."
At the same time, another of Wilson's boys in the control tower, in direct contact by voice radio with the pilot in the plane, clears the field for takeoff and delivers final instructions on direction and velocity of flic* wind, ceiling, and other meteorological information provided by Carman's weather boys. The plane takes off, and remains in voice contact with the tower for the first twenty-five miles. During that time the pilot has only to say into his microphone, "5933 calling March Tower, "\< i and Wilson's tower operator, at his service, comes over with the • I. iK .1 help until the pilot responds with the satisfactory "Roger, and
< >in e outside the tower's twenty-five mile range, the pilot picks up in I.e. earphones the steady dah (lah-dah of the March radio range PtillUlned and operated by another of Wilson's AACS boys. This is i. |Uy the long, straight, smooth concrete of the highway alter leaving "I,, ii.illie signals ol the intersection. It leads directly and unerringly ll......gli il.. il.iee dimensional wilderness ol the sky to Sacramento.
hui that li not nil At both March and Sacramento, Wilson's boys sit
With mi theii heads, alert to the slightest signal liom the
i.*i• • t .., il.. nli i he. e. .ni ground .....I ail. working bi it should
An\« h< i. idling tin wa) il" pilot known ho hai only to touch hii key
to receive instant response. Is it more weather information? Wilson's boys will get it for him. Does he want transportation when he reaches Sacramento? Wilson's boys there will notify the motor pool. But above all, is his engine acting up, is a forced landing inevitable? The AACS will know where he comes down, direct assistance to him. And as he enters the zone within twenty-five miles of Sacramento, the AACS tower operator picks him up:
"5933 from Sacramento Tower, here are your landing instructions."
In its simplest aspects, that is the highway system in the sky. It was simple in those early days of 1939. But simple as it was, it had never before been continuously and systematically available. Where, before, the pilot had thought of himself and his plane as "we," there was now a full team below. There was a highway in the sky, and on the ground there were highly trained men whose business it was to see that pilot and plane reached their destination safely.
highways in the eastern skies
Wally Smith found a somewhat different highway-builder for his eastern skies. In every sense, Wendell Bowman represented the best of the West Point tradition. Brilliant but undemonstrative, Bowman did everything well, easily. At the Point he had quarter-backed the varsity football team and earned ail-American mention. Even if you had never seen him play, you could picture him coolly calling the signals, showing up best under pressure because he was never rattled, always deliberate over the situation, no matter what the emergency, and coming up with exactly what the case demanded. In the years that followed, men loved to serve under him because of his high sense of fairness, his recognition of merit, and his sternness with obliquity. Behind his soft-spoken Tennessee graciousness, one instinctively felt the strength of mind and body that commands respect in or out of the Army.
Bowman assumed command of the Second AACS Region toward the middle of 1939. He established headquarters at Langley Field, near Hampton Roads, Virginia, and methodically set to work to tie his scattered stations into a tight net. His odd region comprised all the Atlantic seaboard states, from Maine to Florida, and everything east of the Mississippi River except Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi. In this sizable territory there were already in operation twelve airways stations, organized bv Lieutenant Dudlev Hale, his predecessor, during the first few months after activation.
The big stations were at Langley, at Mitchell in New York, at Boiling in Washington, D. C, at Patterson and Wright in Ohio, and at Scott
and (Ihanute in Illinois. The last two were already Bisuming Importance
as training centers for air communications, and Wright near Dayton was the equipment experimental laboratory. It could be assumed that flights to these larger fields, already frequent, would increase, and that the efficiency of any airways system would be judged largely by the effectiveness of the highways in the sky connecting these points.
As soon as he had set his Langley headquarters house in order, Bowman, himself a crack pilot, took off over the eastern skyways for an inspection of the stations. With characteristic thoroughness he went over every last detail, interviewing enlisted men, examining equipment, studying operations. His was a survey in the best scientific tradition, mathematically precise and yet humanly understanding. Upon his return, he opened an attack upon discovered weaknesses.
Over in the First AACS Region, his colleague Wilson was pulling no punches in his reports to Wally Smith that the personnel situation was critical. It was almost impossible to attract technically qualified radio operators and technicians at $21 a month, especially when the men had to spend three dollars of that each month for the rental of a typewriter that the Army couldn't afford to buy. Bowman found conditions in the Second Region just as bad, with the radio maintenance men forced to use their own cars and to buy their own gasoline, in order to travel from the station to the transmitter shack, usually several miles away. Bowman found, also, that men secured from the Signal Corps were forced to take examinations, not only on the AACS equipment they would use, but also on a great deal of ground signal equipment they would never use. And yet, these AACSmen would be given lower ratings and pay than the ground signal men or the grease monkeys on the line.
Somehow Bowman, with little talking and less letter writing, succeeded in at least partially remedying these personnel defects. He secured transportation and gasoline for his men, had the examinations modified, gained gradual increases in rating and pay. Bowman also managed an authorized strength increase from 137 to 163 men, and ipproval to open three more stations.
I'm nine ol his stations he planned 24-hour-a-day operation, in order that night living might be just as safe and regular as that during the day In addition to the six large stations already named, Bowman
I..I Selfrldgf In Michigan, Middletown in Pennsylvania, and Pope In North < aiolina lor this round-the-clock operation. With these nine tlialcgh allv '.elected airways stations continuously operating, it would linw be possible to ll\ anvwheie on bowman's skyways at any time.
I in 11 ol theil" " ••at.....s Bowman organized thirteen man
learn*, with dutiei distributed ovei three eight hum ihifts, as follows:
two men were needed for each shift to operate point-to-point, one man to guard air/ground, one in the control tower, and at least one during the day for maintenance of navigational aids and the transmitters and receivers used in the other facilities. For each of the smaller stations, Bowman hit on a seven-man team to operate only during daylight hours. Over each station detachment Bowman placed a hand-picked NCOIC (Non-Commissioned Officer in Charge) who knew every phase of operations, had the respect of his men, and would assume responsibility. Essentially, this was a commissioned officer's assignment, but Bowman himself was the only authorized officer for the entire region.
This logical devotion to organizational niceties was a Bowman forte. He went even further. On his tour of the stations he had job-analyzed every duty, and had noted that duplication of effort was contributing to the problem of personnel shortages. For example, he discovered that Army regulations were being unimaginatively interpreted to require far more record-keeping than was essential to operation. Bowman centralized logging in one place, and the men thus freed he assigned to other duties. On the other hand, repeated failures in equipment, which were intermittently causing his stations to go off the air, were made the subject of a monthly report, which listed when and why a certain bit of equipment failed. These reports Bowman carefully analyzed, placed in categories, and utilized to establish the most frequent causes for equipment failures. Against these causes Bowman then waged relentless war.
Men who have worked under Bowman will all say this: It is a thing of beauty to watch the orderliness of his plan and the neatness of his execution. A born organizer, he proceeded, in a comparatively few months, to perfect a system of highways in the sky that became an AACS model.
Nor was the RCO selected by Wally Smith for the Third AACS Region below the stature of the other two. Unlike Wilson and Bowman, however, Lloyd H. Watnee was no West Point man. He had come up from the ranks. Both his military experience and his air-communications training were of the solidest quality. In personal traits he was somewhat between the extremes represented by Wilson and Bowman. At times, he displayed some of the west-coast man's fiery temperament, especially when he was aroused over operational failures; but more often he was the careful Bowman type of organizer and administrator.
To Watnee went the assignment in the sprawling Third AACS Region. Its territory stretched over seventeen states, from Texas through North Dakota, and from Arizona through Florida. The thirteen stations inherited from the former alert system included four in Texas, two each
in Kansas, Oklahoma and Florida, and one apiece in Arizona, Alabama and Louisiana. In the last-named state, Watnee established his first headquarters, at Barksdale Field near Shreveport. In early 1939, the Third AACS Region looked as shown in the illustration.
Like Bowman and Wilson, Watnee tackled the personnel problem first. A good radio operator himself, Watnee naturally turned to the matter of training raw, young recruits. Strenuously he objected to the old Army examinations which penalized men specifically prepared for AACS operation, and he proposed that an entirely different training program be undertaken. His idea was that three distinct types of technical specialization were called for by the AACS job. These were CW (continuous wave) radio operation for (1) point-to-point and air/ ground, (2) control-tower operation, and (3) maintenance of the radio range and other equipment. To prepare men for these three classes of jobs, Watnee proposed to open a school in his headquarters at Barks-dale Field. Although the War Department did not "buy" this well-designed plan, it did authorize the Air Corps school at Chanute to pay more attention to AACS needs and to supply a regular quota of trainees.
Watnee next set to work to place as many of his stations as possible on a 24-hour schedule. Because of the extent of the territory in his region, to select strategic stations, as Bowman had done in the Second AACS Region, was not feasible. Consequently, Watnee strove for 100% full-time stations. But he differed with Bowman on the minimum number of men required to man one of these stations. In his opinion, fifteen represented the smallest team that could efficiently keep an airways station on the air. There was reason for this difference. Point-to-point traffic had become so heavy that at Barksdale, for example, it exceeded that of the War Department station, and it was now no longer possible for the radio operator to act also as message clerk and to read, revise, and log each message as it came in or went out. Nor could one control-tower operator any longer keep up with all the landings and takeoffs.
For example, by December 1939, Kelly Field in Texas was handling no fewer than 3300 messages a month. These messages totalled over 42,000 groups. Now a group, in radio parlance, is on the average a five-letter word, and what these figures meant was that the radio operators were either tapping out on the Morse Key <>r copying on the typewriter that many words a month in continental code. During the same month. Maxwell Field in Alabama had handled 4161 airplane contacts, which meant there had been that many landings and takeoffs for the lower men. besides the monitoring entailed lor the air/ground operators. To keep tin- necessary equipment functioning, more skilled maintenance Whn needed than any one man could give during a normal working day.
THREE AACS REGIONS Highways in «lie skies early in 1939.
From headquarters, Wat nee got 179 of the 198 men authorized, which was pretty good for those pre-war, small-Army days, but it was far from sufficient for his planned airways. Besides the thirteen stations already operating, expansion called for a new station at Lowry near Denver, Colorado, and increased facilities at certain so-called terminal stations in Texas and Florida. Already, in late 1939, Wally Smith was looking toward the Panama Canal and Puerto Rico. In anticipation of installations there, strong airways centers were needed near the Mexican border, possibly at Biggs near El Paso and at Brownsville in Texas, and near Miami in Florida.
Even as Watnee struggled with the problem of personnel shortages, an epidemic of equipment failures broke out. They were not confined to the Third Region, however. Bowman was experiencing difficulties at Selfridge and Boiling, where the static pixies were active. The two Regional Control Officers joined forces in a campaign against these failures. Most of the disturbances were found to be electrical ones caused by such proximate accessories as vacuum cleaners, duplicating and sewing machines, and even electric shavers. Shielded lead-ins, line filters, and rewiring of the antennae brought improvements, and eventually better equipment brought the epidemic under control.
One of Watnee's men has left a brief description of what one of these first AACS stations looked like in 1939. Kelly Field, near San Antonio, Texas, housed one of the larger airways centers. As no special place had been provided for AACS, the men took over two small rooms on the west side of the miniature range building. Two more rooms, above these, served as office and supply rooms, as well as sleeping quarters for two operators. About a mile away, at the east end of the field, was the transmitter building. But there was one important convenience. Besides Kelly, there were Duncan, Brooks, and Randolph Fields, in addition to a War Department message center at Fort Sam Houston, all in the vicinity of San Antonio. These various establishments were connected by land-line teletype. Now in teletype, of course, it is unnecessary to send and receive in Morse code. It was thus possible to relay information rapidly among the various military establishments. Other wise, the Kelly Field airways station was so crowded with racks to hold receivers and remote-control equipment, operating tables and teletype machines, that the operators would have found very little room in which to move around.
By the beginning of 1940, Watnee had developed a region of high ways in the sky which compared favorably with the other two and linked up with them into an airways system for our zone of the interioi, all, together, forming, in military designation. Airways Z.I.
If Wilson, Bowman, and Watnee were having their troubles in the field, Wally Smith was certainly not enjoying a bed of roses at headquarters. The single manila folder in the third left-hand drawer of his desk had now become a four-drawer steel file cabinet jammed with official correspondence. The Army Airways Communications System was taking on all the attributes of big business.
Some twoscore airways stations—extending clear across the country, from west to east and from south to north, into a web of strategically spun sky highways—were doing large-scale air communications. Individual monthly station averages of 5000 aircraft contacts and 50,000 point-to-point message groups were becoming common. The largest number of these stations were staying open on a 24-hour daily schedule, 7 days a week, and keeping their facilities 100$ operative. And the system was doing that with a peace-time economy total of less than 300 men supervised by only 4 officers. Figure it out. That meant an average of TA men per station with the supervision of about 1/10 of one commissioned officer. If the American taxpayer with a penchant for balanced budgets wanted an example of governmental economy, he could have found it, early in 1940, in the Army Airways Communications System.
No private enterprise would have had the heartlessness to ask a skilled technician to perform the duties performed every day by the average AACSman, at a salary of $21 a month plus board and room. Certainly no commercial firm would then have asked him to pay three dollars a month rental for the typewriter needed to do the job, or furnish his own car and gas to travel from the station to the maintenance shack for repairs needed to keep the transmitter on the air. Yet that was exactly what we, the people of America, were doing as late as six months after Hitler had invaded Poland.
For Wally Smith, the personnel situation was serious. Unable to secure decent pay or ratings for his men, he was faced not only with an impossible recruiting situation, but also with the necessity of holding on to the few men he then had. More than one had taken advantage of the opportunity to buy his way out of the Army, while others were merely awaiting the expiration of their term of enlistment, to return to civilian life.
Out on the coast, Russell Wilson was becoming desperate. He bad fared less well than either Bowman or Watnee in the number of men In-had been able to procure for his First AACS Squadron. As the demands of the region increased, Wilson's letters to headquarters became mure
To Alaska
AIRWAYS, Z.I. Highways in the skies over the United States.
vitriolic. "This AACS," he wrote, "was born up in Washington in the OCAC. If you don't get me some men, and quick, the AACS will end up over there in Washington, in moth balls." A little later he wrote again, "With the money Congress is appropriating for airways communications, all I can give them is some Indian smoke signals." Later he wrote, "This may sound like insubordination, but I am tired of asking a bunch of fine men who would give their life in battle for me to go on working for such insulting compensation and under such unfair conditions."
The unfair conditions to which Wilson referred included the tendency of post commanders to use AACSmen for KP, for messenger service, for a hundred and one odds-and-ends jobs that represented a dissipation of technical training and experience. Moreover, such utilization of AACSmen merely meant a return to the previous inadequate airways communications which this new Army organization was specifically created to remedy. At his own March Field, the fiery Wilson had succeeded in establishing a "hands-off-my-men" policy; but at the other First Region stations, where no commissioned officer represented the AACS, the post commander did with the AACSmen as he chose. Time and again, Wilson had flown to one of the other stations to protect his technicians, but soon after he left the old conditions would return.
Still, personnel represented only half of the problems that confronted the young outfit in those days. There was the matter of procuring, developing, maintaining, and installing adequate equipment. By Army Regulations the Signal Corps was charged with these responsibilities. AACS took up, from there, with operation and care. But equipment was not too plentiful at that time, nor was it fully suited to the demands of air communications, as differentiated from ground communications.
Finally, there was a political problem. Congress and the people looked suspiciously at what appeared to be a duplication of the civilian airways administered by the CAA of the Department of Commerce. The fact that these civilian airways connected cities rather than military establishments, that their operations were geared to peacetime passenger and cargo transport for pleasure and profit, rather than to fighter, bomber, combat-cargo and carrier missions for defense, was superficially brushed aside by economy-in-government blocs that were destined later to clamor for vindictive investigations of our lack of preparedness.
All these problems of personnel, equipment, and diplomatic relationships were properly the sphere of headquarters in Washington. From none of these did Wally Smith shy away. Hopelessly overworked with other operations and training duties, in addition to ins respousl
i "in irs lor AACS, he finally secured the assistance of another officer for In headquarters. He chose Thurston H. Baxter, a command pilot. To-i ■ 11 m i i hey made a good first headquarters team. Wally Smith, a private in ihe Air Corps during World War I, had come up through the ranks in lhe rating of major and command pilot. He had completed com-
......... 11 ions training, and had devoted himself to furthering radio-
|ilme coordination. His long years of Army service, since 1917, gave
i..... i he necessary* military experience to insure proper channelization
"I ill efforts in behalf of the new organization.
I Inirston Baxter, a younger man, provided the necessary comple-m< nl lor headquarters teamwork. A decade before, he had gone directly mi" cadet flight training, earned his rating, and proceeded to communi-■ itioni school. To him Wally Smith assigned very largely the personnel problem, while he himself devoted his efforts to equipment and to
diplomatic relations.
In the succeeding months, the Smith-Baxter headquarters team ac-
......i .ii. lied a number of things for the field, but not until they had lost
.......i ill- ii three sterling commissioned officers. In April, 1940, Russell
\ wilson was relieved of his First Region Command. His men gave i.hii i 11 tminimal banquet. In a little over a year, with only a handful of m< i......i a conglomeration of left-over equipment, he had given the
• < i ' oast its Inst military airways. He had worked himself and his men mi imi inglv, in spite of disappointments and anguish, and no one could
i " i" had ac......plishcd wonders. Russ Wilson went back to flying
• ml mil mini) months later, when his country was drawn into war, he i . i in hi. hi ill. skns over Cermany. Not an AACSman who knew Mill « \< i mentions his name without the deepest reverence.
!.. .1. .red him. Wally Smith and Thurston Baxter agreed upon
I ii >i \ S.....yer, another West Pointer, destined much later to use his
• . in perience in Muss Wilson's region, to follow Wilson across the
ttl...... .....i i-1 .pin a web of skyways over Europe that was a monu-
Ifti .ii in he. predecessoi who gave his life. That, however, is a later
Nil i" HMO S.....\.i (I up where Wilson left off and, in the skies
i nl hi- ii... i i. . lasluoned a system of highways unexcelled any-
1..... i.- 11r,1111111.1111• is iii Washington, Wally Smith and Baxter
i. ......i up "m ■•<vi ml ,k hievements. persuasion and demonstration
• i , ii. . 11 , hi \\ ,n s i i n in i hi ions (in ild do ioi ail power, they pinnueil vnotlgh additional personnel to bring the strength of the 1 . "MKJ men This Included piovision loi some T>0 men to go
..... Illtn i»111 pilmpmnloiln Panama, Hawaii. M.e.ka. i'neilo linn, and
piiMlhK 11in i'hilippmeii an well Further, Im leased rating* and pay
were obtained for the men on a technical basis, permitting the recruiting of a number of promising radio "hams" just out of high school and junior college.
On the equipment side, Wally Smith worked closely both with the Signal Corps and with the experimental laboratories at Wright Field, where air communications was rightly a subject for research. Newer and better equipment was procured, and rushed to installation in the various AACS stations. Radio ranges were now being commissioned and operated in such quantity that a plane could fly anywhere between military installations and have the guidance of a beam—have a highway in the sky to follow.
Wally Smith also worked closely with the Civil Aeronautics Administration of the Department of Commerce. In those early months, the advice and assistance of the CAA were invaluable. Through its predecessors in the Department of Commerce, the CAA had had a long life of continuous experience with operating airways. Wally Smith testifies that here was an excellent example of cooperation between two government agencies representing the Departments of Commerce and of War.
To strengthen the administration of the Z.I. Airways, Headquarters later, in 1940, created a fourth region to relieve Bowman's Second and Watnee's Third of the vast areas assigned to them.
I iilv it was decided that Airways should not stop with Z.I., but imild extend at least to our own extra-continental possessions. In M in h, 1939, when all three continental regions were barely crawling mi" life, Wally Smith drew up plans for the installation of an 800-watt
• "Ii" range at Borinquen Field in Puerto Rico. By June, funds had been Appropriated to be used by the Quartermaster for the purchase of a
Hi uiid for the construction of buildings for the range and transmitter. \iiiili< i appropriation was made for the Signal Corps, to procure the .mil transmitter.
Willy Smith, himself, flew to Puerto Rico a little later to survey the
.....11 In a highway in the sky. It was a rather interesting flight, because
Ii- checked not only on the Puerto Rican field but also on two of Wat in < I hud Pegion Florida stations. At the time the Florida terminals ■ ■ <■ I I ii | >i i ia 11 Field, near Miami, and the Jacksonville Air Base. Un-il'l< tu «'intact cither, on the return trip from Puerto Rico, Wally '•null, in i Ii in i that minced no words, wrote Watnee what he thought
• ■I both places I he test served to alert these continental terminals, as
• II II '......In Hi the navigational problems of the overwater hop.
I'owuid Panama, too, Smith looked with planning eyes. Since 1933, had been operating, on the Isthmus, radio stations at France Field 1111 ill. Atlantic, and since 1937 at Albrook Field on the Pacific. At these I |"-nits. Wally Smith conceived embryos for airways stations that
told link the Third Region's Texas outposts to the defense of the 1 mill My June o! P).'M, Wally Smith was designing for Albrook.
My tin s|>i lug nl I'l III planning had progressed beyond the bluepi hit 1 The Mm ini|iien range was already operating, and six enlisted
iih ii hud been attached limn the Second Region's l.angley station to '' ih II. . ..i11iaiv..iii< i Si|u.idion in Puerto Pico. With Wally Smith's hlcmlng. Wat nee departed lot Panama to take ovei the station at Al 1 'I mil m I up \ \< St in il tei s there. At tin* same time,
^ ...... u|.ei vIkimI aetlval..... at France Field and drew plans lot
■llftlllaiy hIuIIou*. one at Itlo llato and imothei al lluwaid
CARIBBEAN CARAVAN Highways in the skies over Panama and Puerto Rico.
But, thus far, these Caribbean activities were without benefit of War Department legislation. On November 15, 1940, the legislation came, authorizing an organizational set-up for all territorial airways activities. Six detachments were activated, all named "Air Corps Detachment, Communications," to which the names of the respective territories were added. Abbreviated, these detachments took on the aptly electrical des-igation "ACDC." Watnee was placed in command of ACDC Panama; but ACDC Puerto Rico maintained a separate existence, with nineteen enlisted men drawn originally from the Second AACS Region.
In the next ten months events moved rapidly. The fall of France, the faltering of Britain, the ferment of Latin-America, all these things galvanized activity in the Caribbean. Watnee worked feverishly to effect an airways network over the Canal for the air patrols now developing into capable defensive units. With four stations, ACDC Panama was at last in a position to provide a link to Airways Z.I. By August of the fateful year 1941, something like a Caribbean net was shaping Up, In that month, ACDC Puerto Rico and ACDC Panama were unified into a squadron—"Air Corps Communications, Caribbean." all undei Watnee's command.
Way back in 1915, the dynamic Billy Mitchell had appraised Alaska's global aviation potential. With gigantic strides before a Mercator pro-jection of the world, Billy had tapped his pointer and articulated "here" and "here." One of his staff officers had listened intently. He was Billy's |iiotege, Hap Arnold. "He who controls the sky over Alaska," Billy had
• .aid, "controls the world." And then ominously he added, "Japan could take that control away from us by creeping up the Aleutians." Hap Arnold never forgot those words.
On July 27, 1940, Arnold called a conference in his office. Billy Mitchell had died, a broken-hearted man, five years before, court-martialed and forced out of the Army he had served so many years, all because he was ahead of his time. But Billy Mitchell's spirit must have hovered <>\ er Hap Arnold's conference and glowed with pride over the step his lust pupil was about to take. In the days of "flying crates," Billy Mit-
• hell had prophesied planes that would overcome the rigors of Arctic Wither. One year before he died, he had been vindicated by Hap \iHold's Alaskan flight and had proudly told those about him, "That's my l>oy."
Now. in 1940, with France down and Britain tottering from Nazi blows with China all but out from the Nipponese knocks, Arnold re-iiii inhered Mitchell's words: "The nation that controls Alaska controls
• In world." The conference called in his office involved the Armv, the Navy, and the CAA. It was concerned with air routes to Alaska and an ilrwaya net over the skies of our far-north possession. In bold strokes.
\.....Ill painted his plans for Arctic air control. There was to be coord i-
n 'iMm among the three agencies, and, for the Army's part, he outlined
• hut the Army Airways Communications System would be prepared tfl 'I" \s a icsiilt of this conference, significant coordination was established The \ \( S was to undertake the activation of four airways sta Hon* at once.
In August i small detachment from tin- Third AACS Region moved .....ill I,add Field, near Fairbanks. With it went a modicum ol
• •|iii|.....ol and a mountain of experience gained in operating Airwavs
/ I bnl id. \n In was dillerenl horn anything the men had tackled in the (lulled States, Wintry winds and icy grounds would pose several problem*) ha laiho engineering before anything like the regular recep
• • '" d( »eloped ill the Nouth would be possible. So AACS station WZY,
• i I a.1.1 svi nl mi the air as an experimental outpost.
I hi ullii i Ihiee stutIimin culled lot by Arnold went up in onlci From MoMell WIImmi'n lainoui Flint AACS Region, then commanded by Ned
Highways in the skies over Alaska.
Sirmyer, went six good enlisted men to Elmendorf Field near Anchorage. Their primary mission was to aid in the collection and dissemination of weather data. As the weather men gathered information on atmospheric changes moving down from the North Pole, the AACS-men's job was to pass that information along to Airways Z.I., which in the course of time would be affected by weather that invariably originates in and moves down from the north.
Two more stations were activated. One, at Annette, was intended to shorten the span between Alaska and the state of Washington, and to copy weather reports from CAA and Navy broadcasts. The other, at Yakutat, soon earned its salt with a heavy traffic in weather and flight notices. These four stations became the embryo for the Alaskan airways net, and were inevitably accredited as ACDC Alaska.
How important the Arnold conference had been, became immediately apparent to ACDC Alaska. There were five other communications nets operating in the Territory. Besides those functioning under the Navy and the CAA, there was one belonging to Pan-American Airways, a fourth serving the Morrison-Knudson construction companies, and a fifth under the Bureau of Indian Affairs.
Cooperative effort on the part of all six could lick at least three problems that were troubling the collective effort. There was a shortage of shipping, and equipment was therefore difficult to obtain. Lack ol a de pendable power supply had, in many instances, forced operators to use storage batteries, not entirely satisfactory, and of course limited, Ki
nally, the tricky Aurora Borealis was doing something to radio waves every once in a while that caused fadeouts, during which reception was virtually impossible. This "Radnos," as it was called, could be very serious for a plane in flight at any time, and doubly so during a war emergency.
On the eve of December 7, 1941, there was an A ACS detachment of thirty-four enlisted men, headed by one warrant officer who was aided by a borrowed commissioned officer. Four airways stations were in operation. Pitiful as this preparation was for the Japanese thrust that I ol lowed, there is no doubt that the ghost of Billy Mitchell had something to be grateful for.
One hundred days before Pearl Harbor, nine Flying Fortresses took
• ill I torn Hawaii's Hickam Field into the uncharted skies over the Cen-tial Pacific. They were headed for Clark Field, in the Philippines, by way of Midway, Wake, Port Moresby in British New Guinea, and Darwin, Australia. In the flagship was Major Gordon A. Blake, Commanding Officer of ACDC Hawaii. His radio operator and crew chief was '>« ii-,rant John Resl, destined only three months later to be wounded in an lotion over Cavite Harbor, but not until his waist gun had accounted
lot live Zeios.
There was barely a wagon trail in the skies over the vast Central I'm i lie in those days. Pan-American was flying a shuttle run in the other
• Inaction, to San Francisco. It had also started an air pathway from Honolulu to Midway, Wake, Guam, the Philippines, and thence to the ( hlent. It was blueprinting a third run, through the islands of the South
PACIFIC VENTURE Highways in the skies over Hawaii.
Pacific, to New Zealand and Australia. But nothing like the system of highways in the skies required by Army transport was at that time in existence.
Such equipment as there was, operated under the CAA. There was point-to-point between the United States and Hawaii, and weather information on request. Radio ranges at both ends provided a beam for less than half the intervening ocean space. For the most part, pilots depended on navigation. If the plane went off course, their best bet was to radio an SOS and hope that some Navy aircraft or merchant vessel in the vicinity would pick it up. To some extent, civilian aircraft could circumvent these hazards by judicious scheduling, and by grounding planes in bad weather. But, of course, no air war could be fought that way. The only solution was Army airways with overlapping navigational aids, backed by air/sea rescue, and weather service. In short, what was needed over the world's greatest ocean was a system of highways in the sky.
Wally Smith found just the master builder for the job. West Pointer Gordon A. Blake, Command Pilot and Communications Officer for the 18th Composite Wing (forerunner of the Hawaiian Air Force), had managed, even before the birth of AACS, to establish an interisland airways net. Working closely with the CAA, by 1939 Blake had succeeded in providing, for air maneuvers, a compact little web of roads in the skies above the islands.
Therefore, when the War Department, in November 1940, created for AACS its six territorial Aysee-Deesee's, ACDC Hawaii inevitablv was placed under Blake's command. Blake, then only a captain, set up headquarters at Hickam on the Island of Oahu, using one floor of a two-story barracks on the corner of Fourth and Signer Boulevards. From the beginning, his vigorous and astute leadership began making history that highlighted every significant happening in the Pacific, from Pearl Harbor until his men guided the American forces into Tokyo, five years later.
To begin with, however, Blake had only a handful of two kinds of specialists—radio operators and radio mechanics. Control towers were to come later. Starting with such facilities as he then had at Morse, Suiter, Homestead and Burns Fields, Blake steadily nurtured his intra-island teletype on each of the larger islands. Lack of underwater cable prevented tying the islands together with anything but radio.
Toward the end of 1941, Blake was doing big things for the defense of Hawaii. At Homestead, a Navy field. \CDC Hawaii was operating airways communications for carrier aircraft. At Bellows, a sub base of Wheeler Field, an AACS station had been activated in July. In IUC
cession, it served three customers with its control tower. The 58th bomber Squadron was the first, but it soon found the runway, then only one third of its present length, too short for B-18's and A-20's and moved on to Wheeler. Next came the 86th Observation Squadron with its ten C-47's, followed by the 44th Pursuit Squadron with its 16 P-40's; both Squadrons used AACS facilities for patrol and gunnery practice until the fatal day in December. Likewise, at the big Wheeler Field, the AACS with nine men served the training program by directing Bghter aircraft from the control tower in traffic-control procedures.
Even while Blake was tightening the Hawaiian net, and tying it into Airways Z.I., his eyes were looking out over the Pacific. In August, he was granted permission to survey the vast ocean skies for highways. On the 22nd, he received his order, containing a summary of the communications facilities that would be available at each of his stops and at other places, and a list of frequencies to be tuned in by his radio opeiator, John Resl. For the most part, these were point-to-point stations BMrated by PAA at Honolulu, Midway, Wake, Guam and Manila; by the Royal Australian Air Force and Australian civilian agencies at Port Moresby and Darwin; and by Dutch stations in the Netherlands Fast Indies. Our Navy stations in Honolulu, Midway, and Wake were ■fated, and all naval and merchant vessels whose orders brought them nem the route were at once advised to render rescue assistance if necessary.
On September 5, 1941, nine Fortresses took off. From the start, the High! resembled nothing so much as an automobile leaving a two-lane lur.liway to rough it across fields and swamps. The only reference to itlonal aids in the orders advised that homing and direction-Indlng signals would be transmitted at stated intervals, on request, but that of course the planes would have to be near enough to their destinations to be able to pick up these signals. On the fourth leg from I-...I Moresby to Darwin, the official orders shakily read, "All arrange
......|N Ioi this leg an- tentative" It was all a far cry from flight over
Ah \n avs 7 I
|< rgl ml |ohn Resl relates that he never once removed his headset,
all the I..... dies wen- in the air. From the start, the nine B-17's pre-
Sjtrlously picked then way through the vast, uncharted skies over the
mill.......I sea that had swallowed up so many good flyers before. And
• I,. || at last tin- plu point islands wen- sighted, thin- were no rellcc lime, from the gleaming mesh runways that the newsreds show today.
I In m were only < (imperatively i leai stretches oi gran fields, or hard. .. i. .i t nth, oi sufficient rough coral to make possible the takeoff. An
.....|tl< dll.....I bad w.ath. i meant chatting tl>«' coiuse as they Hew,
with Resl constantly working PAA and RAAF ground stations for weather information that was not always available when needed, despite previous planning.
On September 12, the nine Fortresses completed their mission at Clark Field. It was a feat of the first magnitude, and the War Department recognized it as such by awarding the DFC to every man who participated. Its real significance, however, lay in the fact that Blake had taken careful notes, which he immediately set to work to translate into a Central Pacific highway in the sky. He arranged for two more flights, one during each of the last two months of peace; and on the eve of Pearl Harbor, he was ready to spin the strand that would thrust our air power into the enemy's front yard.
Approximately on the 20th day of April, 1941, Headquarters of the Second AACS Region, now located at Patterson Field, Ohio, issued history-making orders for five AACSmen. These orders read, in part, Ai inv style, "You will proceed to the Brooklyn Army Base reporting 111 >< m i arrival thereat to the Commanding Officer, Overseas Discharge ii iid Replacement Depot, prepared to sail with the troops leaving for Newfoundland." At noon on the 27th, the Army transport sailed for m fohn's, and arrived there on the first of May.
For the first time in its history, AACS was undertaking to set up air-w.i\s iii foreign territory. An indirect result of the exchange of fifty 11\ i i age destroyers, lend-lease, and working agreements with our < inadian neighbor, this first station in Newfoundland represented an null il tangible step to help Britain hold on, to keep the Axis out of that broad blue ocean, daily losing its protective insurance.
Immediately upon debarkation, the five men, equipped with a truck mm I i moved to a point near Gander Lake in the northeast corner ol New I.Mm.II iikI. Radio men will be interested to know that the truck
i.....ii .1 a transmitter and a generator, the latter driven by the truck's
, ...,,„■. Within the trailer were a complete message center and the ludio station consisting of three receivers and a control unit. The men • i heralding the davs when mobility would be essential to task-force operations. About i.....n on the tenth day of May, initial radio contact
i made with the Albemarle, a Navy supply ship anchored oil Ar gtntiu ( »n the following day. an Army transport was readied, and ■ Ithlll « week weal In i was being transmitted to the War Department i .i..... at Rolling Field, near Washington, 1). C.
following the I<iiiIoii.i1 precedent already established in our own ol I'D. il.. Rn o Panama. Alaska and Hawaii, Wally Smith's
III idquartei proceeded to uetivatr an \ysev Deesee (AC DC) l<»r
n. « I.mmi.lhii.l and l.\ '.heel i ham e the inaslei hllildci whose
veil largely to «hapi tin world NyHtem of ailways that followed. I ...... ihi wi) I.- im.......i■ in lu.'lh Wally Smith had had he. eves on
Ivan L. Farman to head the first region on the Pacific Coast. There were a number of reasons for that. Farman, like Wally Smith, was one of McClelland's communications men.
A radio Ham from way back, his call sign 6MG was granted him along with his amateur license, in 1919. The next year, Farman finished high school and decided to follow his electronic interest by enrolling in California Tech. There he worked his way through college by getting up every morning in the week at 4:30 a.m. to deliver milk. "My dislike for alarm clocks in any shape or style dated from that time," he said much later. Majoring in physics and electronics, Farman earned first his B.S. and then his M.S. degree. He was, to all intent, headed for a career in radio, when Charles Lindbergh flew to Paris. Like hundreds of other young men who read "We," Farman decided that more than anything else he wanted to fly. The best opportunity then appeared to be in the Army. So Farman enlisted, entered flying school as a cadet, and earned his rating and commission as a second lieutenant in 1929.
Farman tells how his fellow-cadets, through sheer superstition, shied away from flying in formation with him because he was so small he virtually disappeared in the cockpit, giving the other flyers in formation the eerie feeling that they were flying with a pilotless ghost ship.
Farman's specialized radio background gave him a decided advantage over most of the Army's pilots. Flying was beginning to suffer as much as it gained from the long-distance stunts, and Farman saw at once that if aviation were really to develop, if it were ever to grow out of the cross-country, voyage-of-exploration stage, it would require the type of direction and communication supplied to land travel by highways, railways, and telegraph lines, and to ocean travel by sea lanes, lighthouses, and radio. With characteristic intensity and intelligence, Farman at once began to devote himself to developing radio as an accessory to safe flight.
Every opportunity that the Army offered for him to combine his double interest in flying and radio, Farman welcomed. In 1931, for example, when a chance incident presented him with the assignment of installing radio sets in pursuit ships, under Captain Harold McClelland, another of the few Air Corps officers who had then had the vision of what radio could do for flying, Farman jumped at it. As a result, he got the assignment as Communications Officer in Major Carl Spaatz's 7th Composite Croup. This Croup was then already gaining a reputation as "radio crazy," largely because Spaatz, almost alone among Air Corps leaders, appreciated what radio could ultimately mean to aviation. Consequently, Spaatz was on the lookout for flying offloeri who knew radio. Me had acquired Charlie Howard foi his 11th bom
bardment Squadron, the same Charlie Howard who, with Harold McClelland, had met in Hap Arnold's office on the Labor Day after the Alaskan flight to draw up the first plans for an AACS.
Very naturally, therefore, Ivan Farman found himself in the 7th Composite Group, working in the field that meant so much to flyers like Arnold, Spaatz, Howard, McClelland, and himself. With Spaatz, Farman developed the idea for a flying radio station, destined to be used much later in the first landing on Japanese soil by Farman's AACSmen. The station was designed for, and assembled in, Spaatz's own tri-motored Fokker.
The following year, Farman was presented with further opportunity to pursue his "aircom" (air communications) interests. That was the year of the air maneuvers. As part of these maneuvers, considerable experimentation was carried on in a number of aeronautical fields. Far-man, his reputation in Air Corps radio beginning to grow, was assigned to work with the Columbia Broadcasting System on a series of tests for new communications ideas and developments.
All the time, Farman kept studying and thinking about radio-plane relationships. He never took his own ship up into the air without giving In| fertile imagination free reign to produce new aircom ideas. Finally, the Army sent him to Signal School at Fort Monmouth, for advanced training. There he met three radio-minded pilots who were destined to help him build the world airways later. Of the three, Blake and Bowman were young West Pointers of about his own age, who had just begun to think about this radio aviation tieup. The third was Lloyd Wat nee, not very much older, chronologically, but with a great many years of Army service and Air Corps radio experience behind him. The three of them talked enthusiastically with Farman about the whole business, and, after completing their courses, drew assignments in < huillr Howard's 11th Bombardment Squadron.
but Farman was assigned to Harold McClelland out on the Pacific roust Then- he was when the Army was ordered to fly the mail, in l.l.uiaiv of I9'M, Immediately, McClelland put Farman on the so . tiled Houte 5 in the northwest. Here was an opportunity to put into piai In e some ol his beliefs. Farman reminisces that he worked all night • .. tailing radio sets in planes, and then Hew the mail the next day.
I Iiuni Installal......i proved to be the safety factor.
I,,, the in »1 three years, however, the Army buried Farman at . h.Uinti In M 111 llase Signal Ollicei and as assistant director ol a
.....i.....m. ttloni icl.....I that the Ah Corps was endeavoring to develop
|y that Hint I" was really impatient to begin on the big Job tbut
A.....Id and M.< I. Hand and I huh. II..waul and mine and mote Hv is
were beginning to see was the sine qua non of air power. While the seemingly endless effort to establish a military airways system lagged, the Army decided to use Farman's fine Cal Tech technical training to establish the new weather service. In this new endeavor, Farman was involved head over heels, first as weather officer for March Field, then as Regional Control Officer for the First Region, and finally in directing an extensive weather cadet training program, when the AACS was born. So direction of the First AACS region went to Russell Wilson and, but for a happy accident, Farman might never have returned to air communications.
The accident occurred in October, 1941, when Farman was assigned as weather adviser to General Brant in Newfoundland. En route to his new assignment, Farman stopped off in Washington to visit with Wally Smith, Lloyd Watnee, and any of the other radio flyers who might happen to be present. Only Thurston Baxter, Wally Smith's assistant, was there, but Baxter talked his friend Farman into taking on the extra assignment of looking after the "officerless" five AACSmen near Gander Lake with a truck and trailer station.
So Farman, then a major, officially assumed command of the ACDC Newfoundland from the end of October 1941, and immediately set to work to develop a net for Newfoundland that would tie into Airways Z.I. Besides strengthening the station at Gander, by replacing the mobile equipment with a permanent installation, Farman proceeded to establish three more stations. He made St. John's his headquarters and placed there a strong weather-collecting and -disseminating center. His third station he put up at Stephenville oh the west coast and nearest to the Z.I., and his final installation was activated at the Navy base near Argentia. The Newfoundland net, therefore, with stations in the north, east, south, and west was ready by the end of that autumn (1941) to tie into the Z.I.'s Second Region stations in Maine, and to reach out across the Atlantic toward Britain.
In a solemn public promise, President Roosevelt had acknowledged Prime Minister Churchill's request for tools. The most direct route for delivery, as well as the safest and fastest, was by all odds one through the skies over the North Atlantic. In July, 1941, a single Liberator had heralded the planes to come by charting the Army transport route. What was needed was a highway in the sky—a highway that would extend from Maine over Newfoundland and across the Atlantic t<> Britain. That highway in the sky, Farman had well under wav bv the first of December, and planes were flying it with increasing regularity and with decreasing hazards. At last a good start had been mad. toward establishing a firm air road and fulfilling Churchill's requeit.
AIRWAYS LEND-LEASE Highways in the skies over the North Atlantic.
Eliential to that highway was a well-organized system of weather-iollection and -dissemination. An old weather hand himself, Farman troved an ideal communications man for the AAF Weather Service
ltd.......-d in Newfoundland. From the very start, he organized his four
ah ways centers to provide priority transmission facilities for the Wrathei men. No one realized better than he the importance of this ,.. ...i it v. Weather men worked hard and ingeniously to collect meteorological information for the pilot, and if this information could not be 111 i ,iitly disseminated, its value was lost. More serious yet, failure to Winn .. plane ol (incoming storms might mean lost lives, as well as lost No one realized better than Farman the urgent need of a highly , IHi i, nl system ol weathei collection and -dissemination.
II,. i. u... still anothei factor in this weather business. It is well llflOWti thai storms are born in the fai north, and move south. If weather Information could be gathered far up In the Arctic circle, and transmitted With the xpeed ol radio to the south, in Maine and Newfound-
I.....I when-..... hauspoits wailed to lake oil on the Creat Circle route
III Miilaln, NtonilN and (alms could be anticipated and Mights scheduled .....I1 il .......I.....h W Ith 111*'- mind. nuslhai\ w. all.ei and
communications stations were planned in cooperation with the Dominion of Canada, early in the summer of 1941.
The vicinity chosen for these far-north stations was up around Hudson's Bay, both just south of, and on, Baffin Island. Preliminary photographic reconnaissance of this desolate region was undertaken by Captain Elliott Roosevelt late in July. And then in August, Navy Commander "Ike" Schlossbach sailed into the Hudson Strait and up the Koksuak River to the site of an old Canadian army camp at Fort Chimo. There, three weather and two communications men from the AACS were unloaded with their equipment. The five men moved inland with their provisions to a point about eight miles from the old fort, and about thirty miles from Ungava Bay. There they began to make preparations to go on the air, and to house themselves. On October 11, there arrived three motor ships, the Floe, the Fabia and the Cambridge, loaded with enough supplies and equipment for the long snowbound winter. They brought with them, also, three more AACS-men. A few days later, the first far-north airways center was on the air with its crystal set. The station was code-named "Crystal One."
At about the same time, three other ships pushed even farther north, to reach the head of Frobisher Bay and the southern end of Baffinland. It is possible that the frequent Air Corps use of the word "rugged" originated there, for never did AACSmen look upon a more desolate scene. Already, in October, the Arctic winds were whipping up high tides so vicious that the whole mission was nearly washed up, literally, right there and then. The men took one look at the place and about half of them, deciding that no human being could possibly survive the rigors of a winter there, returned to the ships and departed for the south. The rest, imbued with a venturesome and possibly adventurous spirit, decided to have a try at it. In the group that remained were two of the three AACSmen who had made the trip.
Hardly had the ships pulled out, when the men set to work erecting three buildings. Their labors proved futile. The site was as untenable as had been predicted by those who departed. There was now nothing to do but try again. An exploring party was sent about forty miles inland to escape the lashing gales of the open sea, and there another attempt was made. By the middle of October, sturdy shelters had been erected and buildings for the radio station were under way. By the end of the month, the AACS station at Upper Frobisher went on the air as "Crystal Two."
Farthest north of all, three more ships were plying their way into Davis Strait, just off the west coast of Baffinland and across from (Ireen land. At a little island there, called Padloping, they anchored and
began to unload. Eleven rugged-looking pioneers rowed to the south ihore of the island-location, 67 degrees, 6 minutes, 3 seconds, north, and 62 degrees, 21 minutes, 7 seconds, west Baffinland, Eastern Arctic, Northwest Territories, Canada. In the company was the commanding officer, a surgeon, two radio operators, two weather men, one radio operator and mechanic, one mechanic, one cook, one dog driver, and one civilian adviser, whom the Army put into uniform before long.
The date officially recorded in the "Crystal Three Diary" was October 16, 1941. From that day until the 5th of November the men unloaded prefabricated buildings, and supplies that would have to last pen) until the thaw late in spring. There was a good reason for concentrating on unloading. With each passing day, hazard of return for the ships was increasing. Once the ships were safely on their way back, the little detachment could set to work on its own shelter.
Temperatures dropped rapidly to zero and below. Snowstorms came and pelted the men while they labored. Many of the items of equipment, including batteries, became so cold that they had to be heated before they could be used. Still the men worked on, even when the Iv.lviinos would not venture out into the cold. By Thanksgiving, three buildings had been erected, a radio range was under construction ||out one hundred yards away, and the radio station was about to go On the air. On the 30th of November, the faint but clear signal of "(aystal Three" on Padloping Island was received at Farman's ACDC Headquarters in St. John's, Newfoundland. Far-north weather reports began to come in on a six-hour basis to guide the pilots across the North Atlantic highway in the sky.
Hut that was not all. Across Davis Strait from Crystal Three was (Greenland, with its jagged fjords, its dazzling snow and ice, its ominous llurat of Nazis possibly engaged in threatening activities. Ever since Denmark had been overrun the year before, there had been uneasi-ni ( ucenland was too close to America for comfort at a time like this, line the broad blue ocean was all too narrow. By decree, Uncle Sam had taken over the protective custody of this largest island in the .aid, which on a Mercator map always looked even larger. But actual i i ssion was still nine tenths of the law, so in the summer of 1941 first |.\ lo occupy were taken by the United States.
At boiling Field, in Washington, D. C, the Army assembled a lyMnious Air Corps Detachment "X." We were still not at war, but reenland had become potentially enemy territory. Volunteers were linked foi us tin- full nature of the task force operation was disclosed. A Iwo yeat supply ol food, clothing, shelter, equipment, and arms was In be taken Kveiy man who accepted the assignment committed him-
highways in the sky
self to twenty-four months of isolation from civilization, in one of the coldest and most desolate places in the world. When this was understood, the large number of possible men rapidly dwindled down to a handful of volunteers, who proceeded to the Brooklyn Port of Embarkation, where others destined for the Three Crystals were already assembled.
There the Greenland AACSmen were divided, even more mysteriously, into two task forces—one designated "Bluie West One" and the other "Bluie East Two." In July, the two task forces took off, BW 1 in the transport Siboncy escorted by the destroyer Greer, and BE 2 in the Ford Motor Ship Ormoc with instructions to join a convoy in Nova Scotia.
Undoubtedly as the AACSmen stood on the deck and looked out over the sea at the sleek, fast U. S. destroyer, its guns stripped for action, they contemplated the end of an era—an era of highway construction in the skies over the Z.I. They were going out now to build in the skies over strange lands fraught with hazards of war. In Nova Scotia they joined a heavily armed convoy and proceeded north. The Siboney reached her destination at the head of a deep fjord called Narsarssuak, about one-third of the way up the west coast of Greenland. There men of the Air Transport Command, Air Corps Weather Service, and the Army Airways Communications System, together with their equipment, were unloaded.
Plans for Narsarssuak were ambitious. Here was to be constructed not only an airway and weather station but an airdrome as well, a stop on an alternate North Atlantic highway absolutely demanded by the rapidly expanding plans for delivering tools to Britain. On this narrow shelf of land, the task force spent the first three weeks building shelter against the dreadful winter that would come. And then the AACSmen went to work on their station. On the 21st of August, 1941, "BW 1" went on the air. In the first ten days of its existence, it transmitted 19 messages and received 2, for a total business of some 542 five-letter word groups sent and received.
Somewhat less fortunate was task force BE 2. After leaving Nova Scotia, it tagged along with an 8-knot, 40-ship convoy, which had not proceeded very far when it ran into enemy action. One ship of the convoy was lost. The American Ormoc, armed with nothing more than an American flag painted on the port and starboard sides ol lier hull, managed to zig-zag by, for twenty davs steering close to the shores of first Greenland and then Scotland, in an effort I" both the U-boats and the weather. Finally the Ormoc put in at Reykjavik, be land, and remained there until I'. S. Coast Guardsmen had mopped
Nerve-center of the airways is the AACS Badio Station. Here air/ ground operators aré guarding aircraft frequencies and relaying air gyafl movement messages to other stations along the "highway." This |l Station BW-1 at Narsarssuak, Greenland.
np mushrooming Nazi weather stations on the east coast of Greenland.
Meanwhile progress was being made on the comparatively peaceful west ...ast. In addition to BW 1 at Narsarssuak, the AACSmen had BUG fteded in opening another station farther north, and almost din. lis across Davis Strait from Crystal Three, at a place called Sondrestrom fjord code named Bluie West Eight. But Bluie Fast Two, marking n,,,, in Iceland, did not succeed in getting on the air at Angmagsaalik in.hi the following spring (1942).
By December 7, 1941, Farman was building highways in the skies ovm the Wild North Atlantic. There could be no doubt ol that. Nine Blrwuys stations weie definitely on the an three in northern (Quebec.
two In Greenland and a tight little net ol loui coininnnh ,.l.....I renter.
In Newlonni II.,ml Belo.e the blow lt-11. \( \ >< ! NewloiUld
lund hud become a lull-Hedged airway* eoinmunical.....I iquadrOT
I, n lug I he Hi si I.....n> i < I1,'"" ol I he \nn\ MrwayN « on......nleutioilN
System. Fortunate was the fact that two master builders—Farman in the North Atlantic and Blake in the South Pacific-had been given a few weeks before the blow to prepare the major skyways, those leading directly to the outposts of the two major Axis partners.
For fully one year after the fall of France, we lived with a breach in our hemisphere defense. Nazi activity in Greenland brought the enemy dangerously close to our continent on the north. In the south, the situation was even more uncomfortable. Right in the middle of our Caribbean ocean was the island of Martinique, loyal to Vichy and therefore a potential Axis base. If Admiral Robert there had a mind to admit the Germans on the Island (and he certainly had evidenced no great friendliness for us), then not only the West Indies, including our possessions there, but the Panama Canal as well, would be wide open for attack.
More trouble—in French Guiana was another hemisphere threat, not only to the Caribbean and the Canal, but also to South America. The British and DeGaulle had already retreated in confusion from their ill-planned attempt at Dakar, accenting the seriousness of the South Atlantic threat against the Brazilian bulge at Natal. The whole Latin-American situation, what with Axis ferment in Argentina and elsewhere, was fraught with menace in the twelve months following July, 1940.
Then, in September, we exchanged fifty over-age destroyers with Britain. In return, we received squatters' rights at places in the Caribbean, on the continent of South America, and in the South Atlantic, at points where we needed such rights desperately for our own hemisphere defense. May we never forget that, in any self-righteous debate on lend-lease! Many months later in the CBI, a dominatingly British theatre of operations, Japanese propaganda to the troops stressed Uncle Shylock's astute methods of taking back two dollars for every one he lent John Bull. Certainly those junked bottoms we palmed off were no even swap for the valuable and vital bases that we received in return.
In the last year before we entered the war, our plight was desperate. Breaches in our southern defense had made us vulnerable to a serious body blow. In July, 1941, we began to use our lend-lease bases to alter the situation. Thirty miles south of Martinique is the British West Indies island of St. Lucia. Taking advantage of our lend-lease right, we sent a handful of Air Corps men there to build an airdrome, and while the east-west runway was still under construction, the AACSmen pies ent put station WYTB on the air. They called it "Til" in those days.
Highways in the skies over the South Atlantic.
because the men worked under trying conditions for lack of the very v of existence. But the AACSmen succeeded in setting up a weather broadcast center and sending their thread back up to Puerto Rico directly over Martinique.
That was the beginning. In August, Wally Smith's man, Watnee, down m Panama, assumed command of the entire Caribbean airways i, m, including not only the Canal net, but also Borinquen in Puerto li,,,, the new WYTB at Beane Field, St. Lucia, and any other stations
.....i, 1111) 1.11111. A ACS was now ready to spin its web and entangle any
Is thai might emerge from the Nazi nests at Martinique, French i , ui even distant Dakar.
I,, \.nn I the second lend lease airways station was cocked at ,„ h ( Fourteen AACSmen moved into Atkinson Field, near \., Itnlish ( miana, ami there, with a mite of equipment and l*NN ol Yankee Ingenuity, went on the air in short order. The men ...■.. \\, lold, long allerwaid. how they made then own shelves luol I,,. , lollies »< KM, and mosquito l-a. I.amc by lollowlng dire. tiouN
in an old high-school manual-training book that one of them had brought along. Out of odds and ends of wire from the antenna they rigged clothes hangers, and when they weren't "pounding brass," as the radio Ham terms his sending of code, they were keeping the fast-growing jungle from the door by literally hewing a path through the growth to reach the transmitter shack.
Nor did the spinning of the radio web stop with these two stations. The following month, another AACS detachment arrived at still a third lend-lease base, on the island of Trinidad, just off the northern coast of South America. There, at Waller and later at Carlsen Field, two crude but effective stations were put on the air. They had no typewriter, and the seventy-five odd messages a day handled at Waller had to be written out in longhand, but the important thing was that we were at last mending our Caribbean fences.
And then, in October, we moved into the British West Indies island of Antigua, this time north of Martinique, thus shortening the length of the web strand from St. Lucia to Puerto Bico. Our purpose was frankly military: to keep an eye on Vichy Martinique and to set up an antisubmarine base against the U-boats now swarming through the Caribbean. For such a vital base it was a crude sort of affair at first. In a tent at Fort Cerise the AACSmen placed their first station, on October 2, 1941, while Coolidge Field was still building. But in a short time we indicated, in unmistakable terms, just what we had in mind. The AACS station was moved into a new building with 18-inch thick, concrete walls, strong enough to resist more than the average bomb and shell. An air-conditioning unit, designed to provide protection against attack by gas, followed. Here, at least, we had no illusions about the facts of life in the fall of 1941.
We managed two more stations in the Caribbean before the blow fell. Toward the end of November, AACSmen from Watnee's Albrook Headquarters in Panama arrived at Vernam Field in British Jamaica. The rainy season was on. During a twenty-one-day downpour, Station WZZ went on the air tying the West Indies stations into the Canal net, while the men worked in their overshoes to keep their feet dry and prevent shock. Then, days before Pearl Harbor, we remembered our own Virgin Islands just south of Puerto Rico. There we opened a station at Benedict Field, on St. Croix, destined later to figure in the antisubmarine campaign and as a check point on the long South Atlantic transport haul. With these bases, and with the cooperation ol Pan-American Airways stations, particularly in Cuba and Haiti, we were better prepared for what followed than our unpreparedneil <n titled us to expect.
It was early Sunday morning. An AACSman on guard at the Bellows ield airways station of the ACDC Hawaii net methodically watched
B-17, just in from the States, float toward Oahu Island preparatory to landing. His throttle cut, the pilot was apparently beginning to make his approach. The whole scene, to that point, was perfectly routine, typical of landings that AACS tower men handled under SOP— Standing Operating Procedure.
Then, suddenly, out of the sky spurted little planes with sparks Hying in all directions. The giant Flying Fortress, startled, hesitated I"i a few instants in the air, barely above the Bellows runway, and then collapsed on the grass alongside the cement strip. In the next few moments, two American P-40's of the 18th Pursuit Group juggled up
• 'II the field toward the sparking little fighters above, only to meet the li 17s fate. Both came crashing down, aflame.
The AACSman blinked. There was no doubt of it. The sparking In-liters above were not our planes. He looked again. They were definitely Japanese! Someone shouted, below, and pointed to something lliiating in the water just off the beach. It looked like the wreckage of H plane. The AACSman, peering out from the greater vantage point "• Ills tower post, shouted a warning. It was a two-man Japanese sub-in,ohm and one man was scampering ashore. Before the invader could do anv damage, he was taken, the first prisoner of the war.
Over at Wheeler, the AACSman in the tower stood by. Right at him
• line the sparking enemy planes, strafing and buzzing. But their aim
I l»ad. Neither the tower nor the man was hit. The sparking planes
.....tinned over to the main American base at llickam.
I In aircraft on llickam Field were concentrated under strict guard. I In le had been a recent epidemic ol sabotage throughout the Hawaiian Inland'. Nevertheless the concentration of aircraft had been effected IMlly ovei the protest ol \n < lorpa ollieers. To them, dispersal against III .Hack look pn « edence ovei concentration against sabotage, hut the
Ml < oips wm still a pait ol (he Anns . and ihe planes lemained pat kid tl^ht loj-elhei loi eiiNlei .up. i \ isloil.
Major Gordon L. Blake, Operations Officer for the Base and Commanding Officer of ACDC, Hawaii, was in for a busy day. Hardly a dozen hours ago, his AACSmen radio operators had received a fligh' message from March Field, California:
Blake checked his Air/Ground operators: "Any contact with Flight Xray yet?"
"Yes, sir. We have their ETA."
"What is it?"
"Estimated Time of Arrival is eight hundred."
Blake headed for the control tower. "Thev should be within range any minute now," he told himself. "It would be good to see old Tom again." Blake entered the hangar, and stopped to exchange a greeting with one of the officers. Overhead the buzzing wail of a descending plane could be heard. "Who in heck can that be," Blake half queried, half commanded as every one ran out to look.
Two strange bombers were just pulling up and awav from a terrific explosion in the center of the concentrated aircraft. The seconds of surprise gave way instantly to complete understanding. This was it! All hell had broken loose. Bullets were ricocheting. Planes were burning on the ground. Men began scampering in all directions. More planes buzzed overhead. More bombs fell. More bullets poured out against men and materials indiscriminately.
Blake did not hesitate. He was the senior officer. To one of the AACSmen he gave the key to his personal automobile. "Quick. Over to the transmitter shack. Disperse our equipment as much as possible."
Blake himself tore out for the control tower. The AACSmen up in their perch, cool as cucumbers, were continuing their routine duties. Alerted for the approaching flights of twelve Flying Fortresses from the mainland, the tower operators stood by, tensely waiting for the first call.
Blake took the mike. He began talking deliberately but urgently. "Hickam Tower Calling Flight Xray. Hickam Tower Calling Flight Xrav. Over."
The moments seemed like hours. Blake started again. "Hickam Tower Calling Flight Xray. Hickam Tower Calling Flight Xray. Over."
Outside, confused improvisation reigned. Plane after plane was going up in flames. Nearlv every building except the tower had been hit. at least once. The Japs were coming over in strength now, blasting away with bomb and gun.
Blake listened intently above the furore. Faintly he heard, in his ear phones: "Hickam Tower from Army five nine three three. Hickam Tower from Army five nine three three. Over check point. What are landing instructions? Over."
Exhilarated, Blake now clasped the mike a little tighter and began talking firmly and with conviction: "Hickam Tower to Army five nine three three. We are under attack. We are under attack. Procedure two to Bellows. Procedure two to Bellows. Out."
Blake continued as the planes came into distant view one by one: "Army five nine three four. Procedure three to Wheeler. Procedure three to Wheeler."
They were all clearly visible now, flying in in four three-plane formations—"Army five nine three five. Don't look now. There are two Japs on your tail."—"Army five nine three six. You will have to take runway A down wind. . . . Six seven you are next to land."
Blake and his AACSmen watched feverishly. The first B-17 taking the too short runway at Bellows damaged its underpinning, but otherwise escaped unhurt and the crew scampered out for safety. The second B-17 made Wheeler, unscathed. Blake was in command now, and order or no order, he was dispersing the planes according to best Air Corps tactics. A third B-17 came in on Hickam with two Japs on his tail. It maneuvered out of one bomb-hit area, taxied for dispersal, parked, and then the crew began to unload. An enemy plane buzzed low and opened up, strafing furiously both plane and men. One, two, three were out safe. A fourth (the Chaplain, Blake learned later) was hit and fell under the plane. The rest escaped. A direct hit on the Fortress broke it in two.
Blake was landing them now one after another, directing them away from fire and from other planes on the ground. From where he stood In the tower, the whole battlefield stretched out like a vast cyclorama In three dimensions. Blake talked himself hoarse. With his voice he was viitually talking each plane to safety. The pilots entrusted themselves completely to their fellow-pilot in the tower, who gave his instructions tersely, expertly, and with the confidence of one who has himself llown many hours. Five, six, seven. There were five more to land. Blake Was holding them out of enemy reach and sneaking them in one at a lime between waves of enemy attacks. Fight, untouched.
More Japs, bombing and blasting awav. Blake held the remaining lorn oil And then Number Nine sneaked in Number Ten came next. And then some moie Japs. Two ol inns still circling overhead Blake talked ill-m coolly, encouragingly, "All right Nuinbei Eleven to land nest." Nuinbei I'.leveil cam. in lot tin (mil .11>|»t...i. 11 Me wun
w, they must be built speedily, frantically. The enemy was every-here. The enemy must not build them first.
Hilly Mitchell had talked his heart out before the House Military ffuirs Committee in February, 1934. "He who holds Alaska will hold e world," he had told them. And now, in the spring of 1942, we were n danger of losing that hold.
The Jap had audaciously swept us out of the Central Pacific, and Will driving deep into the South Pacific. There was no doubt that, as anon as the weather permitted, he would move into the North Pacific, hat he had done to Pearl Harbor, he believed he could do to Dutch .n I mil No darker days ever had faced our country. We had a pittance of power in Alaska. Representative was our air-ays eliort, up to the date of Pearl Harbor. Four AACS stations had "en activated along the coast. From south to north, they were Annette, IKUtat, Anchorage and, slightly inland, Fairbanks. The danger point
• i Dutch Harbor was more than 1000 miles away from Anchorage. I hat meant 1000 miles of trackless, arctic skies over which our bomb-em, lighters, carriers and cargo planes would have to fly, without beno-lll nl highways in the sky. As if fighting the enemy were not enough,
..... or force must first battle the elements, alone, entering the fray with
that much of a donated handicap.
And what elements! Alaska weather is not Hawaii weather. Cer-i not in the dead of winter. There is the Aleutian williwaw, for i pie, a fierce wind that seems to blow from all directions at once, riierr are dreary fog, and constant rain, black mud and tundra, bare lirfuccs of volcanic islands, furnishing all in all as inhospitable an iipeiating area as anyone could select lor conflict.
Ileie thirty-four AACSmen and a borrowed officer began to build highways in the skv. earlv in 1942. They began building furiously, and, liMiinse the elloit was a frantic one, it was at liist without a master plan All the men knew, was what had happened to AACSmen at Hel-1 and Wheeler, and llickain, and Wake; and uncertainty as to when it like late might overtake them spurred their every motion. Alaska was nil at the end ol the woild It was next dooi to the enemy. It was on the
•.....r hue The men had forgotten all about the broad blue ocean that
lined to protect them, sav in a little Iowa town! And even il Hitlei tnnlil not today personally pick up planes oil the Detroit assembly linen, iheie wan no MMtii'iiucc he couldn't do il tomorrow Kt fol I Kltch
• • to which Iheie wen e. \.i no highway* In the skv. luinllv I
• his nailed Without n......i ol (he appiom h ol MliohiloN Meet.
above the runway. His wheels touched. He was beginning to slow up. The next Jap wave was overhead. Blake directed our pilot away from the point of attack. Number Eleven came in, the crew popped out and scampered in all directions for safety. Now only Number Twelve was up there, still circling and maneuvering. Then Blake saw a chance. 'Twelve," he barked into the mike, 'Twelve to land." Perfectly, Twelve touched the end of the runway, slowed promptly to a halt, and taxied to the separated nook designated by Blake. They were all in, literally and figuratively. Blake and his men exchanged relieved looks. It could have been much worse!
Nor was the commanding officer of ACDC without courageous support from his AACSmen. Everywhere in the Hawaiian net, CW operators, control tower men, and radio mechanics worked expertly, under fire, to keep the AACS on the air. The blow had come at a bad time. Blake had barely completed the organization of his Hawaiian net. The survey of the Central Pacific route was only even then being translated into the first highway being built in the skies over the Pacific. Out across the ocean, toward the Philippines and Australia, men and material had been set into motion.
On Wake Island, for example, were two AACSmen, Staff Sergeant Ernest G. Rogers, Jr., and Pfc. Paul F. Futtrup, both radio operators with an advance small unit to be tied into the Hawaiian net. After the first Jap assault, Colonel Baylor's Marines radio station was completely destroyed. So was the Navy's. But by one of those freaks that do happen, an auxiliary Army radio unit under Captain Wilson of the 7th Army Corps escaped undamaged. This portable unit, installed and operated by AACSmen Rogers and Futtrup, to provide a radio guard for transient Army bombers on the shuttle run to Wake, now came to the Island garrison's aid.
At Colonel Baylor's direction, the AACSmen moved their station into one of the concrete, bombproof magazines, whence they began sending out "CQ's" (general inquiry call) into the Hawaiian net. Hilo, Hawaii, picked them up. Furtively the AACSmen tapped out the Colonel's request for information on what help, if any, was being made ready for the relief of the Island. After a long silence, Hilo sent back a terse, two-word reply: "No dope!"
Two days before Christmas, Wake and its courageous little garrison fell. Those who escaped death were taken to an enemv prison camp on Formosa, among them AACSmen Rogers and Futtrup.
The strand spun forward from Hawaii to Wake had been severed and the whole Central Pacific airways plan mutilated. Hut now, more than ever, there was reason for highways in the iky ovei the Pat ln< Only
ALEUTIAN AIRWAY Highways in the skies over the North Pacific.
Within six weeks after Pearl Harbor, all this labor by AACSmen gave birth to a fifth station at Naknek, definitely on the way to the Aleutians. The uncharted sky space to Dutch harbor had been reduced. We were advancing to meet the approaching enemy.
In March, we did more. We knew the time was short, the distance out to the farthest Aleutian island long. At the tip of the Alaskan peninsula, pointing toward Dutch Harbor, was Cold Bay. There, ostensibly, the Blair Packing Company was going about its business of canning fish. But there, AACSmen moved in secretly, and set up a hidden airways station. Also, over at the first Aleutian island on Unmak, another AACS detachment moved in with Saxton and Company, Can-ners. At both Unmak and Cold Bay, the U. S. Army Air Forces kept under cover, ready to steal a march on the enemy when he did appear. In no small way were these two secret bases responsible for sending awry the Jap plans for Dutch Harbor.
We were inching along in more ways than one. What we lacked in equipment and plan, we compensated for in industriousness and ingenuity. The devotion of our men was in the best "musket" tradition of our Revolutionary War. At Cordova, a lone AACStuan put the United States on the air with his own amateur set. On the island ol Kodiak, a few more AACSmen warmed an airways station into life Ml told, M hill the blow came we had nine airways stations connected l>\ a sk\w,.\
from the mainland that reached out toward Dutch Harbor as far as Unmak. Again, it could have been worse.
On the second of June, two enemy aircraft carriers were sighted less than four hundred miles from Alaska. From the secret AAF bases at Unmak and Cold Bay, B-17's and B-26's took off. They caught the Japs completely by surprise. Few in number as these heavy and medium bombers were, they did their work well because they were flying a secret airway, operated from tents at Cold Bay and foxholes on Unmak. At the former place, AACSman Jensen recorded in his diary, as the attack on Dutch Harbor began, "Taglianetti and I were busy as hell today." That was so because their secret station, inside the Blair Company, code-named "Jacknife," was guiding those B-26's and B-17's back and forth between target and base. Nor was "North Pole" on Unmak Island, tucked away in Saxton and Company's cannery, doing less business. There, under enemy fire, one of the AACSmen earned the Legion of Merit for "Radio airway aid at the time of the attack on Dutch Harbor."
Meeting such stiff resistance, the enemy pulled away from Dutch Htrbor and occupied two other Aleutian islands instead—two not quite IP near to North Pole and Jacknife. They occupied Kiska and Attu.
Now, as in Hawaii, there was more reason than ever to build highways in the sky over Alaska. But that was not all—they must be built furiously and fast, and ahead of the enemy. The Jap, beginning at Klika, would build in; we at Unmak must build out. Somewhere this *lde of Attu, the two systems of highways in the sky would meet. The w. akei would give way.
< >u the Atlantic Ocean, war came to the airways less dramatically. I hi a number of months before December 7, 1941, we had unofficially tilled ourselves with Britain and were even then building a skyway Mi loin the North Atlantic. But the blow, when it struck, was just as
I iki Blake in the Pacific, Fannan had just finished blueprints for aiivs in the skv stretching over alternate routes from Presque |ill Mam. to Prestwick, Scotland. He had four good stations, in New-iuuuilliuiil Fai to the north, he had five more stations collecting and iIikii initiating weathei information three in upper Quebec and two in • it inland Willi these nine stations on the air, the pilot no longer Hew the Ninth alone lie could lake oil from Presque Isle and nli l> up Slephem (lie lu Newlnundland when the signals bom the main land began lo lade, using Si John*, and Aigentia an he passed over,
and stopping at Gander for refueling and weather information before the long over-ocean hop. But once six hundred miles east of Gander the pilot navigated over fainter and fainter trails, picking up such air-to-ground British stations as he could.
That was all right for the four-engine plane before the weather turned too bad. But what about the fighters and medium bombers with only one or two engines? The over-water stretch from Newfoundland to the British Isles was too much for them. A shorter, alternate route was needed—one by way of Labrador, Greenland, Iceland, and Scotland—with much less open-water travel.
The key to this alternate route was Goose Bay in Labrador, a base projected jointly by the United States and Canada in the fall of 1941, but still on paper in December. They had a try at it in November, but winter came and it was no go. Goose Bay would have to wait for the spring.
Master builder Farman, however, was not in the habit of waiting. He had a plan. His plan had been thought through, all these years, while he and the other radio-conscious pilots of the Air Corps wen* trying to sell the people of the United States on the need for highways in the sky. Like Billy Mitchell and Hap Arnold, he too had hid .«
dream of American air power, an air power in which the Innilai.....| <\
element was the airway, a system ol highways in the :l\ dial would wrap the world up in a fish net
Farman took the extra AACS assignment in Newfoundland in Oc-pbtr, 1941, because he saw the chance to prove his plan. He saw there mi ■ ipp< at unity to build highways in the most treacherous skies in the •world, those over the North Atlantic. By December 7, 1941, the outline of that plan were visible and audible. Nine airways stations an-i-hoicd thin threads of communication up, down, and out from the Sine!lean shore. Farman wanted ninety, and a crisscross of threads that "'•■Id tie the Nazi end of the Axis into a knot on the continent of
i it man had just organized the Newfoundland net, as neatly as Blake
ii «.1 die Hawaiian net, when war came to the airways. The impact, at ftisl less violent in the North Atlantic than in the South Pacific, stead-ilk (in teased its pressure on the little web Farman had just begun to ■weave and. by winter's end, disintegration if not complete destruction mihlmuted the whole plan. We were paying for our faith in the broad 1.1... «..11111, We were proving the importance of the truth that God .it i. ■ ids those who first defend themselves.
Ill ihe winter of 1942, Farman had been given less than a hundred in. i. i.. I.mid highways in the sky over the North Atlantic. Most of the ■ i- i.t needed for these highways was still on the drafting table. \ i. v itniiMiiitteis and receivers in POE warehouses waited for ships
III il -a arrived from tussles with the U-boats infesting the ocean, null i.piipiuent as found its way to the outposts in Baffinland and tHt.nliiud was both laughable and tragic. At BW1, in Narsarssuak,
i.....iiui in lived without screws. The AACS men there found little
■ ■•i .it 111•■• i the printed directions that accompanied this Z.I. bit of uieut, as they read: "Screws can, of course, be obtained in any > l.vme sloie"
i iiii loo mile gale was lashing the antenna tower. As far as
mi i i niilil see. there was nothing but snow or ice, except for three
..•i.i. inili hnl s him smg a handful of battered, weary, and weather-I.iMm. « i ..i the aacs. the aaf Weather Service, and the Air 1 p-.ii « Without power, AACS point-to-point could not hlth ,l" Inhumation the weather men collected. Without power, the
1 • .....i iiui i iillo range could provide no guidance for ATC
i ,.m,.,,, |,..ik ..ii In.iii SI |ohu's lii I'rescjue Isle in Maine. That was .1 iiulpiist Inline the long flight to England. There, 1 i'll hi ii hiss the North Atlantic should logically
-•ii dining ihi Hnl month ol oui part in the war, farman
1 iii! • i 1.....| ill ways si.ill.hi a station to anchor the loose
1 * "I hl^lmnv iii Newfoundland, (ii eeula in I. and lliilllnland
highways in the sky
By the end of January, he had a going concern in Presque Isle. The control tower was landing and taking off planes with businesslike procedure. A radio range was sending clear, steady signals of direction across the open stretch of water to Stephenville, in his own sterling Newfoundland net. Alerted point-to-point and air'ground operators, guarding definite radio frequencies, were picking up weather information from the Three Crystals in Baffinland and the two Bluie Wests in Greenland, and were disseminating this information to Presque Isle Operations (responsible for starting aircraft on their North Atlantic hop); to the Newfoundland net; and to aircraft in flight as far east as halfway across the ocean.
But Farman didn't stop there. His thoughts were never alone of Presque Isle, nor of his Newfoundland net, nor even of the whole North Atlantic airways which were his special charge. His every plan was always in terms of an integrated airways-communications system, world-wide, a system of highways in the sky that would give the United States air mastery over its enemies, no matter where they were. So it was that he planned for the day when his North Atlantic net, tied tightly to Airways Z.I., would join Blake's Pacific net. He thought also in terms of his relations to the struggling little Alaskan net and the scattered South Atlantic bases still without benefit of direct guidance from a master builder. With all this in mind, Farman pioneered the procedures and the methods for all these four nets, and for nets vet to come in Africa, the Middle East, India, China, and the continent of Europe.
In the winter of 1942, he worked out Standing Operating Proce dures. He worked them out in terms of war and the demands of mass flights. Before, in the Z.I., AACS had built on the plane-a-day traffic of most AACS and CAA airwavs stations. Now, in Airwavs and in Airways Lend-Lease, as well as in Airways Z.I., something more was needed, something that would work as well when we began to build highways in the skies over enemy territory.
Farman set down the operating procedures. First, ilight meiiagei announcing the arrival and departure of planes (they called them PX messages, that is, messages of extra priority) needed different han dling. They needed to be moved right away, wlicn a plane look oil, so that every AACS station along tin- route would be <>n the lookout, and particularly so that the destination station would begin "sweating
out" the plane's arrival. Farman set up the procedure a dimple foi inula message to be despatched in record time Nun In worked with his few men radio operators and mrssagi center clerks .....I ovei
lo cut down I mi. on i h li\ i'i \
"war comes to the airways
But there was more to it than that. Wouldn't the enemy love to I liow every time a plane took off for Britain, and just what route it was taking? That introduced a new element in this whole business of airway* communications. You were no longer despatching a plane be-1 ii New York and Chicago, in a country where everyone was pull-in i' lot (he plane to make it. You were starting off a Flying Fortress bum Piesque Isle, Maine, for Prestwick, Scotland, with the undisguised lllli ntion of blasting the daylights out of the Nazi enemy's cities—and > •••• must make sure that the plane would get there. The task was complicated. Information sped to our side must be kept from the enemy. With nne of his junior officers, Caspar Offringa, whose civilian expe-iii i us a polite official had prepared him well for outsmarting crim-il T.iim.ui worked out cryptographic procedures for the airways. I .'mini anil ciphers used by the armed forces of the Allies were obtained Mid '" .nine cases, amplified and applied for use in flight messages. I In M the difficult process of obtaining personnel of unquestioned loyally lo I he United States began. Officers and enlisted men of high in-
• • 11 * i...... and deep fidelity must be recruited and trained. A school
• Published at Presque Isle, where Farman began the careful quali-
1 ........1 ci yptographers, as well as radio operators and mechanics,
1........Id he precisely briefed in the specific procedures of airways
»uininunl. ations
Now all Faiman needed was the full complement of men. He had
1 hundred to man the entire North Atlantic Airways. Figure
ll I en to maintain a 24-hour watch in his present 10 stations, on till |»m*|« ol the 17 man minimum per station that Watnee and Bowman had di ii i iiuiied iii Z.I., Farman immediately needed twice the
.......I.....I in. n he now had. And, too, what of the cryptographers,
i ni|......I in peace:' Also, what of the stations in Labrador, Ice-
1 1 mil Hi ii.m. still needed if the North Atlantic skyway were to be inpli l< «1 any time sunn?
Ill I'ebiuan I .umaii wrote Washington, "Send me men. Even if
WKHf allOW nothing about con........nations, send them. All 1 want is
I ■ I II train Iheill hen* inysell Hut Washington had none to send.
' inI il......I "I Ih. .....nth a hall do/en did arrive in Presque Isle.
' m ■ . . iVi winking with his men up ninth He had left a
.....haigc I he \M alto needed men \T( !'i Presque Isle
. hi idml h) " iiiajni I In majoi got the lis men but not for
'I' I hal I *. • I • I......I
i .......i i• i.......I I.....I. ni..lis his reputation was beginning to
jMPJH I Hit ill! he. mi ii adinli ingb .all. .1 him Haiely live
i sighing less thai......> hundred and thlrt) poundi I n
man made up in mental energy what he lacked in physical stature. Within the first few minutes of contact, you felt the man's terrific driving power, his unshakable self-reliance, the torrent of his workable ideas. Perhaps he realized what every little man realizes, that the big man has his audience at the start without an initial effort. The little man must begin churning from the beginning if he is to be heard at all. Now, his mashed airman's hat still on his head, Farman demanded of his lieutenant, "Where is this ATC guy?" As luck would have it, the major in question was just walking toward the entrance to the AACS station, possibly bent on another confiscation from the lieutenant. Far-man strode out in the hall to meet him. Although a head taller, the ATC major had met his equal in Army rank, at least. Said Major Far-man, "Do you see that line?" and he drew an imaginary one with his foot across the doorway leading into the AACS station. "Yes," the surprised ATC major answered.
"If you ever put your foot across it again, when I'm not here, to take some of my men or equipment, I'll hit you squarely between the eyes." The ATC major brought the six men back.
The manpower shortage was critical, but Farman was determined to keep his stations on the air. He set up a six-hour-on, twelve-hour-off schedule around the clock for his men. But they caught the drive and the meaning of his plan, and disregarded schedules to work ceaselessly beside him. They knew there was nothing he asked them to do he could not or would not do himself. Looking as dirty as the lowliest grease-monkey private on the line, Farman would tinker with equipment tirelessly to compensate for shortages. When illness cut into his small cadre, Farman would put on the headset and pound the key or the typewriter with the best of them. "Move that traffic" was his war cry. "There's a man up there who depends on you. Don't let him down."
Once, when he returned from one of his inspection trips along the net, he found that his Presque Isle men had been gigged for the condition of their barracks. No slouch as a soldier himself, Farman inspected his men's barracks, found that the men had been working dav and night to maintain the 24-hour schedule, and to "cover up" for several in the hospital with pneumonia. Disregarding the six-on, twelve-off, the men had come off their watch and (lopped into their unmade bunks, utterly exhausted, to snatch a few winks before going back on duty.
Farman grabbed a phone and called the General "Tins is laiman Understand you've gigged my men Ynu tan have vnm chon e, (;i Of Communication!. We don't have enough men I.. give \ mi l...lh
• l.iine a host of M day (Mobilization Day) reorganizations • I.....'i..i. In. Mtablv the headquarters for AACS was affected.
I by those directing strategy, tactical air communications
• i....i- itltwayN communications another. Enough relationship • I l.i i.....iln two, however, to suggest unifying all Air Corps
II in* uii.Ii i ( ol Allied W. Marriner. The choice was good. M min . In lnugi d in |hr cortege <>l communications-minded airmen. 1 1 mil included Induing in radio engineering at M.I.T., and
1 I......... In the Army since I'ebruary 1918. Through-
i.ii ol mllllaiv seivlce, he had held many eommunica-M , ' in.I • • ■ 11 ■ ■ I with sin h men as Met Mcllaiid, Wally I ........ II. I....I Id. point ol view, and although airways now
, 1 I 'In li .....■......I | h in i hi-1 .i |>< . I ol his assignment, he could
Ich will it be?" The gig was removed, and the men were let alone. Manpower, however, was not Farman's only headache. There were 'i • nun up at Narsarssuak, in Greenland, with generator parts and no M>irwi They had other equipment shortages, too, shortages so serious |)|HI Greenland was about to drop out of the North Atlantic net. Far-
• • i.ui explored the Presque Isle warehouse. Most of the missing parts "in there in dead storage—dead until spring anyway. He came right ■ till point. "I want that equipment in Greenland."
lin|iossible," he was told. "No one can get past the ice and sleet." I .....urn fumed. "Hell. This is war. Give me a plane and load the
• I i. equipment on it." A veteran command pilot, Farman himself i.'il. .1 die equipment in to his men, with the same skill and hardiness
|| |l li.ul enabled him to fly the mail on the Northwest Number Five I nli nil through the bad weather of 1934.
i ... the Terrible. That was what they called him along the North 1 ..Hi Me was building a highway in the sky, and nothing could f|tt) him Never had a builder been given less to work with. The win-i.i .1 |94l was his Valley Forge. Thwarted by shortages of material
I ...... handicapped by the fiercest winter the North Atlantic had
known, plagued by the trick interference of the northern lights, ind again blacked out all radio signals, haunted by the i • mi nun lunations of the enemy off the coast of Greenland, Far-1 • on All through the winter, he appeared here, there, and In m .dung (he embryonic airways, working side by side with through the long vigils of those arctic nights. He had but one K i • |. the traffic moving."
be counted on to keep AACS in mind to the limit of war exigencies.
He moved Wally Smith into the over-all office of the Directorate of Communications with him, and Wally Smith in turn appointed Lloyd Watnee to head the AACS branch of Air Corps communications. Wat-nee thus became the first wartime head of the expanding system of highways in the sky.
Like Marriner and Smith, Watnee belonged to the school of communications-minded airmen. A co-founder of the AACS, Watnee had developed the Third Region in the system of Airways Z.I., contributing in his own way as mightily to those early prewar years as Russ Wilson had in the First, and Bowman in the Second, Region. In fact, these three, Wilson, Bowman, Watnee, had begun the web in the sky over the United States that was now spreading around the world. When Airways Territorial was first conceived, it had been Watnee whom they selected for the job in the Panama Canal Zone. Subsequently, it was Watnee who organized the ACDC Caribbean, combining the Panama effort with those early beginnings, first in Puerto Rico and then in the lend-lease West Indian bases.
Just before Pearl Harbor, Wally Smith had called Watnee back to Washington to assist in headquarters, and there Watnee was when war broke out for our country. Given the official title "Control Officer, Airways System," Watnee promptly shortened and code-named the title of his headquarters—"Conas." From that time on, headquarters AACS became Conas to AACSmen all over the world, a name to conjure with.
As Watnee surveyed his command, in those early days of the war, he saw something big struggling into existence. It was indeed so much bigger than he or Wally Smith, or even Marriner, could comprehend in that period of combat emphasis, that for many months highway building in the sky was relegated to a position of secondary importance. AACSmen recall those days with hurt pride. Washington's attitude appeared to be a pat on the back, "You're okay but you're 'non-combat.'" "Non-combat" AACSmen in fox holes on Unmak, under fin at Bellows, in the thick of it everywhere where action was going on. cursed under their breath a headquarters that favored, with men and materials, so-called tactical outfits still on per diem, stateside (serving in the U. S. A. with special allowances for board and lodging). It seared the souls of the men of Conas to know that in the Directorate of Communications they were the scrubs, a secondary interest, when they felt down in their hearts that //in/ wen- An (Imps cummunli i tions, the nub and the meat ol the whole concept, the foundation W 1th out which the tactical outfits weft helplens.
Fannan knew and felt that. So did Watnee. As the war developed, i mm i and Wally Smith looked away from the overwhelming respon-hiliiv ol tactical communications to these highways in the sky they iiys wanted so badly. And they saw that AACS was it. AACS the foundation of all air communications. Before too long, Mar-iIim i penciled this idea in a Memo to General Arnold, recommending ■ .1 i he AACS be set up as the Air Force Communications Command.
II..... was, however, a reason why that could not be done just yet.
An Watnee surveyed his assignment, in the winter of 1942, he saw
.....Itlple regions of highways in the sky only loosely tied to each other.
I In In -.t lour regions covered the United States—Airways Z.I.—and
»1..... loin were fairlv tightly knit together and tied into Washington
11i.iiters. Two West Pointers—Edgar Sirmyer on the Pacific, and \\. mil II Bowman on the Atlantic Coast—were directing the first two ■.......Upon these veteran AACSmen, Watnee knew he could count.
• • • Vi.....ger, promising officers were Frost and Don Baxter, heading
'I- I'hlrd and Fourth Regions, of the Middle States, and doing a good |ol.
Dul in the Pacific, Airways Territorial had a top-notch man in who had already proved his mettle under fire. A West Pointer, vman and Sirmyer, Blake shared the burning faith in integrated "•Id wide airways communications so brilliantly conceived and exe-i nli d In the North Atlantic- by Farman. Watnee, himself, had left a
i.....I lull in the Sixth Caribbean Region, including the Canal Zone.
. .it I In moment was struggling under borrowed leadership, and
" llli t .....limed communications situation, but individually the AACS-
i' proving their hardy pioneer spunk. Plans for the Philip-omc to life.
ml Lease was sparked by Farman in Newfoundland. In tin "di \11.11111. the outlines of a strong Eighth AACS Region were li nl li ,md dim The principal need there was for men and ma-\\ itm e knew that firman's pleas must be heeded—and soon. I'm I In i« -.1 ul the world, there were already some plans. The Hi was to have aiiotlni icgion in Australia, to be known as the
• i"l, v M . which, with the Hawaiian net now designated the 7th
• V< < would i'lH.tiiuie hi,ikes ma of operations. In the South At-l-o.ii iIn ivill Panama Region was to be implemented by a Ninth I' i-i > l"i ill. ( iiiilibean and a Twelfth for South America. Over in v'" • ■ Ihiileeulh Iteglun loi Central Africa and a Fourteenth for
nidi Mil' ■ '.....' tin hliiepiinl stage, as was the Tenth Region
' I 1 hi". M....... .ml India Beyond that, Watnee was making no
plat.- fin li.. pii ii ni
In the winter of 1942, Watnee's mission as Conas was to implement ••ml integrate these regions. The assignment was not easy. Material and
I" i ■■.......1, as well as the means of conveyance, were at a premium.
Inch little as Washington had with which to begin the war went to Mini were called front-line tactical outfits. In the early days of the Wat nee was not always able to convince the Directorate that A At IS was front-line tactical. So Farman in the North Atlantic, Blake In the South Pacific, and the leaderless detachments in Alaska and the Mouth Atlantic went without.
It was not a question of selling Wally Smith and Marriner—both of ItiPin knew the AACS and were proud of it. The task was to convince tin I.ii;Ii command, and the commanders of the various theatres all mm i I In- world. War Department policy had set up autonomous theatres '••.•I commands. A theatre commander was a little god; not even Wash-n OOllld countermand his orders. In such a situation, everything »•■ llii theatre belonged to the theatre commander to do with as he tidied ' I'acrything" included such airways stations as had been |...Ill hclmc the war by AACS.
Mindly had the war begun, therefore, when AACS was confronted the threat of disintegration. Each theatre commander wanted en i inn of the world airways that passed through his boundaries under his regulation. The first test came in Alaska, where, un-
'I• * il" menace of enemy invasion at Dutch Harbor, the 11th Air I mi., moved to appropriate the AACS stations. Watnee went to the ' tin that, himself. Army Regulations 95-200 was his authority, and up Arnold bucked him up. The Alaskan stations were returned to AAt IS within live days.
lit Watnee was less successful with procurement. He could not mm n da I ,ii in the North Atlantic during that first winter. They m Weren't to be had. Nor could he get materials of any kind, let 0 the Kpcclflc type that Farman required to thwart Borealis up
nee spent the first six months alternating between defense Mai M. due on the home front. When a theatre commander, as in i il.i. .lined In chop his AACS stations off from the rest of the i. mi Watnee retreated behind his defenses, chiefly Army mi '>'• '<MI lo defend what he had. That defense would have
In In mini......n\ limes before the theatre commanders would finally
I if. s ol an Integrated world system before the generals
''I......Id inn li inland that, between the '/..I and their front, were
• I" ••'• in.I ihal .....iiiiiii.Ii niton linen could not be last, smooth.
tlli n tit ll null Intel veiling lli.,iln wen In lie a law unto Itself,
highways in the sky
each commanding officer write his own procedures for his chopped-off section of the world airways.
In between the periods of these intermittent defenses, Watnee could go over to the offensive and compete for materials and men with tactical air communications or Signal ground communications. To Farman in the North Atlantic, and to Blake in the South Pacific, he sent every communications man he could get his hands on. He fought with the various ports of embarkation for shipping space, and then took every precaution to prevent shanghaiing of his personnel by other outfits. He bargained with the Signal Corps for equipment, and picked up spare parts here, a transmitter or receiver there, anything that could be finagled from the demands of so-called combat outfits whose every request seemed to set headquarters a-tremble.
It was not hard to understand why Farman pleaded, "Send me bodies. Any kind of bodies. I'll train them myself." To the very limit of their resources, Watnee and Smith and Marriner, too, did all they could in Washington. That it was not enough was fundamentally the result of our woeful unpreparedness in 1942.
Watnee had not forgotten his own Latin American beginnings. There was every reason to remember. In the center of the Caribbean was Vichy's Martinique and on the South American coast its French Guiana. Either place could supply enough U-boats to prove to us that the Monroe Doctrine was a pipe dream. If the Caribbean really was "Mare Nostrum," we had forgotten to impress the Axis with that fact. Indeed, after Pearl Harbor we were ready to admit that anything could happen along the American Riviera, and we were particulailv panicky about the Canal. Nor did it help our morale one bit when -\ n dicated articles and radio commentary quoted some new Japanese military authority to prove that after Hawaii, Panama was next.
To protect the Canal, air patrols out over the Atlantic and Pai Kit approaches were essential. And here A ACS entered the picture \i ih< outbreak of war, the Zone had two effective AACS stations, both in stalled by Watnee himself. One was at Albrook field on the I'a. ih. end of the Canal, and the other was at France Field on the AtlanHt end. From these, such few fighters and ohseivation plan.-, as holh the Army and the Navy could then mustei ranged lai out ovei lh< respective oceans.
These bases Watnee- now proceeded to slo ngtllt It and augment Auxiliary AACS stations were activated dining, till Wlfl) months- "1
the war. not only in the Canal Zone, but alio In the Mfilhili >
war comes to the airways
Panama, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Guatemala, and Mexico, forming ■ »< ntually a strong highway in the sky from Panama City through Managua, Guatemala City, Vera Cruz, and Tampico to Brownsville, an, in Airways Z.I. Also, south of Panama, AACSmen moved into I'-iu and the Galapagos Islands. From the latter base, our aircraft NiliId fly the AACS beam out into the Pacific as far as six hundred •. and safely herald the approach of enemy forces from the Jap of the Axis.
Alter the first panic of Pearl Harbor had died down, however, it Wan quite apparent that the more immediate and serious menace to the ( 'anal, if not to the whole war effort, came from the Atlantic. During those first dark months, the U-boat approached the environs of the ' hiiI and brazenly blew our ships out of the ocean in full view of the 1 ida coast. It was silly to talk of winning a war when we couldn't li protect our own shoreline. The beginning of that protection was air coverage. From the Carib-bi in I. ml lease- bases above and below Martinique, antisubmarine ••li patrol began to function. An official document, cryptically titled ('ert*e, Instructed all Army and Navy planes, and surface craft as well, I., communicate with AACS as soon as a submarine was sighted. With tup priority speed, the alert AACSman was then to flash, point-to-point -a go.mid to-air to all air patrols aloft or on the ground, the time and pimlllon ol the submarine sighted. Here was a new demand on high-Way* In the iky, one that would require careful attention.
All the. direction Watnee undertook from distant Conas in Washington Ills fiist hand knowledge of the scene stood him in good stead, bul II was no substitute for closer proximity. There were other im-liug developments, some concerned with immediate hemisphere i.e. otheis related to long-range planning, and to air transporta-lor South America. Africa, the Middle East, and even distant India tftd China. What Watnee needed was a Farman to establish head loi the enliie "Latin American area" in Miami. At the moment, huwevei, there wiiK not another such master builder available. Ill .1 i had he. hands lull in the Pacific, bowman and Sirmyer were I III An way* Z.I, togelhei fui the Important task of training and llllg up a lone ol Nome .'l(l.tHK) airmen into 2.(HH),(KK). Watnee him
.....led m Washington Then- wasn't even an embryo AACS
■ i....... in Miami In do foi the South Atlantic what Presque Isle was
lining In. the Ninth Allaiitli
I In i. u m.....ihii.c I. It hut loi Watnee In undertake to dlrei t, from
Washington, aliways building In I alln \merit I In the Hint six months, added two mini Inland slalluus In lh< < aill.l»an and in..Mil into
Dutch Guiana, near Paramaribo, at Zandery Field. This was a timely Wove. As Cerise flushed U-boats out of the upper Caribbean, they Overflowed into the waters touching South America. Galena Point, off the AACS Trinidad station, soon began to experience so many sinking that it became known as Torpedo Junction. The move into Zan-d< i\ furnished another patrol base on the South American mainland huiI, with Atkinson, near Georgetown in British Guiana, provided a double check on French Guiana.
The time had now come to look farther down the coast and out into tfta South Atlantic, where the threat from Dakar was increasing by the Hour. In February, 1942, Watnee assembled an initial cadre of nine AACSinen drawn from the Fourth Region. After a preliminary briefing, they were told that they had been assigned to Task Force 4612, mid were ordered to report to the Charleston, S. C, Port of Embarkation The whole procedure was mysterious, the kind that in those early fOOlhat days earned the juicy appellation of "hush-hush."
t hi m.ii< h 9th, the AACSmen boarded the transport Coams and, ■ lays later, sailed south in convoy. The east coast was festering with II boat activity. Detailed to the ship's radio section and signal liililge as operators and blinkermen, the AACSmen earned their pas-«ti" At the end of a 21-day voyage, the Coams, carrying the usual IHH overload, dictated by the shortage of floating bottoms, abruptly milled away from the convoy in midocean. There on the horizon lOOftied the twin peaks of a mid-Atlantic island. It was Ascension, last ul the lend lease plums reversed to us by a desperate Britain.
« hi the following morning the men disembarked, pitched tents on ■•••eh, and began unloading some twenty-five tons of communication* equipment. The routine was no longer new to men of Conas. In in m ni partN of the world, the scene had now been reenacted a score i it each enterprise was a little different. This island, for ex-ronjile, In the middle of the South Atlantic, gave the men a powerful >H ol delation. For u thousand miles around, there was nothing ».. «.. I,ul oeean. Underneath that ocean, however, lurked deadly Miimy • mil whom* purpose was to obliterate this attempt to extend .linn highway* Into the sky. I'uiluu.itelv. there was much to do in preparation for big events ahead An 1.11drome wan to be carved out ol this island rock and an iy| Rtfttlotl activated, The AACSmen Inventoried their equipment I In win I. I he tall antenna lower* were hoisted into position. 11 a iiimii l el ilia. u weie i leetetl in id the sending apparatus was en
,.i.......I into working condition Proviilomi fot powei war* created
• nil llu •|mm<ImI geneinlom tin ih. mission Finally, the airway* «ta-
tion itself, with the necessary receivers, the control tower, and the space for message center and code room, got under way. The men worked day and night for three solid weeks. During that time the Army gave each man "C" ration and one quart of water a day.
On May 6, 1942, an AACSman tapped out the first signals from the island rock in mid-Atlantic. Receipt was acknowledged by the AACS-men at Zandery in Dutch Guiana. Ascension was in the Army Airways Communications System. The highway in the sky was stretching smooth and straight halfway across that broad blue ocean. By the 20th, the AACS radio beam on Ascension was installed and tested, with the steady dah-dah-dah guiding airmen across the hazardous South Atlantic. The mission had been accomplished, but not without casualty. AACSman Lawrence S. Davies, while changing a fuse, had been electrocuted by the high voltage. He had died in the service of his country as valiantly as those who later were to meet death by enemy action.
The next step was now clearly to strengthen the strand from Zandery to Ascension, and concurrently Watnee projected two stations in Brazil with the cooperation of that government, now in the war, and the assistance of Pan Air do Brasil, an affiliate of PAA. Two sites were chosen, and about the middle of May, nine AACSmen were sent to Val de Caes Field, Belem. There was nothing much there, then, but a collection of a few remote buildings surrounded by jungle and water. There., side by side with Pan Air do Brasil, AACSmen set up station WYRO, which worked Zandery at once, and Natal on the bulge as soon as the latter station went on the air.
The whole race was, of course, directed toward Natal, the closest point in the Western Hemisphere to Vichy's Dakar in Africa. There, on the Brazilian bulge, an AACS detachment arrived on the 18th of May. The tropical rains were coming down incessantly, drenching tin-newly constructed tent area on Parnamirim Field. It was a desolate season, and a hopeless situation. AACS was directed to get on the air at Natal and tie into Belem and Ascension. But with what? Tin no equipment.
Overhead circled a C-47 transport plane, waiting until thi doWB pour relented enough to permit landing. Finally. the pilot OtflM m to land, downwind of course, and taxied to the sand ana that sen gassing strip. The door opened and out stepped an an pJcl WMTtlH officer and his weary detachment nl AACS technicians lien- wen pt I sonncl, but still not enough equipment
That night a PAAF lenv ship, taking oil fut Africa bltM I.....M
wheel and slid its Ml) l"i I Inn.dud yanls aloiif ill.............., o|
lati ilte that comprised the runway. That was all, brother. The AACS-liien were sorry for the plane, but they needed the equipment. Flashing his lieutenant's bar, the sun-helmeted AACS officer approached the PAA plane with his men and began removing the BC-191-type tadlu transmitter installed therein.
Immediately a loud and lusty yell arose from the pilot. "What's the Idea?" Didn't they know this was confiscation of private property it la nit due authority? "Call it what you like, brother," said the equally ••« ntorian voice of the AACS sergeant, "but this is war." And with that I" coolly produced a clipping. "See that?" It dealt with the tightening
■ ■I tli. (halt laws. "Brother, one more squawk out of you, and I'll con-IUi ale you into the Army. I'm in command here, and in time of war the military takes over." It wasn't ethical but it brought the AACSmen lilt missing equipment.
M" control tower had already been built, and as the AACSmen »alil What a control-tower!" Designed by the commanding officer ' I he bane, who was merely following cryptographed orders to get tin slimline ready in time for the AACSmen's arrival, he let his itiiaiiun go wild. In those days the enemy were arriving momenta-•«ts Dakar. As the contractor who had been hired had no knowl-
■ If "I aiiwavs, he conceived a crow's nest where a sentinel with
oOtilari could be precariously perched to keep an eye out for poll nital luvaderi. At any rate, even if the AACSmen nearly did break tin li in. ks several times crawling in or falling out, it could still be ..i mi I., d as a control tower, because in great big Brazilian-designed It 1'' • tin sign plainly read CONTROL TOWER. On the 21st of May, Nut'l w < ni on the air contacting both Ascension and Belem. The high-> i\ in tli. ,k\ now extended in unbroken length from the Caribbean dim ii tin Hi.i/11i.iii coast and halfway across the Atlantic.
I I.. |oli had been completed not a day too soon. The U-boat swarm
l.i.l n......I Into the South Atlantic to sever the life line into Africa.
ili. the South Atlantic Airways began to function via
Inn tin Nn/is began then nefarious war. U-boats and raiders in-In.I i.. ili. alia, k mi I he new American airway.
lint liou .....Id a submarine attack a highway in the sky? by a clever
|(M|..... \li lianspuits taking oil Iroin Natal to Africa ..lined |iist
in.....ill Iih I In land the.....I the hallway slop Oil tscciisioil The less
......I id. mori payload Mrwuys unlike the previous un
,1 utiles p. inmi..I mi exact calculation I he pilot had only to
|| i hi Natal beam .....I pick up the A Keen*..... beam and he wiin
it .....i slnilglil. MUM it It highway calculated to consume a minimum
,.l In. I ami lb hi}', Him Hilt III) pilot had lo be nine to hit the Island
rock right on the nose, or his gas would give out and force him to land in the ocean. There was nothing hazardous about that, so long as the pilot stayed on the beam.
By late summer and early fall, an extraordinary number of transports was beginning to disappear, over the ocean. AACSmen, a traditionally conscientious bunch, worried themselves sick. They could not understand it. They checked and rechecked the radio ranges at both the Natal and Ascension stations. There was nothing wrong with the airways. Everything clicked with AACS precision, exactly as in the Z.I. Still the planes continued to go down. Something was wrong.
That something was outside the AACS. It went back to the Washington Headquarters concept of air communications. Airways were one thing; tactical communications were another thing. This division of functions inevitably meant less integration, tactical "com" men briefed differently from airways "com" men. In succeeding months it was proved, again and again, that tactical "com" men were not up on navigational aids, on the facilities available to them all over the world through AACS.
The clever enemy, taking advantage of this lack of correlation not present in the Luftwaffe, where all air communications had been unified under the command of a lieutenant general, worked out a neat little trick. Stationed in the Atlantic, about one hundred miles oil Ascension, was a U-boat which manually transmitted a steady dab-dah-dah that lured some of the pilots off the true course. It might be just one hundred miles off the course but those hundred miles exhausted the plane's limited supply of gas and forced it into the sea. There were many ways to defeat an enemy.
Had the "com" men in those planes known their navigational aids, they could never have been fooled by this Nazi Circe. Any AACSmen can instantly detect the difference between the steady, automatic slg nal of the radio range and the simulated transmission of a manual key Inevitably, the Nazi worked his subterfuge once too often. A naviga tional-aid-wise pilot picked up the difference, recovered the true beam and flew into Ascension with not a drop of fuel to spare. Iinmediali Is a bomber took off on the AACS beam, picked up the lalse brain ac cording to directions and flew it right in to the unsuspecting U boat maliciously engaged in its mission of deceit. That was all. The bomb( 1 found its mark with a square hit, took one look at the bubbles ol oil clinching the victory, and returned triumphantly to A«nr......
In the North Atlantic, the first grand strategy of the war began shaping early in 1942. When a dictionary of code terms used in this greatest ild holocausts is finally compiled, it will be interesting to learn - * I... i romantic artist on the general Staff thought up these names. For this North Atlantic stratagem, the music of Ravel provided the title. TlM» |>lao was to be code-named Bolero.
I li. movement Bolero called for a mass shipment of aircraft—1000
i a month—to Britain over the North Atlantic airways. Two alternate routes were contemplated. The southern, intended for four-iniflne planes with greater range, began at Presque Isle, Maine, and iin lulled a short hop to Gander, Newfoundland, then a long over-ocean Might to Prcstwiek, Scotland. An alternate route for fighters, light and iin ilium bombers, and all other planes with one or two engines, was pi huh d with more frequent stops. Beginning also at Presque Isle, this urn iin in mute provided for refueling at Goose Bay, Labrador, at ^^HfHNuak, Greenland, and at Reykjavik or Keflavik, Iceland, before
id at Prcstwiek.
I In AACS job was to build highways in the sky over the North Ml -nil. connecting the various points on these alternate routes. Be-I'ln i ol the treacherous arctic weather, special attention given to initialing weather information collected in far-north outposts ■ sseutial, as was sufficient navigational aid in the form of radio tauges that would provide an overlapping system of beams the whole hni'lll ol tin route, Mom-, there must be 24-hour alerted ground/air, ihen inn.I be last, act-mate, systematized point-to-point flight in i slullv withheld from the enemy. Finally, adequate air
• li"......niliol at each ol the intermittent, as well as at the terminal,
' in.hiif Ill-Ids must be provided. In short, the order to Farinan was lln ie be highways In the sky over the North Atlantic." Mattel hull.!, i I .iim.iii had he. plan There would be two .strong It intinal ititlInns, une al Presque Isle and one at Preutwlck, In be
ii liner sluing nets ul stations would keep the highways per Mutually open < hie ul lln »< liner nets he had lliiulv woven In New
foundland, with net control at Gander. The other two were building. At BW1 and 8, at BE2, and at Indigo near Keflavik, little bands of intrepid AACSmen were braving the bitter winter of 1942 to establish the Greenland-Iceland net with control at Narsarssuak. Similarly, the Three Crystals in far northern Baffinland formed the outpost of the Canada net, but as yet the control station in Goose Bay had not been born.
As Farman conceived the whole North Atlantic system of skyways, Goose Bay was the key. He had marked it not only as control for the Canada net but also as master control for the whole airways system. It would be his grand weather-collecting station. It would gather information from the Three Crystals and from the Greenland stations through BW1 at Narsarssuak, and act as a clearing house for operations on both the northern and southern routes.
Goose Bay awaited the spring thaw. In April, Farman moved in with his AACSmen, long before the American airport could be made ready. His men bunked with the Royal Canadian Air Force, on their side of the base, and borrowed the use of a small building near the Hamilton River. There the first transmitter was installed, and there the men moved their bunks also, continuing, however, to mess with the Canadians. The transmitter shack was no Ritz-Carlton. There were no bathing facilities, and the men were forced to haul water from a near-by creek in order to wash their clothes in an old drum.
With the AACSmen, such inconveniences did not count. What mattered was that Bolero was now less than two months away. By July, the planes must begin to fly wholesale over a perfected highway syn-tem in the sky. It did not matter how many planes left Presque Isle, if few arrived safely in Prestwick. So the AACSmen moved in with their job at the transmitter shack, stopping their work only long enough for the absolute minimum of food, sleep, and sanitation.
Because of Goose Bay's importance, Farman planned a might v an ways station there. Five giant 90-foot steel towers on which to hang antennae were raised to the sky. One antenna was a 000 loot long single-wire, flat top to be used for long-wave purposes. Two Mercury V-8 gasoline-driven generators, with outputs of one five kilowatt* each, were used for power. By diverting through a wooden duel Ihr heat created by these generators, it was possible to warm the It in mitter building. The keying line between the transmitter ami tin n ceiver stations consisted of seven pairs ol field wire, win. h weie luid on the ground between tin- two location-.
Racing against time, the AA( iSinen completed ihi It i iimmnnli ntlotiN building, which shared with the field's operation building th. I........
..I being the first American structure at Goose Bay. Early in May, Goose May began to operate as the master station in the North Atlantic Air-By June, there were four positions in the communications build-in g. each operating twenty-four hours a day. Two of these positions I'hamieled point-to-point north into the Three Crystals and Green-I, and south into Presque Isle and the Newfoundland net. A third pus it Inn was reserved for air/ground and ground/air contacts; and a limith position, held as a spare, could be turned to any frequency on the dial required by emergency. In addition, a weather intercept position that picked up a funnelled weather information, was maintained In H near-by tent.
Mere was a really big-time AACS station in the making. To visualize H s on would have to see five AACSmen, each sitting at a position, with . ..phones on his head and a telegraphic key at his finger tip. To the I. It ..I the key is an MC 88 Signal Corps typewriter, all caps, on which Ite types incoming messages. The AACSman at the Presque Isle po-llllnti. hearing the di-di-di-dah of the "V for victory" used as a call, ately begins tapping out on his typewriter the continental code message. It reads mere gibberish as he receives it, somewhat like this:
MCLJM Q-ZTCX FGKJK BOPOS RUDXC SPLXZ it lit! an* nothing to the operator. He merely passes it, as received, to meMage-center clerk, who logs the time and hands the message in
11......rh the slot for cryptographing. In the airtight code room, the
. m ptographer goes to work with instruments the enemy doesn't have,
.....I piudmes a dear text out of the gibberish, which may read:
I »■ parted I'resque Isle Fortress 6778 at 0900 Greenwich Mean I line due (loose Bay 13(H) Arnold aboard. In lis ileal form, this message is then hand-carried, or called on the
....... field phone, to operations. At the same time, the AACSman
ipi . .....g the aii 'ground position stands by ready to receive any mes-
Mgi id. plane itsell may scud out from aloft. In the plane, the pilot llttl I hi lailio operators hear through their headsets the steady and
... ......i1 dab dah dah, broken every thirty seconds by the call let-
i.. nl the (loose bav station, saving unmistakably, "On Course." i. adih as the plane approaches the AACS station at Goose Bay, the 11111 11 grows stronger. And then, twenty-five miles out, the first i heel point Is visible. (usually the pilot picks his mike off hook and way HI
MlNH «77H CALLING COOSF BAY TOWF.R. AP I ii«»\< mini. I I it'. I « Ml < k POINT OVER."
i«|iipslug .......I iii loo lew lu .....ul before the pilot hears
lolloping .. ply and lauding lusliiictlnns In his eaiphoucs
highways in the sky
"GOOSE BAY TOWER CALLING ARMY 6778. HERE ARE YOUR LANDING INSTRUCTIONS. . . ." The pilot repeats them and ends, "ROGER, AND OUT." For a very few minutes, the beam signal reaches an all-time high in intensity as the plane approaches the radio range itself. Then, complete blackout of all sound. The plane is directly over the cone of silence, the marker from which the pilot begins his descent with a left bank, following landing instructions given him by the tower. Down through the overcast the plane drops, precisely as instructed. Barely a few feet below and away, the beginning of the runway appears in clear view. Another Flying Fortress has completed the first leg of the northern route from Presque Isle to Goose Bay.
During the first month of Farman's mighty Goose Bay station's life, a series of visits by VIP's occurred. Now, a VIP is the military abbreviation for a very important person. Any one with the rank of Brigadier General or above is a VIP. So are civilian statesmen, notable in all walks of life. The first of these VIP's, although not complying with the technical definition just given, was still a very important person to AACS. He was no less than Conas—Lloyd H. Watnee, no more than a lieutenant colonel, in spite of his world-wide responsibility. Watnee was followed by General Arnold, who inspected the station first-hand. Then came diplomat Molotov, of Russia, and Mayor LaGuardia, of New York. All came to look at this new highway center in the sky, and to praise the master building that was bringing airways Z.I. ever closei to Airways E.T.O.—the European Theatre of Operations.
And now Farman was ready to give his attention to the farthest cud of the airway. Iceland was within enemy bomber range. Stations there would have to be prepared for action. At Reykjavik, Farman erected a radio range, toward the end of April. But he added airways facilities <i Keflavik where two airfields, Meek and Patterson, were,under construe tion. Here the main Iceland station, code-named Indigo, was developed
There remained now only the British Isles themselves. Off the north west coast of Scotland, on the Island of Hebrides, Farman erected I radio range at Stornoway. This completed a chain of interlocking beacon signals clear across the ocean, from America to Europe, ( >" the 1st of July, 1942, barely a fortnight before the opening ol Bolero, AACS officially set up its terminal station in Prestwiek, Scotland, With full facilities—message center, code room, point to point ail ground
control tower, and radio range. The highway in the si J ..... lh<
North Atlantic was complete.
About twenty days remained before llolero would blare out 111 full swing. Kantian made his final check* OVei both .....• 1,1 Itl
Ill itti I of tin Nth \n Force issued its signal instructions. The whole
Roll in npi ml..... w.i. to be a joint AAF-Navy show. Coast Guard cut
I I lion Ihi I..... ol Labrador and Greenland were to stand l>v to
I..... haps .mil to ail as guides and as additional weather
.........po Is li would be the AAF's job to fly the thousand planes
.......11.....1 llu |oh "I Its \ \< IS to keep the highway in the sky Open
and nth
1 .........lelilbiiled Ins handful ol men as efficiently as possible.
1 ill. ii Ins sliength \\e. lai In low leipmt •incuts. To maintain 21 hum Watch it would be necessary In increase the tours ol duly, and 1 ! then cin11<I he no illness The equipment situation was even plication*, Doled out was each geueiatoi, traiismittei receiver.
11 .....i "in lo .pan, not an eslia pail II tins were to remain
nil tin all i oullnuoiislv during llolero, A \< '.....m Ingenuity would have
1 llluli 'tut .J tin',. InnlagcN was hoin "moonlight
requisitioning"—Yanks stealing from each other under cover of darkness. Out of this developed the epic of fighting a global war with hairpins for wire and Coca Cola bottles for tubes. Farman's Hams, when they couldn't get equipment from the Army of the United States, did what they did in their home attics and basements with their own amateur sets—they improvised, and miraculously kept open the North Atlantic highway in the sky.
And, as if material and personnel shortages were not enough, Nature, in the form of aurora borealis, stepped in to heckle Farman. Now and again, the northern lights did something to radio waves. What, nobody exactly knew. By the end of the first winter, not only Farman and his men, but the best scientific minds, were at work on the problem. They called it "Radnos" and it meant radio fadeout, which for some unaccountable reason occurred at unpredictable intervals. During such times a portion of the highway in the sky was wiped out—no radio waves for the range, for air/ground, for point-to-point, or even for the tower voice. Imagine being up in the sky over the North Atlantic at such times without a road sign, without a street light, without a clue where you are or where you are heading.
Washington became concerned. They employed Dr. Vannevar Bush of the Office of Scientific Research. The same Vannevar Bush who was later to contribute to the evolution of the atomic bomb. But by Bolero time there was no tangible solution. The Office of Scientific Research could only say it was working on the problem. Farman couldn't wait. He had all the respect in the world for solid research. A Cal Tech man himself, he had more than a passing interest in meteorology and in ionospheric investigation. But right then he was a man of action We were at war—and, as often happens in time of conflict, necessity became the mother of invention.
Over at Stephenville, in the Newfoundland net that Farman himself had pioneered, AACSmen were caught in the tantrums of amoi.i borealis. Without warning, and for the usual inexplicable reasons, the northern lights had gone on strike. Result, blackout of all radio faoill ties in the vicinity; eradication of part of the North Atlantic highway in the sky. At a time like this, any such prolonged situation mighl prove fatal to a significant number of these thousand planes a month with which we were striving so desperately to supply Britain \ n. I radnos had been known to persist for as long is sixteen day* at a time in one stationl
The AACSmen accepted the challenge. Were they not I [ami, lull like their CO, Ivan the Terrible? Had not he. parting wools been, on last inspection visit. "Keep the traille moving tvtfl 11 \"" tlAVI tO UN
ns?" Well, what would he do if he were here now and he saw ,_ie undelivered messages piling up, and he knew that part of the highway in the sky leading,out of Stephenville had just been erased by those stubborn, mule-like northern lights? He certainly wouldn't give Up, they reasoned, not only because he is Ivan the Terrible, but because he la a Ham from way back, and if there is one thing a Ham always linen, It is to experiment. It's in a Ham's blood. Every Ham has done it in it basement or an attic from the time he "got the bug" and a little • 1'ilpment.
So the Stephenville men began to experiment, Ham-fashion. They had made tubes from Coca Cola bottles before, and antennae wire from Halrplni. But this was something very much bigger. This was aurora )mitalla, a terrific name representing a diabolical power which even ih. astronomers had never dreamt of before. There was just one thing I. It to try. It was extremely dangerous, and it might lead to court-martial or worse—but it was worth the try.
Now, the radio world is governed by a distribution of frequencies >h.. h are sacred and inviolate. Each country is assigned a block of frequency numbers which represents the sphere in which stations III (hat country can broadcast. The country, in turn, allocates a specific radio Irequency to a station or group of stations. Like every other such upei it ion, the North Atlantic Airways had their prescribed frequencies, all lalrly high on the band. Unable to get through to the far stations ... i h< se high frequencies, the Stephensville AACSmen, in desperation, .it ..ailed a near-by station to pass the word along to try unauthorized |im bequency. Like a charm, station after station, far and near, came In i I. u as crystal. Instantly, the airways stations leaped back into ac-||< ih the highways blazed across the arctic sky, and the Stephenville AA< ISinen. thumbing their noses at aurora borealis, began to melt | Was. | he stacks ol traffic that had been piling up. Contrary to expect a llmm. there were no penalties for the men; only commendation and
|Ull.....nation to Farman to continue experimentation with low Ire
"« v
tally, there was the matter of codes and ciphers. AACSmen had n. v.i had to worry about those before, blight notices and weather
,1..... had always gone out in the dear. No one had cared about
il............iiu.leallons before, except as a help to the llyei to "get
• mi enemy sat waiting to pick up Information about plane
......w laiinan must wonv not only about speeding In
I.....imIIoii h...... nidi bill about withholding that same Information
i, mi |||. nil.....Ii il- VACS mint go Hit" the cloak and-dagger
ItUtlneM, net up lln own eoiinteiIntelligence In deal penonnel h"
highways in the sky
loyalty, introduce a whole new medicine-man profession of cryptographic science, attract a brain trust to match wits with a clever Nazi enemy.
There was more than one way to win a fight. You could go out, bare-knuckle fashion, and try to slug it out. But the chances are that, if that were all you had, you would get licked by the smaller guy with brains. The Germans had proved it once. In 1917, they had knocked Russia out of World War I by breaking the Czar's code, anticipating his whole campaign, badly defeating his strongest army. They could smash our whole Bolero movement, our first big undertaking of World War II, in the same way.
Luckily, what the young high-school Hams did for Farman's radio, older professional men and businessmen did for his cryptography. In the spring of 1942, the AAF began to commission, directly out of civilian life, above-draft-age men eager to serve their country. Let the historian of ten years hence remember this when he sets out to prove World War II a phoney, fought 100% for economic profit. There were men, hundreds of them, over the 38-year draft age, comfortably settled in responsible and compensating positions, in pleasant home situations. They voluntarily entered the service of their country at a financial sacrifice. Their sixty-six personnel card coldly noted "overage in grade," which merely meant that men of forty entered as first or even second lieutenants. They were subordinated to field grade officers, chronologically often a dozen years younger and mentally and educationally about on a par with their years.
These men were assigned to the mission of cryptographic security in the AACS, only after careful investigation for loyalty, but the Army stingily awarded a top possible rank to the job of captain. Even then, that rank was long in coming. Shipped immediately after basic training to isolated outposts in the arctic, the tropics, and the desert, in tin first year of the war, these older men pioneered our rationless advanced positions in the North Atlantic, Pacific, the CBI, Alaska, and Aln... without promotion. Returning in 1944, they were welcomed with a tightening domestic promotional policy, while the Pentagon catapulted youngsters, previously rewarded with frequent advancements, were sent to bases now secure, with well-stocked post exchanges, main mi overseas promotional plan of three months' credit foi every two months in grade. Despite such meager comparative rewards, no group ol ilU H gave more to their country than these 11yptogiaphle seemllv «.11«, , e of the AACS,
In (he spring ol 1042, the first ol them reported foi (hit) In lh( North Atlantic. Thelis was the I.....gnnl/i< code looms In eat h
defense of the airways
ul the airways stations along the route. Under their direction, all lllght, weather, and other operational and administrative messages con-iaming classified information would be encoded before transmission, decoded after receipt. To keep the message secure as long as it was In elear text, the cryptographic officer was also placed in charge of tile message center and of the delivery of the message.
This cryptographic business is complex. It would be impossible to describe here the ingenious ways in which our military forces thwarted \ ms attempts to break our codes and ciphers. Suffice it to say here that I ul Iy as much thought and science went into our cryptographic devices and methods as into any of our other war weapons such as radar, ord-hauce, transportation, and even the atomic bomb. One simple bit of iliessboard strategy will be indicated.
II you recall Edgar Allan Poe's The Gold Bug, you remember that the cipher was broken by using the frequency principle, that is, in the I nglfsh language, "e" is the letter most frequently used, "i" next, and •ti nn That is one of the simplest ways to break an enciphered message. Ilnie are other ways, too. For example, formula messages, like those itiinonncing takeoff and departure of planes, tend to begin and end in (lie lame way. Such beginnings and endings are known as stereotypes, Slid .iris exceedingly dangerous. If messages consistently begin with the Word 'plane" for example, the enemy cryptanalyst can assume that he litis five of the twenty-six letters in our cipher. He knows what the It ll< is p, I, a. n, e, are in our system, and he has almost enough to go
id.....I and deduce the remaining letters from our texts. Think what
Hiai means! He has learned the content not only of that particular mes-«,.|'. I nit of every bit of information we transmit thereafter.
To prevent such a serious military catastrophe, the Cryptographic sc ....iiy ollicei maintained a frequency table on beginning and ending Is tmed in messages, and he edited copy or paraphrased when Itfessary. Regionally, the security officer published, every week, a list III Hereoypes to be avoided in beginnings and endings. If a stereotype 11 tin- clphei was Immediately declared "compromised," that rohably broken l>\ enemy cryptanalysts, and a new cipher was ul. Illuletl
111 the North Atlantic. Farman and his cryptographic security officer,
« a poll, e official in < imIi.ii. life, developed the liisl se
.....i> system I.II ih. ftlrwayi They set up a Induing program loi eryp
|..|oaph. is ..I I'm sqiii Isle and nndeilook lo aid in then select..... Kll
h..!. ,1 .... it wen 11......who s......I .1 least 190 on the Army < leneral
iflE|ftlll. all..,, I, I m.i.l.nlb ID |.....its moil Ilia..........|<.....I"'
i.dldatcs An In lilt < N.....I - I) |......Hi.. ri, Atiuy pi......mcl dl
highways in the sky
rectors at times seemed to take almost a sadistic delight in not promoting cryptographers, the college professors among the G.I.'s. Three years after Pearl Harbor, you would find men with graduate degrees, with AGCT scores over 150, with nothing less than superior ratings for their Army service, and yet barely with a rank of Pfc. Quipped one of them, "What does the War Department mean when it says all ranks are temporary for the duration"?
Intelligence, however, was not all that was required of cryptograph ers. Loyalty was even more important. Careful scrutiny of civilian records went into the selection of an 805, the military occupation-specialty number assigned to the enlisted cryptographer. The AACS had become what Intelligence called a "sensitive" organization, a military agency handling highly vulnerable and classified materials. For all these prized qualifications, seldom has an employer been more niggardly in his compensations.
It was all just another headache for Farman, who was trying to build a highway in the sky over the North Atlantic in time for Bolero. Prob ably it was no different from the problem of peace which required buss Wilson, Wendell Bowman, and Lloyd Watnee to offer radio operators $21 a month and the opportunity to pay for typewriters that the Gov ernment of the United States could not afford to buy. Consequently, Farman went into Bolero, the first great action against the enemy, with less than 50 cryptographers for the entire system, less than an average of 2 for each station. To maintain 24-hour service meant that .... h cryptographer must average at least a 12-hour day-12 hours of eve straining, nerve-wracking labor.
Final rehearsals for Bolero were completed in the early days of fuly, Some last-minute adjustments were made. To handle the Iceland lap of the northern route, Farman shifted emphasis from Reykjavik to Kel lavik, where alternate fields at Meek and Patterson would provldl double safety. An additional radio range and weather collection poll was also set up on Cruncher Island, southwest of BVV8 in Greenland Finally, an auxiliary station for Canada was created at Dorval Airpoit in Montreal.
Late in July, Bolero began. Planes took oil in wholesale quantity I......
Presque Isle. Big bombers and transports pmceedeil along the •.....tin in
highway in the sky to Cander in Newfoundland foi refueling, and
across the open sea to I'leslwiek. Scotland. Medium hnmhciN and
fighters took the imilhciu highway to (:.....,e hay. thence In Nat Ml Monk
and Kellavik. and finally In 1'ieslwick Tluotifh II all the A AI I I......
Iti lyitem ni point i" |.....ii warning mid ait ground .....tacH ind III
control towi n, ki pi tin alrwayi open Ami I rum lai north, AACS »la
defense of the atbways 79
ns in Baffinland and Greenland flowed a steady stream of weather Information. During the first ten days of Bolero, Farman's North Atlantic airways stations handled a million and a half groups of point-to-
I......t traffic, and a corresponding number of air/ground and control-
luwer contacts. Every plane that flew from America to Britain guided It Nell by the unfailing AACS beam.
Through July, August, and most of September Bolero continued. Ih« operation was a success. Henceforth, delivery by air from America to F.urope would be routine. The AACS had, in the terms of the G.I., . "incited the A.T.C. from an Air Transport Command to an "Air Taxi i nmpany." As for the 8th Air Force, that other big customer of the AA< :S, it could now plan logistics for the battle of Europe on a three-
||.....nsional scale. Over the North Atlantic Airways, the 8th Air Force
who in a position to speed air power in ever-increasing volume.
It was a tribute to the master builder. Through the weeks of Bolero, I'aiiuan proved that his Ham radio operators, his over-age crypto pro-feMur.s, could be molded into a winning communications team. With I a.., hed material and overworked personnel, Farman had created one III the miracles of World War Il-a highway in the sky over the most treacherous expanse of ocean in the world.
III the Pacific, meanwhile, Gordon Blake, that other master builder ..I highways in the sky, faced an assignment every bit as strenuous as I minim's in the Atlantic.
Alter Pearl Harbor, he picked up the pieces left by the Jap whirlwind and protected them. There was little remaining of the ambitious I- i- . plans for a Pacific highway in the sky. Wake and Guam and Lu-aun were gone. Midway was tottering. The East Indies of our Allies WPie rapidly being overrun, and Australia itself was on the verge of liyMeila More, even, than Farman, Blake knew his building would |■ | lo be done under fire.
A* a Hist step, his AACSmen were set to digging trenches, to setting
• •I' mai lilue guns, everywhere along his Hawaiian interisland net. That Was all theie was left now of the ambitiously planned Pacific web. Building', weie sandbagged and blackout paint was applied. Restora-II......I |.n v..... I\ damaged laeilities was undertaken, and procedures
■ • r< eniabllshed loi operation In case "I ;i recurrence of attack. As the day* paiied, and the |»pi did nol return, Blake began to l<»«>k out across
• I.. I' .. Illi again
On hi* prevloui (Nentemher, 1041) Right foi which he had been .1......tied, he had ton-eyed the puttllillll let lui a I ential I'm 11 i« tky
way, always assuming that the Philippines and Guam and Wake would be ours. War changed that. Blake had to look elsewhere to spin his line out to Australia, the one remaining large land mass left to the Allies in all of the vast Pacific. In January, flights of B-lTs repeated the charting trips undertaken by Blake the previous fall; only this time pin-point islands outside the Japanese expanding sphere had to be chosen. One of these flights skipped precariously along the stepping stones of Palmyra, Canton, and Nandi to Townsville. Another flight, consisting of a search patrol of six B-lTs canvassed the area between Canton and Fiji, approximately the middle third of the distance between Hawaii and Australia. That air route might be made workable if, and the if was a big one, an airways system, complete with overlapping beacons, air/ ground, point-to-point, and control-towers, could be installed and operated efficiently.
In January 1942, Blake began this gigantic undertaking to build highways in the sky from Hawaii to Australia. He had, all told, a half-hundred men and three officers. There was virtually no equipment except for that in his Hawaiian interisland net. And as for transportation —either ships or planes to move men and equipment into the island stepping stones—it simply wasn't to be had. On the 19th of February, Washington officially designated Blake Regional Control Officer of the 7th AACS Region, an airways communications territory defined to cover the central and southern Pacific, and extending west from Hickam to Japan and southwest to Australia.
From among his half-hundred men, Blake selected a warrant officer and two sergeants, all technically well equipped to install airways stations. He placed each of them in charge of a small detachment, with orders to establish AACS stations on the island stepping stones between Hawaii and Australia. The first of these task forces, code named "Holly," set sail in January with six men under the command of Mastei Sergeant Rocco Sansone, a veteran air-communications man. It landed on Canton Island, just below the equator and exactly on the 170th meridian west, the 5th of February. Eight days after, reinforcements from the States, with some equipment, arrived.
Misfortune initiated the enterprise. During the unloading, the vain able radio range was ruined by salt water, and Sansone had to net up a so-called homing beacon, instead. Now, the fundamental «11fI• • > ■ • • • between the homing and range beacons lies in the fact that to UN die former a plane must be equipped with a radio compass Sim . lh< homer sends out its signals in nil directions at once, the pllnt < in I.. .,1 toward it only if In knows, by his radio compass, from what point tlx signal Is coming. With .i radio range, howevtf, tin pilot due* not i«
AUSTRALIAN LIFELINE Highway in the sky from Hawaii to Australia.
Hlllre a radio compass, even though the range will affect the compass Mat ilv like the homer. All the pilot has to do is to listen for the "dah-
Ki dull" llnongh his earphones, and he can be certain, as long as he us that signal with steadily increasing volume, that he is flying a .•••Hehi highway into the AACS station.
n a hoimi was a great deal better than nothing. Most long-dis-Um c planes were even linn heini^ equipped with radio compass, or Mnild be so equipped before taking oil from Hawaii. For planes so iquippi ■ I I In Hi si component nl the Pacific airways could be said to be MMM*!!)')' Mm Hansom vm ni further, to provide navigational .ml from 11 I land I i"in iIn Nu\ \ In ,i direct......d finding unit,
technically known as D/F.AD/F net consists of three or more stations, placed at intervals in a line or semicircle that stretches usually some six hundred miles. When a pilot is within range of a D/F net, he may call, on air/ground, one of these stations and ask for a bearing or a fix. The ground/air operator in the station immediately alerts the net and the pilot is instructed to emit a series of dashes and call letters. Three stations, or more, immediately shoot bearings on the signal, with respect to the individual stations, and transmit the information to the evaluation center. By a system of triangulation, it is then possible to inform the pilot where he is, and in what direction he is heading. The importance of D/F to a pilot who is lost is obvious.
At the east end of the runway on Canton Island, Sansone and his men also installed the control-tower, point-to-point and ground/air posi tions, and the message center and crypto section. From the middle (»1 February, Canton Island steadily improved its airways service, and by July was operating as efficiently as any center in Airways Z.I. For this achievement Sansone, upon his return to Hickam, was awarded the Legion of Merit by Blake and commissioned directly as an officer in the Army of the United States.
Concurrently, Blake had despatched a second task force under Stall Sergeant David Anderson on the SS President Johnston. This force arrived at Christmas Island, just north of the equator, and somewhat east of Canton, on the 15th of February. Canton had just experienced its first bombing when the AACS installation on Christmas was begun, and, as a precaution, the control-tower was built underground, In March, Christmas Island joined the net from Hawaii to Canton and, like Sansone, Anderson was given his commission outright.
The third task force, under Warrant Officer Bernard M. Wooton. took off at about the same time, but for a mission even more distant more perilous, and with two stations to activate. The first stop win Nandi, in the Fiji Islands, about 16° south and the other side of the date line about 176° east. To place this island in relation to the win pie ture at the time: Canton, Christmas, Hawaii-locations of the othei AACS stations—stretched like so many stepping stones, nearly equal distances apart, in a northwesterly direction, just east ol Nandi wan Samoa, and just west, the New Hebrides. Dangerously dose, on III* northwest, were the Japanese outposts in the Solomons. In this mi i lay Nandi.
There Wooton and his men set to work on an aiiwayi station A hl.» 1 out hush hovered over them all the time liny winked Nainll wan
within easy range of |ap b.....heis. By March, the AACSmeil *.......
the air. Out of the dark ocean came the cleat nlgnal bom < anion Inland
net had been extended into the South Pacific. Station WYVB, with sn men, two shacks, and equipment borrowed from the Signal Corps, I he Navy, and the armed forces of New Zealand, was operative. What muttered it that there were no lights at night? The radio operators sat In the dark, with only a twinkle from the receivers, beating out those all Important flight and weather messages. A mile and a half away on Ihe Island, in another shack, cryptographers worked by oil light. An old Dodge truck and a teletype line were all that connected the dispersed
lhacks. *
Wooton remained in Nandi until April, satisfied that the station was the air to stay. Then, detaching a few of the men, he moved on to Jew Caledonia, the last island outpost before Australia. He found there I little I'AA radio station at Magenta. It wasn't much of a station, but what it had was ready to assist the AACS in any way possible. Wooton derided to set his own station up at Tontouta, on the other end of the inland, following the principal dispersal. With little equipment and few III) ii. Wooton's effort was bound to produce a crude affair. This was the end nl the supply line. So he built a log hut on the side of a hill. Inside,
|»e .....ghly separated transmission from cryptography with a beaver-
)io<ud petition. Toward the end of April, Tontouta went on the air. The 11way now reached from Hawaii almost to the side door of the great .....r 11ii iit "down under." Although there was not as yet an AACS stall, m in Australia, Tontouta could contact bases of the Royal Australian Air Force.
I lien came the rains, torrents of them. Wooton's men stood ankle-ileep in water, "operating a radio bug with one hand and swatting .moth.a type of bug with the other," according to one of the reminiscing s M Smen. For two days after every rain, water would seep through i hit Iin the ceiling, slowly and exasperatingly wetting message paper, lypi w\Iters, and operators. Because of personnel shortages, daily sched-lilen ol duty tan as high as eighteen hours. Non-combat duty? With all H q.r. i to the fighting infantryman and Marine, what war assignment ,,„,1.1 h. called more trying, more hazardous to mental and phvsical ... II hi lug? To Wooton, also, went the Legion of Merit and a direct kHm eoiuinlNslon. Blake had selected his detachment leaders well. By |mie, mr.'„ Blake had spun a highway in the sky from his 7th
|b , ,.....I lleadquaiters at Hickam through Christmas, Canton, Nandi,
louloiila. and light up t<» Australia. In that month occurred the turning piilul battle ol Midway. II was .. victory achieved as the result of
ii, i, I .....idlnated rlhnl on land, sea. and air. In the air, the
1,1, i, . ,, |„,i|i |,s ||u \ \« Sim ii contributed lo the upeedy movement i thai ......pli b Itn« w ih. enemy o
There remained, now, the need for an anchor station in Australia. In May of 1942, the communications picture there was still confused. Re ports indicated poor coordination of such facilities as then existed, with accompanying difficulties for the Hawaiian-Tontouta AACS. Many of the Australian stations had no control towers, and consequently no particular approach procedures. Planes were continually arriving un announced. To assist in this situation, Blake offered AACS facilities to Major Du Puy, Ferry Command Control Officer in Australia. Pending actual activation of an AACS station there, Blake worked out a briefing service on frequencies, navigational aids, and other flight advantages available to pilots between Australia and Hawaii along the Tontouta-Hickam airways.
Then, in September, an Australian AACS region was activated and called the Fifth, because the Fifth U. S. Air Force was operating there. Major Reeder G. Nichols, who, as a civilian, had surveyed communiea tions facilities in Australia during the summer for the Commonwealth airlines, was chosen Regional Communications Officer for the new re gion. Plans called for this new region to extend from Brisbane north to the farthest tip of Luzon, and west to Borneo and Sumatra. With the Seventh Region, which included the Hickam to Tontouta airway, the Fifth was to form a new Pacific area under the command of Blake.
Inclusion of the Philippines in the new region had been no less in tentional than General MacArthur's vow to return. For actually, on paper, the 5th AACS had been created in Philadelphia three weeks In fore Pearl Harbor. On November 18, 1941, the War Depart men I he I authorized Watnee to activate an ACDC Philippines at Nichols Field. Luzon. After the Japanese sneak attack of December 7, and the lubll quent overrunning of the Pacific from the Philippines to australia it was decided to move headquarters for the 5th AACS to Brisbane In Amberley Field, near that city, went what could be salvaged limn the Philippines disaster. Steadily, Australia was built into the bast inn I nun which the march back might begin.
AACS drew a threefold assignment in Australia. Its Brit task we. in tie into the New Caledonia-Hawaii net, which in turn was In 1». lied even tighter into Airways Z.I. by means of a high speed circuit I la all supply line from San Francisco to Brisbane would thus assume Its right
ful place in the logistics of the Pacific. A second task was I.....stall I u III
ties along the interior air supply routes within An.h.ih.i I In third
task, by order <>l General Kenney in command "I the Fifth til • .....
cut across the neat little pit'eon holes ol ulrwaj N and tat kit al 11..........
cations established m Washington \ \< !S w ii din i ti >l to • I ill....... ions equipment In si ivi I......I.. is and nth. i I ii 'I ill ifl
Photo by SEVENTH AIR EOKt I II iii' HI
Colonel Gordon L. Blake
i .Inn; between advanced airdromes and rear-echelon maintenance Intsi I In \ \( Smen loved it. Down deep, they believed they could
......... ii s around any tactical communications man, in or out of battle.
I.. Vmberley Field, thirty miles outside of Brisbane, a handful <>l
\ \< '.....n moved, late in November, 1942. There were so few of them
lllill technicians who had done but little heavy manual labor in their
ItVi w.....bilged to mil up then sleeves and dig trenches. Men classi
Hi • I if, i i \ |itojm aphers college professors with scores over 150 on the tint ' 1 in ill i I i i In nt ion I est stripped to the waist and stood knee
Ii • |i in ihii I i. j \n\ti.ili..........I in swung perilously from the topi 01
i • Inni antenna lowers The weathei was miserably hot and humid. Ollen. as soon as Inundations had been dug to specifications a heavy • on would i oine along, (ill up the holes, and icquire the entile job to I illllli nvei In spile ol such setbacks, however, progiess continued
I lid th.....i nl tin work, a shipload ol i'l olliceis and 71) men. I.'.
Is mii mule lium San I1.....clseo llnalb ailived Aunthci hatch ol 12
Htyptogl '|>ln is was I eta mil 11uui th' iii) Mill \ ou New < ialci Inula, whn • < Ilppiopl lllllllg all pel «1iiiui i
At last, on December 5, Station WYVP went on the air. It was a momentous occasion. The men have recorded the exact minute as 1301 (one minute after 1 p.m.) Greenwich Mean Time, when Amberley contacted Tontouta, which in turn relayed the signal along to Nandi, Canton, Christmas, and Hickam where Blake transmitted the word to Hamilton Field, near San Francisco. At long last, the highway in the sky was open over the Pacific, and Conas had good reason to rejoice in Washington.
What had gone into the accomplishment, Watnee knew. It had all been largely the planning and directing of one man—Blake, now Lieutenant Colonel Gordon Blake. It was Blake who had organized the in-terisland net in Hawaii, long before Pearl Harbor. It was Blake who had personally undertaken to chart the skies over the Pacific, weeks before Pearl Harbor. And when the enemy struck, Blake, in the thick ol action, from his own Hickam Tower had saved a flight of Fortresses.
Without the loss of a minute, Blake had kept his Hawaiian net on the air. His AACSmen had distinguished themselves in an otherwise hu miliating defeat. When the action was over, Blake had lost no time in repairing the damage) improving his net, and starting out over the Pacific in pursuit of the enemy. By early January after the sneak attack, Blake's plans were drawn. He selected his three task-force leaden, briefed them, and had them on their way before the month was OVCt By the end of February, two of the stations—Canton and Christinas were in the net; by the Battle of Midway, Nandi and Tontouta were extending the highway right up to the sky over Australia.
The obstacles had been the same as those which had confronted Fil man in the North Atlantic, for the most part. Where Farman had in tense cold, Blake had blistering heat, incessant rain, malarial mosqui toes. Personnel and equipment were spread even thinner. Potential friction with Air Force, Ground Force, and Naval forces, with Aus tralian, New Zealand, and base commanders was multiplied by the veij large number of agencies that such a vast area required.
But Blake early developed his own system of successful diplomat ) The Blake personal letter soon became an institution in the Paelfli < hi the one hand, there were his own technicians, exceedingly scarce iiuil subject to assignment in other outfits, whom Blake had to keep, at leail until reinforcements could come from the Stales DemandN b) Im commanders irritated the AACSmen. who found KP and Othl I rOUtilM assignments again and again inteifering with tffll lent ftlrWlVf "|" I I
tions. instead of Invoking Annv Regulation! M 100, v%t) btuntn M
Blake had a right to do, he reasoned diplomatically both wllh h.......
ami with the offending couunaitdinu, "H" en,
Tu the commanding officers, on whom Blake looked as representa-Uvcn ol AACS customers, Blake wrote long personal letters, devoid of military formalism, explaining the AACS mission, asking for sugges-IIoiin, and offering to serve in the common war effort to the limit of his an.I his men's endurance. Tactfully he pointed out the risk to the flyer's lilt to the supplies and aircraft, if airways communications failed for Ml much as a single minute of the day. In almost all cases, the base commanders would respond by offering to protect the AACSmen from in-
I. I I. I. IMC.
t 111 the other hand, Blake would write equally long personal and friendly letters to his own men, urging them to practice patience, to lilt el i he base commander a little better than halfway, and to do everything possible to make AACS known throughout the Pacific as a service ni i*'1111/atioii of high cooperation.
Mow I.ii this personal approach succeeded is indicated by several ac-
.....iplishinents. A letter to Captain Gordon Rowe, Commanding Offi-
-1 i ol the Naval Air Station on Palmyra, offering to install a radio range • ii i in .nil to South Pacific Ferry flights and to pursuit aircraft, was in it. fully received and began close relations with the Navy that paid nil in succeeding naval operations against the enemy. Similar offers of i i\ii i to Brigadier-General Farthing, Commander of the 7th Air Force, ■ "•! himself equipped with a broad knowledge of technical communi-. iiiii.. i. suited in sympathy and assistance for AACS efforts that fre->|n. nilv Inought men and equipment after all other sources had failed. Hi line long, however, Blake had worked out his own system for ling personnel and materiel from the States to his Region. Al-
ll.....ill many of the shortages were fundamentally caused by our gen-
mii uiipieparedness, some failures in delivery to AACS were Inn i .1.1- i" faulty supply methods. Time and again, AACS discovered
llliil .....i and equipment were lost or diverted en route. The case of the
Im hi . i \ ptugiaphcrs on New ( ailedonia kidnaped by the infantry was hplial l<> , miiihal such diversions, Blake himself flew into Hamilton in ai San Francisco. There, his good friend Ned Siiiiiyer, com .......Iiu, ih' Ii VACS Region ol Virways /.I., cooperated in a plan for
p 11111 1 ling all shipments headed loi the 7th oi 5th begion. It was lllupli MM. called il hird>doggillg lb assigned several alert and re llahli ..III. cis lo tin task nl inaiking, soiling, and following A \< S
• 'I" mil ol San FianclNCO \ wluiilai procedure was adopted hu
l> I
Above all. Blake nhoweil hit geutin lui picking men, and using them hi till llinil ol tin ii i apai Itlci When (In ovei age cryptographic olllcem ■Wit ImtlncM and lib began aiiMug In the I'm ill. , Blake
immediately sized up their potentialities. These men had run offices and businesses successfully in civilian life. Well, what was an airways station or collection of airways stations but fundamentally a business? Maturity, ability to get along with workers and "customers," a sense of orderliness and business methods would pay off in the AACS. So Blake extended the responsibilities of these crypto officers; he put them in charge of younger men who knew more about tubes and antennae, but less about administration. It was a wise and courageous step, but one over which old enlisted and communications men shook their heads gravely, at first. But Blake proved right. His network became a model of business efficiency, an example of "customer" good-will. Moreox. i with that sense of fairness so characteristic of all his relations with men. Blake, as soon as possible, modified the shortsighted recognition given these men, and strove to remove the stigma of over-age in grade as rapidly as a man proved himself. »
One year after Pearl Harbor, Blake had built a highway in the iky over the Pacific. The road back could now begin.
Din lug World War II, three years of peace for this country and one .....I participation in the war had wrought many changes in Washington ()n November 15, 1938, Wally Smith had only a manila folder ltd i angle letter in it from the War Department saying, "Let there !•■ highways in the sky." On the last day of our first year of war, Wally
.....Ill .....lonbtedly marvelled at what he found in the office of his suc-
■ ii
I Ii hi. nant Colonel Lloyd H. Watnee, Commanding Officer of the tint) Vlrways Communications System, was operating a billion-dollar
1 ...... I lie original 33 airways stations, entirely in the United States,
1 1(1 multiplied by five and overflowed to the four corners of the world. I ...... the initial 3 regions, some 15 had developed. An original cadre oi
• nlll. i i and 350 enlisted men had grown in strength to nearly 10,000 llli i i und men, with every likelihood that another year would find
||.....umbel tripled. The single manila folder was now lost among
1 i fill packed with cartons of correspondence, all neatly arranged < I'm' lo tin Wai Department's decimal filing system. Yes, AACS I going concern, but like all expanding enterprises, its achieve
ill ..... somewhat offset by unsolved problems.
Iff lh< foui domestic regions, for example, Watnee was confronted
llll I ......pi ling demands < hi the one hand, his AACS stations wen-
ive the evei increasing number of cargo and training I I u 11 hull line, I i.i. k and forth within the United States, as well as the
1 ll ■ > >li I.I Mir nil I.....vcrseas theatres Vet. on the other hand,
1 i Hi i itnne. were obliged lo provide in service trail...... to
\ \i Sun ii needed loi the overseas ri gions. It was like a juggling act to
1 iin lop ■ Hi. li in \ iiu ili« < nutlui .11.11 in I.....with the < ream ol
I I ..... I ..... i llllh ihiilning "II loi loieij-n assignment.
Ms 1»......I.....I I'll' tin d......'.In '.lit......I In tin lii -.1 loin AA< 18
• 'c......Iih..iii-l. - mini- in -.I/, mil volume <>l business, had developed a full Iy slanilaid pattern On iin aveiage, thesi stations were
i inled l.\ ileliicl.......In couslstli.i' ..I from I wo lo foui ollleers
liM Willie thlily enlisted men Ol this nuiiibei no mine than lh.....i
civilian life; radio Hams just out of high school or business collegi students and professors, bakers, bookkeepers, lawyers, salesmen, and
even a bartender or two. Here in the average AA( IS Station w as .....
section of the civilian army which makes the militai v pOwei >>i ad.......
racy much more elastic and nimble than that ol a n gimcntcd inilitai) state.
One of the two officers was usually designated "< >M that In ' *'I■ • I " in Charge, or Detachment Cninmaudci The othei offlcei moil fit
quently served as Cryptographic Security Offlcei Kn Nt Olt tl....... 1
experienced non-commissioned offlcei ran th< itat..... looked iftei ihi
men, and reported directly to the oificerii Hi a......11 • i Isted h
foui trick chiefs, one foi each nl the sh houi ihlftN dl.....| thl tWt fit)
fcmi hums the station updated,
( Generally, the AACSmen lived together in one barracks or in a porli.....>l a barracks, messed in the base mess hall, and took advantage of
■at. h recreational facilities as were offered to all soldiers. Because of nutating schedules, which placed every man on the dog watch from midnight to six, once every four days, the AACSman was forced to leep at odd times. But, as partial compensation for the intensity of his ... hednle. Army Begulations protected him from miscellaneous duties llki Kl\
I h. average AACS station consisted of four sections—message center, -•"I. room, transmitting, control-tower. In the message center, an enti led clerk received messages that were logged and time-stamped. One di I he officers or the message-center clerk read the message for meaning, and . hocked for proper classification of information. This classification, liased on its relative relation to the defense of our country, could range
....... RESTRICTED through CONFIDENTIAL to SECRET. In very
.......stances, a message dealing with over-all war strategy might be
......ked TOP SECRET.
• >n. . ils classification had been settled by an officer, the message ■ • ill through a slot to the cryptographic section for proper enciphering
11......le clerks. Now, enciphering is not only a highly responsible
(tilt but .m exacting one as well. Unless perfect accuracy is maintained, llbli may result that will prevent the receiving station from dc-• Iphi inn' the message into intelligible, clear text. The enciphered mes I passed back to the message center, where it is relogged and forniteli In the transmission section.
In ih. domestic regions three types of transmitting devices were in ii ■■ I I I basii was so called CYV, or continuous-wave, radio transmis
< ili In li il rad.....perator took the encoded message and tapped out
in MniNI 'In diits .m.I dashes ( )n an average, such messages could be Ut m t i ili "I twenty to thirty words a minute with manual operation.
II.....■ I '\ it h im i Ii.i11m .il oi linciane transmission, messages could
t.. Irmi milled al u very much greater speed, automatically, once the 1.....1 -li In had first been cut on u tape The slowdown usually
llllieil nl the receiving end. loi want ol sufficient experienced
u.,1,1,1, i'i" i 11 m s ili \ third method of transmission by teletype oi liti, lelelvpi hid the advantage ol leqniiing ol the operator only . pini iblllh Imi all the ..p. tin sis hoin shill was a steady attilli hill lite lime li.inMiiiUmr nid hall the time receiving endless
•taiks ni Ihi'hi nini »i iih. I in.".ages.
Migli lip .I..... H" t.t..... tl.......Irol towel op* I .I'll landed unii
' "I H pi.....Hi . w ' i< I I s »|4 bu H" "I pn vi nting
'. Idi nli Ah dues., keen eyesight, ability to make split second de
cisions, were all part of the routine. During the busy periods, as mam as a dozen planes at one time might be circling overhead, waiting tO land, while a half-dozen others on the ground were impaticuth whii ring their motors for takeoff. In complete charge was the A At 'Sn.,.., control-tower operator. He alone must make the decision as to whit Ii plane could come in first, and at the same time he must hold the Otht I
in the air until the runway was cleared. Queries by the >,,.....,i |„
answered over the mike, and every landing and takeofl must 1» m . n rately logged.
Away from the tension of the station, in the transmittal ihaol lal......I
the mechanics, whose dot\ il was to keep all facilities on tl......I ill
times. This airways business was exacting It req......I I ill |ud|........
and COUragfl hu beyond th. 11 i ognition in i ■>..!. ,1 || , • 11.. , l,\ ih. \imN
or by the pilot adoring, publie but it had iti.......|.....I..... Phi VA< '•
men knew they were rapidly making ..I Hum- ,......In.. and
llllipli occupation. Let the pilot continue as a prima donna. Let him
I..... In, Hying pay Hi- was certainly contributing mightily to the com
....... vi in effort, bul whether the public realized il or not, the pilot was
R0| .....1111.1111111• mi) more than the glainourless AACSmen on the
Tllld, Mieil, was the domestic A \< S station II was doing big job for gill i,ill H\ lug o \ ii Vmt lit mi airways II was sending "II l«> ;i sale start plum |, i' 1111 • I o i o v i i sea s II was I raining AACSmen who would soon I,, npeitiling highways in tin .1 \ uversi as modeled ai'tei the successlul I- .it......I Mi ways / I
In the fall ol IIM2. the domeitic alrwayi itattoni were grouped Into
I.............II I III II III till ■ o i1.....V\ UN 111 ided bv I I onliol
I Mill . . mi |(l I Mil. \ lulled hiui III wll..... all the si a I Ions Wl lespiill
llble Ami |iinI an each xlallou was manned In M I >• i >« I....."i all the
tlelai him ut- ul a legiun I........I tin opt rating Nijuailron In those early
Outside, palm trees and eoeo.units. Inside, ,i Inisv \ACS .uiw i\ | | Hoil tO ser\e pilots ol Allied .Uiei.ifl si n it 11 u ig o\ri long Will CI Imps In
the South Pacific, The gas-driven general...... the foreground will
lurilisli emei gem V powei loi leeeixeis ll I nil ill puwei Nlipph I,ills AA( IS stations iiinst not go oil tin an
days, the RCO was both the Regional Control Officer of technical services and the Squadron Commander. This was the organizational pattern for Airways Z.I. at the end of the first year of war, and this was the pattern developing in the four great foreign areas of the world.
As Watnee surveyed the growing world airways, he could check the lour domestic regions as successfully installed and operating. He could also look to the northeast corner and see Farman there, pioneering lour moie outstanding regions. His original Eighth AACS now covered only Maine, Newfoundland, and Eastern Quebec. A new Fifteenth had been formed for the Western Quebec stations; a Seventeenth for Greenland and Iceland; a brand new Twenty-fourth for the British Isles. These four regions Farman now proposed to combine into a North Atlantic \i'.i, and in a pencilled memorandum to Watnee he outlined his N heme for world-wide area operation.
In this new plan which Farman now sketched to Watnee, the imbalance of integration in relation to airways communications was <<■ ised. Regions were multiplying with expanding world operations. I' aiman himself now had four in the North Atlantic, where before there had been only one. If the process of subdividing into regions continued, disintegration would be inevitable. To forestall this, Farman proposed that the world airways system be at once organized into four large an as: North Atlantic, South Atlantic, South Pacific, North Pacific, and I'" lilbly Continental for Airways Z.I., each with an Area Control Officer Bin Ctly responsible to Conas. The proposal influenced Washington so Ion elully that in November, 1942, a regulation authorizing these areas jflftl prepared. Farman himself was made the first Area Control Officer; Blake was made the second. These were Watnee's two strongest corners ul operation, these his two strongest control officers.
But in the northwest and southeast corners the situation was still oh
mi In neither area was there one such master builder as Farman or lllake to give direction to the highway building in the sky. For both ol these increasingly critical spheres, crises were approaching. To meet ll,, ;.aics shaping there, Watnee drew on talent in the established do
mi in regions. His two tried and advanced Regional Control Officers $f\......uld be reckoned in the class with Farman and Blake were Wen
.I- II Bowman, in command of the east coast Second AAGS Begion, and I l o A. Sinnyer, heading the Pacific < 0,1,1 lu.i Begion, Both were West Pointer., and both could be counted on to cany difficult, mad PUlldlllg assignments in the sky, OVPI 1 ' territory II nceessaiy.
Il\ the \|.....t; ol I'll ' howexei il we. .111| 1.111 i it thai Walnee would
in , ,1 loin. Instead ul |W<I Kill ll me.lei hulldeis \ lillh should he leads
beluie too many munllm elapied Three ol their mantel hulldeis were
I >eecmbei, I'M I to Octobci l'U I
needed in the southeast at once. Latin-American airways, leaderless me < VVatnee himself was recalled from Panama to Conas, bristled for attention. Over the crossroads that led from Miami to Panama and South America, must flow such air power as could be sent to two de-\« loping theatres of war in Africa and China-Burma-India. In the ipi nig of 1942, VVatnee had to make his decision. I I. decided to let the Latin-American system continue with such di-
0 1 Hon as he could give it from Washington. But to Africa he sent one "i his two ace domestic RCO's, Wendell Bowman, having relieved him
01 Ins command of the Second Region. For distant China-Burma-India, W iinee dipped into his enlisted personnel for leadership. He remembered Master-Sergeant Walter B. Berg, veteran aircom man, crew chief l"i General Arnold on the famous Alaskan flight, and later the first '.< < >l(; lor Russ Wilson in the First AACS Region. Berg was commis-
loued directly and catapulted to the rank of major.
Pressing even more for Watnee's attention was the situation in Alaska. i I" [tips made their attack on Dutch Harbor in June, and by heroic i il' 11 the handful of AACSmen had succeeded in materially assisting •i" di fending forces. But the communications system was still highly
.....fused 11\ lack of coordination among the multiple U.S. and foreign
'...iii .o \ and civilian agencies. To Alaska, therefore, Watnee decided
|......I his other ace domestic RCO, Edgar Sirmyer. His talent thus
.1- ployed, in.I Ins operations planned, Watnee once more looked at his ■nh. .i. I' 11 i.i i Lis and the domestic regions directly under him. ' onus inn lei the Directorate was proving advantageous to neither. 1 lunged as ii was v\ ith responsibility for all Air Force Communications, \ \< S bci anie iii. i.K IK. seventh of seven routine duties or functions i Ihi Directorate. This meant that, in the over-all procurement and ill ii ■ i\ ol equipment, processing of personnel, research and develop
......i "i hupioN ements, allocation ol ci \ ptographic devices, liaison and
.....i.....w ith miIi.i ,i"i ii. ies \ \( S could normally expect to draw
1 • i ""i least all. nl..... That it land belter at all, was attributed to the
i "i < itit»ih Is Marrinei and Wally Smith, both ol whom believed i. ii \ \« S stood lor. In fact, by the middle ol the summer, as al ' id Indicated < olonel Marrinei pencilled a memorandum urging
thai ... \.i Communications Command, with AACS as the nil-
i ii in headquarters away Irom Washington. The time
.....' | ■ i 111.. howevei ha sin h a step.
\ .in., handicapped by tin lack of prestige and weight that com
".....i i al u 'I and i - n. > .1 ol III i is i.i i d cany, strove by diplomacy and
and lonlael In pi........i modicum ol equipment and personnel
(ttr his Ihi Hung legions siiuggllng at home ami abroad for existence.
By December 1942, materials were beginning to funnel through command channels from Signal Corps to Air Force Directorate of Communications, to Conas to Areas, to Regions, and then down to the working stations. The process may have been unnecessarily involved, but it insured control at every critical point.
In the meantime, by Presidential Order, the AACS had taken over, for the war emergency, six intercontinental communications stations operated in peace by the Civil Aeronautics Administration. These stations, located in New York, New Orleans, San Francisco, Seattle, Anchorage, and Honolulu, provided airways communications to commercial air lines, meteorological agencies, and the Navy, as well as to the Army. Under the terms of the Order, Colonel Watnee was designated as the War Department's representative in all inter-agency relations involved in the operation of these stations. Steadily, both at home and abroad, AACS was emerging as the American formula for unified, world-wide airways operation.
To make this formula work abroad Watnee looked out over his four corners and decided to do something about the northwest first.
Alaska had been invaded. There were no two ways about that. No living American could recall any previous time a foreign power had forcibly set foot on any portion of our North American possessions. And it hurt. It hurt far more than the average non-air-minded, non-tactically-versed individual could explain. Only men like Hap Arnold—who could see in his memories of the past the figure of Billy Mitchell pointing to the top of the globe and cautioning, "He who controls Alaska, controls the world"—could really understand. We must regain the sky spaces over the top of the world. We must build airways there ahead of tin-Japs.
By superhuman effort, and some breaks, we had turned the enemy back from Dutch Harbor. We had achieved it by sneaking in two an ways stations far enough out to give our bombers a fighting chance in the skies over the Aleutians. But now we must do more. We must gel out into those far islands before the Japs came in toward the mainland We must, moreover, eventually drive them from those two footholds no Attu and Kiska in our western hemisphere.
By Dutch Harbor day, in June 1942, the airways picture in the north west corner of Conas was still not too clear. Too many agent lex hud their fingers in the pie. Too many civil and militai y systems, lepresi nl ing both our country and our Allies, weie opeiatiug on < ioss i nnents The need of the day was coordination \ drying laek was some nvei
all leadership and direction. A vital requirement in the face of a winning enemy was for some master plan.
General Arnold's first conference, more than a year before Pearl Harbor, had envisioned integration. Some progress had been made, but we were not yet at war, and limitations were inevitable. Then, in the fall of 1941, Watnee himself had gone to Alaska to take another step toward coordination with Navy and CAA facilities. All this had been g<k)d, but not enough.
In the spring of 1942, the deployment of defense forces looked somewhat like this: From the third oldest AACS Alaskan station, at Annette, the Royal Canadian Air Force patrolled the west coast of Canada and the southeast portion of Alaska. Naval aircraft, based at Kodiak, ranged north at Yakutat in cooperation with the Coast Guard stationed at Annette. In addition, the Navy, operating Pan American Airways communications at Seattle, Annette, Juneau, Whitehorse, and Fairbanks, dm.bled for land-based aircraft. But the AAF, assigned the defense of the northwest skies, ranged over all this territory and more. Its Air I tan sport Command (ATC), charged with the transport of supply by ah from Seattle to Annette, Yakutat, and Kodiak, contracted with the canadian Northwest Airlines for the use of its British Columbia and I < >n airways stations.
The picture was complicated. American airways communications had been somewhat simplified by the Navy's taking over Pan American Air-
■ i\ s. and by the AACS's assuming control of the CAA stations. But there were still the different procedures of the Canadian Department of
transportation (DOT) and the Northwest Airlines (NWA). Finally. In I one 1942, lend-lease ordered a ferry route for aircraft to the Soviet
U.....n by way of the northwest, introducing airways relations with still
sunt her ally.
In i nutend with this headache of coordination, as well as with a host III npeiation plans in Alaska, Watnee selected his ace RCO of the first 111 region. In every way, Ned Sirmyer was best equipped for the . h West Pointer, he would be respected, from the start, by the trail....... ml........g Navy. He would come to Alaska already briefed by
. iiulai i with the s. cue his own First Region men, six of whom
i, ||| . stubllshed the key station at I .add Field near Anchorage, one ol list stations, Finally, as Makes liaison man at Hamilton Field, Sir-was lu a position i" lurthei the Integration ol South and North Pa. ill. Ahways ellnrts through his own connecting First Region. So, ihoith .11«. tin |iip repulse at Dutch Harbor, Sirmyei look oil lor Alaska
I ..i ..I his Instructions had Indicated clearly that he was not t.. ie
main in the northwest indefinitely. For as the global war developed, Watnee suggested, an even bigger assignment awaited Sirmyer, in an area on the other side of the world. His first task, therefore, was to find capable officers to take over command before his own Alaskan assignment ran out. For this part of the mission no man could possibly have been better endowed by nature. Sirmyer was a born student of men. He believed in delegating authority, in placing responsibility on his subordinates, in discovering talent, and encouraging it to develop.
He found two strong regional control officers. One of them, Robert J. Gleason, was the civilian manager of the PAA Alaskan stations. Sirmyer had him commissioned directly as a captain and placed in charge of the Alaskan end of AACS operations. The other find, Uncle Joe Ulrich, was an old-time army man, beloved by enlisted personnel for his human qualities. Promoting him to captain, Sirmyer placed Ulrich in charge of AACS operations in Northwest Canada. For both of these officers, Sirmyer also procured good subordinate officers and enlisted personnel, who contributed mightily to the victories that followed.
And now he prepared to work with the other agencies. He found an able colleague in Lieutenant Goldsborough, of the Navy. In August, the Goldsborough committee, consisting of representatives of the Navy, the CAA, and the AACS, met and arrived at a uniform communications procedure for United States forces in the Northwest Pacific. How ini portant this was, can readily be understood when it is pointed out that thereafter all pilots—Navy, AAF tactical and AAF transport—would have to learn but one procedure, which would be equally usable whether the pilot was contacting Navy, AACS, CAA, or any uthei United States facilities.
A similar coordination task now needed doing with our Allies. Sli myer undertook conferences with the RCAF, Department of Transpia tation, and Northwestern Airlines. Those were the three agencies to be satisfied. Between Seattle, outpost of his own First AACS Region, and Fairbanks in Alaska, Canadian territory intervened. There NWA wax operating six civilian airways stations, with procedures in some • am superior, and in others inferior, to the American method, but in all cases different enough to complicate living. Specifically, the Canadian requirement that all aircraft flying over Canadian territory receive a prior clearance caused needless alerting of aircraft warning service, aj well as costly delay.
Two important results emerged from the eouleienees with mil Canadian allies.
The so-called Jam .in agreement brought the ROAF and 11.. NWA into a system ol airways procedure* thai would permit (Mil alniall tn
Airways from Seattle to Siberia.
(ly over the Canadian airways as easily as they could over our own, and at the same time enable the RCAF to move just as freely between A At !S stations. After all, Canada and the United States were fighting the same enemy.
The second result was the militarization of the Northwest Airlines fftdlo stations in British Columbia, Alberta, and Yukon. Six stations in Canada—Regina, Edmonton, Ft. St. John, Ft. Nelson, Watson Lake, and Whitehorse—linking Airways Z.I. to Airways Alaska were taken mi i by AACS. To these stations were added Great Falls, Montana, and Noithway in Alaska to form a new 16th Region. Over these stations and the men operating them, Sirmyer placed Captain Ulrich. It was not an easy assignment, because AACS was thrust into the rAle of superseding a going concern. Only the rare human qualities of Uncle Joe Ulrich prevented the inevitable clash between civilian and military workers tngagid in the same duties under different methods of compensation Hlld leeogultion, To the NWA operators, the khaki AACSmen might easily have become threats to I he security of tin* positions that had been haul earned dmlng the years preceding war. But Captain Ulrich's in--Imi. lime, to his men to learn the NWA way, and not attempt to impose \< ', methods all at once, won ovei many <>l the recalcitrants The malll thing was to complete (he highway In the iky NO that planes could fly safely and upcedlly hum the Arsenal ol Demoi rai \ In the Alaskan balllebonl I ytlllllg else Wit* <iecundai\ to this inBJOl purpose,
With the 16th well on the way to organization, Sirmyer next concentrated on the critical 11th, exposed in the Aleutians to enemy fire, and stretching out its hands to an ally across Bering Strait. Now, indeed, Billy Mitchell's forecast was being proved—"He who controls Alaska controls the world." Here, af. the top of the world, United States strategy could be such as to permit blows against both Axis principals at the same time. In command of the large 11th Region, Sirmyer placed Cap tain Robert J. Gleason, recruited directly from his civilian post as Alaskan manager of the PAA stations.
After studying the situation together, Sirmyer and Gleason decided to divide the llth's operations into three sectors. Requiring immediate attention, to implement the June agreement with the Soviet Union, was the Airway stretching from Northway, the end of Gleason's line, l<» Nome at the beginning of Russia's skyway. Another coordination job, this time with the USSR, was needed. If procedures already agreed upon by all United States and Canadian users of the airways could be extended all the way to the nearest Siberian bases across the Bering Strait, the AAF could fly Russian lend-lease planes from Great Falls, Montana to Ladd Field at Fairbanks, where Soviet flyers could pick them up and proceed over the llth's airway to Nome and across Bering Strait to Anadyr, Yakutak, and Welkal in Siberia.
Back to coordinate went Sirmyer again. This time it was not willi English-speaking conferees, as in the preceding .two achievements, but with Russian airmen who must be taught the procedures of American airways. In a way, Sirmyer was confronted with a small Bolero move ment, only this time the aircraft were destined for the eastern, rathel than for the western, European front. Besides the language obstacles,
there were the handicaps of weak signals from the Siberian stat......
that had to be tied smoothly into the combined airways system. There
were also the shortages of equipment, shortages that the Soviet U.......
was experiencing even more acutely than we.
Nevertheless, in late September 1942, the planes to Russia began moving along the AACS highway in the sky from Great Falls, Montana, to Nome, Alaska, and thence to Siberia. In that first month, only a dozen planes made it. They required 120 point-to-point messages ovet the airways. But in October, the number ol planes jumped to 32, with a corresponding boom in business along the airways. In that month the AACSmen moved some 1300 messages through their stations on that run, and of course were kept busy with a proportionate unmix I "I air/ground and control-tower contacts. By November, the total iiiniil" i of planes sent to the Russians foi the month had in. leased to Ml and the AACS stations had entered the big business column, with ........hart
2200 messages. The Soviet pilots caught onto the airways procedures rapidly, and were soon flying American highways in the sky as expertly un our own airmen. Those planes were badly needed on the Stalingrad bout, where the Red Army was facing its sternest test. And along the Breal Falls-to-Nome segment of the world airways. AACSmen were I lually fighting side by side with their allies on the other side of the world.
Nor was it an easy fight. In the low valley at Fairbanks, cold reached 70 below. At Nome, where the freeze was less severe, chill winds beat across Bering Strait. But the AACSmen stuck to their jobs. Cryptog-laphers, working in tent housing, at times saw ink freeze, typewriter carnages stiffen. They did their enciphering with gloves on, and in-teiiupted their work every ten minutes to toss another log on the fire. Noi was the available diet of a kind to give them either physical or llOral fortitude. Besides the C-ration and dehydrated milk, the AACSmen hasted on Spam and Vienna sausage, which they enticingly named i..Ion steak and Yukon shrimp, respectively. There was, of course, ..milling wrong with Spam. It was just a case of "too much of something ,'.....1 is bad." And so Spam became a war casuality, an excellent prod-in t that every World War II veteran may avoid only because he had Inn much of it overseas.
While Sirmyer was setting his rear echelons in order, he was not ... eh-cling the advance. He was merely laying a strong foundation by lying the Alaskan network firmly to the airways in the United States.
...... tins was done, Sirmyer was ready to advance toward the foe. Out
11......n Kiska and Attn, the Jap was already preparing to move in
• 1111 the mainland. Along the entire Aleutian chain, the most ad-
.....d American airways station was at Unmak. From there to the Jap
Itasi it Kiska and Attn was still too far for effective bombing, except Im In Hinging heavy craft.
Tinned back from Dutch Harbor in the opening phase of the cam-i n the Japs apparently decided to operate from their Aleutian out-I i I Ik \ attacked surface vessels and submarines, bombed a sea-I I || |i i. inhi at Atka, and began to reconnoitcr Adak. The race was on.
il must not lull. The enemy must not extend its holdings. With \l ,1 m then hands, om continental bases would be under their bomb I , Willi 'I i....." hands, we could begin a counteroifensive from
' i ii'iilnsl Attn and Kiska,
■ ||| ih. ii. si lo (he last day ol VllgtlSt, Ail Forces ground personnel Hill ..I ■ .1 In small boats ami hit the beach at Adak just as day broke.
In the i icw were A At Ni..... bent on extending om highway into the
M, ,,),,,, ,ky Despite Iwelvi days "I fierce winds, cold and rain, an
airstrip was built and, by the middle of September, planes began taking off. In a very short time, AACS was on the air, guiding combat planes out to meet the enemy. We had won the race to the center of the chain.
In the weeks that followed, the AAF began to slug it out in the skies. Gradually they whittled away the invader's airpower and shifted from defense to offense. Nothing would satisfy the Americans now except to get the Japs out of the Aleutians. To do this, a base even closer to the Jap-held islands was needed.
About seventy miles southeast of Kiska is the little island of Amchitka. There, on the 12th of January, 1943, the AACSmen landed with other Air Forces personnel. They took with them, among other things, one HT-9 transmitter and three receivers. By the middle of February the AACSmen were copying weather, using a light gun to direct traffic from the control-tower that was really no more than a revetment of sandbags. But that was enough. Though Jap naval planes opened up with raid after raid, the men dug in and held on. Soon the Amchitka bast-was built up to accommodate more and more of our fighters. The tables began to turn as Japs were shot out of the sky over Amchitka in such numbers that the raids became steadily less profitable to the enemy Then came our bombers. The distance to Kiska and Attu was now very short. Our planes could give more weight to pay load and less to fuel So we opened up with both barrels, giving the two Jap-held island, some of their own medicine. Now it was they who were digging In, holding on for dear life in a battle that was steadily going against diem
The AACSmen were busy. They had begun to spin the strands ol the web that had so successfully entangled the other Axis partner's attempi in the West Indies. Stations were projected at Atka, Ogliuga and Shemya, with weather outposts for Chuginadak, Seguam, and KigUfl Mere names, of course, but on the map of military strategy they weff pegs on which to draw the noose that was tightening around a despei ate enemy.
On June 10th, two officers led nine other AACSmen, accompanii d \i\ a CAA technician, to the island of Shemya, only forty miles from VttU Part of a secret mission, they set to work digging a control towei lluei feet underground, and surrounding it with sandbags. I'm equlpmi til they used a light gun and a field telephone. In succession I he) i ' id lished weather communications, air ground for OUI tactical alrci III and a radio range. Cryptographers handled alerts. The |ap caught in the net.
On the 17th, the AACSmen moved onto Attn Itmell WttJl ftp ill
around them, the AACSmen coolly proceeded to a I up a .....ipli |< ill
ways station. ()ne |ap was shol w illiiu loin hmahed \ aids nl I hi thill
lii.lo station in the Aleutians, operated by AACS personnel, which
stood coiitlm....... guard atop this .now capped mountain to detect
Approach ol enemy aircraft AACS crewmen changed .hills every il.....I »s •• and ii required three hours ol climbing to reach this
slat..... Hi.,i. I located at the loot ol ill. nioiinlaiu
mitter site. Within a few days, the AACSmen were copying Russian weather and sending it out to our airmen. One by one, the invaders were exterminated in their ratholes. Attu was completely ours again. A month later, Kiska fell without a struggle. The AACSmen scampered in with our invading forces and, from the stout housing of a Jap gun, strung their antenna for test transmission. On the sixth of September, regular operation from the AACS station at Kiska began. The Aleutian campaign was over. War had moved out of our island approach and into the enemy's. From the AACS Kiska and Attu stations, our bombers now struck out across the International Date Line into Jap territory, into the Kuriles. Let them look to Paramashiro now, and to Hokkaido.
From where Watnee sat, it was like playing reverse puss-in-the-corner. You no sooner moved Sirmyer into the northwest area than you had to do something in the southeast. The whole South Atlantic was wide open. There was no area control officer. There was not even an area headquarters, a center from which the highways in the sky could radiate smoothly south, west and east, and to which airways Z.I. could point as a terminal. Direction from Washington had proved only a makeshift, and the vital South Atlantic portion of the world airways was breaking up into three separate clusters.
One of these clusters comprised the stations in the immediate vicinity of the Panama Canal, the original Sixth AACS Region which Watnee himself had fathered. Its job was to serve the 6th Air Force, the Panama Canal Department, and the Navy, all concerned with the defense of the Isthmus. Another cluster of stations, the largest of the three, spread over the Caribbean islands and served a multiplicity of masters tla-Air Transport Command, the Antilles Command, the Antilles Air Command, the Trinidad Base Command, the Puerto Rico Department, the Navy, and numerous little agencies. The third of these clusters had but lately been recognized as including the six stations on the mainland of South America and the island of Ascension. Its principal customers were the Air Transport Command and Army Forces in South Aim-ilea
As long as the mission for the area remained primarily a delcnslvi one, the three AACS clusters struggled along, meeting with Improi 1 1 tion each new assignment as it arose. When, however, in the lall ol 1942, we moved to the offense, to our first big campaign agaln-.l lln European foe, to the invasion of Africa, the stress on the South Mlnnlli airways was too much. Unprepared by tin1 soil ol inasti i plitunlufl til ll had gone into the North .uiw.iv. fot BolorO, the whole KHltll eastern system began to i rettk and luu kiln
In August, 1942, the story was beginning to be told. Had the enemy watched AACS traffic figures in the South Atlantic alone, a suspicion of something big to come might have stirred them to a different defense. Right at the bulge of Natal, WYRR-the AACS station there-was tale-telling statistically, but unmistakably:
In August, 70,000 groups In September, 120,000
In October, a month before invasion, 216,000 In November, 357,000 In December, 415,000
By spring, Natal was pushing the million mark, challenging for top place in traffic among all the AACS stations in the world. What could these figures mean but flight messages, and what could flight messages mean but planes, masses of them in such quantities as to shame even bolero?
You could have stood out on the line at Morrison Field in Palm Beach, Florida, during the fall of 1942, if you were in uniform, and Men a sight that heralded air power such as the world had never before known. Every thirty seconds, a plane roared down the runway. There Were all kinds of planes. There were huge four-engine bombers and transports armed for war, and loaded with supply. There were medium
I......hers, vicious-looking B-25 Mitchels and B-26 Marauders, that you
looked at, and then thanked God for putting them on our side. There W/ere fighters and light bombers. All of them were headed in one direction southeast. They were headed southeast, first to Borinquen Field In Puerto Rico. Then to Atkinson Field, British Guiana. Then to Belem, Brii/il. Then to Natal. Then halfway across the ocean to Ascension. Up In this point, the flight was all within the South Atlantic area, within the western hemisphere. After that, the planes went to the fighting fronts. To Accra, in Africa, for the Tunisian front, or on to Khartoum ha the Middle East danger spots at El Alamein and Syria and Iran, or still farther east to Karachi for the Hump, Assam, Burma, and China. M e, I,u flung war, and its supply line began in Florida.
ll was ,i long, supply line, even by air. Many pitfalls in the sky inter-t. in .1 between Miami and Karachi, They could be eliminated only by hull.hill' food highways, These highways must be every bit as good, aveiv I'll ol (he way, us they weie within Airways /..I. In the fall of I'M ' ih. \ w< ii wi itki si where liny began in Florida. Roth Palm Reach
and Miami presented ......I used uirwuyi......ununlcatloni picture In
Iwn stations, AACS upciiiteil nun lacllltlei It customer, ATC,
operated others. Message centers and cryptographic sections came under the Air Transport Command. So, all the other customers, 6th Air Force in Panama, Antilles Command in the Caribbean, USSAF in South America, sought to run in part or in whole the segment of the world airways that went through their respective areas. The result was confusion and chaos where speed and accuracy of transmission were called for. Before long, plane fatalities on this vital portion of the world air routes were proving tragically that planes could be no safer than airways.
As the first flush of African invasion cooled to a stalemate, stocktaking of weaknesses was inevitable. To anticipate the searchlight which would relentlessly seek out the South Atlantic inadequacies, Watnee requested appointment of an expert investigation board. It was a good self-inventory move. If the right man could be found to head the survey board the day might yet be saved for integrated airways.
That was the top airways assignment, and only the top man could handle it. In January, Watnee asked Farman to leave the North Atlantic for temporary duty in the South Atlantic. Farman accepted, but stipulated conditions. He would choose the other two members of his board, and have a free hand to institute his own methods. He would be given adequate authority. As a colonel, Farman knew he would get nowhere fast if it came to an issue with a general.
All these conditions were met. In January, the War Department top command issued a secret letter backing Farman with the full authority of the Secretary of War. General George, of the Air Transport Command, a strong believer in integrated airways communications, implemented the War Department's letter with instructions to his South Atlantic units. Farman chose one Signals expert and his own North Atlantic Cryptographic Security Officer, Caspar Offringa, to serve with him on the Board.
The North Atlantic was in good shape. Farman's area plan had already been drawn up. Several strong officers had been placed in command of each of his four regions. Farman now chose his most able and brilliant assistant, Bill Day, to succeed him as Area Control Officer As Farman said farewell to his Presque Isle headquarters, he must have felt some pride in his accomplishments. In fifteen months he had built an airways across the North Atlantic. The achievement was in the best American pioneer tradition.
Farman completed his final briefing in Washington, and then loot off for Palm Beach. A quick inspection <»l the two majoi Florida points Morrison and Miami told him Instantly Willi Vt II M COng Hi had b. | R through it all, the yeai helore In Mam. I ,oel vtocl and bam I he
took both stations over completely and irrevocably for A ACS. "Airways communications is our business; transport is yours," he told ATC officials there. "Give us these stations, and we'll put them on a paying basis. We did it in Presque Isle for you; we can do it here in Miami."
Miami and Morrison became completely AACS stations. For the first time, message centers and crypto sections came under AACS direction. ATC personnel operating these facilities were transferred to Far-man's command, and now the North Atlantic pattern began to take shape. Farman believed in building strong terminal stations first, stations that would anchor the highway in the sky firmly to Airways Z.I. In his plans, therefore, he marked Miami for area headquarters, and Morrison for the Ninth Region's capital.
At the moment, the 9th AACS was being directed from Borinquen Field, in Puerto Rico. There Farman proceeded next. He found the makings of a strong station, chiefly because of the talent in the Detachment. But there, too, the division of authority existed: AACS operated radio, and ATC ran the message center and crypto section. Besides the division in administration, Farman saw the weakness in separated personnel. The young high-school Hams in the radio room needed the steadying influence of the mature crypto officers, and the older crypto men could stand, from time to time, a shot of the youthful enthusiasm that the brass-pounders had to offer. Again Farman accomplished the transfer, but this time not without some opposition.
One of the ATC crypto officers had almost immediately caught the talent-hawking eye of Farman. His name was Fogarty, he was a first lieutenant, and he was in charge of cryptographic security. In civilian life, he had headed the personnel organization of the nation-wide J. C. Penney chain store, after a Phi Beta Kappa college record and a sensational job of quarterbacking for the University of Missouri varsity football team. He was then in his late thirties, outranked by youngsters whose only claim to field grade often was the immaturity that accompanies so-called hot piloting. Yet, officers several ranks above instinctively turned to Fogarty for leadership.
Farman spotted all this, appraised Fogarty's qualities from the start. He noticed how easily he captured the broad implications of a problem, and how s.....othly he proceeded to solve it. With great dexterity
Fogaitv had succeeded in offending no one, while accomplishing exactly what had to be done. I'ogarty's business experience was being utilized in the service of his country to effect a polished, evenly running tncssap ' ' on i business Bight then-, Farman decided on the man to
din i t this dillii ult i iyplogiaphii s......t\ piogiam hn the region. And
he Inld I'og.uh .o In a maiiiiei that lell tin doubt ol his Intention.
Fogarty was worried. He belonged to ATC. He went to his commanding officer. "I'm afraid you will be losing me. There is a little guy down there who says I'm going to be with AACS, and I have a strange feeling that he is not talking through his hat."
The commanding officer pooh-poohed. "You're with ATC and you're staying with ATC."
"Maybe so," Fogarty agreed doubtfully, "but I think this little guy means business."
The next day there were the orders. Fogarty was Regional Cryptographic Security Officer for the Ninth Region of the AACS, and he would proceed to Morrison Field and take over. The little guy did know what he was talking about. He was Ivan the Terrible, who had licked the cold up north and who would most certainly lick the heat down south.
Farman moved on. He became the same legend among the AACSmen of the South Atlantic that he had become with the AACSmen of the North Atlantic. Out of the sky he would come with his own plane and his two fellow board members and, before the engine had time to cool off from the flight, he was in the middle of things in the AACS station. "What's your job?" The question became famous among AACSmen. With that question, he would begin his analysis of the situation. By the answer he could tell how well the man was trained for the job, the necessity for his duties, how well he was performing them.
Farman was never looked upon as a "Visiting Fireman"—that appellation applied to all rank which inspected, looked wise, and did nothing. But Farman rolled up his sleeves. He would put on the headset, begin to work the key, move several messages, find out why messages were stacking up. When operators complained they couldn't work such and such a station, Farman would say, "Let's see if we can find why." Somehow, the men say, he always got through, always showed them how. If the transmitter went bad, Farman went out into the shack and became a "Ham" again, face smeared, forgetting himself completely in some improvisation, and absorbing the interest of the AACSman, who was immediately drawn to his boss by that kinship only radio operators can feel for each other.
Sometimes the trouble was outside the AACS. The base was poorly planned. Operations had been placed at a distance from the airways station. Inevitably, delay resulted from the separation. In such casea Farman, armed with War Department authority, made changes. Fre quently, these changes were made over the commanders protest, at first. Invariably, however, two or three dayi undei the new plan would
bring the acknowledgment, "We should have done tins long, ago,"
Farman moved out of the Ninth Region cluster and into the Twelfth. Here he took on USSAAF, as well as ATC. He moved into Atkinson in British Guiana, and Zandery in Dutch Guiana. Everywhere the same lack of coordination, the same shortages of men and equipment, the same antiquated airways methods confronted him. The whole plan was harnessed to the prewar, plane-at-a-time pace, when actually aircraft were moving in masses greater than even in his own North Atlantic area. Whole squadrons would take off, and no flight message would leave until the last plane was off the ground. Often, on short hops, the first plane in the flight would arrive at destination before the message covering the whole movement.
Farman worked with the officers in charge, showed them the plan of PXing every three planes with a simple formula message. He eliminated the multiple flight check messages used during peace, but now unnecessary because of overlapping facilities all along the route. He conferred with the station's customers on the base, offered to serve their communications needs in any way possible, and gained from them in return some attention to the technique of message writing. Farman observed a tendency on the part of base commanders to mark all messages urgent, negating the system of priorities that the Armv had set up. Tactfully he went over the last month's messages and, by actual count, showed that 90% were marked operational priority or priority, and very few indicated as routine or deferred. Yet, upon examination of content, commanders invariably agreed that the percentages might have been reversed.
Farman made it perfectly clear that AACS was there to serve them. The customer wrote the ticket; AACS furnished the service up to the limit of resources. Only so many messages could be moved in a given time over a single circuit. If all were given equal priority, more urgent messages would inevitably wait, while less urgent ones went through.
In time, Farman arrived at Natal. There was General Walsh, the capable commander of the United States Forces in South America. Men feared him, but they knew he was just and efficient. Farman made his olfieial call. He placed his report and recommendations on the table. The General Studied the proposals, and flared up at one on Belein.
"It can't be done. That new hangar is crowded to capacity. There-s no room lor an AACS station there, though I recognize that airways
communications should he- close to operations.
"Excuse me, General," Farman coolly said, "the AACS station has been opcialmg li""i the new hangai loi time clays now I took it upon myself, When I went llnough then-, to move AACS in where- it be longt -I He vt tilted foi (leneral Walsh's replj
As early as the spring of 1942, conversion from the stage of holding to the stage of advancing was on the drafting table. Where our first offensive blows would be struck was already fairly well established, and, like a straw in the wind; the unravelling of the AACS net was pointing the way. Before offensives could roll, air power must be overhead; and before air power could be overhead the skies must be paved with airways. Early in the spring of 1942, Watnee was confronted with the taxing mission of extending the South Atlantic highway in the sky clear across the ocean to Africa, and beyond into the India-China theatre of operations.
The situation was difficult. Conas' four corners were barely struggling into existence. There were not enough men or materials for Blake in the South Pacific or Farman in the North Atlantic, and the leaderless Alaskan and Caribbean corners were threatened, respectively, by the Japs in the Aleutians and by the Nazis at the African bulge. Watnee had already settled in his mind on Sirmyer to go to Alaska. He now decided on his other domestic ace RCO, Wendell Bowman, for Africa.
Seven months ahead of the invasion, the AAF determined on a ferry and supply route across the middle of Africa. A few American PAA stations had already been set up in miserable little huts. These were planned to tie in with the Middle East and Indian stations of the British Overseas Airways System. Through conference it was arranged for the AAF to take over the PAA beginnings, and to place personnel in or near some of the BOA installations. This arrangement was to be the basis for the projection of a major military air route across Central Africa.
Toward the end of April, Bowman was relieved from command of the Second AACS Region which he had so ably developed, almost from its activation. He was assigned to Conas, at Boiling Field, but was attached to the new 13th AACS, one of two regions for Africa. Immediately, Bowman began to assemble his personnel and matériel. From his own Second Region stations he drew men who had served him well, and catapulted them into ranks commensurate with the duties to which
"Farman," the General exploded, "I'm going to have you removed from your present assignment." Then, after a pause, he added, with a twinkle in his eye, "and assign you to my command."
The South Atlantic had not been made perfect by Farman's tour of duty, but it had been immeasurably improved. A foundation had been laid for a strong area to take its place alongside Farman's North Atlantic, Blake's South Pacific, and Sirmyer's Alaskan. The world airways were shaping up. Out of that survey trip had come Farman's report to the War Department, a significant document crystallizing the philosophy and concept of an integrated world-wide airways system. That report would go far to shape AACS policy; it would have a far-reaching influence on the decisions of the joint general staffs.
he intended to assign them. Probably one of the most sensational series of promotions made during World War II was conferred on his Technical Sergeant Haskel Neal, a Regular Army enlisted man who had proved himself again and again. Bowman promoted him to master sergeant on April 22, commissioned him on May 5, advanced him to first lieutenant on the 16th, and jumped him to major on June 6. This was war, and there was an extremely difficult mission to fulfill. Bowman needed leaders he could trust. He made Neal RCO of the 13th Region, and hustled him off with ajiandful of faithful men to temporary headquarters at Morrison Field.
The second African region, designated the Fourteenth AACS, was conceived as a tactical reserve. At the moment, the fortune of battle was shifting. Rommel and his Afrika Corps could never be counted out until they were destroyed. He had already proved himself a tricky opponent; and were he to succeed, where the Italians had failed, by driving to the Suez Canal and possibly into Asia Minor, circumstances might force the AAF supply route below the equator in Africa. In that case, the Fourteenth would operate an alternate route paralleling that of the 13th. If Rommel were defeated, then the Fourteenth could be deployed to North Africa while the 13th kept the middle route open. To command the Fourteenth, Bowman appointed Major Glover B. Brock, the first AACS cadet commissioned during the war.
Neal's 13th departed first. By the end of June, his one hundred fifty men had left Morrison, some by sea and some by air, accompanied by the essential items of equipment. Those who travelled by air arrived first, of course, and landed at Fisherman's Lake, in Liberia, about eighty miles from the capital city of Monrovia. The first sixteen men to set foot on African soil were divided, five remaining at Roberts Field, and the remainder proceeding to Accra, Gold Coast, where headquarters were to be established both for Bowman's over-all command and for Neal's 13th. Bowman, himself, with his security officer, Major Ashley, arrived in Accra on the 23rd of June.
Within five days, Bowman had set up the African Area Headquarters at Accra, and was ready to proceed across the waist of the continent to Khartoum, and thence north to Cairo, where the war had taken a bad turn against us. As Bowman conceived the African net, the Accra station would pick up the beam from the Ascension Island out poll <>l the South Atlantic AACS, and carry il cast, through points to be determined by his survey, to Khartoum in Anglo Egyptian Sudan From there, one strand would lead to Aden in Arabia aial east into India.
while the other strand would stret< h.....Id to < '.mo M < ,mo BOWTntn
envisioned anothei fork, with one puth 1« idln" had went In British
General Montgomery's front, and the other east through Palestine, Iraq, and Iran to the Russian Caucasian border on the north, and through Abadan and Sharjah to the Indian border on the south. It was an ambitious plan for a handful of communicators, and its success depended largely on the planning of the man Watnee had chosen to lead the operation.
Bowman went as far as Khartoum on his inspection trip, and shifted his plans. The war in North Africa was not going well for our side. Cairo was under constant attack from the air, and, should Alexandria and the Suez Canal fall to the hard-driving Afrika Corps, the central route would be threatened at both terminals—by Rommel at Khartoum and by Vichy's Dakar at Accra. Bowman planned his strategy accordingly. He determined to deploy his handful of men in parallel routes, north and south of the equator, across Central Africa.
The north-central route he assigned to Neal's 13th. It would extend from Fisherman's Lake and Roberts Field, in Liberia, through Accra in British Gold Coast territory right on the sea. From there, the airways would stretch through Nigeria, where three stations would be activated at Lagos, Kano, and Maiduguri, through Anglo-Egyptian Sudan, with stations at El Fasher and Khartoum. For the present, Cairo would be out of the picture; but since the British had taken Eritrea from the Italians the year before, a station would be established in GUra. There the Douglas Aircraft Corporation had already taken over the Italian Airplane Works, and there an airways station would be of the utmost importance.
All the PAA stations along the route were crude, hastily constructed affairs. Some of them were in native mud huts with dirt floors, where communications, operations, weather, and all related services were crowded together. There were no racks or provisions for storage, and even the elementary requirements of proper ventilation and screening were lacking. But, with all that, PAA had done a miraculous job in a short time. Very much more, however, would have to be done before air power could be moved in quantity with speed and safety either to India or to North Africa.
In July, the men of the 13th AACS began to move into the stations all along the line. There were the same shortages to contend with that human and Blake had known in the North Atlantic and the South PftOific, but fortunately, bowman, like the other two. was equal to the t.e.k Methodically he parcelled out the exact number nl men and Items nl equipment that would be rcqiiiicd loi ea< h station. Row
i...... hinc.cH moved up and down the line checking and reeheeklng
gym Installation and opeiallon I'm the litst lew weeks, the AA< ISinen
worked with PAA personnel. Crypto specialists moved in with Air Forces codes and began setting up shop. AACS procedures, now tried and tested in so many parts of the world, gradually replaced civilian practices. In some places, the AACSmen started from scratch—the first Americans ever seen in that locality. When that was the case, the OIC of the AACS became the commanding officer representing the U. S. Army and assumed, in addition, such duties as are involved in relations with the local government and the civilian population.
Those were sweltering summer days, just a little north of the equator. Heat before sundown, and mosquitoes after, contributed to the fatigue experienced by the men during their long hours of duty. And as if these handicaps were not enough, constant irritation caused by shortages tried the AACSmen's mettle. There were not enough men to go around, so the AACSmen doubled on air/ground and point-to-point. Speed keys and typewriters were unobtainable, so the men copied everything in longhand. Some equipment was wangled from the PAA, and other bits were actually assembled from odd parts of a cashiered alarm clock, slivers of wire, and some plywood forced from the unwilling hands of a native carpenter. Yet, trying as were these conditions, they provided a practical training program nowhere available in Airways Z.I., and taught lessons still unincorporated in Army training manuals.
Before August was over, all the six stations that had been projected east of Accra, plus an additional one at El Geneina, were in the AACS net. In addition, AACS cryptographers had been placed much farther east with the RAF in Aden and Sálala, Arabia. Progress had been so good that the Army historian officially recorded that the AACS had been the first military unit to complete the mission of taking over PAA facilities. The highway in the sky was pointing toward India.
But while this main route was building through the north-central part of Africa, Bowman had not neglected the alternate plans. The United Nations, with Stalingrad and the Suez Canal under fire, faced their most ominous pincer threat. If these two objectives could be attained by the Nazis, nothing would prevent the huge claw from clamp ing on Asia Minor and moving south to India for a juncture with the Japanese. It was a dark hour for the Allies, and, from top to bottom, improvisations against the worst were the order of the day. In AACS, Bowman decided to wait no longer for the 14th, delayed somewhere between Z.I. and Africa bv the transportation bottleneck.
In the third week of September, 1942, with Alexander ami Mont goinery backed up against F.I Alamein by the victon •diunk \ln< a
Korps, Bowman ordered Neal ami a detachment <»l foui enlisted men
to proceed south ol the cquatoi and begin installation of tlx southern
route. Four stations had been projected in the survey that Bowman had completed in July. The first was to be set up at Pointe Noire in French Equatorial Africa, headquarters of De Gaulle's Free French. A second station, just across the border in Belgian Congo, at Leopold-ville, was to be established next.
Neal, with his detachment of four, proceeded to Pointe Noire, where an embryo station was installed, and two of the four men were left there to operate it. Then Neal and the two remaining men continued on to Leopoldville, where a second station was built. There one man was left, while Neal and the remaining technician moved on to the third station, at Elizabethville, in the southeast corner of the Belgian Congo where that colony thrusts a finger into the British territory of Northern Rhodesia. In the meantime, a small contingent of Brock's 14th, under Lieutenant Archie Grout, arrived in Accra. Immediately, Bowman hustled them off to the farthest of Central African stations, at Nairobi in British Kenya. On the 25th of September, the stations at Pointe Noire, Leopoldville and Elizabethville went on the air. The next day, Neal flew into Nairobi with two more men, and placed the last of the four stations in operation on the 27th.
In its own little way, this alternate AACS route far below the danger point was an excellent bit of strategy. If the worst did occur, and a concerted Nazi-Jap pincer on India developed, the north-central route through Khartoum would be threatened. In that case, the air supply line across the African continent could be maintained farther south to Nairobi and across the Azanian Sea to India. As events subsequently proved, the 14th paid for itself in still another and surprising way.
Late in September, however, the 14th's thin communication line from the Occident to the Orient was most precarious. For a number of days, each of the four stations was operated by one AACSman. Then, during October, the 14th's scattered personnel and equipment began to drift in. Brock himself arrived, and immediately set up headquarters for his region in Leopoldville. Equipment came to Accra piecemeal, but Bowman and Brock snatched every item lor instant use. Radio operators wandered in by sea and by air and, as fast as they arrived, they were flown to One of the four south-central stations. But there were still no ci vptographers.
In a Belgian hospital near Leopoldville, thirty American nurses sat
waiting lor something to do. Action was expected momentarily. All ol Noith Africa was now virtually In Axis hands, and it appeared likely
that only days stood between them and a Bouiinchan attack on the
north central route But In the meantime, the muses sat Idly bv twld «11111»'. theli thumbs They wanted lomethlng to do, and asked AACS
for a job. Brock made a quick recheck of their loyalty, and then assigned them to cryptographic duty, training them on the job. The trans-African supply line had to be kept open at any cost and protected by encoded communication. Those nurses served their country as faithfully in their adopted professions as they most certainly would at the bedside of the wounded.
Meanwhile, Major Neal, now able to give undivided attention to his own 13th Region, added two more vital stations at opposite ends of his net. One of these was set in operation at Fort Lamy, below Lake Chad, in French Equatorial Africa, by only two AACSmen. They were the only American soldiers there, and were welcomed with open arms by the friendly detachment of De Gaullist Fighting French stationed at Fort Lamy. The other station, delayed by events, was established at Cairo, just behind the British lines. The 13th now extended from the Atlantic coast, near Dakar, in a sweeping arc to the Mediterranean, not far from the El Alamein battlefront. At each end of our main African skyway, we were hemmed in by the enemy. Not until they could be pushed back could our airways go forward.
In the autumn of 1942, the forces of Generals Alexander and Montgomery were backed up desperately against their last defense position before Suez. Rommel had smashed back from Tripolitania, clear across Libya, and two thirds of the way over the top of Egypt. Cairo was under attack from the sparking Luftwaffe, and Alexandria was momentarily expected to fall. The British dug in. It was a desperate stand against the power of Rommel's panzers. As in the previous German drives the giant Tiger tanks were sweeping everything before them. If these mechanical monsters were to be stopped, antitank shells would be needed in quantity. Between the El Alamein battlefront and the faraway assembly lines of the Arsenal of Democracy, where these antitank shells were now being turned out in quantity, were thousands of miles of submarine-infested ocean and wind-swept desert sand. By freight ship, even adequately convoyed, it would take no less than six to eight weeks to deliver the essential shells. It was doubtful whether our defense could hold out that long.
At this very moment, however. Bowman's AACS had just arrived at Cairo. That meant the American highwav in the sky was now open all the way from Airways Z.I. to the battle front at El Alamein The de cision was made. Antitank shells would be moved over the new AACS skyway, rather than bv sea. (largo planes of the Ail Transport Com mand were loaded to capacity and started In mass Rights ovet the
\ \< N highwav ni the skv < 'onverging upon Miami, bom the BSSI mhlv plants in Various pails ol the / I . the huge Alt! tianspoits took oil
along the well-charted AACS route. In the order named, the stops were Borinquen, Puerto Rico; Georgetown, British Guiana; Belem, Brazil; Natal, Brazil; and Ascension Island, in mid-Atlantic—all these, stations within the AACS South Atlantic Area.
From Ascension the transports flew to Accra, terminal of Bowman's new African AACS area. In succession, the planes stopped at Kano, $9\ }sbj aqi uo go Suimb} aiopq mnoyeq^ pue 'laqsBj 'ijn§npp3j\ to Cairo, where the planes were finally unloaded and their precious cargo was moved directly into action. Once the decision had been made, the ATC planes began to move over the AACS airways in numbers approaching those of the Bolero movement over the North Atlantic. No wonder the highways in the sky began to strain. No wonder that Watnee had found it necessary to despatch his two top master builders to this long air supply line. While Farman reenforced the highway in the sky from Miami to Ascension, Bowman picked up at Ascension and carried the road construction through to the fighting front at El Alamein. Rommel, the Desert Fox, had miscalculated, had never taken the AACS miracle into his tactical planning.
In this operation there was glory enough for all. It would be absurd to say that AACS won the battle of El Alamein. Montgomery's men did that, of course, in a manner so heroic that military historians must inevitably point to El Alamein as the turning point in the war by the western Allies. But, contributing to the victory, was the cooperation of many fighting units, in both the British and American forces. Numbered among these units, of course, is the Air Transport Command, whose pilots and ground crews have been frequently and justly cited by civilian press and radio, and with military decoration. But numbered also among the contributors must be the unsung, little-decorated AACSmen, over whose airways the ATC planes were flown, and without whose unseen network the air-transportation of the critical antitank shells would have been as hazardous, and almost as uncertain, as by freight ship around the Cape of Good Hope.
Even though in a manner less spectacular, less likely to capture the public's imagination, Bowman's AACSmen had nevertheless provided one of the differences between victory and defeat. Rommel's Tiger tanks wen- battered into impotence; Montgomery's back-to the-wall Tommies held, and then with sublime fighting courage broke through the vaunted lines of Rommel's Afrika Korps. The western claw of the dreaded pincers had been shattered. It was the beginning ol the end ol the tail in Abiea. It w.e. the beginning ol the end ol the Nazi's dream thai '" 111...... ,,ng |n build a world empire which
would l.e.l it least a thousand \e,us
On November 8, 1942, the United States armed forces invaded North Africa. Our first major offensive blow of World War II caught the Axis in Morocco and Algeria unready. But more, it threw terror into the ranks of Rommel's badly defeated and retreating Afrika Corps. Forced to reverse his motion, to escape the fury of Montgomery's relentless surge from El Alamein, the Desert Fox found his position suddenly changed from that of one claw in the great Axis pincers to that of victim in the newly concocted Allied squeeze. There could be no doubt that in this theatre the initiative had once and for all passed to our side.
In this great offensive, the AACS had its work cut out for it. Needed immediately were airways communications to keep pace with advancing elements, at opposite ends of North Africa, for both Montgomery and Eisenhower. On November 10, Watnee in Washington rushed two representatives to Accra to confer with Bowman. Neal and Brock were called in, and the tactical plan was detailed. Washington had activated the 18th AACS Squadron to operate airways in the region covering Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, and French West Africa—a territory defined by Army Regulations as north of the 14th degree latitude and west of the 25th meridian, or approximately between Dakar on the southwest and the Egyptian border on the northeast. At the same time, Conas had also activated a 19th squadron to operate in the middle East.
Bowman sized up the situation correctly. Of all the demands pressing in for attention, as a result of the fast developing offensives in North Africa, he rightly chose three points for immediate concentration. Although the 18th had been activated in Washington, neither the men nor the equipment had yet arrived on the scene. It was of paramount importance that North Africa be tied into the 13th region at once. Now Bowman's tactical reserve in the 14th Region across the south-central route paid off. Brock and his headquarters were transferred from Leopoldville to Dakar, which now fell into Allied hands without a struggle. There was not too much equipment or personnel in the 14th. but with the danger to the 13th now definitely removed by the turn <>l events, Bowman stripped the stations at Pointe Noire, Leopoldville, Elizabethville and Nairobi to the lowest point ((insistent with hate operations. He borrowed, also, from the- 13th. bowman knew his men. They were by now practically veteran! of Africa, trained In installation work, expert and resourceful enough to meet unusual conditions even if those conditions Involved e-oinh.ii
In Accra. Bowman reorganized his headquarters i.........Iluiltl ih.
efforts in all loui \liieuu legions A spe « w.e iieiled to
house the augmented volume of equipment and supplies. Day-and-night vigil was ordered, not only in Accra but along the 13th's entire north-central route. On November 12, Bowman despatched a detachment from the 14th, under Brock, to Oran. Every station from Accra to Khartoum was alerted to pick up the first signal that might come through from that North African outpost. On November 15, at 2030 Greenwich Mean Time (4:30 Eastern Standard) Kano, in Nigeria, received Oran's first message. North Africa was connected with the Central African main artery to the Z.I.
Next, to Casablanca Bowman sent Neal, with five men from the 13th. Working with equal speed and competence, Neal and his men put Casablanca on the air on November 28. It remained, now, only to install the third urgent station, at or near Dakar, to shorten the length of the span between Central and North Africa. To Bathurst, just below Dakar, Bowman's men sped—Lieutenant Spooner and two enlisted men. It was an expedient dictated by the requirement for speed. At Bathurst there was a PAA beginning, and a British squadron anxious to assist in the common effort to destroy the Axis in Africa. Besides, Bathurst was within the British colony of Gambia and, at the moment, was a little stronger on our side than Dakar, until recently controlled by Vichy.
So to Bathurst went the AACSmen. Colonel Bowman's orders at the Accra takeoff were terse and emphatic—"Be on the air in four days." Aircraft were clogging the landing field at Natal. Accra was out of the way on the route to North Africa. These planes must be enabled to take advantage of the shorter overseas distance created by the two continental bulges in South America and Africa. With Bathurst activated, it could become the only stop between Natal and Casablanca. The most direct air route across the South Atlantic to our North African forces would be open.
Squadron Leader Stewart, of the British Detachment at Bathurst, was on hand to greet the AACSmen on their arrival. No sooner had greetings been exchanged than the Americans announced their inten tion of going on the air in four days. "Impossible," declared the Englishman. As the Americans looked about them, they realized the justifl cation for that declaration. The proposed site was a tangle of lues vines, and underbrush; the only help available were the smallest and puniest natives in all Africa. Nevertheless, everyone chipped in The little black men were set to work with their < rude m... h. i. ■, in hack a clearing. Progress was made with incredible speed
The British themselves caught the American enthusiasm ind gavi (•very nssistnnce In Yankee fashion thej begged, b.....iwed .....I stole
every last nut, bolt, and screw they could round up. At night, they all worked by the gleam of lanterns until well into the morning. On the third night, the men didn't go to bed at all. The morning of the fourth day came before they knew it, but still they worked on. They remembered the slogan and repeated it jokingly among themselves:
"The difficult we do immediately, the impossible takes a little longer."
Well, it was taking a little longer but it would be done. No one at El Alamein or Oran would ever be able to tell his grandchildren he had done more than the AACSmen in Bathurst. The War Department might give them, in North Africa, an extra award because they happened to be on the right side of an arbitrarily selected line of latitude. But what did that matter in the kind of a war this was? The chances were that up there many who had never even heard a firecracker go oil would wear ribbons dragging from the weight of battle stars. So what? The battle of Bathurst was just as strenuous, hazardous, and vital to the war effort as any being fought in the whole African war. And because those AACSmen felt that way about it, the radio beacon guiding our air power to the fighting front went on the air the fourth morning! By noon, the air/ground was ready, and at 4 p.m. Lieutenant Spooner sat down at the key and tapped out a message that astounded tin-Army Airways Communications System clear across the Atlantic to Natal. At the beginning of that very hour the busy main circuit across the ocean was broken and interrupted by this perplexing message:
Hadio operators in Accra, Ascension, and Natal consulted their latest instructions. SP2 was the projected call sign for the new station at bathurst. They sat breathless, pressing their headsets closer to their ears. "Impossible," exclaimed AACSmen in all three places, but at bathurst they merely replied, "That's why it took us a little longer." So the older AACS stations extended a cordial handclasp with a series ol V's for victory that sounded to all the world as musical as the opening
notes ol Beethoven's Fifth Symphony. And then the good word went
out at Natal. The massed an power ol the United Stales began to roll down the runways, Up and OUt toward the new bathurst beam, the new
ihort'Cut to Oran, Here was anothei phenomenon the Avis hadn't Bgured on. Here was •> highway widet and highei than Hitler's auto
i... hi an hot (he. ..lie wai It! the iky, acrOSN the ocean, and i igllt up to lli. i...iii. in.ill
So AACS had done tin Impossible It .....Id kee|......I..mi' it The
I lirl..............i In |. in in lui...........p.. il.l.\.i in
the so-called nontactical A ACS. Regardless of Washington's refined distinctions between tactical and airways communications, General Carl A. Spaatz, Commander of Allied Air Forces in the African-European theatre had a full-fledged campaign on his hands. It was absolutely essential that he have a direct, efficient air circuit between the two Allied headquarters in London and Algiers. Maybe in Washington the tactical communications outfits were really hot, but right here under fire it was the AACS that was doing the job. So Spaatz ordered Bowman to tie Algiers to London, pronto.
Taking four enlisted men and the necessary equipment aboard a C-87, Bowman flew to Algiers on the 15th of December, 1942. There he set up a standard AACS station, with the methodical precision for which his workmanship was known. At the same time, he sent four of his most competent men on to London, where they arrived on the 21st. Using the ingenuity that had helped them out of difficult situations before, the four AACSmen put together the necessary receivers in their barracks, selected a transmitter site—and celebrated Christmas Day, 1942, by tapping out the information to their boss, Colonel Bowman, in Algiers:
General Spaatz now had his direct line between the principal Allied headquarters.
The AACS Spider was spinning again. It was probably only one of the signs, but those threads, forever winding back and forth, but always forward, must undoubtedly have begun to annoy the enemy. By the end of January, 1943, to the strands connecting Bathurst to Casablanca, to Oran, to Algiers, to London, there had been added others that tied Dakar, Marrakech, Atar, and Tindouf into the irresistible web.
Nor was that all. In the meantime, the 18th, after a hazardous crossing of the submarine-infested Atlantic, had arrived at last, on Christmas Eve, at Casablanca. Loaded with baggage and equipment, they debarked and began their march through the French quarter, greeted on everv hand bv shouts of "Vive L'Amérique" and "Joyeux Noël." Shortly after midnight, the AACSmen, led by their commanding officer, Captain Edwin L. Wood, RCO of the 18th, reached the Gazes airport. There they set up their pup tents, dined on C-ration, and prepared to take over. As Wood's 18th now moved into the North African station» manned by Brock's 14th and Neal's 13th AACSmen, Bowman was again in a position to redeploy his forces. He decided to return Neal's men to Central Africa and extend that highway right Into India, and to foil n vate the south central route mid shift Brock un.I I.e. I lilt to ( id to loi
activation of the 19th, for the next step in his over-all master plan.
Beginning with the 13th AACS, therefore, Bowman spread east, using the spare men released in North Africa. Already operating in Arabia with the RAF were AACS cryptographers. To these AACSmen Bowman now added radio operators and maintenance men. On the last day of the year (1942) installation of separate AACS stations began at Aden, Salala, and Masirah Island in Oman Province. The undertaking was a delicate one. Both the people and the governmental regulations differed from any others thus far encountered. Labor was almost unobtainable. Locating sites was a game of Oriental dickering, and, once obtained, the hard, dry, volcanic-rock land presented new technical problems. Indicative of conditions in this Arabian Nights land was the Sultan's order forbidding any flag from being flown over the AACS station. For food, the men subsisted on rice and fish. Only salt water was available for bathing and, as a result, the men suffered from boils and salt-water blisters. But all three stations went on the air by February, 1943
Next, Bowman inactivated the 14th, closing the four stations south of the equator, since there was no longer a need for this alternate route. Its equipment and personnel Bowman organized into the new 19th, with Brock as RCO. Headquarters were established at Cairo, whence the 19th's operations now began. Three stations were already functioning in the territory designated. Two of these three stations were in Egypt—at Fayid and Cairo.
The third, the oldest AACS station in the Middle East, was located in Abadan, Iran. It had a curious history. In May, 1942, four AACSmen, led by Staff Sergeant Alex A. Artimevich, were directed to set up a radio station for the Douglas Aircraft Corporation's plant in Abadan, Iran, which was assembling lend-lease planes to be flown to the U.S.S.R. Once the AACSmen had housed themselves in their quonset hut, they commenced operations as a member of an RAF net that included Habbaniya, Shaiba, Sultanabad, and Teheran. While conformity with RAF procedure was a necessity, ingenious and sometimes irregular message routing permitted rapid despatch of huge volumes of traffic. For example, high-priority traffic on the RAF circuit via Basra and Montreal brought replies from Washington frequently within lour hours. By the time the 19th was ready to absorb them, the AACSmen at Abadan had made such an enviable record that their work brought
commendation from General Arnold, who had occasion to benelil I.....i
it on his High! to the Far I'.asl.
The 19th added two stations in baq. to suppoil \h.nlau in the ad
vance toward India One ol these stations was activated iii llabl.....i i
and the other at the great Persian Gulf supply port for Russia—the city of Basra. But the 19th's most pressing concern was to the west, where Montgomery's forces were driving toward a juncture with Eisenhower's. In February, the AACSmen of the 19th moved into Benghazi, Libya, with a complete station. Their assigned mission was clearly tactical. A weather intercept was to be established for the 9th Bomber Command. Working in surroundings where locusts, as in the plagues of biblical Egypt, swarmed all over the place and finally greased the roads with their dead insect bodies, and where men messed by sitting on recently captured German bombs still very much alive, the five AACSmen nevertheless succeeded in constructing an airway spur which led direct to enemy targets. It was from this Benghazi base that the 9th Bomber Command opened up on Ploesti, in Roumania, as well as on Sicilian and Italian installations. So effective was the work of the AACSmen and their brothers of the AAF Weather Service that both were commended by the 9th's commander, General Ent.
By April, the AACSmen had advanced up to the Tunisian fighting front. A station was activated in Tripoli, shortly after its fall to Montgomery's men. The site chosen was the Castel Benito Airdrome. Wrecked German and Italian planes were cannibalized for wires, switches, and fittings. Out of these combings, AACSmen made a radio station and certain personal conveniences such as showers for bathing. A Luftwaffe cross, salvaged from the wing of a Heinkel, was placed on the door leading to the operating positions, under neatly lettered words:
"AACS Radio Station"
It was a fitting trophy for the Tripoli station, which, no less than the one at Benghazi, played its part in putting planes over targets and in position for fighter kills. By activating Tripoli, the 19th was able to join hands with the 18th in Tunisia over the heads of the struggling Axis.
On the American side of the great North African squeeze, the 18th had had its moments, too. When Wood's men arrived, on Christinas Eve, in Casablanca, they found a six station net already operating. From the front line back, the stations were Algiers, Oran, Casablanca, Marrakech. Dakar, and Batlunst. Because of the long over-desert hop from Dakar, tWO isolated outposts lor emergency purposes wen-
lished at Atai and Tlndouf. The latter, especially, had all the earmarks
nl a cinema selling loi Beau < Jesle and the French Foreign I .egion, but
Mm \ \i '.men soon found the notoi.....• landstormi •.....lewhal less com-
fortabli In real life than thi) mlghl sppi .....ti 11.....iolor,
Up front, the AACSmen moved forward with Eisenhower's advancing troops. On January 11th, three of Wood's men arrived at Maison Blanche and began building a station, from the ground up. But not with enemy approval. The Luftwaffe kept the AACSmen scampering between foxholes and their tower which housed the transmitter. Finally, in an abandoned cellar winery they found that comparative freedom from interruption which was so necessary to their work—and, on February 3, Blanche went on the air.
We were readying ourselves for the knockout. On March 22, the British 8th Army opened its assault on the Mareth Line in force, flanked it, and set the Axis partners reeling back into Tunisia. The 18th AACS moved into station #6 at Telergma, a stone's throw from the Tunisian line. Installed underground, the AACSmen furnished the necessary guidance for our air power, which now opened up with devastating effect upon a steadily worsening enemy situation.
Big things were happening in this global war. To the AACSmen, the sign of even bigger things to come were unmistakable. Besides the mighty blows being struck at an enemy beginning to rock back on his heels there occurred within the confines of the 18th AACS the significant Casablanca Conference. On the day before President Roosevelt's arrival, about two hundred armed soldiers moved into position near the Marrakech airways station. The AACSman in the control tower, proceeding on SOP, contacted by voice a flight of three planes consisting of a C-54 flanked on either side by a B-17 and an A-20. The aircraft came in together over the Atlas Mountains and followed prearranged landing instructions. First the B-17 landed, and taxied to one end of the field. The C-54, arriving next, headed to the extreme north end of the field. Through the binoculars at his disposal, the tower man caught just a glimpse of the tall, caped figure he knew to be Franklin D. Roosevelt. The next day, Prime Minister Winston Churchill arrived even less inconspicuously. Only a short distance away, at Casablanca, these two mythical figures met and came to historic conclusions.
The first year of AACS operations in Africa was nearing a close, and with it the Tunisian campaign was approaching final victory. Success had been possible, not alone because of the master planning at the top, but also because of the intelligent direction at every level below. At one of these lower levels was Colonel Wendell Bowman's African AACS Area. In less than twelve months, he had converted the vast, uncharted wilderness in the skies above the Dark Continent Into « network of highways so effective as to revolutionize the whole science of logistics. In no little measure, victory ovei the Asls had come In
Africa because we had been able to move, faster and in greater quantity, men and materials from the Arsenal to the front.
On May 12, 1943, all enemy resistance on the African continent ceased. The German debacle was over. A mission had been fulfilled.
On May 11, the men of the original 13th AACS feted their commanding officer. Colonel Bowman had been recalled to the United States for reward-and for another mission elsewhere. The highways in the sky over Africa were secure.
All through the summer of 1942, older men, in their late thirties and early forties, thrilled with patriotic anticipation. They had received orders directing them to "proceed to Officers Training School, Miami Beach, and thence to Cryptographic School." Most of them knew nothing about cryptography, but liked the implication of trust and the suggestion of mystery inherent in the word. These men were, for the most part, highly educated college professors, lawyers, and successful business men in the throes of war fever but thwarted by age or lack of a suitable assignment in the armed forces. To them the Army Air Forces offered a temporary rank of lieutenant, generally, captain, occasionally, and the permanent stigma of "over-age-in-grade." But these men wanted to serve on any terms, and accepted the conditions gladly.
Beginning about June, they went off in classes to less glamorized OTS. There they received six weeks of intensive training, including drill, calisthenics, firearms, and maneuvers. In was tough. Most of them had led a sedentary life for some twenty years, directing, from a desk, activities that required high mental equipment, but nothing more strenuous physically than an occasional game of golf to keep them fit. Because of their greater maturity and their academic preparation, OTS was able to do with class work in six weeks what it took the younger OCS thirteen weeks to do. So the "over-age-in-graders" sweated under the blistering Miami sun, and then went off to one of the two Air Forces cryptographic schools.
Toward the end of summer, ten of us, among others, were graduated from OTS and proceeded to the code and cipher school at Morrison Field, in West Palm Beach. Some five classes had already been through the process before. Of the graduates, some had been sent north to Presque Isle to serve under Farman, in time for the great Bolero move incut Another group of Morrison alumni had been ordered to Creat balls. Montana, lor shipment to Alaska. Still others, directed to Hamil ton Field, Weie emhaiking h»i Hawaii ami Australia to serve under
Blakei in the Pncifii When 0111 'en arrived at M.....son. the direction
-i * iii.l .hiti..I i., it.. ...nih. A notnhie group, Includ*
ing Fogarty at Borinquen, whom Farman was to discover, had just completed the course and been sent into the South Atlantic, as far south as Natal. Rumors were rife, therefore, that we of the sixth class might go even farther than our predecessors, perhaps to Africa and the Middle East.
Toward the end of November, 1942, orders for our ten arrived. There was a tone of urgency in the directions to start for an east-coast port of embarkation, but, where an end destination should have been indicated, there were only rows of asterisks, followed by the word SECRET. Days of expectation, heightened by issues of steel helmets and .45 automatics followed. Guesses were made with every new instruction or authorization for equipment. We surmised North Africa, for the invasion had just begun. Then we compared stated preferences, and found South America had a bare plurality. We wondered about the outfit to which we were assigned. The Christmas season was on, and those of us who had not yet sent our wives off, in expectation of immediate embarkation, planned a series of celebrations.
Finally the order came. Three went to Baltimore; the remainder to Hampton Roads. Those of us at the latter place drew for assignments. It was all very mysterious. Much later we understood it. Shipping was so scarce, what with our unpreparedness and the amazing U-boat successes in late 1942, that the AAF hit upon the idea of having its cryptographic security officers work their way across on freighters. As these cargo ships were already overloaded, and carried a full complement of merchant marine and naval gun crews, only one AAF officer to a ship could be wedged in. The excuse was an ingenious one: since the cargo belonged to the Army and there was not a single officer or enlisted man on board, the shipper was unrepresented. The crypto officer would be the Army's representative, would carry the manifest, and would check the security of the cargo.
Two weeks before sailing time, the first of the seven officers re ported to the skipper on board a new Liberty ship. Loading had just begun. Manifest in hand, the crypto security officer checked con scientiously until his ship had been loaded down with tools from the Arsenal. There were four locomotives on deck, as well as vehicles <>l war, and loads of stuff in the holds. On a bleak Sunday morning, the first of the seven ships weighed anchor and steamed down Hampton Roads to the point for De Gaussing. Just outside the haibor. the stem of an American merchantman pointed ominously out of the watri
where she had been humiliatingly sunk, bow fiist. by a contempt!......I
enemy. Through every one's mind tan the sunn- Ironic thmight *io the broad blur ocean will protect III
Our Navy apparently didn't think so, for we waited till dark to sneak up our own Atlantic coast for a rendezvous with a New York convoy. We couldn't make it the first night, and sought shelter the next day in Delaware Bay. A Coast Guard cutter clung to us and our precious cargo, moving restlessly between our ship and the open sea. The imminence of danger was periodically punctuated by the stacatto "dits" spelling out S—S-S over our radio. U-boats were everywhere and, though our sister ships called frantically, we were bound to maintain radio silence and ignore their anguish. In the terror of the dawns and twilights that followed, our own Sparks composed his famous fighting slogan:
"Sighted Sub, Glub, Glub"
By the morning of the third day, we had reached New York harbor. The great convoy was already assembling. There must have been more than one hundred ships in that magnificent port. The sight was dramatic. Our skipper and the Naval ensign went ashore for last-minute briefing. We on board experienced a thorough boat drill. And then, one morning, we steamed forth past the Statue of Liberty, our destination still secret. A big Dutch freighter acted as commodore. The flags of nearly every one of the United Nations flew from one or more ships. We were the leading ship in the second line. Out ahead, the little Navy corvette rode the waves, crossing and re-crossing our path with its nose in the sea, like a bloodhound smelling out its prey.
Sooner or later, we knew it would come. In the approaches to the Caribbean the wolf pack struck. Of the seven subs, four came through. One was killed in action. Two were turned back. One of these two started out again, but the other went to the hospital a casualty. The four who got through left the convoy and made a run through the gauntlet, individually and alone. They reached Cristobal, panting and badly scared, but recouped and regained confidence, passing through the bristling Canal defense. Out in the Pacific, under the protection of air patrol, the sailing proceeded leisurely. A giant four-motored Liberator ranged far out over a Liberty ship forty-eight hours at sea. Its challenge was met adequately with the United Nations reply and, as the plane circled low just above the smokestacks, the pilot signalled recognition to the Crypto Security Officer on Topside when he recognized the Air Corps shoulder patch.
The ship sailed on its destination still unknown to the crew—across the equatoi and inlet southern latitmles. The lust albatross picked up the «ehip'«e trail. And them tin- hurricane stmek Torrents e>l ocean
ftwepi everything not battened down em deck The- foui glanl locomo
tives alternately disappeared under mountains of waves and then rose again out of the welter. All day the ship creaked and groaned as the mighty Pacific pounded Henry Kaiser's mass product unsparingly. Then, at night, something gave. The steering gear cracked, and the ship with its tons of cargo circled helplessly in a thoroughly aroused ocean closing in for the kill. It was man against nature—and in the early hours of dawn, emergency repairs were made. The ship limped forward again. New Zealand was coming nearer. The British Admiralty tapped out its cryptographed message, and the AAF officer plied his newly learned craft. Warning: Jap submarine activity in the Bight. Swing far below Tasmania.
South the Liberty sailed. By the charts, we were approaching the iceberg belt. The second mate quipped, "We should be in Little America any time now." And then, as we thought we should reach the Pole, the ship changed course. We were sailing west again. Finally, after forty-five days of endless sea, the men cheered their first sight of land. One after another our ships put in at Fremantle. Of the four, one had a gaping torpedo hole in its side; another came in with part of its cargo washed away; the third had suffered casualties; and the fourth limped in with an improvised steering gear.
They were all entitled to their ten days for repair and recuperation. To the city of Perth their crews went for moral rebirth. Then once more they sailed forth. The end destination was contained in a sealed envelope. As soon as the harbor was cleared, the envelope was opened by the captain in the presence of the Naval ensign, the AAF lieutenant, and the chief engineer. The port was Basra, Iraq, in the Persian Gulf. The cargo was for the U.S.S.R.
Up the Indian Ocean. A Jap observation plane came out from Sumatra. Breathless hours, but no action. Then the Arabian Sea. A British cruiser, mistaking us for a raider, almost opened fire. At long last, Basra. The manifest was signed for by a port authority. The AAF officer, still uncertain about his end destination, reported to the adjutant, Persian Gulf Service Command, with a sealed letter. It read. "This officer will be transported by military aircraft to Karachi, India, for duty with the 10th Army Airways Communications System Squadron."
During that same spring of 1942, when Watnee at (lontl was d.....|
so many requests for highways in the sky. all ovei the win Id. the mIh.i
tion in that farthest <>l all theatres China Burma bulla was vary d.ok. The fall ol Singapore had marked the end ul the eniiie km
campaign, placing all of French Indo-China, Siam, and Malaya in Japanese hands. Badly outmatched, Stilwell had all but abandoned Burma to the enemy, and now, with the British, he was desperately trying to keep Japan out of India. Meanwhile, on the other side of the towering Himalayas, General Chennault's AVG fought gallantly to keep a badly battered China in the war.
Somehow, out there in CBI at the end of the supply line, we must hang on. We must give Britain and Stilwell enough air support to keep the Japs out of India. In spite of the loss of the Burma Road, we must get planes and ammunition and guns over the mountains to Chiang Kai-shek and Chennault. But how? In 1942, the U-boat had driven us from the South Atlantic. The only comparatively safe route was the long one through the Canal and diagonally across the Pacific to Australia. But Japanese submarine activity in the Bight had lengthened even that long route by forcing our merchantmen to sail south of Tasmania and over to the western port of Fremantle, before continuing up the Indian ocean to Karachi. At the very least, three months would be required to deliver the goods, even if both Axis partners were eluded. In view of the Japanese rate of advance, three months was evidently too long.
Alternative to the sea route were highways in the sky. Over a good highway of the AACS type, cargo as well as fighter craft could be sped in fewer hours than a ship required days. It will be recalled that, even then, more than one logistic critic proposed that air, rather than sea, become our fundamental mode of supply. In reply to remarks about the advantage of load, airmen mathematically proved the greater compensation of speed. A single cargo plane, making thirty round trips during the time a Liberty ship made one, would carry exactly the same total load. But ten cargo planes could be built for the cost of one Liberty ship, and their greater fuel consumption could easily be offset by their smaller crew and lesser non-pay load. Fortunately, we were in a position to do both—supply bv sea and by air.
In the spring of 1942, Watnee was directed to extend our highways in the sky to the farthest corner of the globe. To Farman he assigned the task of bolstering the South Atlantic system on this side of the ocean, and to bowman the Comparable task on the African side, bv the fall of 1912. as we have seen, the airways led aeioss the waist ol the
Dark Continent and the Aiab..... Sea to Karachi. Another master
I miiI. I.i w.e. nmv needed In pick up the tin. a.I theie and e.uiv it aeioss I...hi Into Assam and hi......i. and nvei (he Himalaya-, to China. For mighty i.i Wiiine. .ii.i.ieii on ,i veteran all communications enlisted man ^ • I a |ti I lh< rlghl m •" fot thi |oh
On the historic flight to Alaska, it will be recalled, General Arnold had selected, as his crew chief and flight communications NCOIC, a master sergeant whose continuous service in the Air Corps dated back to 1919. Later on, when the First AACS Region had become a reality, Russell Wilson had chosen that same master sergeant to serve as NCOIC for the net control station at March Field. In the spring of 1942, Watnee picked Master Sergeant Walter B. Berg, commissioned him, and jumped his rank to major. In June, Berg reported to Conas at Boiling Field, to assume command of the newly activated 10th AACS Region.
Ambitious boundaries defined this new region. It comprised the Asiatic continent east of the 65th meridian. The fact that a goodly portion of that territory was then in enemy hands was too remote a consideration to trouble Berg and the cadre now forming. In the weeks that followed, Major Berg labored tirelessly to recruit personnel and to assemble matériel. Bv embarkation time, the 10th Squadron consisted of nine officers and sixty men. In fifteen boxes to go by sea were the necessary transmitters, receivers, antennae, markers, and miscellaneous impedimenta that go into the building of highways in the sky. Conscientiously, Major Berg had gone over every last detail himself.
Late in August, Berg took off from Miami over the AACS highway. It was now a well-marked road to Borinquen, Atkinson, Belem, Natal and Ascension. The highway in the sky was excellent to Khartoum, under construction to Karachi, India, and almost non-existent beyond. Here Berg's roadbuilding was to begin. A faint footpath was already discernible, put there largely by a so-called provisional AACS squadron, activated under the 10th Air Force. It was a heterogeneous squadron, composed of radio operators and cryptographers borrowed from the RAF, the British Army, and the American 10th Air Force. Its equipment was of the crudest, strung out among nine little detachments striving to guide the few American planes across India and into China.
In October, this provisional net was receiving reënforcements from Berg's Boiling Field cadre. The equipment, too, began to come in, and the highway-building got under way. In Karachi, Berg first tied securely into Bowman's net stretching east from Arabia. Then, pit king up the thread, he crossed the Sind desert to Jodhpur, the fabled city which had given occidental society its riding breeches, and which at the moment was dedicating the Maharajah's fabulous palace of hundreds of rooms. From there he went on to New Delhi, headquarters loi the British colonial government and American opération»: At Wllllugdnii airdrome. Berg undertook In duplicate the station lundi I hi had pin neered iii Airways '/I. At New Delhi, also Bng eonleired wild 10th
Air Force leaders, and with the overall CBI command under General Stilwell. General Chennault, in China, just forming the 14th Air Force out of his Flying Tigers and recently added reenforcements, sat in, as did our Allies, the British.
Out of the conference, decision to reopen the Burma Road into China with an aerial highway took top priority. Provision to fly over tjie mountains what had formerly gone overland by the tortuous land trail, was planned in detail. Fundamental to the whole plan was a highway in the sky—a highway over the Hump formed by the highest mountains in the world. So Berg and his AACSmen went to work on the Hump route, months before the Air Transport Command had appeared on the scene. Through the irony of public relations and the glamor of the pilot, the AACSmen were destined to see their Hump highway earn popular acclaim and Presidential citation for others, and only incidentally for themselves. As late as V-J Day, AACSmen who labored in the construction of the Hump Highway were entitled to the citation only if they were attached for rations and administration to the ATC, and, as very few of them had such orders to show, most of the AACS men went uncited.
The terminals chosen for the Hump Highway were Chabua in Assam, on the Indian side of the Himalayas, and Kunming in China. Separating these two points was a sky space that could be covered by the average cargo plane in 165 minutes, if it were provided with a smooth, straight highway in the sky. Without such a highway, the pilot faced unpredictable weather, towering peaks, swarming Zeros, and the uncertain fate of forced landings in dense tropical jungle or frozen, uninhabitable plateau.
Early in the fall of 1942, AACSmen set to work on both sides of the Hump. Besides the stations for Chaubua and Kunming, additional ones were undertaken in the rear at New Delhi, at the Taj Mahal home of Agra, at Allahabad, where Nehru and the university carried the torch of freedom, and at Gaya and Jorhat, two smelly little villages on the Indian side. In China, Yangkai, and Yunnanyi were selected for sites to support Kunming. Once plans had been drawn, AACSmen with their boxes ol equipment began to move up the line from Karachi. The first caiavan ol six liansport plain's carried the essentials for the Chabua Nlatlon. The secondary materials followed by rail. A second air caravan took oil loi Kunming, s|,„v the Burma Road was closed, and there WIS no railway IntO < liimt, oveiland supply to thai i.u terminal could not be utilized
With each passing day, the illuallon In China grew Nlnadily more critical Huh'** the highway in the «ky could be opened at mice, we
stood to lose this ally. To speed installation, temporary provisions were rushed to completion at both Chabua and Kunming. AACSmen sweated side by side with the British, and chafed with them at the slowness of native labor. Slowly the goal came in sight. But just as the Chabua installation was nearing completion, a fire of undisclosed origin wiped out the entire effort, and they had to start all over. Still undeterred, Berg rushed to Chabua the equipment originally intended for Jorhat. This time the AACSmen installed it in pyramidal tents, and by perseverance succeeded in putting both Hump terminals on the air. Before the autumn had closed, a good road in the skies over the CBI theatre had been laid from Karachi to New Delhi, to Jorhat, to Chabua, and over the Hump to Kunming and Yangkai. In addition, AACSmen at Jodhpur, Allahabad, Gay a, Cooch Behar, and Yunnanyi were all but ready to join and reenforce the highway at intermediate points. Planes of the 10th Air Force had begun to roll from Karachi's CBI gateway across India and over the Hump to Chennault and Chiang Kai Shek in China.
It didn't take the enemy long to find out what was happening. On October 25, 26, and 28, just after the first contingent of the AACS cadre set to work, the Japs opened up on Chabua, key station on the Indian side of the Hump. Luckily, there were no casualties and the equipment escaped damage, but the men had had their baptism of fire. They had learned to scamper for slit trenches, to operate with interruptions, sudden and without warning. It would not be easy work or pretty. There would be horrible sights, like that of the crushed G.I. body found after a raid in a slit trench. Undoubtedly that American soldier had too late discovered his foxhole already occupied by a python. Or the shrapnel-pierced helmet of the officer who occupied the basha next to an AACSman. And saying "that is war," somehow did not lessen the tragedy of it. Only one thing could do that. Work, work, and more work, to make that station grow—that station from which the web coidd be woven with patience, a web that would ultimately entangle the cause of all this horror. The men fully realized the urgencv of the situation.
On Christmas Day and on the day after, the Japs hit Yunnanvi. Both times the hick of Con as held. The AACSmen were learning fast the tricks of dispersal. Their alacrity in hitting the foxholes was beginning to be exceeded by none. They were non-combat bv regulation. Their mission was to install airwavs communications and leave combat
fm the Infantry ami the tactical air force, but, thev reported, "Wouldn't
we look pietlv telling St I'etei that Washington said we were mid the |aps 'louldol d.i that' In us"?
At the end of the year, the Air Transport Command began to arrive. Gradually, during the first months of 1943, they took over cargo-carrying from the 10th Air Force and the Air Service Command. The ATC began to fly planes in increasing quantity over the AACS highway. Over the Hump was still a tough flight. Pilots were tested to the limit, and no praise is too high for the ATC men who flew the Hump in those early months of 1943. But a little of that recognition should go to the AACSmen who sweated out every one of those flights, who operated around the clock under enemy fire, who worried themselves into renewed effort, despite woeful shortages of men and materials.
The highway between Chabua and Kunming was too vulnerable. More support was needed for this precarious strand. If another station could be placed at least part way up the mountain, some of the hazard might be eliminated. In January, with the approval of the Theatre command, Berg decided on a bold undertaking. Part way up the side of the Himalayas, in Jap-occupied Burma, was Fort Hertz, at the moment overlooked by the enemy. Astride the one road leading into the Fort, however, a strong enemy column stood guard. In an effort to save our transport planes, Berg decided to establish an advanced AACS station there. Three AACSmen with portable equipment were flown in. By the 22nd, the station was operating right under the Jap's noses.
It could hardly be expected that the Nipponese would take such effrontery sitting down. By air, the Japs opened up on both sides of the Hump. Chabua and Yunnanyi were hit hard as the enemy moved in to wipe out these game but desperate thrusts. In spite of raids, Yunnanyi, our most advanced outpost in China, kept right on operating. But toward the end of February, Fort Hertz became untenable. By land, the Japanese opened a powerful offense to drive the Allies out of their last little corner in Burma. On March 8, 1943, Fort Hertz was evacuated. Last out of this advanced position, the AACS detachment of one British and two American enlisted men hastily loaded their equipment aboard a C-47 and fought their way past the fury of tin-Jap fire, only to crash on the American side of the line. All the equipment was destroyed, but fortunately the men were saved. Fort Hertz had been lost, but only temporarily. Already the AACSmen were plan ning their return.
Slowly at first, reinforcements filtered in to Karachi. One bv one. the ten of us arrived, five by way of Basra in the Persian Gulf, three directly to the port of Karachi. One was killed In action. One. turned back in the Caribbean, remained a casualty, / I. All eight <>l these
over-age in grade security officers Contributed to the building ol the
Asiatic Area of the AACS, the eventual Fourth Wing in the world-wide system. Three became squadron commanders; two, regional security officers; one, a regional supply officer; and the remaining two, outstanding station cryptographers. All through the spring of 1943, more of the same type of men arrived. Their maturity contributed mightily to the administration of the AACS in China-Burma-India. They became detachment commanders, adjutants, chiefs of personnel, intelligence, operations, and supply on group and squadron levels.
As the 10th AACS Squadron's strength grew, its operations expanded over the greatest land mass ever assigned to a single Conas region. Wholesale demands for highways in the sky poured in, from General Stilwell's headquarters at New Delhi, from the 10th Air Force in India and the 14th Air Force in China, from the Air Transport Command, and from the American-Chinese Composite Wing. Here the AACS worked with the First Troop Carrier Squadron, there with a photographic reconnaissance unit, and in still another place to meet the special requirements of the 10th Weather Region. Always the handicap of shortages plagued every effort.
Nor were shortages the only unfavorable condition. With February, the four pleasant months of Indian winter came to a close. The next four would bring the hot, dry days of summer, a heat unlike anything Americans had ever experienced. In front of the New Delhi S. O. S. building, the thermometer hit 137 degrees, noon after noon. Native Panee wallahs (water bearers), stripped to loin cloths, sprinkled water from earthen jars against the grass kuskus (wall mats) surrounding the American quarters. This was the ancient version of Indian air-conditioning, practiced in the year 1943 exactly as when it was invented in the year 2057 b.c. Out at Willingdon, in the crowded quarters of the AACS station, men of Conas sweltered in six-hour shifts around the clock. Stripped to the waist they pounded brass, worked ciphering devices, or tinkered with lean bits of equipment, to keep the highway in the sky open from Karachi on over the Hump.
There were no amenities. The grass-roofed bashas (huts) locked the heat tight inside. AACSmen returning from their station shift went to bed, undried, from an improvised shower, to which they added their own moisture with unlimited perspiration. The bed, made ol bamboo, with strips of native cloth for a mattress, and with a mosquito bar canopy overhead, was designed for nothing so much as to keep the occupant consistently hot. As for food, the foundation was a speckled sausage, a sort ol red hash dotted with enlarged fly specks, supple mented by occasional chunks ol watei buffalo, oi on Sunday bv fried
fuwl that suggested an urn.anloitable relationship to the buzzards
that forever hovered around the camp boundaries. On crude, wooden tables the native bearers served the bowl of chow, thumb inserted. Sanitation lectures from the mess sergeant were rewarded by Hindustani Joe's added rubbing of the drinking cups with a boot-polishing rag.
Through it all, the bearers' childish good nature was disarming. One could not be angry with them. They simply could not see the relationship between their own high mortality and the insanitation they practiced. Indeed, from their viewpoint, these friendly foreigners from the New World certainly brought with them peculiar superstitions. It was an endless struggle between cultures, which only Americans would continue because of their unlimited belief that months could change the practices of centuries.
In the early spring, the rumor was rampant that an American Liberty ship carrying beer, cigarettes and chewing gum was en route to Calcutta. G.I.'s in C.B.I, had forgotten what these things were. So, for days, the topic of conversation was what an American Camel and a can of Schlitz would be like. Then all hopes were dashed. The ship had been torpedoed in the approaches to the Bay of Bengal. Three months would be required for another ship's voyage, provided it was decided one could be spared from duty on the ammunition run, and provided it escaped the enemy submarines. So the men settled down to the heat and insects, and to the green lizards that defied gravity and crawled up the walls and across the ceilings of the AACS code room.
If conditions were not too comfortable four miles outside of New Delhi, they were very much worse farther up the line. In Chabua, C-ration and corn-willie dominated the Polo Grounds bill of fare. Excessively dry heat was succeeded by the Assam monsoon, with its 400-inch downpour that mildewed everything in sight until early October. And across the Hump in Kunming there wasn't even enough corn-willie for every one. Each new G.I. presented the problem of another mouth to feed. Scarcity of soap exposed the unwashed soldiers to the threat of cholera. Somehow, in spite of these inconveniences, the miracle went on, the Hump highway was reenforced, the line was extended from Kunming beyond and over the heads of the enemy.
Toward the end of February, 1943, the Army Airways Communications System had woven its webs of highways in the sky across both great oceans. Somewhere, between the Asiatic and Australasia!ic land masses, the world net would be tied, the great highways system joined, the golden spike driven. Already, Blake's men in the Pacific had com pleted their great Australian station at Amberley. In China, Berg'l men put the finishing touches to a great Asiatic station at Kunming, and
on the 28th day of the month Brisbane in Australia and Kunming in China clasped hands. When Kunming communicated with Brisbane AACS had circled the globe for the first time.
Yangkai and Yunnanyi were built up, too, and by the middle of the monsoon it was quite evident that the scope of the lOth's activities were too far-reaching for a single region. A second region, the 25th AACS, was therefore activated to comprise the Hump operations. Chabua was designated as its headquarters and a new RCO was brought from the States. Change was in the air, change which would enable the CBI eventually to shift from defense to offense. In anticipation of larger future operations, CBI was visited by Conas during the summer of 1943.
Watnee arrived in June, entered into conferences with Berg and the lOth's customers, surveyed achievements and canvassed needs. From New Delhi, Watnee proceeded to Chabua and studied General Chen-nault's airways requirements. It was apparent that further integration of AACS effort in CBI was called for. From Z.I., Watnee ordered Major Guthrie to assume command of the 25th and Major Swearingen to take over the 10th. To head the new Asiatic Area, Watnee drew from Bowman's African regions, Lieutenant Colonel Brock. Veteran commander Berg was rewarded, after a year's service, with return to the States.
It had been a difficult year, but considering the obstacles, a good job of foundation-laying had been completed. There were a dozen strong stations stretching the highway from Karachi to Yangkai. The difficult Hump route had been established, and supplies were beginning to reach Chennault. Much remained to be done, but there would be more to do it with. In October, AACSmen of the new 25th moved back to Fort Hertz for another trv. The following month, the new Conas, succeeding Watnee delayed in India with a tropical disease, announced a world-wide conference at AACS headquarters. For that story we now return to Airways, Z.I.
Back in midsummer of 1942, Watnee's boss in the Directorate of Communications, Colonel Marriner, had penned a significant memorandum to Topside. It expressed two thoughts, and in essence it began like this: One of this office's minor responsibilities is for an outfit with an awkward-sounding name and an even more awkward set of initials. At this moment, that little outfit has some 10,000 officers and men operating airways communications nearly everywhere in the world, including China and India. The AACS has now grown so big that it ought, and should by right, be taken out of this office and out of the District of Columbia and given its own separate field headquarters. It might, also, be better renamed the Air Forces Communications Command. That was the gist of memorandum-thought number one.
Thought number two, continued Marriner's memo: To operate this expanding system efficiently, it is absolutely necessary that central, unified control for the entire world-wide system be maintained in the new headquarters. Otherwise, Marriner warned, the system becomes not a system at all, but a group of isolated units, with standards of operation as variable as the numerous local conditions in which it operates. The system's mission is to provide uniformly good service along the entire airways. In most cases, foreign airways pass through more than one theatre. Under the Washington policy of complete theatre autonomy, the AACS is in danger of breaking up into separate operating units. Inevitably this would lead to dual or multiple control and make through airways service to any part of the world difficult.
Both thoughts, the proposal for a unified command and the warning against theatre control, apparently were premature, or at the moment less urgent than other matters under consideration. As a result, the next twelve months developed into the most critical period of the Army Airways Communications System. Assault upon the idea of integrated airways communications, with central unified control, began in the first few months of frantic effort by the various theatre commanders to slop the enemy's advance, We have seen how the 11th Air Force released control of the Alaskan segment only alter Watnee himself had
made an issue of it with Topside. That was only the first test. Thereafter theatres, commands, and local bases at various points in the world sought to interpret "attachment for rations and administration" of the AACSmen as meaning complete subordination of their station.
Usually, deepest inroads into AACS union were made where outside leadership was strong. This, however, was not always the case. Certainly nowhere was there stronger leadership than in the theatres of the Pacific. But AACS was fortunate there to have an area control officer of the stature of Blake, who managed to hold together stations stretching from Hawaii to Australia. Farman, of course, had had no trouble in the North Atlantic; and in Africa, Bowman drew the 18th, at first attached to the 12th Air Force by Washington, into his African area as soon as its personnel reached Casablanca.
Acute trouble-points, from the standpoint of the struggle for union, were India and the Caribbean. The 10th Air Force had activated the provisional AACS net even before Berg's arrival on the scene, and it was difficult to get out from under that theatre control, especially in view of the fact that the 10th Air Force, until the middle of 1943, provided three-fourths of the personnel and a considerable part of the equipment. The other trouble zone, the Caribbean, had early come under strong ATC domination, which had interfered with communication to the extent of operating message centers and code rooms, and maintaining separate communications staff.
By early 1943, the struggle for union had assumed major proportions. Not only Watnee, who saw the concept of a world system dissolving, but also Watnee's superiors, Marriner and General McClelland, who had returned from Europe to assume over-all direction as staff advisor for Air Forces communications, became involved in the question of airways control. The immediate question was, one system or many; and judging from basic documents, something close to the identity and the integrity of the Army Airways Communications System was at stake.
The issue was clearly presented by General Harold McClelland, returned to the scene of his first interest at a most opportune moment. Only he could present the matter properly to General Arnold, with whom the whole concept of an AACS had first been developed after the famous Alaskan flight of 1934. In one sentence, McClelland stated the conflict between two principles, one as sound as the Articles of War and the other as demonstrable as modern aircraft:
The traditional Army concept of supreme authority in the theatre must give way to modern communications required by air transportation.
On that line, General McClelland and Colonel Watnee were prepared to fight all summer of 1943 if necessary. They would be supported to the hilt by field commanders like Farman, Bowman, and Blake.
By winter's end of 1943, the struggle for control of the world airways system took a temporary turn in favor of the AACS. Several factors influenced that. Critical theatres, like those in the North Atlantic, South Pacific, and Africa, had benefited immeasurably from integrated airways communications, demonstrated supremely well by such capable leaders as Farman, Blake, and Bowman. Indeed, Blake's achievement had been so convincing that the weight of both MacArthur's and Nimitz' headquarters turned the tide in AACS' favor. Furthermore, assignment of Sirmyer to Alaska and Farman to the South Atlantic had brought a measure of the same advantages to the commands in those two theatres. Finally, the rapidly expanding Air Transport Command, with the same global outlook and intertheatre mission, soon saw the advantages of integrated airways communications for ATC flights that passed from one theatre to another. Major General George, therefore, in a very strong supporting memorandum bore witness to the soundness of all that General McClelland had contended.
When General George wrote, in his memorandum to General Arnold, that the AACS was "operating under difficulties that do not permit proper service to be rendered to the ATC, primarily because different AACS stations along the route are variously assigned to local air forces, air bases, and theatre commands," he knew that the fact could be proved. When proof was demanded, General McClelland submitted example after example. On critical Ascension Island, in mid-Atlantic, several months' delay had been occasioned because the base commander there, exercising his autonomous rights, diverted four of five antenna poles, intended for the AACS radio range, to be used to support cables on a target-practice range for ground troops. At another place, the AACS detachment commander was placed in command of a tactical squadron, to the detriment of his AACS duties. In a third place, the AACSmen were ordered on a six-day hike, so that the airways station was left almost unattended. And in place after place, theatre commanders had prohibited RCO's and communications officers from com municating directly with Conas or accepting any instructions from AACS Headquarters.
Genera] McClelland concluded, without mincing words, "Unless we can get the Army Airways Communications System exempt from theatre and Other local commanders' control, it will be impossible to give the
Air Transport (lommand the communications and weather facilities it must have if it is to function efficiently,"
On March 9, 1943, Topside acted in accordance with the recommendations of Generals George and McClelland. The Adjutant General was instructed to despatch a friendly but firm letter to commanders concerned. It was not a letter ordering any of them to do anything. It merely informed commanders what the AACS was, what it could and could not do, and what its relations were to the various agencies it served. Citing pertinent paragraphs of Army Regulations 95-200, the letter pointed out that the AACS is "the War Department's agency, operated by the Commanding General, Army Air Forces, to facilitate the operations of service aircraft over the military airways."
The struggle for control, however, was not over. Such restraint as was imposed on base commanders by the Adjutant's letter still failed to reach the top military leaders, the over-all directors of theatre strategy. The whole problem, therefore, had only been moved up the ladder. By May of 1943, the issue was squarely before the General Staff: Will a central headquarters maintain direct control of the entire system? For the General Staff to vote affirmatively on this question, it would have to be convinced that Conas was a headquarters of sufficient strength to impress the supreme Army agencies in each theatre.
In the early spring, Watnee, with the assistance of General McClelland and Colonel Marriner, took the first steps toward developing a strong central headquarters, separate from the Directorate of Communications. Congestion in Washington was on their side. In February, steps were taken to lease a building in Philadelphia. After further consideration, however, it was decided to move out of the congested east and into Asheville, North Carolina, where the AAF Weather Service, closely allied to the AACS, had already taken up residence.
Hardly, however, had the AACS got out from under the Directorate before a new agency, the Flight Control Command, was created. As conceived by General Stratemeyer, and approved by General Arnold, this new command would exercise control over not only the AACS, but also the AAF Weather Service and all other services which contributed to the safe flight of aircraft. So Watnee found himself moving to Asheville in May, not as head of the separate airways communications command which he and McClelland and Marriner had conceived, but as head of the AACS Wing of the Flight Control Command.
For over a year, now, Watnee had been waging, almost alone, the struggle for unified command. It was too big a task for any one man. Someone in headquarters was needed to fight side by side with him, someone who had Watnee's own faith in integrated airways communications, and who, with the same zeal, would stand up for the only control that could work. There was only one such man available.
Colonel Ivan L. Farman had just concluded his survey of the South Atlantic airways. He had built a model system in the North Atlantic. No one in the AACS had fought the case of integrated communications longer. So in May, Watnee appointed Farman to the key post of Operations Officer in the new Asheville headquarters of Conas. It was a critical moment. The two greatest threats to unified control were developing in foreign theatres. Since the Flight Control Command had jurisdiction only in the United States, Conas was forced to face these two crises alone. In India, the 10th Region, still under the 10th Air Force, was steadily drifting away from Conas' control; and in the Caribbean, conditions suddenly took a turn for the worse. The South Atlantic area, so well conceived by Farman, had failed to function, for lack of vigorous leadership. From the start, the Miami headquarters had proved too weak to exercise control over the three regional clusters and to coordinate their efforts. Exasperated by an apparent lack of on-the-scene direction, the strong ATC Caribbean Wing threatened to take back its message centers and operate its own communications.
In May, Watnee decided to move vigorously in the interest of unity. He recalled Bowman from Africa, where the campaign against the Axis had just been completed, and assigned him to Miami. Watnee himself proceeded to India, leaving Farman in charge of headquarters. Watnee's accomplishments in CBI have already been indicated. By asserting strong leadership, and by cooperating with customers being served he succeeded in restoring Conas' control over both the original 10th Region and the newly created 25th. At his moment of triumph, however, Watnee contracted one of the debilitating tropical diseases, and was confined to a hospital in India. The unification problem was now all Farman's.
Ivan the Terrible took over in Asheville. He was in command of the world-wide Army Airways Communications System. It was a tremendous responsibility. At the moment, disintegration stared AACS in the face as never before. The General Staff was apparently moving to separate all foreign regions from Conas and place them with the respective theatre commanders. As if sensing this decision against the AACS, the Caribbean Wing of the ATC moved in for its share of the spoils. Asheville certainly appeared headed for a shearing that would leave it headquarters for only the original Airways, Z.I.
But they had reckoned without Ivan the Terrible. Since 1929, Far-man had worked incessantly for highways in the sky. As a pilot, he understood better than most that the airplane was nothing without good airways. It had taken a long time to sell that idea to the American public, to the War Department, and even to some in the Army Air
Forces. But the idea had finally been sold. Now, under the pressure of war, the General Staff was about to dissipate what had been accomplished. That could be prevented only by informing the General Staff of the true situation. Topside could not be expected to know everything about every last little detail. Airways communications was a highly specialized operation. There were very few men who understood it. Somehow, Farman knew, he must make it at least intelligible to those who determined policy.
It was not only the life of the AACS that was at stake. That was only incidental. The very life of the nation depended upon the efficiency of American airways. Unless a unified, perfectly coordinated, worldwide system could be maintained, the mighty air power we were amassing would never reach the fighting fronts in time. The issue was critical. Farman moved into the fight. He knew that every decision he made now would count ultimately.
The immediate test was in the South Atlantic. Bowman, arriving in Miami, looked over the situation and reported to Conas that it was dynamite. The ATC was bent on taking over. They wanted Bowman to run airways communications for them in that region. But Bowman, like Farman, believed in integration. Regardless of what it meant to his personal advancement, he would not sacrifice his country's strength by initiating the disintegration of the world system. At his own request. Bowman was moved out of Miami at the end of a month, and into the Airways Z.I. There he was, when Farman assumed temporary command in Watnee's absence. Farman immediately called Bowman into Conas, and in the summer of 1943 there began that association between the two men which developed into perfectly balanced leadership for American airways.
As the number one and number two men of the AACS, they complemented each other perfectly. Contrasting them as pilots, one ol their mutual friends described their methods of flying to me oner, briefly, like this: "Bowman examines every last screw, nut and bolt method ically; Farman gives his plane a kick in the pants and takes off. both are the most skillful pilots I have ever known." Certainly no two commanding officers had ever captured the imagination of their men more Successfully, bowman, the perfect West Point gentleman, polished, level-headed, methodical, conservative; Farman, the fiery leader, exploding with creative ideas, nimble, quick, miles ahead ol the present in planning and thinking. Together, these two men steered a course that kepi their mission steadily advancing.
Boldly, Farman turned to the South Atlantic crisis first. So the ATC thought it could run airways communications m the Caribbean better!
A lot of commanders outside the A ACS had had the same idea. The only way to find out was to let one of them try it. Farman knew this business from A to Z. He had spent a professional life at it. Perhaps he had overrated its complexity. Perhaps it didn't need all his scientific background and equipment. Perhaps the ATC or any one else could run it. There was only one way to find out. In July, Farman invited ATC to try.
Farman was Conas now. Farman moved to the controls of the worldwide airways system and sent a significant message, far and wide, to every one of the half-hundred lower echelons: "Henceforth, the stations comprising the Ninth Caribbean Region are no longer a part of the Army Airways Communications System. They will hereafter take their orders from the Air Transport Command." All other AACS stations were urged to cooperate with the ATC to the utmost, wherever ATC operated, and to give such assistance as they could to the ATC airways stations in the Caribbean. With this message, Farman deliberately amputated a whole segment of the AACS. It was difficult to do. The RCO of the 9th begged to be transferred into another AACS region, as did many of the men under him. But Farman played fair, and asked them to stay and assist the ATC. Farman said afterward, "It felt as if a member of my own body had been torn from me."
But to the remaining regions a new thing happened. A surge was felt throughout the system. The most remote station experienced rebirth. Conas was a new strong voice. There in Asheville, a man was making himself felt around the world. In distant India, in the far Pacific, over in Africa, in the frozen northern stations, AACSmen everywhere were being suddenly drawn to that new headquarters in Asheville. Who was this new Conas? they asked. And the AACSmen in the North Atlantic— who had worked side by side with him, with his streaked face, his mashed airman's hat—and their cousins in the South Atlantic who had had to answer that staccato question, "What's your job?", said, "Why, don't you know? It's Ivan the Terrible. Imagine ATC, or the Pentagon, or anyone else telling Ivan the Terrible anything about Airways Communications. Why, he invented them. And when he says a thing on the airways won't work, you can bet your life it won't."
In five weeks, the G.I.'s who knew their boss saw their opinion vindicated. The Caribbean was in a mess. Never had airways communications seen such a snafu, agreed the airmen. ATC had had enough. By the middle of August, AACS was asked to take back their stations, operate them in any way they saw fit. ATC would stand behind AA( IS to the limit. Without airways communications, the transport job would fall apart. So Farman took back bis stations.
But Farman did more. The Caribbean had been only a test case. The question was, do we have unified control from Conas, or do we not? Because if we do not, get me out of this mess and let me fly up front somewhere. It was a bold ultimatum, such as you do not give in the Army to Topside under any circumstances, and certainly not if you are already long overdue for that coveted star that makes you a general. Long ago, however, Farman had decided: If it's a choice of a star or integrated airways, I'll never be a general. Farman waited a long time for his star—but he got, immediately, recognition of unified control. The AACS was taken out from under the Flight Control Command and given its own headquarters. Conas at last meant control of all airways communications, the world over.
To clinch that within his own organization, Farman called all his area and region commanders to Asheville for a world-wide confer ence. It was a master stroke. Together, Farman and Bowman, whom he had now designated Chief of Staff and Deputy Commander, set to work on plans. The conference would be a sort of clearing house for ideas. Devices and procedures found successful in the Pacific would be compared with the best in CBI. There would be "round tables," free exchanges of ideas between Africa, Alaska, South America, and the Caribbean on common problems, differences, coordination among the regions. Finally, Farman and Bowman would outline their Goncept for a unified system throughout the world.
Late in December, 1943, the field commanders began to assemble in Asheville. Blake came from the Pacific with his regional leaders, like Nichols in Australia. The newer Area control officers, Anderson (who had succeeded Sirmyer) in Alaska and McRae in the South Atlantic, both of them civilian airline experts whom Farman had drawn into the Army, also reported. Sirmyer was there, too, expectantly await ing instructions for his new secret mission. From CBI, Brock and his capable assistant, Funke, a commissioned civilian with a quarter century of radio experience, arrived. To the conference came. also. Bowman's successor in Africa, Colonel Neal, whose capable achieve men! had earned for him an unprecedented series of promotions: tech sergeant to lieutenant colonel in less than a year. And from Farman's own North Atlantic came his successor and right-hand man. Bill Day, an exceedingly brilliant young man, for whom even bigger things were ahead.
As tin- men gathered around the long table in tin- assembly mean ol Asheville's < its building,, the feeling «»l kinship grew. Scattered as thev
were, thousand! <>i mllei apart, in every type ol environment and ell mat«\ there was yet the 001........I tie ol highway building in the- skv.
Brigadier General Ivan L. Farman Colonel Gordon L. Blake
Commander of the world-wide Wing Commander of the Pacific
airways system Airways
Colonel Wendell W. Bowman Colonel Edgar A. Sirmyer, Jr.
Deputy Commander Wing Commander of the European
Colonel Bowman came in. There was a hush as everyone looked up toward the speaker's stand. All knew Bowman. Now he outdated them all in the AACS. Back in the very first year of operation, he had developed the Second Region. Since then, he had performed miracles in Africa. His brief speech was listened to with deep attention and respect. And then the door opened.
A little man in a slouchy uniform entered, and sank out of sight into one of the three huge speakers' chairs. Bowman stopped short, waited a moment, and then said very briefly, "It is my privilege to present the Commanding Officer of the Army Airways Communications System— Conas—Colonel Ivan L. Farman."
The little man stood up, walked over to the pedestal, from behind which he was barely visible, and began to talk. It has always seemed to be the belief of an audience that speakers should be large, pontifical in appearance, and confident almost to the point of conceit, even if what they say is strictly soporific. Farman could hardly qualify on any of these points. In the very first few moments, every field commander in the room had forgotten all about Conas' personal appearance. A floodgate on ideas had been let loose. Every one sat up. Any doubt that there could be anything about the airways that Conas didn't know was instantly dissipated. Farman exposed the whole business with telegraphic flashes in the first five minutes, and then began to unfold a philosophy that opened whole new worlds.
The force of the man was dynamic. He was positive, but solid. The whole world was wrapped up in that integrated web of highways in the sky. Farman talked rapidly, incisively. He moved to the world air routes map, pointed here and there, flying from India to Australia, across the Pacific and up to the Arctic, with the same dauntless, soaring, imaginative speed that marked his actual piloting. He was amazing. He had intuitively visualized the obstacles in each region, arrived at the best method to eliminate them. All those present understood better than ever before that each of their regions was only part of the whole.
Simple and direct, Farman's talk returned again and again to the underlying operational philosophy of service to aircraft. "We are not an independent agency, acting throughout the world for our own pleas ure or amusement or our own gain. Our purpose is to serve others . . . down to the lowest echelon."' Briefly he sketched the growth ol the organization in which thev all served, from a strength ol 1 officers and 350 men in 1939, the AACS at the end of 1943 included over 1500 officers and 17,000 men. In 1944, this strength would be more than
doubled, to meet the expanding requirements ol operations on all
fronts. The men listened intently In his concise exposil......
"We have at last emerged as a separate organization," Colonel Far-man told them.
Turning to specific policies, he urged them all to "lean forward" in offering service to their customers. On the basis of recent decisions, AACS could send administrative messages, provided these messages were urgent and did not interfere with airways service. He touched on relationships with agencies desiring to initiate installations, and paid particular attention to the demands of ATC and the AAF Weather Service, "our two best customers." Other problems to which he addressed himself were the procurement of personnel for overseas regions, the introduction of Wacs in the Airways Z.I., and the development of newer equipment and better methods to speed the unprecedented volume of traffic now clogging the airways.
"We have passed the stage of horse and buggy days, of bugs and loud speakers. We shall operate new equipment and use new procedures as they become available. We intend to use every means possible to improve our system."
The tone of the conference had been set. It was now possible to have a first-hand report of operations in each of the areas.
streamline for "v"
Farman's idea for a world-wide conference of the AACS field commanders in Asheville had been conceived for still another purpose. Toward the end of 1943, the Allied strategy was swinging rapidly from defensive-offensive to out-and-out offense. Everywhere, forces were being marshalled, troops deployed, equipment shifted, for the knockout blow. By all odds, 1944 would be a decisive year. In all such movements, AACS was essential. The spinning web must precede all major offenses. Airpower must be moved, to soften up the enemy for destruction on the ground. There was only one certain way to move air power —over the highways in the sky. Farman's Asheville conference on New Year's Eve of 1944 was concerned with extending the world skywav system right into Berlin and Tokyo. For this final putsch, Farman began the deployment and streamlining of his organization.
The old organization of areas and regions, under which the AACS had functioned since its activation in 1938, was outmoded and out of keeping with Air Forces command patterns. Farman now drew up, in memorandum form, the model for a new streamlined, world-wide organization, giving the AACS for the first time the command status it should have had all along. He superseded the five established areas with eight wings, assigning one wing to each of the major divisions of the airways system. For example, Airways Z.I. now became the 1st
AACS Wing; Blake's Pacific Area became the 7th Wing; Bowman's old African and Middle East Area became the 2d Wing; Sirmyer's former Alaskan and Aleutian area became the 3rd; CBI became the fourth; the South Atlantic, the 8th; and Farman's own North Atlantic, without the United Kingdom, became the 6th.
In the place of regions, Farman organized groups, the standard designation for Air Forces units of the echelons next lower than wings. Each wing was assigned from two to four of these groups, roughly approximating, in operating territory, the previous region. Groups were numbered from fifty-one to ninety-nine, so that what was formerly Russ Wilson's 1st AACS Region became the 51st AACS Group of the 1st AACS Wing.
Following through on the Air Forces organizational pattern, Farman next activated squadrons, which he numbered from 101 to 199, assigning from two to four of these squadrons to each group. The advantage of squadron organization in the AACS was immediately apparent in supervision. It meant that a higher headquarters would have direct responsibility, on an average, for not more than a dozen detachments, insuring reasonably frequent visits of inspection. Thus, having streamlined the organization in the field, Farman next turned to Conas, the world-wide command headquarters.
Colonel Wendell Bowman, who had put so much planning and work into the conference and reorganization, Farman now designated Deputy Commander, as well as Chief of Staff. Following Air Forces pattern for headquarters organization, Farman next set up his assistant chiefs of staff for Personnel (A-l); Intelligence (A-2); Operations (A-3); and Supply (A-4). With but little change, Farman's victory headquarters staff, from just before D-Day in Europe to V-J Day in Asia, was headed by five tried and tested AACSmen. To the A-l post he appointed Lieutenant Colonel Howard M. Buenzli, a young and energetic reserve officer who had entered the Army, pre-Pearl-Harbor, from a successful law practice in Madison, Wisconsin. His was the great responsibility of procuring, classifying, assigning, and distributing personnel over the world-wide system.
To the post of A-2, Farman brought Lieutenant Colonel Francis T. Foearty, the capable cryptographic security officer picked up from ATC, the year before, during the survey of the South Atlantic. More successfully, and vet more typically than any one else, Fogarty might be cited as an example of that group of mature men, anxious to serve their country, who came into the Armv in a station considerably below that suggested bv civilian experience, education and age. A natural leader, with an inspiring and soothing approach to all problems, Fo
garty won friends everywhere, and accomplished the things that had never been done before without antagonizing the traditionally minded. The A-2 post called for the highest loyalty to the United States as its duties involved responsibility for the distribution of codes and ciphers to the hundreds of AACS stations throughout the world. But under Colonel Fogarty, the A-2 job in Conas became much more; it became the information clearing house for the world-wide command, the encyclopedia for staff members requiring information about any part of the world-wide system.
To the post of A-3 Farman appointed Colonel Don C. McRae, successful civilian aviation expert, who had been drafted from the Eastern Air Lines. It was McRae who by preparing the engineering report in 1942, had helped Farman survey the North Atlantic route. When the Caribbean region was returned to AACS by the ATC, in August of 1943, Farman clinched his efforts to build a strong South Atlantic area by combining the Caribbean, Panama and South America, and by sending McRae to Miami as Area Control Officer. There McRae had been doing an effective reorganization job. At the conference, Farman relieved him, and placed him in the most difficult of all the headquarters staff positions. It was the staff position Farman himself had held under Watnee; it was the same position he had given to Bowman when Farman became acting commander. Principally, A-3 was responsible for the operation of all the seventeen facilities that AACS maintained in the half-hundred stations all over the world; and, in addition, A-3 was responsible for the training of the men who operated these facilities.
For the post of A-4, Farman selected Major Robert Werner, a young man who had had much civilian radio-engineering experience, and who had worked with AACS equipment in the United States during most of the war years. It was his responsibility and that of his staff members to procure, and to assist in the development, supply, and maintenance of, equipment for all the AACS stations in the world.
Finally, to the post of Air Inspector for the world-wide system Far-man appointed that veteran AACSman Lieutenant Colonel Walter B. Berg, relieved of command in the CBI the preceding September. Under Berg, systematic inspections of all AACS installations were to be carried out.
These were the headquarters staff leaders under Farman who guided the AACS during the final year and a half of the great victories. Inevitably, there were a few changes, both at the top and within the staffs of these leaders. Fogarty arrived in A-2 as deputy, serving under Lieutenant Colonel Railton, who left on an extended tour and soon wns re quested in Washington, for a short time. Colonel Don returned
to the Eastern Air Lines, at the beginning of 1945, and was succeeded, first, by Lieutenant Colonel Deigert and then by Colonel Neal. Major Werner was succeeded by Lieutenant Colonel Retzbach of the African wing, and Lieutenant Colonel Berg at the very end was succeeded by Lieutenant Colonel Spratlin, who had done an excellent job as group commander in South America.
In the field, too, Farman redeployed his commanders for the great offensive. To succeed Colonel McRae in the South Atlantic, Farman shifted Lieutenant Colonel Brock from CBI, and moved Brock's deputy, Major Funke, into A-3 with McRae at Conas. Since the South Atlantic had been the weak link in the world chain for so long, Farman further strengthened the area by appointing strong group commanders. Into the Caribbean he brought Lieutenant Colonel Guy H. Rockey, a pilot who had already contributed significantly in the Pacific as group commander. To South America he sent the veteran AACSman, Frank Bo-bulski, who in 1926 had helped set up the first radio range in Hawaii, for the trans-Pacific flight, and who more recently had been heading the fourth region in Z.I. Later, Bobulski was destined to succeed Brock as area head and turn his south Atlantic group over to Spratlin.
For CBI, Farman selected a West Pointer, Colonel Mandelbaum, who had served with the Signal Corps in Panama; and in Africa, Colonel Wood of the 18th was promoted to the position of area head. Colonel Neal, Bowman's capable leader of the 13th, was given the Alaska area; and Anderson, who had succeeded Sirmyer there, was moved to Farman's own North Atlantic. There remained but one major theatre-Europe. Barely a month before D-Day, Farman separated the 24th Region from his North Atlantic area and created the 5th AACS wing. This new wing would be charged with the important responsibility of building highways in the sky across the Channel and over the continent of Europe as Eisenhower's forces advanced. To this important post Farman named his remaining West Point commander, Edgar A. Sirmyer.
Farman now had his championship lineup in the field, much like a football team. AACS was ready for the great events destined to come between June 1944 and September 1945.
Next to Farman and Bowman, the field commanders wanted most to hear from Colonel Gordon Blake. Since he was in command of the critical Pacific area that had borne the impact of the first enemy attack on Hawaii, area and regional control officers, both in and out of combat theatres, looked to him for first-hand accounts of highway-building in the greatest sky spaces in the world. Already, these three—Farman, Bowman and Blake—had established themselves as the champions of integrated airways communications.
Driven from the central Pacific by the Japanese conquest of the Philippines, Guam, and Wake, in early 1942, Blake set to work to build a highway in the sky from Hawaii to Australia. By the time of the battle of Midway a long, thin sky trail stretched over the vast southwest Pacific, fastened to the airways stations at Christmas, Canton, Fiji, and New Caledonia Islands. By the time of the Battle of the Coral Sea, plans for the AACS station at Amberlev, near Brisbane, Australia, were under way. Gradually the southern half of the island perimeter surrounding this Coral Sea was being cleared of the enemy threat to Australia and our lifeline. In August, 1942, the Marines landed on Guadalcanal and began their long and costly fight for that island.
The nearest airways station to Guadalcanal was located in New Caledonia, still considerably south of the scene of land action. To supply the Marines by air, meant flight for a considerable stretch of open ocean without the guidance of AACS navigational aids. Under the circumstances, aircraft were forced to carry extra loads of fuel for protection, and correspondingly less weight of bombs or cargo. Further, on the return flight, carrying wounded evacuated from the battle, aircraft were forced to (lv over uncharted seas relying on navigation until AACS facilities could be picked up.
Determined t<> remedy this situation, sixteen AACSmen without equipment moved into Espiritu Santo in the New Hebrides Islands, north and a little east ol New (laledonia, and about halfway to Guadal-• anal The plan was to establish a way station on the route to the combat /one Ai the moment, the 1111• Bombardment Croup was operating
out of Espiritu Santo, shuttle-bombing the enemy in the Solomons. They had set up a small radio range and station, and, at the llth's request, the AACSmen took over this tactical beginning, designated BL2. The merger of airways and tactical Air Force communications here at Espiritu Santo proved its worth, as it was destined to do repeatedly in all future Pacific operations. By the end of the month, the AACSmen were meeting all of the llth's tactical needs, and at the same time extending the highway in the sky for the greater safety of cargo planes. By the first week of November, the AACSmen had also set up "Blondy" Tower, a ramshackle sixty-foot affair built from castoff materials donated by the Bomb Group. Overnight, Espiritu Santo was operating with the speed and despatch of an AACS station, to the greater safety and effectiveness of all aircraft taking off and landing on the island.
Between Espiritu Santo and New Caledonia was also the small island of Efate, from which the 26th Bomb Squadron was operating against the enemy. Here another detachment of AACSmen arrived from Hawaii on December 2 and proceeded to repeat the Espiritu Santo story. In eight days, starting literally from scratch—hunting, begging, borrowing, and working—they put station WYVL on the air. It operated from the rear of the Base Commander's quonset hut. A scrapped transmitter borrowed from the Navy, along with a few hundred feet of fielcl wire, a truck, and a trailer unit located after hours of thrashing around in the jungle, constituted the basic items in the available equipment. With these the AACSmen moved into a partially completed cement blockhouse half a mile from the Bauer Field runway. The radio room itself had to be built from scrap lumber and burlap.
Immediately on installation of the station, the AACSmen began serving many customers twenty-four hours a day. The new Efate station devoted itself to aircraft of the Navy, the Marines, the Royal New Zealand Air Force and SCAT (South Pacific Combat Air Transport) in addition to the 26th Bomb Squadron. A Navy hospital was established on Efate to which SCAT now began flying the wounded, in C-47's. Within three days after WYVL went on the air, a combat transport evacuating wounded from Guadalcanal called for help over air/ground. The plane was trying to reach the field before bad weather closed in. Switching to voice, the AACSman on dutv virtually talked the trans port in to a safe landing. Within three weeks, a sixtv-four-foot tower was directing traffic on Bauer Field and Efate, despite power shortages and mere scraps of borrowed equipment, both island stations had Income part of the AACS net now stretching toward the lighting on Guadalcanal. These two island outposts for communications provided
important navigational aids and weather Information.
At Henderson Field, the need for AACS grew steadily. Pilots coming in from battle on Guadalcanal to Espiritu Santo and Efate saw instantly the difference between tactical communications alone and a complete airways station. The steady stream of C^47's moving into Henderson with supplies, and out with wounded, needed the smooth-running AACS traffic control, the point-to-point PXing, and the navigational aids and weather available only at the two distant island outposts. Finally, in December, the AACSmen moved into Guadal itself. They set up their ecjuipment and, on Christmas Eve, Captain Harley Cramer, task force OIC, radioed the first message:
It was a makeshift installation, such as the AACSmen were learning to repeat on occasion. The first code room was placed in a coconut log hut with a patched canvas top. The furniture was made from packing cases and Japanese ammunition boxes. With a receiver borrowed from the Marines, and a much-worn and badly beaten 10 kw generator accepted as a consolation offering from one of the other outfits, a radio station was put together. An unauthorized AACS patrol then set out to "scrounge" for spare parts from allied or enemy casualties. This searching party uncovered, among other things, a stray jeep and enough parts to construct another, but not until they had raised a shout of alarm from a Marine major. It appeared that their reconnoitering had carried them into forbidden territory dangerously close to the Jap infantry lines, and that at any moment they might be caught in the crossfire from their own ground units. Nevertheless, the two jeeps became "Vivian" and "Rooster" of the AACS detachment.
There were still other ways to acquire needed equipment, as Lieutenant Fraser Leith, the AACS crypto security officer soon illustrated. One night, he burst out to his fellow AACSmen:
"Why the devil don't we get something real for this code room for a change?"
The question merely brought G.I. jeers. "What do you want that's real that you can get?"
Leith led with his chin. "You just name anything on this damn island that will improve this code room, and ten bucks says I gel it."
"You're on, pal," piped an AACSman, "and we'll make it easy ha you. We'd like a nice concrete door—like that one in the mess hall."
During the next lew days, Leith, stripped to the waist, eould be
seen, perspiring unmercifully, mixing concrete in a hall barrel, lb- had to contend, of course, with an intermittent barrage ol wisecracks, none
of which were particularly intended to be helpful or cooling. But finally, one morning, Leith appeared, dressed in his shirt. Concluding that Leith had conceded defeat, the officer who had taken his bet came over and put out his hand to receive the payoff.
"Nothing doing," Leith haughtily replied. "See me tomorrow—and have ten bucks ready."
Early next morning, two trucks drove up, one towing a cement mixer, the other with a half-dozen Seabees in it. By noon, the code room had the smoothest cement floor on the island.
The ten-dollar bill Leith collected, however, was not clear profit. For when the AACSmen next visited his cpiarters, they observed that a long-hoarded bottle of bourbon had disappeared from the shelf without protest. Leith had used a procedure that was destined to be practiced by AACSmen all over the world to put airways stations on the air.
Those early days on Guadalcanal were "rough and ready." "WYVM personnel took the continuous concentrated bombings and strafings with flying colors. In these daily raids, Henderson Tower figured prominently. Although not required to man the tower during an air attack, the AACSmen stuck to their posts consistently, directing returning fighters, bombers and stranded C-47's to safe landings.
It was not just heroics. Here was a typical situation. Coming back from a successful strike at an enemy base, a crippled bomber, engine aflame and landing gear shot from under, arrived at Henderson at the exact moment when the Nips had begun to paste our landing strip. In the words of one of the AACSmen: "S.O.P. said declare condition red and direct our planes away from the field. But where could you direct them? Their fuel was gone. There were wounded aboard. How could 1 tell them to scram? So I switched to voice and began to talk. 'Wait a minute!' I sez, without trying to worry 'em too much. Because they've got their own troubles. 'There's termites working on this tower. But that don't hurt notion'. I'm bringing you in OK. Listen, your landing gear's gone. But we're gonna make it all right. Let 'er clown easy now. Atta boy!' "
"Cool as cucumbers," the pilots called the AACS bovs. A perfect tar get, the tower was taking the direct strafing. But the AACSmen inside, maintaining the smooth, confident chatter that is part of their training, would literally talk these crippled planes into safety, before the Solo
Minus campaign was over, the Henderson Tower boyj had become a legend among grateful and admiring pilots of Army, Navy, Marine and New Zealand airforces.
II these Henderson AACSmen appeared a bit crude .it times, they could be forgiven During one oi these opci.itkmc. .■ .hange Amem an
officer put in his appearance at the tower. As no insignia are worn in the combat zone, rank is not easily determined. AACSman OIC Britton, hard at work in the tower, never removed his eyes from the strip. Said the stranger, authoritatively, "I want to be taken to the 14th Army Corps Headquarters."
"I'll be glad to take you along this afternoon when I go over there," Britton offered, still not looking at the speaker.
"But I'm in a hurry. I've got to go now."
"Sorry. That Headquarters is over at Kokumm Point, six miles from here. Pretty bad terrain between here and there, and I can't leave the tower just now."
"Are you the officer in charge of this tower?"
"Do you know who I am?" "No."
"My name's Griswold."
"Glad to know you. Mine's Britton."
"General Griswold."
"Yes Sir, and I am your chauffeur."
How dependent all other military organizations were on the Henderson Tower can be understood from this description of the standing operating procedure for Jap raids. The approach of unannounced or unidentified planes resulted in the immediate posting of a "Condition RED." This meant instant manning of a thousand gun positions. All traffic, including several hundred trucks hauling supplies, had to be frozen. Another 1000 to 1500 men unloading ships must stop work, and the ships must haul anchor and start circling. The incalculable damage and loss of time that might result from faultv AACS operation was a constant burden of responsibility that rested heavily on the shoulders of the AACSmen. More than ever, they realized how completely AACS represented the eyes and ears of the advanced Allied forces. As one of the group commanders put it, "AACS not only had to be good; it had to be as nearly infallible as an orderly system of operations could make it."
The AACS conference hung on every word of Blake's summary. Taking long strides from the podium in the Council Chamber of Asheville's city building to the vast map of the Pacific, Blake continued Ins dra matic story. From the notes of the Conference reporter, here is tin-story. It is the story of a mission most carefully planned and. in the words of General Mac-Arthur, "successfully completed."
By the beginning of 1943, it was apparent that AACS Pacific operations would naturally group around three territorial clusters. The original 7th Region, with headquarters in Hawaii and highways stretching from Airways Z.I. to Australia, represented entirely too vast a territory for any one AACS squadron to cover. From the start, therefore, the long ferry route tended to subdivide into a Sector extending from San Francisco to the international date line, just below the equator, including Canton and Christmas Islands. A second cluster early became known as the sub-7th Region, and later as the 20th. It included the southwestern stations of Fiji, New Caledonia, Efate, Espiritu Santo, and Guadalcanal. A third cluster, somewhat late in starting, was developing in Australia and moving northwest toward New Guinea, with the ultimate objective of returning in MacArthur's sweep to the Philippines.
To head the original 7th Region, Blake appointed Wooton, an old Army man who had set up the two far stations at Nandi and Tontouta. Regional Hq, as well as Blake's over-all area Hq, were established at Hickam, and under the war-power directive Blake arranged to assume control of the CAA station KSF at San Francisco. The Pacific Airways Area could thus be said to extend in unbroken supervision from San Francisco to Australia, and to the fighting front on the periphery of the Coral Sea.
To head his other two regions, Blake was fortunate in securing the services of two civilian communications engineers who made excellent Army officers. One of these was Cleo Lawrence, whom Blake placed in charge of the 20th, with headquarters at Tontouta, New Caledonia. In addition to having had civilian communications engineering experience, Lawrence had already done a good Army job under Farman in the North Atlantic, making many of the early installations there. He was therefore used to struggling with environment and climate.
In the South Pacific, however, he discovered that instead of blizzards, snowslides, and northern lights, a whole new host of natural obstacles confronted him. Intense heat, salt water, and fungus growth caused deterioration of sensitive equipment in a challengingly different way. In only one respect were the obstacles the same. Shortages in the Pacific-were, if anything, even more acute than in the North Atlantic. Experience with moonlight requisitioning In Greenland, consequently stood him m good stead on Guadalcanal and elsewhere. Mere, the term was "promoting" equipment. Indeed, the whole process had been recognized with an official oidei I...... the commander at Guadalcanal, who de
olared, "Anything you see and need and someone else can span- . . . 1,1, |t," Thai ordet encouraged "p.....lotlonal" seal and Ingenuity.
No AACSman needed a second such invitation. Under the enterprising Matt Scovell, Lawrence's Officer in Charge at Guadal, moonlight requisitioning attained its highest artistic level. Many a poker game in the wee hours of the morning settled the difference between a fair and a super AACS station. Nor did an unguarded case of Scotch, acquired goodness knows how, fail to play its part in promoting Diesel engines for radio power, jeeps for transportation, or extra footage for antenna wire. Matt Scovell was soon known as the "Thief of Bagdad" and the spark plug of the Guadal detachment. Many months later, the AACSmen retold stories about him with flourishes, and always added the stock clincher, "You should have been here when it was really rough."
The third cluster of stations was initiated with the activation of the Amberley station just outside of Brisbane. Headquarters for this new 5th Region was established downtown, and here again Blake was fortunate to have a Regional Communications Officer with good civilian communications experience. Indeed, Reeder Nichols, just before entering the Army, had worked with Australian commercial air lines planning airways communications. Early in 1943, Nichols started from his first Australian station at Amberley to extend the AACS highway in the sky up the Australian coast to the battlefront in New Guinea. In the next two and one-half years he and his men were to make history— to write an epic of "initiative confounded by climate, and ingenuity hampered by shortages" which would be concluded only when the long delayed station at Nichols Field, in the Philippines, went on the air. Dramatically, that was where ACDC Philippines had been ordered activated by the War Department on November 18, 1941. That was where Blake's pre-Pearl-Harbor surveys pointed the Central Pacific highways in the sky. That was the station whose abandonment was forced, even before it was born, by the events of Bataan.
So, at the beginning of 1943, Blake and Nichols planned, with Mac-Arthur and Kenney, the road back. First of all, a station was needed up the Australian coast at Townsville. In those days, Townsville had be come important from two standpoints. It was the jumping-off place lor both tactical and transport planes headed for the Coral Sea battlefront. Because of its good harbor and the famous Great Barrier Beef, Towns ville had become the funnel for lend-lease materials. In a grove ol iron wood and coolabah trees, about twelve miles outside of town, station WYVD began building. The rainy season was at its height, ami the quagmire contributed little to the construction. Forced to elevate the station building and eleven tents on poles, the AACSmen soon hail a settlement looking very much like a California fishing village. But they
also had, by early March, an operating AACS station that had reduced considerably the uncharted air space between Brisbane and the front.
Equally important to the safety of our aircraft was the establishment of a weather net. Just as in the North Atlantic Farman had found it desirable to activate the Crystal stations off the main highways in the sky, so Blake now turned to the interior and to sparsely settled coastal sections for weather-disseminating stations. The first of these was activated in February, at Fenton Field, in the scrub country of Northern Territory, about one hundred twenty-five miles south of Darwin. There the AACSmen were attached to a Bombardment Group that was already ranging out over New Guinea and the Coral Sea islands to let the Japs have it.
To this Fenton outpost, four stations—Cloncurry, Cooktown, Ma-reeba, and Iron Range—located in the outback areas of northern and western Queensland were tied to form the little publicized, but highlv significant, Australian weather net. It is difficult for even an American Westerner from our own wide open spaces to visualize the vastness of the Australian central wasteland. The rim of fertile coast which hugs the Great Dividing Range is an extremely narrow fringe indeed. Beyond the ridge is the equivalent of our sagebrush and desert, with small timber growths covering the few irrigated patches. Starting westward from almost any point on the coast, there are few facilities even for the pack rider. For the pilot forced down in this great emptiness, starvation and thirst are almost certain.
In this region the AACSmen set up business, first at Cloncurrv, some four hundred miles west of Townsville on the Queensland prairie. Before the war, Cloncurrv had been a mining and sheep-grazing center of respectable proportions. People with money had moved in, bringing in their wake the Bank of Queensland and facilities of the Queensland Airways. With the coming of war, the AIF, RAAF, and the AAF weather and communications units appeared. For them, favorite off-hour occupations were kangaroo hunting and attending outdated movies with Cloncurry's liberal quota of pretty girls.
A second station was activated at Cooktown, similarly patterned, except that it xvas a seaport. The town had known better days before the coining of the AACSmen. Once it had been five times its present size, and had played host to sailors from all nations en route to the Indies. Now only an abandoned gold mine, a deserted (latholic mission, and an empty waterlront were all that remained as relics of the rich pre war past, The AACSmen, for their diversion, when they went boar hunting every once In a while made use of the trolley that had formerly been used t< i cuiv the inincis hack and loith to their work.
AACSmen escaped physically was effected mentally much later, and permanently. To that veteran and here unnamed AACSman of those early Port Moresby days, who today lapses into spells of incoherence, intermittently, his country owes a debt. His efforts, along with those of his fellow AACSmen, in early 1943 helped build the foundation for "the road back." On the next to the last day of February, WXXD, Port Moresby, joined the world-wide airways communications system. Shortly after, amidst the oppressive heat and trying isolation of Fisherman's Island, just off the Papuan coast, a sensitive radio range was commissioned.
The spinning, here too, had begun, and the Japs knew only too well that the spider would have to be destroyed at once, if at all. In February, they began to move past Kokoda and over the Owen Stanley Range. The threat to Port Moresby, as well as to Australia itself, became steadily more critical. On the tip of the Papuan peninsula, at Milne Bay, the Australians began to assemble defenses. Here and at Port Moresby they prepared to engage the Japanese. General Kenney, of the 5th Air Force, took one look at the Japs advancing slowly on foot over the treacherous Owen Stanley Ridges, and decided this was a job for air power rather than land power.
Accordingly, Kenney planned some advanced air strips to function as jumping off places for attack both upon the enemy's advancing ground elements and upon the Nip supporting fields in the Markham and Ramu valleys. He had his eye also on the enemy headquarters at Lae, which could be brought within easy range. Toward the end of February, AACSmen moved two hundred and fifty miles southeast of Port Moresby to Fall River, on one arm of Milne Bay. From sunup to sundown, the half-dozen communicators struggled in the dense jungle, digging holes to sink antenna poles. They felled no fewer than one-hundred and seventy-five palm trees. Five of the six men contracted malaria. And during it all, the rain came down in torrents, filling up the holes almost as fast as they were dug. Nevertheless, on Lincoln's Birth day, WXXF went on the air. Our highway in the sky was reaching out now to meet the Jap.
On the first day of March, the battle of the Bismarck Sea occurred. The enemy had sent twenty-two ships to reenforce their holdings at Oro Bay, Lae, and Finnschafen. Out went the 5th Air Force from its new, advanced bases to prove what Billy Mitchell had always con tended. Sea power is no match for air power. Every last one of the twenty-two Japanese ships was destroyed. And now the Aussies began to punch on laud, shoving the |aps back over their hud earned miles. At the same time, American paratrooper!, Mown over the Owen Stanley
Most desirable of all these weather stations was the one at Mareeba. Located as it was in rich tobacco and dairy country, on top of the Great Dividing Range, near the tropical mountain resort of Kuranda and the four hundred-foot splash of Barron Falls, the AACSmen there might easily have accepted the surroundings as full compensation for their assignment. The station was situated a few miles from town, near a bacon factory. Placed on partial per diem pay, the Mareeba AACSmen were able to enjoy their meals in the Royal Hotel and entertain the civilian population in their spacious and ingeniously constructed day room. During the dav, station WXXB there served as net-control station for the Australian weather net. The last of these four weather stations. Iron Range, was on the air by early March. Allied air forces were now able to move north of the Australian mainland over an efficientlv operating airways into the combat zone of New Guinea.
On that great island, the British Papuan peninsula still afforded us a precarious hand grip at Port Moresby, a year after Pearl Harbor. But in spite of our Coral Sea victory the previous May, the Japs were continuing to push inland toward the Cape York peninsula of Australia. Between them at Buna and us at Port Moresby the only effective defense, thus far, had been the towering and rugged Owen Stanley Range. How long these natural barriers would continue to protect us, was the question. Already there were increasing signs of enemy preparation for a land advance. We sized up the situation and decided that the time had come to stop retreating and strike at least a defensive-offensive blow. Our strategy favored air.
In February, an advance AACS detachment moved into Port Moresby to survey for an airwavs station. The site chosen was one and one-half miles from Ward's Drome, between a bomb-disposal clump and a gasoline-storage area. It wasn't the nicest setting for the AACSmen, who now came on and began installation. From the Jap installations at Dobodura, Lae, and Nazdab, on the other side of the Owen Stanley, enemy bombers came nightly. They averaged from 40 to 100 every 24 hours, and they let go with everything they had. Through it all, the AACSmen worked steadily, building the nest from which to spin the threads that had successfully entangled the enemy in other parts of the globe. In the face of strong enemy air raids, a subsidiary station was also installed at Rorona Airdrome, thirty miles away.
As at Amberley, the same struggle with adverse weather and shortages began; only here the battle was made fiercer by contention with man and moscpiito. Of the two, the latter exacted by far the higher toll. Malarial casualties soared to 3535 of the initial personnel. The |,ip bombers, however, were not to be discounted. What damage the
Range by 5th Air Force carriers, opened a smashing attack on the Buna-Gona area. The bloody battle of Sanananda Point followed. We won, and Buna fell. The AACS moved into Horanda Field, Dobodura, only six miles from Buna. Methodically a radio range went up fifteen miles beyond, and we were automatically reaching out again with the new highway that stretched ahead with our beam.
At the same time, General MacArthur struck at the Trobriand Group of islands between Papua and Jap-held New Britain. By now, the value of airways facilities for air forces was beginning to tell. But it became apparent that AACS should come in with the first, instead of with the last, task forces. On D-Day, therefore, AACSmen scrambled ashore with the invasion on Woodlark and Kiriwina islands. They chose a site at the foot of a 3000-foot mountain on Kiriwina, and instantly set to work installing range and homing facilities. On Woodlark, where the strip was fashioned out of the coral, the AACSmen set up their station in a tent and began contending with deliberate enemy attempts to jam their weather and point-to-point transmissions. But this was now a desperate enemy. The strands were spinning back and forth across the islands leaving the Japs like so many flies, hopelessly entangled. To General Kenney and Colonel Blake, General MacArthur could well say, "Mission successfully completed."
Before Farman was relieved of his command of the North Atlantic, he had foreseen the day when the stations in the United Kingdom, which formed his 24th Region, would become so many and so important that they would require an area control of their own. Another result of the world-wide conference was to plan for that day. Topside strategy for the invasion of the continent was then already under way. A conference at Presque Isle, in October, attended by Lt. Colonel Klise, of the 24th AACS, and Brigadier General Marriner, now Deputy Air Signal Officer for the American Expeditionary Air Force with SHAEF (Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Forces) in London, developed plans for far in the future.
The so-called Bradley plan was agreed upon for AACS expansion. It called for some 1500 AACSmen by Invasion Day. These men were to operate twelve mobile communications units, to move with the invading forces. As operations advanced, permanent stations were to be installed in the rear to keep the highways in the sky open right into the front line and beyond. In all, some 41 AACS stations, including 18 message centers and cryptographic sections, were contemplated.
As conceived by the board of strategy, the AACS operation on the Continent would develop in three stages or phases. During the initial or fluid stage, designated as Phase I, the AACS would provide six mobile units to move on to the beachheads with the first waves of the invasion. These mobile units would carry with them so-called Class II crypto sections, to protect codes and ciphers from enemy interception.
Phase II would follow on the heels of Phase I, with fixed station installation, as rapidly as successes insured fairly permanent possession of captured territory. Into these installations would go semipermanent fixtures that would give our Air Forces smoother airways-communications facilities, but yet not so stationary that a temporary setback and retreat would force us to lose station equipment. Phase III represented the final stage, and would provide for such finished facilities as are included in Airways Z.I. These might conceivably be required when the continental movement had been completed.
That was the plan. No one realized more than Farman how much depended on strong AACS leadership. In reality, the new operation would be built upon the foundation of the North Atlantic airway he had himself erected. By the beginning of 1944, the highway in the sky across the North Atlantic was in the super class. From its Z.I. terminal in Presque Isle, it stretched in parallel lanes, through Newfoundland on the south, and by way of Labrador, Greenland, and Iceland on the north, to the United Kingdom. All along the way, weather information flowed from the arctic-circle outposts of Hudson's Bay and upper Greenland to the key centers at Goose Bay, Bluie West 1, and Indigo. Radio teletype now sped never-before-equalled volumes of flight messages from airways center to airways station with infallible precision. All of which added up to an incessant flow of undreamed of air power to the fighting European front.
In the United Kingdom itself, at the other terminal of the North Atlantic airways, in the early spring of 1944, the 24th AACS Region was already operating some 16 stations with about 65 officers and 481 enlisted men. These stations Farman now proposed to organize into the new Fifth Wing, with headquarters in London, and with full responsibility for carrying out the Bradley plan. To command this wing, Far-man named his remaining West Point veteran, Edgar A. Sirmyer, who had already distinguished himself as commander both of the Alaskan area and of the 1st AACS region in the Z.I. As Deputy Commander for this important wing, Farman gave Sirmyer his own North Atlantic successor and right-hand man, Lt. Colonel William Day. New plans and preparations were immediately initiated.
There was still much to do before D-Day. According to the SHAEF plan of invasion, there would be a fierce preliminary softening-up attack from the air. Beginning in February, the AAF would show the Nazis what real air power meant. The objective would be once and for all to eliminate the Luftwaffe from the war, and to cripple the enemy's effort to produce weapons.
As part of this plan, the device of shuttle bombing was developed. If the AAF's Flying Fortresses could take off from Britain, bomb eastern German objectives and then, instead of having to fly the long distance back to England, continue on to the nearest Soviet base, much fuel could be saved and larger bomb loads carried. Further, if these Forts could then reload in Russia, blast away at Balkan, Austrian, and Ba varian arsenals, and land again at near-by Italian bases, further fuel savings and bomb increases could be effected. Finally, the whole proc ess could be repeated in reverse, returning our Flying Fortresses to their British home bases with a maximum of destruction to the enemy
The plan was brilliantly conceived. Its execution depended on highways in the sky—highways that would guide our aircraft surely, securely, and directly to the targets and bases involved, without requiring the use of an extra drop of petrol. In March, the AACS spider began to spin over the heads of the bewildered and frantic Nazis, some of whom had already seen this process before in North Africa, over their heads in Tunisia, between the towers of the 19th AACS in Tripoli and the 18th AACS in Algiers. And as the Nazis saw this spinning begin from the towers of the 24th in England to the towers of the 18th in Italy, and out to the USSR, the reaction of Goering might well have suggested the name "Frantic" for the project.
But Frantic was not placid for our side, either. It was a difficult mission. Lt. Colonel Bill Day, Sirmyer's deputy, undertook direction of the operation himself. Hand-picking eight radio operators and eight cryptographers from the upper three grades of his enlisted men, Day and three officers took off for Italy. The Air Transport Command had earmarked 20 transport planes to carry 70,000 pounds of equipment needed for the operation. One AACSman for each plane was chosen to accompany this equipment. Day, his officers and enlisted men, and an officer and 10 EM (enlisted men) from the Signals Airways Service, took off first, to be followed shortly by the equipment planes. It was a ticklish project, complicated by international and political subtleties.
The first stop was at Caserta, Italy, Hq. for the Mediterranean Allied Air Force. Here coordination with the Italian corner of the shuttle triangle was necessary. As the plan was worked out, the 15th Air Force would operate from Italy, to Russia, to England, and the 8th Air Force from England, to Russia, to Italy. All the planes would fly over the AACS triangular highway. From Caserta, Day flew to Casablanca to insure coordination with the African AACS area, which controlled the Italian AACS stations, and then to Algiers for further check with the Air Forces Headquarters there. Two corners were ready. Now for the strange and new one in the USSR.
The Air Caravan's instructions were to assemble in Teheran, Iran, Hq. for the Persian Gulf Service Command, charged with the supply of the USSR. There Day gathered and checked his men and materials finally, and waited for word from the Soviet to cross the border. The theatre historian records that, of all the units engaged in the Frantic-project, only the AACS succeeded in beating the deadline date for completion of the Teheran semifinal phase of the Operation.
From March 25 to April 1, the AACSmen of the Frantic project, re mained bivouacked In their tent camp, 4000 feet above sea level, ready loi the final phase They waited hn Moscow- A icquest, tiled oil the
latter date, to operate a radio circuit between Teheran and a Russian base, received Soviet approval on the seventh. But for twelve more days the Kremlin remained silent on the request for movement of American troops into the USSR. Finally, on the 19th, just as Day had decided to fold his tents and depart, word came that only AACS and SAS would be permitted to move north, and then not to the base at Poltava, which had been selected for the shuttle run, but to Moscow. There Day was to deal, through diplomatic channels, with the appropriate authority.
On the 22nd, the AACS Caravan took off in its C-87's, manned by Russian crews. They flew north, crossed the Soviet border, and within a few hours were over Moscow itself. Upon landing, they were met by officers of the Red Army and escorted to quarters. Day noted in his diary that the Russians were all "sturdy, cordial, and obliging, but formal." Their ballets, he observed further on, were amazingly beautiful. Contrary to expectations, authority was obtained quickly, and on the 24th the Caravan took off from Moscow for Poltava.
The flight was made at an altitude not over 750 feet, to enable the Americans to see the great destruction to Russian life that had been wrought by German invasion and the consequent Russian earth-scorching. It was not difficult to understand why the Wehrmacht feared the maniacal fury of the Red Army, the inevitable day of reckoning that would come at the hands of a people spurred by the destruction of their homes.
At Poltava, the party was met by a Major Rodinioff, in charge of liaison, who exchanged courtesies for innumerable answers to questions. Dav found Rodinioff, like other Russians, dominated by a great, insatiable thirst for knowledge. He seemed to drink in every last drop of technical know-how evinced by the AACSmen as they set to work at their task.
The AACS station was installed in the Russian operations building. Between the 25th and 28th of April, most of the work of construction was completed. The only interruption occurred on the third day when booby traps left by the Germans, and amounting to tons of demolition, were accidentally discovered. Only the sheerest good fortune saved the lives of the AACSmen and permitted continuance of the work.
On the 28th, AACS at Poltava tapped out its first signals to the other corners of the triangle. Caserta and London heard, acknowledged, and prepared for the payoff. The softening-up process was in full swing. Together the AAF by day, and the RAF by night, were laying down not one but a thousand Coventries across the length and breadth of Germany. The western Allies had not invented Coventry, but they were determined to show the Germans its full possibilities.
Overhead the new variation confounded the Nazis. Bombers came from England to the easternmost cities of the Reich, heretofore safe from Fortresses, but never went back. Other bombers from southern Italy hit the Balkans and Austria and Bavaria, and seemed never to return to Italy. The Allies were everywhere in the skies. At first, the Nazis tried to come out of their holes and restore some order in their bombed-out cities, but the pounding continued day and night, the debris piled higher, faster than it could be cleared away, and the confusion became frantic despair. The skies over the fatherland were no longer theirs. They belonged to the Americans, those amazing Yankees, who were forever building highways. When they couldn't build them on land, they built them in the skies. And over these highways in the sky moved, irresistibly and perpetually, Allied planes, bombing and strafing, pounding every last ounce of German resistance into impotence.
The Project was called Frantic.
Long before Frantic, the assault on Europe had begun against what Churchill had picturesquely called the "soft under-belly." With the liquidation of the Axis in North Africa, preparation of the knockout blow against the weakest of the three enemy powers was speeded. Swiftly the regions of Tunis were converted from tactical airlanes to transport airways. The 18th and 19th AACS regions saw the Air Transport Command come in and take over operations from the combat units as the front line moved farther away.
But the AACSmen were committed to serve both the rear echelon ATC and the advanced echelon 15th Air Force. For the former it must provide polished airways communications resembling Z.I. conveniences. For the latter, rough and ready, fluid units of communications, flexible enough to move back and forth with the shifting fortunes of battle were essential. As the Allied Supreme Command readied for the first invasion of the Continent, the AACS African Area was being streamlined for the next phase of the all-out offensive.
In June 1943, master builder Wendell Bowman, having seen the African airways job through to the complete liquidation of the enemy, returned to Z.I. His right-hand man, Haskell Neal, CO of the 13th, assumed command. Neal's amazing rise from tech sergeant to lieutenant colonel had been amply justified by his brilliant achievement in Central Africa. There, the 13th had forged a chain across the Continent composed of links in which the climatic, racial, and political aspects were as vaiied as the puts of an Airman bushinan's charm bracelet, lie had done this with an assoitment ol civilian personnel of whom less than
10% had ever had any radio experience before entering the Army. A personnel survey of his 390 AACSmen had revealed 71 clerks, 28 students, 21 machinists, 10 bookkeepers, 9 accountants and the rest lawyers, professors, carpenters, plumbers, miners, truck drivers, bakers, and, in the place of a candlestick maker, one spindle maker. This assortment of "boots," novices, Neal had, within the space of one year, developed into a squadron of expert airways communicators who kept open the skyway from Accra to Karachi, and from Dakar to Cairo. It was fitting, therefore, that Neal should succeed Bowman to carry on with the next phase of the African mission.
That phase began, on the southern perimeter of Festung Europa, with the invasion of Sicily, July 9th. Nearly a month before, the AACS had established its outpost station in fallen Tunis, and from there the 18th made ready to support the invasion effort. As in other theatres, AACSmen of the 18th were rapidly learning the requirements of combat, and, moving now with greater speed than ever, Detachments Numbers 8 and 9 were hastily formed and shuttled across the Mediterranean while the assaults on Palermo and Messina were still in progress. On August 18, a juncture was made between the American and British forces before the Straits of Messina, and the island of Sicily was secure. Racing each other, Detachments 8 and 9 went on the air almost simultaneously at Palermo and Catania, giving the AACS its first two stations practically on the Continent. These two stations, plus the 18th's mobile ranges at Tunis and Cape Bon, paced the Sicilian invasion, providing our fighters and bombers with airways right into, and over, the ramparts of Mussolini's continental citadel.
Unconditional surrender came to the Italian people on September 3, and on the 9th the Peninsular campaign began for the Americans on the Salerno beachhead, below Naples. Twenty-one days of confused and chaotic fighting followed, but on October 1, Naples fell, and on the twelfth, the Volturno was crossed at Capua. In the wake of these spectacular events, AACSmen moved onto the mainland, spinning their strands with spiderlike workmanship. At Capodichino Airport, on the eastern edge of the city of Naples—its gray, tufastone buildings ruined by German demolition, its airfield full of bomb craters and ringed with anti-aircraft—the AACS moved in with its first continental airways station. Vestnng Ktiropa had been cleanly breached, and Hitler's claim of Impregnability clearly demonstrated to be a pipe dream.
I [ere at (lapodochino was the anchor. Now the weaving was to begin In earnest. While the Americans were securing the western coast of the Peninsula, the British wen- not relaxing, bari, Naples' counterpart on the Adriatic, fell to the hard driving Eighth Annv, and AACS prepared
to move in there, too. Destruction at Bari had not been quite so intense as at Naples, but the shortages of equipment were exceedingly acute. It was a typical AACS situation, possibly a little exaggerated, because there weren't even spare pieces of wire to be found, and when an AACSman can't find wire, conditions are really bad. A surprise German raid, which strewed Allied shipping and supplies over the bottom of the harbor, presented the men of Conas with their opportunity. Converted into junkmen by the exigencies of war shortages, the AACSmen in no time salvaged enough from the catastrophe to put an airways station on the air in Bari.
More stations followed on the heels of more invasion victories. During October and November, the islands of Sardinia and Corsica were liberated and, like so many insects, the AACSmen scampered onto the beaches and set to work. One station was established at Cagliari on the gulf of the same name, in southern Sardinia; and another went up at Ajaccio in Corsica, within the range of the Big Berthas pointed at the AACSmen from the neighboring German-held island of Elba. But somehow, those guns remained silent throughout the operation, almost as though the enemy were exhaustedly acknowledging the futility of their continued resistance.
The campaign had gone well to this point. Final steps could now be plotted. On November 27, the conference of the Big Three began in Teheran. The omnipresent AACS, represented this time by a detachment of the 19th from Neal's African area, handled the communications for the American representatives. President Roosevelt's secretary acknowledged the efficiency of the Teheran airways communicators in a letter of commendation, much later. But of immediate significance were the details of strategy drafted there. The invasion of the Continent from the south and west had been worked out.
For its part, the AACS in Africa steadily shifted its emphasis to the north. The 18th Region, on the firing line, was subdivided, and a European sector consisting of the six stations outside Africa was activated. Of these stations, two were on the island of Sicily and one each on Sardinia and Corsica. The remaining two were on the mainland, at Capodichino and Bari. Now King Winter took over, and the Pen insular campaign changed from a war of movement to a war of position. Every inch was sloughed through, ankle deep in oozing earth, and airways-spinning came to a temporary standstill. During the lull. Afrl can area headquarters was moved from Accra to Casablanca, furthei emphasizing the direction of advance. At the same time, Neal was transferred to Alaska, and Colonel Wood of the 18th was given com mand of the entire area. Meanwhile. AACSmen at the Capodichino
outpost marked time. The monotony of waiting for the spring was interrupted markedly only twice, once by a particularly vicious air attack, and again by a first-class eruption of Vesuvius which lighted up the city of Naples splendidly, although dangerously, for ten days during March.
Then things began to happen! Colonel Day arrived from UK with the plans for Frantic. The 18th's European sector was to be the second corner of the triangular airway. Capodichino coordinated and sped Day's mission on to Teheran, where the AACSmen of that detachment kept the line open into the third corner. Before too many days had elapsed, station WURC at Capodichino received the first signal from JBMP at Poltava, and the triangular airways for the shuttle project was open for business. As a result of all these new developments, March traffic in the European sector zoomed to a million groups, doubled by May.
On the 11th of May, the big push began at Minturno. Cassino fell on the 18th. Two weeks later the advancing forces had joined with the Anzio spur for a concerted drive on Rome. The Holy City fell to the hard-driving American ground troops on the fourth of June, and the AACSmen promptly moved into Littorio airport. Catching their breath, the men of Conas took just enough time to orient themselves in the new streamlined reorganization of the Army Airways Communications System.
Farman's command plan had become officially effective on the 15th of May. This meant that the African area became the 2nd AACS Wing, its European sector became the 58th AACS Group, and a new squadron, the 117th AACS, was established to operate from headquarters in Rome. The relationship was clear. In 2d Wing headquarters, at Casablanca, was lodged control of that part of the world airways system which passed through Africa, Egypt, Palestine, Iran, Iraq, Arabia, and islands in the Persian Gulf and Arabian sea, as well as the part of the system that passed through Sicily, Sardinia, Corsica, and southern Italy. Wing's responsibility was directly to Conas, in Asheville, which coordinated 2d Wing's European efforts with those of 5th Wing directed from London.
More stations were added to the 58th as our armies advanced. Back ami forth across the narrow Italian peninsula the web was spun. The 117th broke out in control towers all over Central Italy. One went up at ( aampino Field, south of Rome. Another appeared at Lido di Roma, on the coast west of the city. A third was erected at Cecina, on the Mediterranean, just south <•! Leghorn and Pisa. Ami then the 58th set in work i<> consolidate Its position foi the next big, offense.
Equipment shortages and technical difficulties were still plaguing AACS efforts. Italian commercial power was proving unreliable: strange voltages were obtained; teletype lines often ran through pools or drainage ditches; the rainy season brought frequent failures, "wide open" machines and similar headaches; transmission machinery was barely pushed to twenty-five words a minute—there was a long litany of woe. Lieutenant Colonel Eben B. Taylor, sent from Conas to assume command of the 58th, solved the problem—temporarily, by using au.xil iary power units; and permanently by preparing for a day of all-G.I. power. By the beginning of May, the changeover from the slowci manual operation of radio to rapid mechanical Boehme and teletype was well under way.
Then, in July, AACS was given the mysterious assignment to install ranges on the island of Corsica. These ranges were to guide heavy bombers to the southern coast of France for an operation that was obvious. Again, the sensitivity of AACS movement was being illus trated. Like a weather vane, AACS activity pointed in the direction ol the next offensive action.
The AACSmen chose three points in northern Corsica—Borgo, Calvl, and Centuri—to form a triangle, with Borgo as the hub. With this triple insurance, our heavy bombers were guided accurately back and forth between their bases and the Riviera targets. So well did the AACSmen perform their duties under the bristling and glistening enemy guns on Elba, barely thirty-five miles across the straits, that both the 12th and 15th Air Forces requested AACS to take over all the tactical towen and ranges. General Eaker, however, did not support these requests AACS equipment and personnel shortages would not permit these operations in addition to meeting the requirements of airways com munications in Italy and, shortly, in southern France.
Nevertheless, not long after the beginning of the invasion of southern France, a detachment of AACSmen landed on Red Beach. Saint Tropei Thev unloaded their equipment off the LST, took off by truck, and reached the airfield at Marignane by dawn the next day. There the detachment was divided, a little more than half the men and equip ment proceeding farther north to Salon, while the rest remained tfl await the clearance of mines. On September 2(1. station WUQV ll Marignane contacted over its point to point the stations at BorgO mid Rome. Four days later, their control tower, code named S/im « / a . ni into operation. Soon Marseilles was chosen to operate the lour, i underwater teletype cable in the world, to Oran. completing the expNNM
Paris-to-Maiseilles to Oran airway, by fall, 1944, lOUthem Ft ..... had
become a routine operation link in the world skyway Nyslem
Not so successful was the AACS effort which followed on the British side of the Italian peninsula. Florence and Ravenna were freed by the advancing Eighth Army in August, and Bologna was placed under siege. Then, in late September, the British launched their air-borne invasion across the Adriatic into Albania and Greece. By mid-October, Athens had been liberated and the Nazis hemmed in or driven into the northern Balkans. Brave little Greece had at last been avenged, and its people prepared for a return to independence. Events seemed to justify their hopeful expectations.
Into this promising situation AACS brought a strand of the world airways system, arriving in the Greek capital early in December. The AACSmen brought with them, by air, complete communications facilities and set up shop in record time. But all was not so peaceful as appeared on the surface, and in spite of the approaching season of Motherly love, civil war broke out. Elas, the fighting force of the left wing Earn (National Liberation Front) laid siege to the Athens police bur racks, in an attempt to seize power by force. Implemented by British tanks, the Greek Mountain Brigade fought back. By the 8th of the month, British paratroopers and Elas snipers were playing hide-and-seek on Athens rooftops and around the Parthenon, where the revolutionists had infiltrated, while AACS, the innocent bystander, maintained strict neutrality and ducked for its life.
An airfield just outside Athens had been chosen as a midway station for the ATC run from Cairo, and there the AACS men were operating airways facilities. However, AACS city headquarters had been estab-| I... I in a hotel. As the fighting spread, the battle line separated the ah port station from the hotel headquarters. Confronted by the neces-■ of maintaining communication between the two AACS message . enters, the AACSmen appealed to both sides for the protection due a neutral. In response to such representation, the contestants agreed to giant diplomatic courtesy to the Americans and permit them to operate „ enmici jeep, one round trip daily, across the lines between the two
A A( !S stations.
It was a ticklish situation, and the AACSmen became well schooled In self control. Strict and tactful neutrality was absolutely essential to avoid embarrassment to our government, which was even then seeking to mediate Hut the situation became steadily more difficult as the civil War mounted in fury. Inevitably, an incident occurred. Misdirected gonlhe dining one ol the daily jeep courier runs resulted in casualties • | ... AA< IS olll. ei and an enlisted man Although both were wounded
nub slightly, ll was deolded to discontinue the hazardous courier
Both the airway station and the hotel headquarters were now isolated islands of American neutrality. Those two, along with the United States Embassy in Athens, represented the only three safe points in an area swarming with bullets. For all three, however, the situation steadily became grave. Supplies were running short and although there was enough food at the field, it was impossible to bring radio equipment from the near-by port of Piraeus. As an emergency means of communication between the city and the station at the airport, now that the courier jeep was out, the AACSmen rigged up a temporary receiver and a transmitter and installed them in their hotel room. By maintaining this contact throughout the crisis, it was possible to reduce the number of courier runs. Occasional ones, however, were risked. For example, when the United States Embassy appealed to the AACS station on the field for bread, the AACSmen received the appeal on their air/ground frequency and immediately complied, braving the crossfire once more for delivery.
Before long, the embassy was in a position to repay this assistance. A shift of battle lines brought the street fighting to the vicinity of the AACS hotel, which was dynamited and made uninhabitable. The AACSmen withdrew without further casualty and, at the invitation of the United States Embassy took up residence there. Out at the field, too, some damage was sustained by AACS equipment when a Don Quixote-like Elas, mounted on a horse, charged an antenna mast and knocked it flat.
One additional occurrence bordering on the quixotic is worth noting. At the height of the Athenian disorder, a directive from higher headquarters, apparently one of those blanket orders "through channels," for all service units in the Army, reached the AACS detachment in Athens. The directive ordered immediate inauguration of an "on-the-job" training program for all Army personnel. The AACSman's reply should have been relayed to the Pentagon, where some conscientious field-grade officer probably first had the brain storm:
"With bombs bursting in air, AACSmen are getting plenty of on-the-job' training as is."
In January, order was restored in Athens, the AACS resumed normal operation, and shortly after received commendation for its part in the Greek operations.
The first breach of Hitler's Festung Eurojxi had been mad. again ' the soft under-belly. But even while the Italian end of the Axis was collapsing, preparations were under way for the main assault. On the
Allied island springboard of the United Kingdom, that spring of 1944, there were in the making great events, in all of which AACS was destined to play its part.
The Fifth AACS Wing that Colonel Edgar A. Sirmyer had activated in early 1944 was a far cry from the days of Farman's North Atlantic terminal stations, when AACS officers at Prestwick, standing on the edge of the windy, rainswept tarmac stared out into the misty ocean skies, anxiously awaiting another flight of war planes. Those shaky Bolero days were over. The North Atlantic superhighway was now guiding air forces to the United Kingdom in such quantity that, unless space were to be provided by invasion on the continent of Europe, soon it would be necessary to store the planes in Britain on top of one another.
To ready themselves for the invasion, the AACS set to work to put the airways of the United Kingdom in shape to handle wholesale plane movement. An Intra-United Kingdom Flight Control Net was established, under the 5th Wing's 64th Group, which would hereafter, under Sirmyer's plan, be responsible for airways in the British Isles. By April, a practice net connecting Warton, Maghaberry, Heston, and Prestwick was operating. At the same time, navigational aids, the foundation of a highway in the sky, were organized into a system of airways that provided safe direction to the masses of planes now moving constantly over Britain and the Channel. Radio ranges at Stomoway, Prestwick, Nutts Corner, Belleek, Valley, and St. Mawgan became the towers for a mesh-work of beams. In addition, two Direction Finding nets to locate lost planes were born. Of these nets, the northern D/F net comprised Meeks, Mullaghmore, Dyce, and St. Mawgan, while the southern D/F net included Mullaghmore, St. Mawgan, and Horsham Saint Faith.
Now a D/F net, as a rule, consists of three or more stations placed at intervals in a line or semicircle that stretches usually some six hundred miles. When a plane is in the range of one of these stations, the pilot, or his radio operator, may call in for a "fix." Immediately, the ground/air operator in the AACS station alerts the D/F net and requests the plane to send, over its radio, a series of dashes and call letters on which each of the D/F stations can take bearings. These bearings are transmitted, bv all the stations, to a central evaluation Center, which plots the fix. This plotting is done by placing, on a map covered by the area of the D/F net, the three or more bearings sent in bv the D/F stations. The triangle made by the intersection of these* bearings shows the actual position of the aircraft. Since D/F stations
normally monitor aircraft In-quencics, usually the alert is automatic
and the lis is furnished the plane in a mallei ol seconds.
Nor does D/F service stop there. Often the nets track planes for hours, particularly when it is known that they are disabled or short of fuel. This keeps the ground operators constantly informed of the location of a plane, and if it is forced to ditch, they are able to initiate land rescue at once. It is worth noting that every time four B-29's were saved, the entire cost of D/F equipment in a theatre was paid for.
Concurrent with this organization of the British airways, preparations to fulfill the requirements of Phase I in the Bradley plan went forward. It will be recalled that, during the first stage of the invasion, AACS was to provide mobile units to move on to the beachheads with the first waves of the ground forces. By means of these mobile units, our air forces were to fly forth against the enemy targets and guide themselves back to home base. More, air supply would be dependent upon these mobile units for direction to the points of greatest need. Finally, under an elaborate medical plan, lives would be saved by flying the wounded back from the battlefronts to British hospitals. Only with a smoothly functioning airway could these three objectives be attained.
Sirmyer and his experienced AACSmen now set to work to do a job, if they had ever done one before. Seasoned officers and enlisted men who had been tried on Farman's North Atlantic airways, and elsewhere in the world-wide system, were assembled into the 65th AACS Group to operate on the continent of Europe, while the 64th maintained airways in Britain. To head this new Group, Sirmyer named Lieutenant Colonel Kenneth W. Klise, a veteran of the North Atlantic AACS. The little center of Grove, west of London, was taken over by the 65th for its British airways base. There the 133d AACS Squadron, with eight detachments to operate the mobile units, was established. These detachments, and the stations for which they would be responsible on the far shore, were lettered from A to H, since it was not known precisely in what town or at what point they would operate.
Stations A through F were merely designated "mobile." But stations G and H were to be air-borne. Methodically, the men set to work to assemble equipment and supplies. Long before, the details had been worked out by the Plant Engineering Agency of the Army Signal Corps to provide the AACS with a kink-proof, durable type of trans mitter and receiver and the various complementary parts necessary to put an airways station on the air in record time. All this equipment the AACSmen had studied thoroughly, labelled, and practiced putting to gether until they could do the whole process in nothing ilat. In tin- final days, full-dress rehearsals were held. The men put then stations lo gether under simulated fire and water conditions, practicing until each
AACSman could do his job blindfolded. And then they waited. Everyone's nerves began to be frayed. All of them acted as if it were the Friday before the big game, back in those high schools and colleges that most of the AACSmen had deserted for this biggest of all games.
Then it came. The real thing. American troops hit the Normandy beach and began to storm the Festung. Right behind the shock troops moved the AACSmen. The two air-borne units arrived first. Detachment G scampered ashore near St. Laurent strip and, on D-plus six, contacted Grove back in England. AACS was on the air in France. "H" moved in, right behind, to Landing Strip T-2, about one mile south of Colleville, and went into business on the 21st. The mobile units followed to designated spots along Omaha beachhead, so-called, and elsewhere, keeping themselves fluid, to move with the advancing Allied troops. More of the mobile units were activated back at Grove, and moved across the Channel.
Here is "I," for example. It reached Colleville on the 18th of July, more than a month after D-Day. But the situation was still extremely fluid. Beaches were strewn with supplies, and the AACSmen added to the collection by unloading, and then setting out to find a billeting area. There they broke out their pup tents, erected them, dug fox holes, and partook of their first C-ration invasion meal. That very night, as the AACSmen were greeted with intense enemy action, which they received in their foxholes, their detachment historian wrote, "Each made a mental note to see his CO about a transfer somewhere where people were not so careless about hurting others."
Soon, however, the AACSmen were absorbed in a situation they dearly loved. They were ordered to erect a tower without material. At once they spread out over Omaha beachhead, "scrounging." By 1100. several of them had come back from their excursion with a glider fuselage, a pilot's seat, and a glider nose. The engineers were talked into pushing all the dirt they were hauling from the field into one big hill. At the end of the afternoon, all this dirt pile amounted to a thirty-loot elevation above sea level, and the AACS was ready to set up its first control-tower. The framework was begun, a wooden platform was finished, sides were erected, and the glider nose was made rain-and-wind-proof by wrapping canvas around it and putting "dope" on it several times. The frame was then guyed down and a receiver rack built in the tower, thus completing the first control tower erected by the Allies in the northern half of the continent.
The story of "I" was to be repeated by detachments "A" through •S." All during the summer. AACS" mobile and air borne detachments moved with the ground forces t<> set up advanced outposts for the air
forces. On D plus 11, the 65th Group was assigned to work with the United States Strategic and Tactical Air Forces, and its mission was further and specifically defined, "to operate airways out of all terminal strips in France and out of Grove in England." During the rest of June, and all of July and August, the 65th did just that. Its mobile detachments raced into air strips snatched from the unwilling defenses of the enemy only a few hours before. Indeed, the pace became so rapid that Conas was unable to place any one of the detachments anywhere for long. "A," which had begun continental operations near Colleville, was at Querqueville by the 11th of August, and there only long enough to move to Courtils the next day. "G" and "H" were at Beille, "C" at Feugeres, and "E" had now moved into Colleville. It was like a mammoth game of checkers, with the A ACS detachments jumping each other and occasionally the enemy. When Patton broke loose across the width of France, the AACS detachments picked up their strings and chased after him. All that the historian of these D-plus days can say is that the AACS, like most other outfits, became extremely nomadic. This was Phase One in the Bradley plan; but toward the end of August, Phase Two, the stage of semipermanent installations, was approaching.
Seven French centres, not counting those in the south evolving from the Italian operations, were approaching the semipermanent phase. Bv glancing at the map, it is possible to see the strategic pattern that was shaping by the end of August. These seven centres were Querqueville, Barfleur, Courtils, Beille, Feugeres, Le Mans, and Morlaix. One of them, Le Mans, was selected as Hq for the Group which now moved across the Channel into France. But events were rapidly shifting from those first beachheads and the Brest peninsula. By the end of August, Paris itself fell to the Allies, and Allied patrols had begun to enter Belgium. During September, Sedan fell and the Americans entered the first big German city of Aachen. By October 1, the Canadians were pushing toward Holland, and the Americans were delivering exploratory punches against the Siegfried Line.
With all these advances the AACSmen kept up. Scampering onto landing fields as fast as those fell, the men of Conas became consistently the first Air Forces personnel to appear in newly conquered territory. Working like so many spiders, they would begin their airnet weaving almost instantlv and proceed without a hitch. Inevitably, the appeal ance of an AACS station meant that the highway in tlx- sky was stretch ing out in front over the heads of the bewildered enemy; and, over tin-, highway, air force in unprecedented quantity and quality was moving against everything that tried to block it. At Le Bourget. outside Paris.
an advanced airways station went up, and from the Eiffel Tower itself the AACS beam was shot out into the sky to point the way to Berlin.
Hard on the heels of this advance came the Group's Hq, moving into the city of Paris five days after its arrival in Le Mans. The modern office building of the Vacuum Oil Company, apparently used during the occupation by an important branch of the Luftwaffe, was taken over for the AAF. There the 65th AACS Group used the German offices as they were intended, Colonel Klise's door being marked CO (Commanding Officer) in German. Apparently the previous tenants had been in a great hurry to move, for everything was in splendid shape for immediate occupancy. The furnishings were modern, and of the best. Records, files, maps, bulletinboard notices, and everything needed in the way of office supplies were there in perfect order. There was even a stencil on the mimeograph machine and, of course, the AACSmen had to run off a few copies to see what they were. They merely announced a move to newer and safer quarters in "our own (we hope) Reich."
With the beginning of fall, it was apparent the rate of advance would now be much slower. It was time for the AACS to enter the second stage, to establish the semipermanent, and even permanent, installations that would provide a highways system in the skies over France.
By the beginning of winter, that fateful winter of decision, AACS detachments were deployed as indicated on the accompanying map. Airways France had been built on the foundation of eight radio ranges at Dijon, Brest, Le Treport, Lyon, Creil, Barfleur, Paris, and Marseilles. These highways were tied firmly into the North Atlantic airways by means of the Little Hampton, Bovingdon, Valley, Grove, and St. Mawgan ranges in England and Wales, the Prestwick and Stornoway ranges in Scotland, and the Belleek and Nutts Corner ranges in northern Ireland.
To implement these ranges and the D/F net, Ground Controlled Approach was introduced at Etain, and subsequently elsewhere. Now GCA is one of the radar wonders of this war. By means of it, a pilot can make a landing without seeing the runway or even the airport. He Is literally talked into port by the AACSman, who, in a well modulated voice, gives the pilot minute instructions as to altitude and direction. Essentially, CCA consists of a search and a precision system which provides a complete picture of air traffic within a radius of thirty miles of the airport. AACSmen keep a second-by second watch with their Oscilloscopes, which give an exact indication of the location and altitude of all the planes within that radius. As a plane reaches the ap proach leg. the AACSman at the approach control using the precision
■Vi. . fi
V. S. Army A.A.I- /'/,,.<„
Radar crew priming GCA trailer before operation.
system virtually takes over. In a calm, assured voice he tells the pilot exactly how to make the landing.
With GCA, the D/F nets, an interlocking system of ranges, and high speed point-to-point rapidly turning the London-Paris airway into a superhighway, AACS had begun to settle down into permanent rear echelon operation, when suddenly the whole picture changed. The air had been filled with predictions of the end of the European war by Christmas, and there was a general letdown of expectancy. Detach ment H, following our advance into Belgium, had set up shop in I and was already operating on a routine 24-hour basis, when suddenly at 1735 (5.35 p.m.) one afternoon, Paris Hq received tins urgent message:
The Battle of the Bulge was on. In a last desperate attempt, the Nazis had broken through toward Liege and the sea. Detachment H had been caught in the surge that swelled back for miles behind Ardennes. At Reims, Detachment G was similarly and temporarily jostled out of its smooth operation. Spearheads of the panzers failed to reach the city, but paratroopers did reach it. The AACSmen held on, and returned to the air at both places in a matter of hours. Detachment F, at Thionville, had a scare, too, though a lesser one, but it never interrupted its sending and receiving. Gradually, the German drive was slowed to a standstill, cut up into segments and liquidated. The blitz, conceived and begun just about like the breakthrough at Sedan in 1940, had proved its obsolescence and shattered itself against modern war might. Ardennes muttered "nuts," stood fast, and then eliminated the annoyance. It had been a costly display for both sides, but the enemy could no longer afford the cost.
The war of movement began again in the spring, this time not to be stopped before Berlin. Along Hitler's famous autobahnen, Allied troops vied with each other in the sprint to the middle, and the handclasp with the Russians. On April 4th, the AACSmen crossed the German border to set up the first AACS station on German soil. On strip Y-58, at Strasfeld, southwest of Bonn, GCA went up. The main AACS convoy crossed the Rhine at Oppenheim over a Baily Bridge. At Frankfurt, another detachment moved into private residences at numbers 1 through 3 Frauenstein Platz. In reply to the German hausfrau's query, "How long are you going to stay in my apartment?" the AACSman replied, "About as long as the Germans stayed in Paris."
Everywhere, AACS was on the move. One detachment, ordered to set up an airways station on a German landing strip, complied without being aware of the fact that Patton's army hadn't taken it yet. Calmly, their work done, the men turned in for the night. When they awoke they found themselves surrounded by swastika-marked tanks and supply trucks. The AACSmen blinked, but without hesitation boarded their own vehicles and raced past the stupefied Nazi drivers, already beginning to question one another as to whether their installation had fallen to the Americans during the night. Three miles down the road, tlx' AACSmen came upon Patton's advanced patrols, who showed no less amazement. Said one, "Bud, ain't you a little premature?" The AACSmen agreed and adjusted their operations thereafter to following, instead oi preceding, Patton's army.
Before or behind the advancing ground troops, the theme was the lame: Nothing is constant but change. All through April and into May, the tempo accelerated constantly. A sample of the 133rd AACS Squad-
ron's rapid penetration into Germany can be illustrated by the chronology of one detachment. On April 15, Detachment Number 303 (all Wing units had now been numbered) was operating point-to-point at Kassel. That day, orders were received to pack and move and, before the next morning, Detachment 303 was unpacking at Weimar. They went on the air there on the 17th and then moved east to Gotha, to begin operations on R-4 strip on the 19th. Meanwhile, other AACS detachments were leapfrogging all around. A GCA detachment, 305, went from Euskirchen to Langenzkaw, only 35 miles west of Leipzig. On May 2, "303" picked up its belongings and went to Regensberg. By the end of the first week of May, the tempo slowed. There was no longer a war in Europe.
The time had come to tie all the loose strands together into an Airways Europe, over which deployed air power could move to Airways North Atlantic and Airways Z.I., or to Airways Africa and thence to Airways CBI.
On V-E Day, the American spider web over Europe was almost perfect. That was one reason why Allied power was able to deploy with such startling rapidity to the other war, outside Japan. Through all the weaving and reweaving dictated by the shifts in battle fortune, the AACS had succeeded in building something permanent, something which, every day we came closer to V-E Day, looked more nearly like the system of highways in the skies over the United States.
Disregarding, for the moment, the numerous little strands that followed the mobile stations from spot to spot across the checkerboard of the European theatre of operations, four super-airways steadily widened to accommodate unprecedented volumes of air traffic. One of these main arteries in the sky was an extension of the North Atlantic airway, from Prestwick, Scotland, to London, England. A second and most crowded thoroughfare, which began with four lanes each way, almost from D-Day, was that skyway across the Channel whose terminals became London and Paris. At Paris the airway forked, the north ern spur ending at Brussels and the southern at Marseilles. By V-E Day, also, the London-Paris main artery was steadily lengthening east ward, finally to reach Berlin.
To begin with, these highways had been marked bv the system <>l radio ranges strategically located to provide interlocking beams. As time went on, these beacons were reenforced with advance type radai and radio navigational aids, such as Direction Finding for lost planes, and GCA and Instrument Lauding Approach for bad we.uhei laud
ings. All these facilities, plus air/ground vigil by hundreds of AACS-men to forestall accident, or at least speed rescue, had but one purpose —to insure the safety of the great number of planes moving into the greatest of all theatres of operation. Supporting these navigational aids was a steadily accelerating point-to-point communications system, along the airways, now using preponderantly teletype, radioteletype, and highspeed Boehme to transmit flight and weather messages in volumes never before approached. The 65th Group alone during one month, May of 1945, handled over 13,000,000 groups. This meant that the control-towers at the various airports and airstrips on the continent of Europe were landing and sending off planes with a regularity to make one's head spin. Any doubt that the AACSmen were busy could easily be dispelled.
It was not the work alone, however, that was so exacting. It was the responsibility. With so many planes moving overhead, the risk of collision in midair increased steadily. In the early days of the invasion, it was still possible to tolerate a certain amount of pilot rugged individualism. Now, however, it was obvious that, unless some controls were introduced, some planning undertaken, mortality in our air power from accident might soon compare with death by combat. In the spring of 1945, the 5th AACS Wing assumed full responsibility for air-traffic control over Europe. Cooperating fully with our Allies and other agencies, the AACSmen went to work to set up a system comparable to that in Airways Z.I.
The center of this control was obviously Paris, and there at the Orly station AACS created one of its great world airways centres. Almost as important, a control centre was also established in London, with additional subcentres at Brussels and Marseilles. Since the heaviest traffic of all was across the Channel, and since the weather in the skies over that body of water is notably bad, the first two control centres were perfected in Paris and London. Proper altitudes for eastward and westward flights were established and adequate time separations between aircraft set up. In the two centres themselves, large locator boards, reflecting the exact altitude and position of all aircraft within the zone, were placed in operation. Under this control system, the AACSmen issued clearances and named the exact time a plane might enter the airway. As each plain' moved along the airways, it passed over various cheek points, and this system enabled the AACSmen in the control room to move the card representing that plane along the locator panels until it reached its destination.
Time is taken heie to mill, ale the pioeess ol aiiwav control, because il Is i highly skilled and íespousible aspe el ol Using, It has nevci ie
ceived the public recognition accorded to piloting. And yet, as our instruments improve, the job of the person in the cockpit becomes steadily less difficult, and the responsibilities of the airways communicators more essential to safe flight. The time may be almost here when flying a plane will require no more skill than driving a car; but if that does come about, it will be not alone because of simplicity in plane design, but also because of the perfection of complexity and comprehensiveness in ground control. It is unnecessary to point out to the airlines of America what the skill of a civilian AACS, turned back into mufti after V-J Day, can mean to our bid for world aviation leadership. No other nation in the world succeeded in developing anything so nearly adequate as our global airways system.
Nor is the control aspect the only one in this complicated airways business. There is the matter of weather information. Various weather agencies, including the strong Weather Service of the United States Army Air Forces, gather data at various points in the world. In a vast theatre of operations, located somewhere centrally, like Europe, there must be a clearing house of information where the scattered meteorological reports can be gathered, evaluated, sorted, and so disseminated as to be of the most use to pilots. Such a "Weather Central" in France was established by the AACS at Orly, just outside Paris. Manning radio receivers, as well as teletypewriters and coding devices, some eighty highly trained AACS enlisted men and WACS kept about twenty million word-groups a month of weather information from half the world flowing through a complex hub of wires and radio channels.
AACS reports stated: "The rise of a river in Belgium, clouds massing over Morocco, a temperature drop in Labrador, a barometric rise somewhere along the Rhine, a great storm in the mid-Atlantic—all this information, multiplied a thousandfold, is funnelled by radio and land-line into this AACS-operated Weather Central in France. Whether an infantry attack will jump off tomorrow or next week, whether the B-24's will rise from airstrips to bomb the heart of Germany today or tomorrow, whether a great offensive can expect hard roads or slimy mud— these are the realities embodied in the perpetual flow of dry numbers. ... On the efficiency and speed with which the AACS personnel handles this material may depend the timing, and perhaps the success of that next vast military operation."
Steadily, Airways ETO (European Theatre of Operations) took on all the appearance of a finished product. By V-E Day, Sinnyer could match his 5th Wing portion of the world system with the contiguous North Atlantic and African segments. To strengthen the links, and it the same time to amplify European coverage, the 5th Wing early
looked to the countries still not covered by American airways. Chiefly, this territory was the little still remaining in enemy hands, and the neutral nations. The former was rapidly disappearing before the fire of our spring advance, but the neutrals stubbornly held to their diplomatic immunity.
As was to be expected, democratically inclined Sweden gave way before Franco's totalitarian Spain did. As far back as December, 1943, an American military attaché in Stockholm, observing a great number of American, British and Polish internees awaiting only transportation to be moved out of Sweden, suggested that the United States Army Air Forces' Air Transport Command could do the job. Aware of the diplomatic conditions involved, he agreed with the Swedish ministers that such an undertaking, if approved by both governments, would require recognition of Sweden's neutral rights and responsibilities. Among other things, all flights would have to be made in unarmed craft, with no military markings; crews would have to wear civilian clothes; utmost security must accompany the whole mission.
In December, 1943, the proposal was only an idea. A long series of diplomatic moves and countermoves through our State Department were still ahead. Nevertheless, the process was begun, and the whole project was labelled "Sonnie," with a Top Secret classification. Hopes ran high for the first direct air link with Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Russia. But procedures dragged. In March, Colonel Bernt Balchen flew to Stockholm to represent ATC. Plans were drafted for three flights a day out of Stockholm, to carry one hundred and five passengers, through the spring and summer. An airway from Stockholm to Leuchars, Scotland, and to Meeks, Iceland, would be operated bv the AACS. Balchen returned to Scotland, called a meeting with AACS, and began to plan actively for the new airway. But again proceedings dragged. Swedish approval failed to come.
For a while, it looked as if the Sonnie project were dead. Then, when hope was about gone, Sonnie came to life again. In September, Major Hammond of the 64th AACS Group accompanied Colonel Balchen to Stockholm for another conference. Working through diplomatic cban nels, Hammond saw at once that this would be another of those delicate deals, like Frantic, like the Azores, like Turkey. Sweden would permit AACS equipment to come in, but apparently Swedish person nel would have to operate it. All communications, except Might ines sages, would have to travel through the American Legation, be ap proved personally by the American Minister to Sweden, and then be transmitted, first, over the regular Swedish couununic.ilions system.
While diplomats In both countries wrangled ovei these conditions,
Major Hammond quietly went about the business of surveying technical requirements. Power supply he found adequate. Tentatively, he anticipated the ATC requirements to fly this new airway safely and regularly. There would be required complete control-tower, approach control, point-to-point, radio range, D/F, a fan marker, and three receiving positions. Major Hammond made notes, and returned with all the specifications. Again a period of waiting followed. Hopes ran high in November, when an article appeared in the Folkets Dagsblad, implying between the lines that official sanction had been given.
But days went by. Nothing happened. By grapevine it was learned that the project had passed its first hurdle in the Chamber of the Swedish Foreign Office. Eager to be doing something that would speed operational beginnings as soon as approval could be obtained, AACS began to assemble personnel and equipment at Leuchars, in Scotland. Two officers, four control-tower operators, ten radio operators, two D/F radio operators, one radio-range mechanic, and two cryptographers were given orders to form the Sonnie detachment. Their processing was a little out of the ordinary. To each was issued a civilian suit, a passport, and a Swedish visa. The time of waiting was spent in briefing the AACSmen on the country in which they would operate, and on the delicacy of their mission. The men had been selected for their discretion and intelligence. It was decided, in order to carry out the neutral aspects of the mission, so far as possible, that all the AACSmen would be on per diem—$7 per day, or billet and $3—and would have a choice of five Stockholm restaurants.
By the first day of December, the project had worked its way up to the King and a favorable reply was expected momentarily. But still i! did not come. When it did, it was unexpected and unfavorable! Sweden could not tolerate an independent communications station on neutral soil. In a conciliatory counterproposal, however, it was suggested that a communications and a weather section be attached to the office of the American Ministry's Air Attache. Before Christmas, however. Sweden gave permission for radio equipment to enter the country, pro vided Swedish operators under American instructors were employed. So, on the 23d of December, the Sonnie detachment began to set up the English end of the Sonnie airway, which had now been moved to Metfield.
All through January and February, AACS waited. Diplomatic bar tering between Washington and Stockholm went on and on. In March, the project began to stir again. Authorization was given for the detai h ment to move into Sweden. The deft AACSmen set the Sonnifl slatinn in Stockholm on the air with precision and despatch. Radio range and
fan marker went into operation on the 22d. Four days later, contact was made over point-to-point, with both Meeks and Metfield—and the Swedish airway was open.
In spite of the hostility in Spain and the indifference in Portugal, airway invasion of the Iberian peninsula was consummated with more despatch. No sooner had V-E Day swept into history than General Eyster, presented to AACS the European theatre's redeployment plans. Three great ports—Le Havre, Cherbourg, and Antwerp—were to serve as ports of embarkation for the United States. A fourth, Marseilles, was to serve as the POE (Port of Embarkation) for the Pacific. AACS was already installed in, or near, all four of these places. It had, besides, a strong station at Reims, which was destined to become a principal AAF deployment center. The need now was to tie southern France, Italy, and the Balkans into the European airways system. This was done by the transfer of the 58th Group into the 5th Wing.
The redeployment route to the Pacific, however, extended through Marseilles directly to North Africa, and then east across Africa, and south to CBI and Australia. What was needed was way stations between southern France and northern Africa. For direct flight, the airways should pass through Spain and Portugal. This time, diplomacy moved rapidly, and by the 18th of May AACS officers were in Madrid surveying the site for proposed AACS stations. They came prepared to do more than survey. They took with them a 32 RA transmitter, and immediately established contact with Marseilles, despite a Spanish attempt to confiscate the equipment. The days of handling Spain with kid gloves were over.
Quickly, three stations, known together as the Iberian project, were placed in operation. At Lisbon, point-to-point contact with Paris was established, and complete navigational and weather-intercept facilities installed. Madrid became a similar airways station, but with an additional direct connection to the African Wing's headquarters station at Casablanca. Finally, on the island of Majorca, off the eastern coast of Spain, a way station between Marseilles and Port Lyautey in North Africa was activated.
Now another one of those miracles developed, one that had its small share in hastening the Mikado's capitulation. Known merely as the Green and White projects, these operations covered procedures for redeployment of troops and aircraft. Under the Green Project, 50,000 troops a month were to be returned to the United States from the European, Mediterranean, and CBI theatres, via North Africa and the Azores or South America. Many preciOUl human lives were at stake. Together, the 5th and 2d AACS Wings planned, revised, and installed
equipment and procedures to guard trebly the airways over which our troops would travel. This mass hegira was unparalleled in human history.
Nor was the White Project much less remarkable. It covered the movement of combat aircraft from the European theatre of operations to the Pacific. This went off without a hitch. Over America's broad world highways in the sky Allied air power moved smoothly. Military historians could record much later one of the logistic wonders of all warfare. Never before had so much combat power been moved so far, so quickly.
Both the Green Project and the White Project were made possible by the AACS. It was a job with little glory for the AACSmen, and some irony. As one of them put it, "Imagine being in the position of despatching thousands of men homeward—if only for a furlough—while you still sweat it out." If there was reason to gripe to Drew Pearson and to Congressmen on slowness of separation, it could have been done as convincingly by AACSmen as by men anywhere in the armed forces. "Here I sit," they might have written, "in this God-forsaken desert outpost without a thing to do, and the Army won't send me home." But the average AACSman understands his job too well. He knows that not a single dit or dah that comes into his headset may concern him for five straight days and nights, but that he is the plane's insurance against that emergency moment when only the speed of radio can save lives and aircraft.
Therefore, with exceedingly rare exceptions, the AACSman sits at his monotonous post, patiently, uncomplainingly, watching everyone go home, looking at the stars and citations which are on other men's breasts, and which he can't have only because by a peculiar quirk of Army Regulations he happened to be assigned for rations and admin istration to the wrong organization, or because his listening post is located a degree or two on the near side of an arbitrarily selected latitude line.
No one, however, could take away the glory of these highways in the sky. They were a permanent monument to the devoted AACSmen. And when the time came for redeployment to the Pacific, for the final blow against the remaining Axis member, there in the sky were those highways that the little yellow men had never quite been able to inn tate. And that was one of the differences between victory and defeat.
Grand strategy had dictated liquidation of the European Axis first. When, however, resources became sufficient to shift from defense to offense against the enemy in the Pacific, a great pincers movement was conceived, with one claw coming up from Australia and the other closing across China. By the beginning of 1944, the China claw was far behind the Australian. There were reasons for that.
The G.I. in CBI (China-Burma-India) had an unprintable appellation for his theatre. He knew that somehow China, Burma, and India had not captured the imagination of either the War Department or the American public. They were too far away—farther than any other theatre. It was a British theatre of operations, fundamentally, so recognized by mutual agreement between the Allies. It was the tail end of a very long supply route, 13,000 miles away, no matter how you figured it or routed your convoy—at least, so long as the Mediterranean was un-navigable. At the height of Axis submarine successes the route was New York to Panama, to Australia, to Calcutta or Karachi. On a Liberty ship, that often meant 100 days, and sometimes never. Coming up the Indian Ocean, for example, Jap surface and aircraft, based on Sumatra, lay in waiting. These hazards were reflected in the extreme shortages of men and materials with which the Americans attempted to help the British hem in the almost unbelievable advances of the Japanese ground forces.
At the beginning of 1944, we had changed over to offense everywhere in the world except in CBI. There, still, we were just hanging on. Virtually all of Burma was now in the enemy's hands. India was in greater danger than ever. Momentarily, it was half expected, China might drop out of the war. The immediate effort must consist of keeping China in the war, of keeping Japan out of India. After that, Burma must be retaken, as the first step in the long road back to Singapore, and as the only assurance that we could supply China. For with the Burma Road closed, the only way over the highest mountains in the
world was by air. And as yet, only b trickle oi materials needed to keep
China in the light was coming acioss the I lump loan the Indian side.
By the end of 1943, a courageous but pitifully small army of AACS-men had built a narrow road over the Hump. On this shaky highway in the sky, the Air Transport Command and other AAF agencies were beginning to move supplies and men to Chiang Kai Shek. Starting at Karachi, the entrance to the CBI theatre, the Hump highway stretched in unbroken links through Jodhpur, New Delhi, Lalmanir Hat, Chabua, and over the Himalayas to Kunming It had been a roadbuilding feat without precedent, and in the best American pioneer tradition. Too much cannot be written in praise about these early uncited AACSmen who built under the most trying of conditions. But the time had now come for something more than an oxcart trail in the sky. If anything like the supply demanded by the increasingly precarious conditions in China was to be achieved, a broad superartery over the Hump was immediately necessary. But the possibility of such a need had not been altogether ignored.
At the Asheville world conference, while Farman was redeploying his resources, the CBI had not failed to come in for the long-delayed attention. As a first step, Farman named Colonel Albert J. Mandelbaum, a West Pointer, and an experienced communications officer, to assume command of the Fourth AACS Wing. Mandy, as he became affectionately known to his men, was just the commander for the situation. He believed strongly in service, even if regulation had to be circumvented. The tactical-airways distinction would influence him not at all. From the start, he made it clear that the AACS was in the war to help win it, and that his Fourth Wing would serve not only Air Transport Command, which had taken over the Hump supply mission, but also Combat Cargo, the 10th and 14th Air Forces, the American and British ground forces, and anyone else on our side who had a need for airways communications.
Upon arrival in CBI, Mandelbaum energetically tackled the bottlenecks, and began building highways in the sky at a furious rate. Impressed by the vigor of his procedures, Conas stepped up its allocations of equipment and manpower to the point where CBI was rivalling Blake's Pacific wing for over-all strength. To begin with, Mandy con centrated on the Hump, determined once and for all to make flying that perilous route the safest aeronautical experience in the world. As early as 1942, his predecessor, Walter Berg, had seen that what was most needed was a station, part way up the Himalayas, in Burma, to support the long strand from Chabua, on the Assam side, to Kunming on the China side. Berg's answer had been Fori licit/, but as I .at Hertz had been surrounded by the enemy, the AACSmen had been forced to abandon the station after a month'l operation.
In November, 1943, however, the AACSmen came back and wrote one of the epics in their long series of adventures. The Japs were still strongly entrenched around Fort Hertz, sitting astride the only road into it. But by flying their supplies in and parachuting them, the AACSmen were able to hold on to their station, providing an extra bit of guidance for the pilots flying the Hump. From this station, WUTI, high in the Himalayas, the AACSmen did one of those jobs that became the subject of so many sequences in Milt CanifFs "Terry and the Pirates." Indeed, AACSmen all over the world have been deeply grateful to Caniff for lending one bit of glamor to the AACS job that was otherwise completely overlooked.
Right from the start, Fort Hertz paid dividends in planes and lives saved. Once aircraft flew out of the range of Chabua or Kunming facilities, high over the Himalayas, it was reassuring to be able to pick up WUTI. Fort Hertz' homing beacon filled the gap in the airways over the Hump. What was more, the AACS station became a haven at least once a week for bedraggled, jungle-weary crew members forced to bail out, either by the inclement weather or by the waylaying Jap. At such times, the little AACS station would look like nothing so much as the Sunday comic strip, with a motley crowd of tired bearded Hot Shots and Terrys clustered about C-rations and waiting for word over the radio of WUTI.
Obviously, it was not in the interest of the enemy to permit Fort Hertz to operate so audaciously in the midst of territory definitely Japanese. Having eliminated it once, Jap airpower went to work again, this time determined to wipe Fort Hertz off the map for good. So vicious did these attacks become that Zeros would follow American transports right into Fort Hertz. One unarmed cargo plane was shot to pieces right over the AACS station, but the crew escaped. Steadily the situation became more difficult. Unless help could come soon, Fort Hertz would again have to be evacuated. Inevitably, these vicious air attacks must be followed up by ground forces.
That day came. A transport flew in and announced that a convoy of fifty trucks packed tight with Jap soldiers was snaking its way up the tortuous road from Sumprabun. Immediately the AACSmen got on their keys and tapped out. a warning to the American fighter base at Sadiya, near Chabua. The 10th Air Force responded promptly, and a flight of P-40's took oil. Flying the AACS beam they came over Fort HeitZ and headed out toward the |ap convoy. The Japs were taken Completely by surprise, tmckl and men were splattered all over the mountainside AACSmen travelling Olll loan I'.al Hertz a lew davs
later, hw fot themielvei the .town [tp vehiclei and bodies.
But something more permanent than that was needed if the highway in the sky into Chiang's China was to be maintained. Once and for all, the Japs must be driven out of North Burma. Toward the middle of spring, 1944, General Stilwell prepared to open his long-delayed offensive. Anticipating this, the Japs, as if intending to throw Stilwell off balance, suddenly lunged across the border into India. From what appeared at first to be merely a defensive offense, the Japs, who soon showed they had not forgotten the tactics that had brought them such startling successes in Southeast Asia, developed a dangerous full-scale offensive. The thrust was aimed at cutting the Assam-Bengal single-track railroad that connected the Calcutta port of debarkation with Chabua. The immediate objective was the Indian city of Imphal, to which the British now rushed reinforcements.
But the Jap drive engulfed Imphal first, placing that city under siege. Inside the besieged city were the only three American soldiers in this primarily British sector of the theatre. But these three Americans were important far beyond their numbers. They were AACSmen. The single officer and two enlisted men went on the air with a homing beacon. In spite of everything the Japs could do to knock them out, these three AACSmen kept that beacon on to guide aircraft of the RAF and the 10th Air Force in. Isolated and under siege, the men of Conas remained at their post, hour after hour, receiving their supplies from the air. Even the gasoline needed for their power units was parachuted to them in five-gallon fuel cans. That homing beacon paid off! Flying the beam straight and sure, the RAF and the 10th teamed up to give the Jap ground forces a thorough going over.
Meanwhile, the British 14th Army, thirsting for revenge after a long war of defeat, opened a tremendous drive, not directly to Imphal, but between the Jap army and its rear supply. Nothing could stop the irresistible power of those determined Tommies as they isolated the whole Jap army in India, cut it up into separate segments, and then liqui dated it. The Japs had suffered their first catastrophic defeat in south east Asia. India was safe, and would never again be threatened.
But more, Stilwell's rear had been secured and now his offense could roll. By May 21, General Stilwell's army was proceeding speedily down the Hukawng and Mokaung valleys toward the important northern Burma center of Myikitina. If the Burma highways, both in the sky and on land, were ever to function as supply routes to China, Myikitina would have to be taken. Stilwell dashed brilliantly to the northern out skirts and gained temporary control of a |ap fighter strip there, [mitlf diately, an AACS detachment was down in from Chabua, and sunn an AACS station was operating from the cockpit of a wrecked C 47.
The Japs, however, recovering from the shock of Stilwell's fast onslaught, rallied and recaptured part of the air strip. A seesaw battle, one of the fiercest of the war, lasting for nearly two months, developed. Along with Chinese, British, and other American troops, the AACSmen dug in, sandbagging their flimsy installation, and scampering for foxholes only when airways service was not required by Allied planes. At such times, AACSmen Burke, Lundy, Kittleson, Jones, and Schwim-mer would make a concerted dive for the dugout, some twenty yards away. "The fastest mud-churners in Burma," they called themselves. During all that time, the issue remained in doubt. The Japs were determined to hold on to Myikitina, which by now began to appear in American radio commentators' vocabulary as "Mikitina" and finally received its correct pronunciation as "Mishinaw."
During a particularly strong enemy counterattack, when it appeared as if we would at last lose the all-important strip, AACSmen, caught in the crossfire of no-man's land, scrambled into their tower to warn off all our approaching planes. It was a heroic bit of business. During the height of directing traffic under fire, one of the AACSmen became aware of the presence of an outsider in the tower. He was about to order him out when he looked up into the face of General Stilwell. The General smiled and said, "Good work, men," and then left. Steadily the tide of battle turned in our favor. From their Foxhole Tower, which the five AACSmen renamed "Sucker's Roost," more and more Allied air power was directed to the battlefield. Gradually the Japs' hold began to slip, Myikitina was taken, and Stilwell's army gained its greatest victory. All five AACSmen were decorated for their part, and to their commanding officer went this letter from Brigadier General Russell A. Randall of the 10th Air Force: "I desire to commend the AACS detachment which planned and brought into execution operation of the Myikitina air strip under the most difficult and hazardous conditions."
Now, with Myikitina secure, General Stilwell resumed his smashing drive. It was a race with the oncoming monsoon. The General was determined to reopen the supply route into China. Following the successful pattern already established at Myikitina, Stilwell reached forward and seized air strips, first, from which his air force could operate. In each of these air strips, the AACSmen moved in ahead of all other Air Forces personnel, steadily improving their skill in these mobile operations and reducing the time between their arrival and the first moment they were on the air.
With every new AACS installation, our fighter and bomber aircraft extended their range behind the enemy's lines, crumpling Jap logistics, and isolating their advanced outposts. With the 530th Fighter Bomber
Group, for example, AACS established facilities at Warazup. At Main-kgwan, another AACS detachment was marooned for awhile, operating "homing" for the 10th Air Force. But Stilwell's advance surged on. The monsoon rains began. Everywhere roads became quagmires. Having caught the spirit of the General's drive, the men of Conas worked like demons to cut down the time that elapsed from the moment the ground forces cleared a landing strip until the air forces could begin operating from it. Everywhere the teamwork was improving, and it was showing in the way the AACS installations were clicking.
Toward the end of June, the AACSmen put the Ledo station on the air. There, doughty American engineers, hewing the new spur out of the most rugged jungle and hill country to be found anywhere, effected a juncture with the old Burma Road. We were now ready to supply China, by land. But we were now also able to supply China by air, in unprecedented volume. The AACS was spinning across the Hump with unbelievable industry. Instead of one lone supplementary beacon, at Fort Hertz, there were now dozens of the most advanced types of airways facilities. Within a single 100-mile stretch in Assam there had sprung up eleven different navigational aids, one for every 10 miles. These included homing beacons, holding points, traffic control, approach control, ranges, Loran, and direction finders. Instead of one Hump highway, there were now seven. Between Calcutta and Kunming, a distance approximately the same as between Los Angeles and Seattle, the AACS was operating some 450 different airways facilities. As a new twist, in September of 1944, the AACS decided to relieve pilots from the monotonous chore of listening to dah-dah-dah over the long Calcutta-Kunming flight, by broadcasting over the homing fre quencies musical and other programs. Thus homing with jive became a feature of Hump flying, rendered still more novel during early Octo ber with a play-by-play broadcast of the World Series.
While all this was happening on the Indian side of the Hump, how ever, things were not going too well in China. From the original three AACS stations at Kunming, Yangkai, and Yunnanyi, the airway strands stretched eastward toward enemy territory. Complying with General Chennault's request for his 14th Air Force, AACS set up stations at Hengyang and Kweilin, from which the reimforced Flying Tigers might take off for strikes against Japanese shipping in the China sea. Activa tion of these stations was history-making for the AACSmen in more than one sense. These stations were clearly tactical. No transport was involved. They were exclusively for combat use. Four more stations followed at Suichwan, Sichow, Luichow, ami llsinching From these six stations the CBI claw moved nearei !<> a juncture with the I'... |fl<
claw than ever before. But we had not the logistics to support this optimistic advance.
From March to May, the Japs opened furiously on all six stations, bombing them mercilessly from the air. It was all easily recognizable as the softening-up process for the ground forces. Then, in May, while the British were busy around Imphal, and General Stilwell was having his hands full at Myikitina, the Jap ground forces launched a powerful offensive from Changsha, immediately menacing Suichwan and Hengyang. A mighty Jap bomber force, opening up on Hengyang, flattened the AACS station. But the AACSmen came back and rebuilt with unbelievable rapidity, only to have their new effort knocked out, too. But each time after one of these innumerable bombings the men of Conas would scamper out of their foxholes and go back into business for General Chennault's 14th, in a matter of hours. Five of the AACSmen volunteered to operate an air warning system perilously close to the Jap lines, and to act as observers of enemy ground movements.
Heroism and industry, without supply, are not enough. On May 4, the Japs hit Hengyang very hard, knocking out the AACS tower and wrecking the homing transmitter building. An AACSman was killed in the action. All facilities went off the air—but not for long. Amidst death and destruction, the AACSmen worked with their shattered equipment, tears in their eyes, vowing no Jap could keep them off the air for long. In twelve hours' time, improvising with the true Ham's instinct as they never had before, Hengyang went back on the air, to the enemy's consternation.
Nor was Hengyang's situation unique. In every one of the other stations, the scene was being repeated without variation. At Suichwan, the AACSmen were bombed from point-blank range of forty feet and strafed by flights of as many as seventy Zeros at a time. But the real threat was to the Erh Tong and Yang Tong airfields, at Kweilin, the biggest of all the advanced American bases in eastern China. There, in spite of bombing and shelling, the AACSmen dug in and held on through the monsoon, the only thing that could delay the inevitable.
This race, however, went against us. When the monsoon lifted, in September, the Hump supply route had not yet begun to catch up with the China requirements. Chinese forces steadily gave way before the advancing Japanese army, and on the 14th the enemy began its occupation oi Kweilin. A thorough job of destruction had been completed, before, by the retreating ('hinese American troops. To the last, the
AACSmen stayed on, clearing all aircraft from the field but one. Then they destroyed all radio equipment and ciphering devices before embarking on the remaining plane. It had been a bittei deleat loi US.
In October, Liuchow fell before the oncoming little yellow men. We simply didn't have what it took to hold. They followed that by opening up on Nanning, softening it for the ground troops to take in November. It was the third American base in China to fall within six weeks. The enemy became steadily bolder. They bombed Chengkung in December, and opened up on Suichwan with daily raids that ominously foretold the fate of that base. Then, just before Christmas, the Japs bombed, deep in China, the American headquarters at Kunming, first on the 22d and again on the 24th. The situation was growing steadily more grave in China.
Repeated bombings, throughout December and January, were gradually wearing down the courageous band of American troops at Suichwan. The fierceness of these raids had finally rendered the AACS homer completely unreliable. AACS reinforcements were flown in from Kunming in an attempt to bolster up at least the airways station at Suichwan. For a few days it looked as if the 14th and its Chinese allies might yet hold on until large-scale help could come from the other side of the Hump. Progress was made on both the homer and the tower, but the Japanese advance would not be halted. Pushing the Chinese ground forces steadily back, the Japs advanced on Suichwan. In Kunming, AACS headquarters got the sad news, cryptically:
"No dice. The Japs are too powerful in these parts."
On January 22, evacuation was ordered. In relays, AACSmen were flown out of the conflagration, along with other personnel, all except the tower men. They stayed on amid ricocheting bullets until all but the last plane had taken off. Then, deliberately dismantling and destroying the station they had worked so hard to build, they took off in the remaining C-47, plane No. 384 of the 322nd Troop Carrier Squadron. Presumably. Luliang was the destination. But this last ship no longer had an AACS station at Suichwan to guide it along a well-marked highway in tin-sky. Bad weather drove the plane off the course, and in the face of a dwindling fuel supply the men bailed out. Separately they floated down to earth in a very mountainous, rough country. Darkness and a drizzling rain slowed their march. Just before dawn, they came upon a lonely farm house. Its occupants proved to be friendly Chinese who offered them rice and told them they were near the border of French Indo China. Aided by Chinese civilians, soldiers, and partisans, tin- men made their way, after a 2-day march through very rough country, to Poseh, where they were picked up by an American plane and Mown to Kunming.
That marked the low point for us in China. F.ven thin the situation was beginning to change rapidly in our favor. During the mOniOOn
AACSmen had been assigned to train with commando and ranger units, to prepare for the coming offensives in Burma and elsewhere. Once and for all, Colonel Mandelbaum had assumed tactical responsibility within the AACS, by activating the 1st AACS Tactical Group. This Group, later redesignated the 69th in the AACS world family, now began a significant relationship with the new 20th Bomber Command. The 20th was charged with the operation of the new, big superforts.
As early as December, 1943, work had begun on enlarging runways to accommodate the new behemoths of the air. At Chakulia, Kharagpur, Kalaikunda, and Hijli in India, and at Hsinching and other places in China, hundreds of thousands of natives labored on the landing fields like so many locusts. By operation time, additional stations had been established at Dudkundi and Piardoba in India, at China Bay in Ceylon, and at Pengshan, Kwanghan, Kiunglai, Paoning, Paishiu, and Ipin in China. Accent on navigational aids to direct the superforts over the long routes to the Jap targets and back was the order of the day.
Among these stations, Suining, near the enemy lines, is worth singling out for citation. There the AACSmen crowded around their CW positions listening for the code word "Betty," indicating that the superforts they had just guided out past the China Sea were over target in the heart of Japan, letting the enemy have a dose of what they had been handing out for so long. Then came the long journey back. The super-fort crews soon learned to take comfort from the knowledge that they were not flying back alone with their rapidly diminishing fuel supply. All through east China, as at Suining, AACSmen were following their every move with the wonders of radar and radio navigational aids. There sat the AACSmen, headsets clamped tight to their ears, sweating out every mile of the trip back with the planes. Time and again, with bad weather closing in all around him and his men, weary from the long flight to target, the pilot would lose his way. Then his radio operator would hit the key. Instantly AACSmen would sprint to alert the D/F net. In a matter of seconds, the bearing would come over clear and crisp, a shot in the arm to the dog-tired men aloft. Then the AACS-man would guide the pilot, with fuel low, and perhaps an engine missing, to Suining, the emergency strip just over the enemy line. There, with the field closed in so thick with fog that landing appeared to mean certain death, GCA would take over, and the smooth, calm voice of the AACS Controller would confidently talk the superfort down to a perfect landing. As the weak and grateful crew stepped out of their plane, they were met by AACSmen with food from their own meager supply. These simple beginnings in CBI, grew ami transferred to Sai-pan. whence the homeland of tin- enemy was steadily pounded.
Gradually, through 1944 and into 1945, the CBI theatre began to develop the punch for the final knockout blow. As Stilwell swept through North Burma, the British 14th Army moved up through southern Burma. With them moved the tactical detachments of the AACS. Liaison was established with the Combat Cargo Task Force which was supplying the British 14th, and for which AACS now provided airways communications. By December of 1944, the British had a full-scale offensive smashing ahead. Advancing from the Tiddim area in West Burma, along the Myikitina-Mandalay railroad, the 14th soon began turning over landing strips to the AACS, much as Stilwell had done in northern Burma. The monsoon training of the AACS tactical units now paid dividends.
In record time, the AACSmen had planes flying safely in and out of the landing strips wrested from the enemy only a few hours before. Indainggale in the west, Mawlin in the center, Momauk, Nansin, and Bhamo in the east, all fell in rapid succession. Before long, the British were knocking at the gates of Mandalay itself, and the Japanese army in Burma was doomed. So rapid was the advance that the AACSmen would go into full operation with Japs all around them. At Meik-tila, for example, Lieutenant Ball Green in the AACS tower, a crack-shot from way back, casually talking into the mike, would warn an approaching plane "to hold" for a few minutes, and then just as casually walk to the edge of his bamboo crow's nest, aim his carbine, and pick off a Jap suicide expert waiting at the end of the runwav with a hand grenade to blow himself up with the approaching plane.
These were a few of the heroics performed in the CBI theatre, not only by AACS men, but also by other American, British, Anzac, and Indian troops. As the end of the war approached, the CBI claw may not have appeared to be as sensational as the Pacific claw, but it was surely contributing to the effectiveness of the great pincers on Tokyo.
Bv the beginning of 1943, the Pacific claw was definitely commencing to take shape. From Hawaii, AACS had thrown a lifeline to Australia that followed the stepping-stone islands of Christmas, Canton, Nandi, and New Caledonia, to Brisbane. At New Caledonia, the web had be gun to spin toward the enemy, taking hold on the islands of Efate, Es piritu Santo, and the but recently Jap-held Solomon island of Cuadal canal. Likewise, at Brisbane, the web had swept north along the coast of Australia and inland, to span the Torres Strait over to Port Moresby, Papua. From there, following a brilliant thrust across the Owen Stanley Range, the Allies had taken the Jap strongholds in the buna (!oni area
Steadily, the Allied operation was shifting from what Admiral King aptly called the offensive-defensive stage to the full offensive.
Before the complete offensive could begin, however, preparations in the rear woidd require more time. In these preparations, AACS had its assignment. Needed, first of all, was a stronger lifeline from Airways Z.I. to the fighting fronts. As a step in further strengthening the main-land-to-Hawaii link, Army, Navy, and civilian agencies combined to organize two Oceanic Air Traffic Centers, one at San Francisco and the other at Hickam. Each agency was assigned a major responsibility, and to the AACS went designation as the communications unit for these new OATC's.
Next, Wing Commander Blake turned his attention to the long Hawaii-Australia link. To keep it from sagging in the middle, additional island stepping stones were activated. These were especially important as emergency landing fields, in case a plane overshot one of the main island bases, and just in case the Japs happened to knock out one of the main stations. Seven such auxiliary centers were established, primarily for the ATC ferry route to New Zealand, but also for NATS, the Naval Air Transport Service. They included Aitutaki, in the Cook Islands; Penhrvn, south of Christmas on the Christmas-Canton leg; Bora Bora, south and east in the Society Islands; Tutuila, in the Samoan Group; the French island of Wallis; the British island of Funafuti, in the Ellice Islands; and Kipapa, on Oahu in the Hawaiians. Except for the last, all the new stations lay along the ATC Ferry route to New Zealand and Australia, functioned as emergency stations for aircraft off course, and served as weather-reporting and navigational-aid centers to reen-force the main stepping stones.
For the AACSmen at these auxiliary stations, life could hardly have been described as exciting. Take WYVJ, at Penhryn, as a typical example. It went on the air April 10, 1943, as a reserve base to handle the overflow of aircraft traffic from the main Oahu-Christmas-Canton-Fiji-Australia route, and to act as a safety valve in the event of a full-scale Tap attack on Canton. Except for occasional C-47 stopovers on the Penhryn-Aitutaki-Bora-Bora milk run, there was little traffic. No Army, Navy, or Marine fighter or bomber units were based there. The New Zealanders did have a tower which the AACS took over, and later a homing beacon was added, but as time went on, traffic dropped so considerably that it was deemed safe to reduce the 24-hour watch to 17&. However, the AACSmen closed their eyes to the isolation, and performed their daily routine in comparative enjoyment. The island was only four miles long but it had a reputation lor its 7500-foot runway, the second longest landing strip in the Pacific in those days. The na
tives, mostly Polynesians, were hospitable, and the men traded with them and fished for pearls.
Somewhat different was the situation on Tutuila and Funafuti. Although far south of Hawaii, these islands were in the main line of ATC travel, for both the Southwest Ferry Route and combat operations soon to be directed at the Central Pacific. Tutuila had been an active Navy base since 1902, and at the outbreak of World War II the Marines arrived, followed by an AACS detachment. Jointly, at first, the Marines and the AACS worked the control-tower, which subsequently became the sole responsibility of the latter. Funafuti, likewise a Navy base, and the most northwesterly station yet activated, handled traffic for both the Royal New Zealand Air Force and NATS. With the opening of the Central Pacific campaign, it became a staging area for the 7th Air Force's later strikes.
Gradually the American forces were gathering strength on the perimeter of the enemy sphere. As supply lines tightened, materials and men began moving over them. All through the early part of 1943, the Allies held on to their airways and made ready for the first big offensive smash straight west across the Pacific. The opening blow was aimed at the Gilbert Islands, which had been occupied by the enemy in their first sweep down the Pacific, early in 1942. These islands represented the outer frontier of Jap aggression east toward Hawaii. Late in the summer, an AACS detachment moved quietly onto tiny unoccupied Baker Island, 450 miles closer to the Gilberts than Canton.
And then American air power opened up. The objectives were the three Gilbert Islands of Tarawa, Makin, and Apamama. Teaming up magnificently, bombers and fighters of the 7th Air Force and tactical elements of the Navy and Marine air arms flew the AACS beam into the heart of the Jap Gilbert defenses. It was full scale, all out, and a taste of things to come in ever-increasing intensity. As this offensive rose to a flaming crescendo, on D minus one, that fired the enemv islands from beach to beach, the Navy moved in with a task force, which stood oil Tarawa and hurled barrage after barrage into the coastal defenses.
On November 20th, the Army landed on Makin, and the Marines on Tarawa. Terrific battles followed as the Pacific war took its first large toll of American fighting men. Tarawa, especially, was bitterly con tested, causing more casualties than any single battle in the Pacific before. But both defenses cracked, and the American forces moved to secure not only these two islands, but Apamama as well. On Decern
ber 16, the first contingent of AACSmen waded ashore on Tarawa I.....•
their landing barges. Working in ami out of foxholes, the men oi Come, soon had their facilities on the air. But keeping them on the air wai not
easy. The Marines had succeeded in securing the island, but neighboring islands in the Gilberts were still beehives of enemy activity, and from these continued to come nuisance raids until the 7th Air Force had finished the last remaining Mitsubishi. When that happened, WVNE on Tarawa, NDN on Makin, and NDG on Apamama became as tight a little net on these recently held Japanese islands as could be found farther back.
The spider was weaving now. Entangled as the Gilberts were, that was nothing compared to what was to follow. Our strength had been tested, and found sufficient for victory. The next move could be taken. Farther west in the Pacific, and now definitely pointing toward Tokyo, were Japan's own island possessions in the Marshalls. At the end of World War I, these had been mandated to Japan, along with the Carolines and the Marianas, as a reward for siding with us against the Germans. There had been those who had argued against giving the Mikado's militarists this advantage in the Pacific, but their arguments had gone as unheard as the subsequent scrap iron sales to Japan had gone unnoticed! So here was Japan, firmly entrenched in these outpost atolls which provided an outer bulwark for her great naval base at Truk.
No sooner had our footholds in the Gilberts been secured than we began to leapfrog. There was no sense in taking every last atoll in the Gilberts. Let the Japs there rot while we bypassed them. And so the 7th Air Force, flying out on the new highways in the sky leading west from Tarawa and Makin and Apamama, opened up on the Marshall atolls of Kwajalein and Majuro. Possession of these two centers of enemy concentration, strategically situated midway in the group, on the eastern and western flanks, would mean cutting the Marshall area in half and providing a direct, exposed approach to Truk. For a solid month, therefore, all through January, Majuro and Kwajalein were subjected to daily bombing and strafing, and on the very first day of February, Majuro was invaded. Quickly, on the very ne.:t day, three more islands—Kwajalein, Namur, and Roi—were attacked. All were conquered fairly easily, except Kwajalein, where considerable opposition developed. But on the 5th, it too was declared captured. Then, on the 18th, the Marines went ashore on Eniwetok, at the northwest end of the Croup, really far out and now pointing relentlessly toward the heart of the Japanese sphere.
All armed forces units were learning rapidly. AACSmen, like the rest, were gaining skill with each operatiom, and as task force followed task force, AACS detachments steadily cut down the time between initial lending and "on the air," At Kwajalein, the AACSmen made it
U. S. Army III i
Control-tower operator in charge of traffic at Kwajalein Island aula Id in the South Pacific, watches plane take off.
D plus three and on Eniwetok D plus five. But these numbers wen days, and the time would come when the AACSmen could couul I) plus hours and later D plus minutes. On Kwajalein, the original loi | tion of NDJ5 was in a receiver truck, with the transmitter set up ovet Jap pill box that had suffered unusually heavy fire. No fewci thitII forty Jap bodies were hauled out of that particular pill box befon 11 AACSmen could put their station on the air. Al Eniwetok, point III point and air/ground positions were installed in the back "I .. tmllei
followed by the installation of a temporary tower, n homing I........
and, finally, a radio range. Kniwetok was now the spider's oulpoNl mill from it the strand began to weave nut over the I'.i. ill. Bgolll evet Wi ' and north. Steadily the web was wrapping Up the Machill. foi ill livery to the Allies, Steadily the spidei kept on with his \\. m In
Here, now, was a Central Pacific route such as Blake had surveyed and contemplated before Pearl Harbor. It had been won at great cost, but it could now begin to be used. On tiny Johnston Island, a United States possession which somehow had escaped the fate of Midway, Wake, and Guam, a midocean station was now activated to cut the overwater distance from Hawaii to the newly won islands. Although Johnston was primarily a Navy base, AACS undertook to provide for NATS the type of transport communications facilities it had already so frequently provided for ATC before.
Meanwhile, the advance across the Central Pacific had begun to take on the character of one claw in a rapidly developing pincer within a pincer. For, coming up from Guadalcanal, was a comparable offensive which threatened to clamp the Japs in a vice. During the early months of 1943, the combat around Henderson Tower steadily diminished, in spite of furtive raids by the dwindling Jap airforce. Ground activity had reduced itself to sporadic firing from occasional snipers, and even the daily air bombardments were beginning to lose their punch. So in July, Station WYVM, except for Henderson Tower, hauled up stakes and moved to.Carney airstrip, thirteen miles away. A new fifty-foot tower was built there, homing and range were installed, and an airways station, with one air/ground and four point-to-point positions, was put into operation.
To all outward appearances, Guadalcanal station took on the semblance of an Airways Z.I. center. Two satellite stations, at Koli, and Kukum, were added; and the last word in modern convenience was introduced with an air-conditioned stucco building, well-equipped day room, motor pool, and heavily stocked PX. Finally, radio teletype came to the Canal, creating a net-control high-speed center on the Hickam-Port Moresby-Espiritu Santo-New Caledonia circuit. And on the personnel side, Guadalcanal detachment grew from the original cadre of 20, in 1942, to 220 in 1944. Before peace finally settled on the famous island, however, one more rough clash with the enemy occurred, at the very end of 1943. Fifteen Mitsubishi bombers, coming in on a surprise raid, straddled the Carney Tower with a stick of bombs, destroying a B-24 and badly damaging a B-25. That tower raid was the last. The enemy was being kept too busy elsewhere.
With such a strong installation on Guadalcanal, that island base enuld be used for launching a series of task-force operations. Plans for the Ihst <>f these were laid in July of 1943. As part of a Navy-conceived operation. AACS despatched by air. from Tontouta to Guadalcanal, five officers and nineteen enlisted men with the necessary equipment to set up a new airways station nearer to the enemy. Under the com-
mand of Captain George L. Jesse, the AACSmen spent their waiting time checking their equipment and rehearsing for the landing. Final supplies were drawn, and the AACSmen were attached to Navy task force group, Acorn 8.
While the detachment continued to assemble its equipment, a call came from a bomber squadron for a radio operator to "stand in" on a raid over the large Jap airdrome at Buka, off the coast of Bougainville. AACSman radio operator Sergeant Ranier Payton volunteered. Though strictly a ground operator, with no air crew or gunnery training, Pay-ton gave a good account of himself. But the B-17 in which he flew was riddled by an enemy night fighter and burst into flames over the target. This first AACS casualty had a grim effect on his fellow AACSmen as they loaded on their Navy LST. They knew, then, they were headed for Munda on New Georgia Island.
From the standpoint of public relations, the Munda operation was destined to give the "sensitive," shielded-from-publicity, cipher-handling AACS its first news break, Stateside. The magazine Time outdid itself, and for once did not call the AACS the "ATC communications." On August 8th, the little detachment of twenty men, with its six truck loads of equipment, shoved off to Sasavele and then proceeded by LCT to Munda. Rain and fog hid their movement and, after about twenty seven hours at sea, they scrambled ashore on Liana Beach in the mid die of an air attack. The AACSmen, being the first Air Forces unit to reach the island, lost no time in going to work so that their colleagues might follow with despatch. Within a half-mile of Jap guns, under the most hazardous conditions, they installed their equipment. As many as ten air raids a day were directed against them, and one bomb made a direct hit on the sick bay. But the AACSmen plugged ahead, not tak ing time even to look up at the dog fights overhead between Navy Corsairs and Zeros.
Finally, the antennae were up, the transmitters and receivers con nected, and the AACSmen were ready to open for business. The si a tion was only five hundred feet behind the front line, just north ol Biblo Hill and the Munda airstrip. Two rough tents, and a rough log barricade bolstered by a dirt pile thrown up behind it, were the only housing. The logs were fastened together with large iron staples ob tained from Jap revetments. Air/ground worked perfectly, but con siderable difficulty was experienced in raising WYVM on Guadalcanal
with the point-to-point. Finally, the Munda AACSmen got
with their first message to the Canal, notifying them that WYVB wax in the net. The important Munda station in the highways of the Pacific sky forged another link in a decisive chain ol center.
As the Navy sped completion of the landing strip, traffic soared. As many as forty-eight planes at a time began to come in, giving the AACS tower, as well as other facilities, a real workout. Rapidly Munda developed into a major advanced station on the highway in the sky, which was now reaching out irresistibly into Jap territory.
The spider was spinning once more. With each new Naval leapfrog, the AACS bug carried a strand which steadily threatened to enmesh the bewildered enemy. After Munda came Segi Point, fifty miles away on the southern end of New Georgia, which did a land-office business for Navy fighters. Another station went up at Renard Field, on Banika Island, one of the Russells. Off the north coast of New Georgia, between the Russells and Bougainville, is the small island of Vella la Vella. There, on Barakoma air strip, AACS set up another center for the 7th Air Force, and maintained it, even though the Japs came over from Bougainville viciously.
There was only one thing to do—get Bougainville. In all of the Solomons campaign, Guadalcanal was equalled only by Bougainville. At both places, the Japs had concentrated their great power. Unless Bougainville could be nullified as fully as Guadalcanal had been, the advance toward the north would be impeded. Again the 7th Air Force teamed up with the air arms of the Navy and the Marines, to give our surface vessels and ground forces the necessary coverage for the assault. Weeks of the hardest kind of fighting followed, not only against the Japs, but also against the exhausting climate and the exacting pestilences. Under the relentless hammering of land and naval guns and the tough, slogging, uphill fight of the infantry, we secured our landing strip and the AACS moved in.
The Bougainville operation was a big one. All during November, the AACS task-force unit had assembled materials and drilled men at Carney Field. Radio equipment came by Liberty ship from Tontouta, and by C-47 from all parts of the region men arrived, carefully selected for endurance and know-how. On December 11, the detachment set sail from Guadalcanal on four LST's, arriving three days later at Empress Augusta Bay. The equipment was brought ashore and installed in a 20-by-30-foot dugout, half buried in damp, wet sand. Sickness and fever came to the men. Two contracted malaria within the first four days. Others kept catching it, forming a growing casualty list for the hospital. Enemy interference only heightened the discomfort, and loaded added responsibilities on the men still well enough to pull a shift. Air raids were almost continuous, not only dining the day, but also at night when much needed rest was broken by the steady wail of the air alert alarm. But the ground attacks were worst of all. Two
particularly heavy artillery barrages, during the first few weeks of the struggle, were especially bad.
One of these occurred on December 20, soon after the landing. Opening up at four o'clock in the afternoon, with 77-mm shells, the barrage continued without interruption for ten hours. The other attack surpassed everything the men had yet suffered. On the morning of March 7, as part of the enemy plan to recapture Torokina airfield, an intense barrage was begun at six o'clock. Rising steadily to a climax, it continued for seven days and nights until the 14th. One AACSman, Pfc. Louis Rossi was struck in the neck by shrapnel. Two tents were destroyed and the detachment's refrigerator was turned into a sieve. On the 14th, shrapnel sliced a twenty-pair keying cable in thirteen places, while enemy small arms and mortar fire poured into the radio range near the Jap perimeter. The fire became so intense, during this Jap counterattack, that it was finally decided to move the entire station back from the Torokina strip. But our troops stood firm, otherwise, and gradually the enemy effort took on a disheartened character.
Early in April the Jap attack began to deteriorate noticeably, and finally went out completely with one last barrage against a gasoline dump about two hundred yards from the station. It was almost as though the Japs had become superstitious about the spider and were throwing everything against the symbol of our advance, rather than against the advance itself. The AACSmen moved their station up to Torokina again and then, in defiance, turned their point-to-point over to CBS and NBC correspondents for them to broadcast the victory to the folks at home. The Japanese had suffered another bad defeat.
Leapfrogging now proceeded in earnest. Caught in the web thai now laced the islands into a tangle from which he could not extricate himself, the enemy withered and died in the caves he had built for defense. Stirling Island, in the Treasury Group, was next. There was a pattern now. The AACSmen scrambled ashore and began weaving a new thread in the world web almost instantly. The Japs, however, waiting only until the installation was ready for operation, would come over and bomb away. Occasionally some damage resulted; more often, they missed the airways station completely. The AACSmen had learned well the art of camouflage. They understood dispersal. Willi each successive island, they added a few tricks of their own. They would have preferred to go about their peaceful business ol building highways in the sky, but others would not have it that wny 10 the AACSmen learned, incidentally, to defend themselves ami (hell Instill lations. Although they learned this unavoidable task effectively, the
Jap attacks still had a psychological nuisanee value.
U. S. Army A
Since Army airways stretch from the production line in the U. S. to the far-flung theaters of war, many radio stations and control-towers of the Armv Airways Communications System were, naturally, within range <>l enemy bombers. This barricaded, camouflaged tower in the South Pacific was prepared to take it. The operator on the platform used the light gun to signal landing instructions to incoming aircraft.
Of the many small islands in the Pacific, few actually live up to the technicolor version of Hollywood. Stirling was an exception. It was a peaceful little island, built on a coral base, with all the "props"—tall, swaying palms, magnificent mahogany trees, a placid harbor that looked as if it were being reflected in a mirror. War and Stirling might as well have been antonyms. But war did come to Stirling. Its long coral airstrip was readied for fighters, and when the P-38's arrived, Stirling became a Number One target for Jap raiders. Beginning on January 12, Zeros and Mitsubishis came over, paying as many as eight calls in a single night with up to sixteen planes at a time. Overnight, the technicolor changed from soft blues to harsh reds, as man violated nature's last retreat from world war.
The raids themselves had less effect physically on materials than they had psychologically on the men. When a man is compelled to work long hours during the day, often under conditions of excessive heat or heavy rain, interrupted frequently by bombing and strafing attacks, he welcomes night and sleep. Keep him awake all night long by just buzzing over his airstrip and dropping a bomb or two, not enough to do any appreciable damage, but sufficient to keep him hopping in and out of a foxhole, and you have a pretty tired and handicapped radio operator the next day. Continue this for night after night, and it is easy to detect the effect on the whole station. What cannot be exploded with a bomb, can often be rendered ineffective by diminishing its working efficiency. Those were the tactics of the Jap raids over Stirling, well into February. And then the war moved on.
It was inevitable that the war would move on. Little Stirling Island control-tower, during the month of January alone, with all the sustained enemy attacks, reported 1497 takeoffs and 1506 landings. Its point-to-point pushed some 50,000 word groups over the ether. Stirling is a small island. Multiply its activity by the ever-increasing number of islands coming under our control in the Pacific, and you can begin to understand what was troubling the Japanese high command. AACS figures, like an industrial chart, were plotting the course of the war.
The leapfrogging continued. From island to island, the Americans surged north and west. AACS Detachment 12 moved on to Green Island. Army camera units recorded the action there. It was not that Green Island was more heroic than any of the others. It was merely that Army morale needed for troops, Stateside, a motion picture show ing what goes on in this island-hopping business. How is the invasion planned? Who comprise a task force? What are the obstacles to be overcome? Where are these islands, and in what way do they diffei
from the Dorothy Lamour glamorization of them? All such questions the Army movie "Leapfrog," recording the actual Green Island operation, answered superbly well. Assault troops, engineers, Seabees, and AACSmen—all of them were shown going about their business under fire.
Green Island is 60 miles from enemy-held New Ireland and 120 miles from the Jap fortress of Rabaul. So you see it was within easy range of Jap airpower. The AACSmen arrived by LST on February 27, and deftly unloaded their equipment on the beach. By the next morning, the station was well under way. Two Super-pro receivers, one Temco transmitter, and one code table were set up in a 9 x 9 supply tent, pitched near the control tower on the east side of the airstrip. Coconut palms were "topped" and the trunks were used to support antennae. On March 4th, contact was established with WYVR at Munda. It was about the time when the Japanese artillery barrage was most intense on Bougainville. To escape destruction there, our aircraft had to be flown to Green Island each night, and back the next day. This meant day and night shifts for all AACSmen, and throughout the fierce battle of Bougainville the men of Conas worked around the clock, under the most hazardous of combat conditions. When it was all over, Lieutenant Commander J. L. Cotten, of the United States Navy, wrote, very precisely:
Commendation is hereby given the AACS group for the efficient and expeditious manner in which Army communications were established on the fighter strip at this location.
And again, the war moved north and west. Emirau Island was taken. Like all the other islands, it introduced new problems, brought new successes. Because of the extreme humidity there, equipment acted up. A Temco transmitter had become watersoaked, causing the low-voltage plate transformer to burn out. There was no replacement, so the AACSmen improvised a device that would "bake" the transformer into operation. The landing strip, too, still under construction, was solid for only about a third of the way. The remainder was still loose, shifting coral. To the men on the ground this condition was apparent, but to a pilot looking down on the airstrip from above, the whole length looked perfectly safe. With complete knowledge of traffic control, but with no sound airstrip and no tower as yet in operation, the frustrated AACSmen suffered through an emergency landing by an F4U which sloughed into the unpacked ground. Spurred by the sight of how helpless aircraft were without an airways station, the AACSmen dug in and put their station up in record time.
Of all the islands, a comparatively peaceful one, never within the combat zone, deserves mention. The Saturday Evening Post featured it in a recent story, entitled "The War's Cushiest Billet," describing the United States' one-man army on Norfolk Island. Now, of course, where the United States has a one-man army, the chances are that that one man is an AACSman. And such was the case, on Norfolk.
Norfolk Island is the legendary home of the descendants of Mr. Christian's mutinous crew of the Bounty. According to the novel by NordhofT and Hall, the skipper of the Bounty, one, Captain Bligh, drove his crew to mutiny against his tyrannical and inhuman outrages. Led by Mr. Christian, second in command, the crew set Bligh and a few of his accomplices adrift, with enough provisions to reach a port. Then the Bounty continued on to its first port of call, at Tahiti. There was never any doubt in the crew's mind as to what would happen to them if they ever returned to England, because, under British law, mutiny is never justified and is always punishable by death. Since Tahiti is located on the main British trade route, Mr. Christian and his crew decided to find a more isolated island, where they would not be discovered. After some scouting, they discovered Norfolk, midway between New Caledonia and New Zealand. There they proceeded to settle and to produce descendants who, many years later, were destined to play host to the only American garrison on the island during World War II.
Owing to its favorable location, Norfolk was selected, early in 1942, as a stepping-stone station for air-transport operations to the South Pacific. American Army engineers, sent to the island, supervised the construction of an airfield by the Australian Department of Main Roads and, on Christmas Day of 1942, the station was formally opened. At first, the RNZAF (Royal New Zealand Air Force) handled communicu tions, but their lack of experience with American airways procedures soon proved that arrangement impractical. So an AACS detachment was sent in, during May of 1943, after a preliminary survey by AA( IS man Master Sergeant Bain. Under Lieutenant Anderson, a 21 houi watch was set up and permanent circuits were established to Tontoutu, Auckland, and Sydney. A tower and a radio range were also put into operation, and WAAF operators from the Woman's Australian Auxih.u \ Army were assigned. At first, the girls had difficulty with AACS procedures and American phraseology, but under the guidance <»l Lieutenant Anderson they caught on last.
As the war moved ever farther north and the W \ \l"s learned theh job, AACSmcn were withdrawn, until the Norfolk detachment by No vember consisted of one enlisted man from AACS stall Seigeant Wll
bur V. Lynam, hero of the Saturday Evening Post "Cushiest Billet" article. As the only American soldier on the whole of Norfolk Island, Lynam had the duty not only to supervise the WAAF's operation of the airways station, but also to act as the official representative of the United States Army. This meant that when dignitaries visited the island, as they inclined to, the more Norfolk's story became known, Lynam had to be on hand to welcome them. But more important, as the symbol of American military authority in the eyes of the citizens of a major Allied power, it was incumbent on Lynam to act in such a way as to bring nothing but credit to the nation he represented.
Among other things, AACS is proud of the fact that its lone ambassador played his role so well. Tactfully, Lynam managed all the problems that arose, maintained the efficiency of his station, and at the same time held the respect and admiration of the people with whom he lived. On July 4, 1944, Norfolk Islanders paid the one-man American garrison an unusual compliment. For 365 days out of every 365-day year, and for the extra day during leap year, the Islanders, since the days of Mr. Christian, had flown the British Union Jack in the town of Kingston from the top of Signal Hill, the highest point on the island. On that Independence Day in 1944, the Norfolk Islanders, in tribute to Staff Sergeant Lynam, the American AACSman, lowered the Union Jack and raised Old Glory, which waved proudly in the breeze throughout that beautiful midsummer day.
The pattern had been set. Air power did the softening-up job. Ground forces, brought in by the Navy, hit the beaches, wrested a landing strip. AACS moved in with airways facilities to herald the Air Forces advance. And again airpower would range forth, far into another cluster of islands, soften up resistance, and begin the cycle all over again. It was irresistible. As inescapably as day follows night. Navy-directed task forces from the east, and Army-directed task forces from the south, were converging on the enemy's front door.
To fulfill its special mission with both Army- and Navy-directed task forces, the AACS early set about systematizing its operations. As far back as April, 1943, Colonel Blake conceived and organized a "Task Force Planning Team," charged with the responsibility of an ticipating individual detachments' requirements as far ahead as six months before target date. Requisitions for personnel and equipment were submitted to Gonas, and charts of future station layouts and antenna arrays were drafted. In minute detail, each task force detachment was laid out on paper, long before it was ready to sail.
At the same time, Blake tightened his rear-echelon activities, all along the line. Stations that dropped steadily farther behind the front soon lost their glamor and settled down to routine, peacetime communications business. But without these behind-the-line stations, advances up front were impossible. To help the men feel the importance of their jobs absorbed the interests of Blake and his Group commanders constantly. Attention to such morale factors as promotion for efficiency, maintenance of recreation, and interest in the well-being of each individual helped to keep pride in the outfit high. One of Blake's Group commanders, Colonel Gordon, initiated the idea of sending a personal letter to the next-of-kin of every man who had been in the theatre a year. The effect on the folks at home invariably reflected itself in the letters that followed from loved ones. In addition, a training school for AACSmen was set up at Tontouta, where the men could renew, from time to time, technical interest in the job they were doing.
The effect of several new airways improvements behind the lines also were reflected in the form of better operations up front. Definitely directed to handle tactical communications for the 7th Air Forces operations, Blake established a Munda weather net which included Port Moresby, Guadalcanal, Bougainville, Stirling, Russell, and Green. And to strengthen the Australian transport route for SCAT, the Southern Combat Air Transport System, an airways station was activated in Sydney, in May of 1943, as well as at Jondaryan, about ninety miles from Amberley, for which the new station was to act as an alternate in case of emergency. Long overwater flights and the hazards of going off course suggested special attention to Direction Finding service. In October, a D/F planning team was set to work, and by the following May a net of about nine stations was giving aircraft over the Pacific their bearings on request. All these and other developments were carefully integrated by Blake with his three Group commanders, with whom he conferred frequently, as he did in May 1944 to formulate plans for the final knockout blows.
As a unit, therefore, AACS was prepared to plav its part in the over all strategy, and to move with the rest of the Allied forces along the Jungle Route to the kill. In the Central Pacific, AACS detachments had already displayed their mettle with Admiral Nimitz' Navy-directed task forces, all the way to the Marianas. Now, the AACS units to the south were ready to move with the Army-directed task forces undei General MacArthur. From Sydney, north along the coast ol Australia and west, inland, to Torres Strait, the highway in the sky stretched firmly forward. Across the Strait in New Guinea, stations were operal ing not only on our side ol the "Little 1 lump at Port Moresby, but on
the enemy side as well, thanks to the brilliant victory at Buna. The time had come for the next smash.
Up the coast from Buna is Lae, where Nipponese Imperial Headquarters were situated. There the citadel of Japanese Papuan power challenged anv further advance. Against it General MacArthur now planned his all-out drive, late in the spring of 1943. Seizure of port facilities there and of the five large airfields at Nadzab, thirty miles inland, would be of immeasurable importance to our land, air, and sea forces for future operations against enemy strongholds in Dutch New Guinea, the Admiralties, and the islands of the Bismarck Archipelago.
As in earlier Papuan operations, the 5th Air Force of General Ken-ney was to play an important part. MacArthur's plan was to outflank the Japs at Lae, by capturing the enemy airfields at Tsilli Tsilli and Nadzab, and then to send the American infantry down the road to link up with Veteran Australian 6th and 9th Divisions, heroes of Sidi Bar-rani and El Alamein, who had already begun to drive up from the south. It was the AACS job to follow the infantry as closely as possible, setting up the captured air strips in nothing flat so that the 5th Air Force could fly in. The plan was brilliantly conceived, and was perfectly matched by just as brilliant execution.
On September 3. an AACS detachment slipped into Tsilli Tsilli and methodically began to set up station WXXO for the 5th Air Force. Headed by First Lieutenant Sam Machotka, whose AACS detachments were destined to figure so prominently in the march back to the Philippines, the fifteen green enlisted men under him fresh from the States, set to work putting their thorough training into practice. All the way up from Amberley, they had done little else but wonder what this task-force life would be like, and how they would react to their first contact with the enemy. They did not have long to wait. No sooner had they begun to uncrate equipment and pitch tents than the Japs, flying over in swarms from Lae, opened up, full blast. Something was afoot, the Japs knew, but just what, they could not tell from this preliminary move on the other side of the Stanley Range. Whatever it was, the Japs apparently were determined to stop it before it got started.
Fortunately, that first blast was inaccurate. Most of the bombs hit the near-by mountainside. But that did nothing for the tension of the AACSmen, who now lived under constant alert, repeating the AACS-men's world oxer, working formula: to take advantage of every minute nut ol a foxhole. It was the most trying ol all operations. When the enemy wasn't strafing them from above, Nature was plaguing them with heat, humidity, insects, and pestilence. Nevertheless, the men
pitched their tents on the bare ground or in the tall jungle grass. For tent poles, they hewed down trees; and for furniture, they dismantled packing crates, using their ingenuity, Robinson Crusoe fashion. The AACSmen accomplished their mission. Station WXXO went on the air in record time, was kept on the air, and for the month of its life provided the airwavs center from which our bombers and fighters spearheaded the brilliant assault on Lae.
Nine days after Sam Machotka's green AACSmen, now veterans, began copying weather synoptics at Tsilli Tsilli for the 5th Air Force, a second AACS detachment of fifteen men, under Second Lieutenant Gregg Myers, catapulted across the Stanley Range, landing in the vicinity of Strip 2, at Nadzab, in the Markham Valley. Only five days before, the first of MacArthur's paratroopers had descended in the same vicinity, catching the Japs off guard. Before the enemy could recover from their surprise, MacArthur's men had gripped the landing strips and begun to set up an airways •station from which our air power could operate. This was thirty miles north of Lae. At the same time, the Australian troops began to push up from the south, catching the Imperial Headquarters at Lae in a vice that now began to close.
Quickly the AACSmen put WXXP on the air, contacting Tsilli Tsilli on the other side of the range, and immediately tying into the AACS world net. In succession, Strips 3 and 4 were taken by the Infantry, and equipped with airways communications facilities by the AACSmen. There, all around them, the Japs saw the spider spinning back and forth, again stirring those ominous forebodings that had begun to trouble their superstitious thoughts. Point-to-point, air/ ground, weather intercept, a homing beacon, and three control-towers began operating in rapid sequence. Here, on the very edge of the ad vance, the enemy saw something taking form so methodically that ‘1 looked for all the world like complete disregard for Japanese presence.
Inevitably, enemy surprise turned to desperation. A bitter struggle followed, with the Japs throwing everything into a final attempt to save Lae. Air raids over all the strips were frequent and heavy, the Japs cunningly choosing meal hours to strafe long lines in front ol chow halls, and evenings to keep the men irritatingly awake. Some damage was done, but most of the bombs were of the 100 lb. antipersonnel variety, dubbed by the men as "daisy-cutters," because they burst and splattered shrapnel in low, swooping ares very close to the ground On November 6, Strip I. now in American possession, was bombed and strafed in a daylight attack by twelve Bettys and numerous /ekes The control-tower operator on duty leaped thirty led lo the giound, too frightened to be hurt by the fall.
In the meantime, the advance toward the objective continued. With the Nadzab airstrips in our hands, and the airways stations operating there, the 5th Air Force opened on Lae, full blast, pulverizing everything in sight. And then the vice closed, as Americans from the north and Australians from the south drove toward each other uniting in the heart of the erstwhile enemy bastion. Following close behind, the first AACSmen arrived in Lae on October 7th. They found the town a shambles. Fires were still burning everywhere, and the stench from dead bodies was nearly overwhelming. On the single airstrip along the Huon Gulf (from which Amelia Earhart is said to have taken off before she was lost over the Jap mandated islands in the Central Pacific), torn and crumpled pieces of metal that once were enemy aircraft cluttered the pock-marked ground. What once were city streets now looked like tiny hills and valleys, created by the innumerable bomb craters, along which small wisps of smoke curled from piles of splintered wood and concrete that marked foundations for former homes and stores.
Once Lae had been secured, Sam Machotka's Tsilli Tsilli detachment closed shop on the other side of the Stanley Range, and opened for business in Lae. One of his AACSmen, Staff Sergeant Kenneth Mercer, has left us an account of the appearance presented by Lae, capital of Australian New Guinea and once proud headquarters of the Imperial Japanese forces:
Knee-deep in mud, bomb craters, twisted Jap planes everywhere . . . the stench of dead Japs . . . ammunition, still intact, littered fox holes . . . Japanese dwellings had been burned or knocked down. Bowls of rice had been left, either by the retreating enemy or by those killed over their chow. Books, helmets, gas masks, medical supplies, discarded clothing of brilliant colors, one-toed shoes, mess gear, leggings—anything and everything worth while to a soldier had been left. There were traces of women, too, captured or carried along . . . From the plan in which the hedges had been planted, it was evident that within them had once been cozy yards and homes . . . Up another street, now a knee-deep mass of mud, were the foundations of what had once been a movie house, a simple hotel, even a noisy barroom . . . Back toward the terrace were the only two recognizable factories. One, the ice plant; the other, a skeleton frame, several pipe lines, and tables which had once constituted the laundry ... All that had existed had gone and we could only imagine what this place must have been like . . . when the airstrip was imperative to more efficient gold mining at Wan, and when the boats came in (mice or twice a week with the mail,
supplies, and possibly several overnight tourists.
The Tsilli Tsilli veterans had little time for meditation. In the first five days, they set up WXXQ and prepared it for routine operation. But the enemy was still too close to permit that. Air raids were frequent and were followed by sporadic counterattacks on the ground, sanguinary attempts to regain face by recapturing Lae. One of these efforts almost resulted in a successful breakthrough as the Jap proved again and again that he was a sterling soldier. Even the AACSmen at Lae were issued rifles and ordered to take up positions at a road block. Preparations were made to burn codes and ciphers and to evacuate the station. But the enemy attack was crushed, and, while the foe was still recovering, our forces opened a new drive, up the coast and into Dutch New Guinea.
Steadily the Japs withdrew into the interior jungles, where the Aus-sies followed them. To provide air support for operations that faced the continual threat of ambush, the AACSmen moved about eighty miles inland from Nadzab into the Ramu valley. There, at a place named Gusap, an airways station was set up for P-40's and P-38's, to take care of enemy aircraft that came over from VVewak and Madang.
Over a considerable period, Gusap earned the reputation of being really rough. It was in the thick of the jungle, near a stream which flooded the area every time it rained, and that was often. There were no roads, so that it was necessary for everything to be flown in. The heat and the humidity were so oppressive that men were tired when they started their work, and sick when they finished. Mosquitoes bred prolifically in the low, swampy undergrowth along the banks of the Ramu River, and malaria-control came late. At one time, 85% of the AACS detachment were sick with one or another form of tropical fever. It was not difficult to understand why AACSmen became sour toward "visiting firemen" of the press who skimmed along a jungle, arctic, 01 desert airway in a de luxe ATC plane, and then despatched a glamor ous account of the pilot's daring assignment, with perhaps a eon descending line or two about the frostbitten or malaria-infected men below, members of the AAF Weather Service and the Army Airways Communications System, who invariably were lumped together as the "ATC ground force."
Steadily MacArthur's forces advanced up the New Guinea coast Finschhafen fell next, and gave the Allies a splendid harbor. There, also, AACS quickly installed an airways station. There was no enemy op position, and after crossing the Owen Stanleys by air to Lae, the AA( !S detachment of thirty men was able to move to Dregor Harbor by tua tralian freighter. An idea of how a task force detachment moves and what it carries to set up a complete airways station mi the front line,
can be gained from the record of the Finschhafen operation. In the 25 tons of equipment transferred, first, by plane and then by ship, were 2 jeeps, 6 Hammerlund Super-pro receivers, three 32 RA transmitters, two 1550-lb. power units, two smaller engines weighing 500 lbs. apiece, desks, chairs, beaverboard, cryptographic devices, several miles of cable and wire, a pre-fabricated antenna pole, tents, and three months' supply of C-rations.
"When somebody speaks of loading a plane," wrote an AACSman, "it usually means stowing boxes, one on top of another, in the belly of a C-47. It's a far different proposition when a jeep has to be backed into the open doors and slowly and painfully eased into place. Even more difficult is the loading of a power unit weighing three-quarters of a ton. Despite its weight, it is a fragile machine. One loosening of the bite of the winch which holds it, one false step in getting it into the plane, and thousands of dollars' worth of valuable equipment can be rendered unserviceable, often irreplaceable."
An hour after landing, WXXT was set up under canvas. Weather and point-to-point went on the air at once, and the synoptic schedule began clicking. Ringing in the ears of the men were the last words of their Group Commander at Amberley, when they were assembling for the takeoff: "You are authorized to operate engines on their skids, to set transmitters on the bare ground, to string antennas to the nearest tree or other object,—but above all get your services going at the earliest possible moment."
Well, they followed out his instructions to a T, on Finschhafen. They strung antennas from the trees, but concrete blocks and wood flooring interfered with the suggestion that transmitters and power units be set up on the bare ground. Two prefabricated buildings had been procured from Air Corps supply. These were pieced together into one long structure, and the whole building was raised off the ground with the help of lumber "promoted from the surroundings." A work detail was organized, trees were cut down, and logs 16 feet long were dragged to a GI sawmill to be cut to the desired lengths. For this service, the mill, Yankee fashion, demanded and got as a "service charge" 50% of the lumber brought to them. So the AACSmen had to chop two trees for every one they actually could keep to use for their installation. When the building had been completed, however, it was a "honey" and well worth the extra work, it was 50 feet long, 20 feet wide, and 12 feet high, and it was partitioned to provide separate crypto and radio rooms, transmitter room, office, maintenance shop, and even a dav room. What can you do with these remarkable GI's? In the middle oi jungle and enemy, they
will have their running hot and cold water and as many ol the gadgets
as they had known in Z.I. From time to time, at Finschhafen, however, sobering things happened. Air raids continued, and they were not all casualty-free. There were days when bomber after bomber on our side would take off from the short landing strip, rise a few hundred feet, and then go into a nose dive ending in a terrific explosion and an ocean of flame. One day, a pilot trapped in a P-38 was burned alive, in full view of desperate but helpless comrades. But as the spring of 1944 came on, our forces advanced, leaving Finschhafen far behind.
MacArthur had his winning formation. From his most advanced airways station, bombers and fighters of the 5th Air Force woidd strike out at the next enemy bastion, softening it up for the kill. Then, by land and by sea, ground forces and supplies would move in for the capture. As soon as the first strip had been taken, another airways station would be set up, from which the 5th Air Force would fly out, once more, to the next enemy citadel. It was indeed a winning formation. The Japs seemed unable to stop it. They threw themselves against it unsparingly, and with a courage you had to respect. But they simply didn't seem to be able to find a defense for that obvious play.
New Guinea was now all but wrapped up, sealed, and delivered. The AACS net which had begun with a single, faltering station at Port Moresby, in the face of an imminent Jap invasion of Australia, was now a system of highways in the sky so broad, comprehensive, and efficient that our aircraft were moving over this great island as if they were on a milk run from Washington to New York. That was fortunate. In 1944, General MacArthur started from New Guinea to make good his promise that he would return. In January, Saidor was occupied against the same, die-hard opposition. AACSmen landed seventy-five minutes behind the first waves of infantry, who took Saidor from the sea.
As the Americans moved in, the Japs used infiltration tactics in an attempt to oust the invaders. Night raids from the air, and marauding activity on the ground during the day, continually interrupted the AACSmen's efforts to get their station on the air. Fires started up all around them, one coming to within seventy-five feet of their equipment. Unpacking and checking of equipment went on spasmodically for three days and nights. Japs were being shot, all around. For the seven days of January 2 to 9, AACSman William G. Marden, NCOIC of the detachment, kept a diary. On the 7th, one Jap had been taken prisoner, and naked and sweating he lined up with the GI's for chow. That night the Japs came over with magnesium (lares and fire bombs that almost got the equipment. On the next dav the AACSmen as sembled it and began testing. Reception was excellent and, at zero seven hundred, Saidor was in the net on a regular schedule, H 5, s ...
the radio man would say, meaning "Readability clear, Signal strong."
It wasn't easy, but the important thing was that our system was clicking, our offensive rolling. We had clearly taken the initiative in the Pacific war. Saidor neutralized Hollandia, far up the New Guinea coast, and over the Dutch line. One after another, the enemy strong points fell, or were bypassed to wither and die. We had virtually retaken the largest island in the Indies. But that was no stopping sign. General MacArthur had set his goal, and now the leapfrogging to strategic islands began in earnest. New Britain was bypassed, but the Admiralties were taken.
Casually, a 5-man AACS detachment moved out in March from Dregor Harbor, passed Manns Island as the 5th Air Force bombers were giving it a thorough going over, and entered the harbor at Los Negros. Cool as cucumbers, the AACSmen dodged sniper fire and, mechanically, almost blindfold fashion, proceeded to put WXXZ on the air. There was no question now where the highway in the sky was pointing. Way back in 1940, before we went to war, Washington had created something on paper, called ACDC Philippines. Well, these AACSmen, a little late for reasons beyond their control, were going to make that paper organization good now.
They were getting plenty of help all around, from the American infantry, from the Aussies, from the 5th Air Force, in the surge from the south; from the Navy and the Marines and the 7th Air Force, in the surge from the east. And while the Armv-directed task forces and the Navy-directed task forces snatched islands one after another, the whole concerted campaign worked up to an ever greater pitch. In May, Wakde Island, 200 miles north of Hollandia, fell and the AACSmen placed a little station in operation there. Biak Island, in the Schout Group, 210 miles above Wakde, followed. Its rocky terrain and numerous caves gave the Japs an opportunity to hold out a little longer but, in the end, it too was caught in the AACS web, penetrated with tall towers, from which beams shot out into the sky toward the Philippines.
Meanwhile, the Navy-directed task forces in the Central Pacific had not been particularly resting. In July, the Marianas were successfully invaded and, after a bitter fight, the Marines secured Saipan. Moving with the sea soldiers was the omnipresent AACS detachment. Transferring from their transport to a landing barge, the AACSmen proceeded to within 700 yards of shore. From there, Marine-style, they waded ashore, packs on backs, and immediately set about arranging for a bivouac area. It was a precarious business. The new moon made sniner-dodging particularly risky. With little food, sleep, or supplies the AACSmen plugged away, assembled the portable range- that essential of the
U. S. Army A.A.F. /'/„.
When bad weather cut visibility to a minimum, "Zippo," a high precision radar device, insured a safe landing to incoming aircraft at Harmon Field, Guam Air Depot, Guam, Marianas Islands. Operators at the cathode-ray screens and controls contacted the plane approaching the field by observing its position in the screens and correcting to a foot the plane's vertical or lateral deviations from a pre-determined glide-path. Operators were Army Airways Communications System men attached to the 20th Air Force.
sky-highway—and put it on the air, along with two point-to-point, and two air/ground positions, bv nightfall.
That was all the start they needed. Steadily, day after day, the AA< !S men built their1 superairways station for the biggest air operations of all. The great Pacific claw of the overall pincer for China-Burma-India had now come far enough to take the B-29 project over. Meanwhile, preparations for capturing the other great B-29 base had been going on in Hawaii. Aboard the Sea Barb, a diligently trained AACS detach ment took off as part of a new powerful task force. Its destination was unknown. On July 5, it reached Kwajalein and the men took sixteen more days of toughening for the big push. Strenuous jungle conditions were simulated, following daily rugged programs of calisthenics, and refreshers in first aid, chemical warfare, sanitation, ordnance, and com munications. The ship's chaplain promoted boxing matches, and kepi morale high with a series of amateur shows ami motion pictures.
Then the ship shoved off again, on westward, until everyone thought she would sail right into Tokyo harbor. Instead, the ship came to anchor at almost as exciting a place. Word went out that the tiny island ahead was Guam—our own Guam, taken by the Japs in the very first days of the war. Guam, that island which the very Congressmen who had refused to vote appropriations to arm were now citing as an example of lack of unpreparedness on someone else's part. On August 14, the AACS-men put station WVND on the air, bringing Guam back into the United States, although Japanese resistance continued for some time, and another mighty superfortress base came into being.
All through the summer and early fall, the enemy islands toppled and were gathered into the airways net—Morotai in the Halmaheras, An-gaur and Peleliu in the Palau Islands, Tinian, a sister island of Saipan, and Guam in the Marianas. The time was drawing close for the big job. General MacArthur was about to fulfill his promise.
For some time prior to October 23, headquarters of the 68th AACS Group, at Amberley in Australia, had been clogged with demands for a project mysteriously coded "King-2." There were whole days when everyone seemed at work on nothing but King-2. The office for personnel, known as S-l, began cutting orders on long lists of officers and men headed for some mysterious destination. In the office of Intelligence, known as S-2, super-hush movements on elaborate code and cipher devices were in progress for King-2. Operations and Training, better known as S-3, were drawing up requirements for King-2 circuits, and for installations necessary under combat conditions. And Supply, generally known as S-4, was sweating night and day endeavoring to secure all the equipment needed for King-2 and the transportation necessary to deliver it to Hollandia, an advanced point in New Guinea, whence it was to be moved to King-2.
Just before that fateful date, two clues indicated this was not just another island hop in the routine leapfrog strategy. This must be something big. For just before the operation began, the two top AACS maintenance men of the 68th were ordered on a flying trip to Hollandia. There a tremendous fleet was assembled for something very large. The two AACSmen were taken out, not to an LST, nor to an ordinary transport. Their little motor boat drew up alongside nothing less than General MacArthur's flagship. Once aboard, they checked every hit of communications equipment, and made sure that it xvas in perfect operation. For over this radio equipment General MacArthur intended to tell the Philippine people, "I have kept my promise; I have returned."
The other clue that sent the AACSmen's hearts pumping was the order assigning Captain Sam V. Machotka, New Guinea Commando, Captain Mat Scovell of Guadalcanal fame, and Captain John W. Thompson of the Finschhafen task force, three of the roughest and toughest AACS commanding officers in the business, to this project. That could mean only one thing. Action, and plenty of it, always surrounded such rugged leaders as Machotka, Scovell, and Thompson. As they talked to the respective detachments under their commands, they "discouraged" their men by saying, "Of course, boys, you can stand on your Army Regulations rights. We're a non-combat, peace-loving organization. Our business is to build highways in the skies for planes to fly over. We're not supposed to know anything about guns. The Pentagon says so. We're just a scrub team that gets the leftovers after the tactical com guys have had all they can use. So if you want to stand on your rights, don't come along."
The AACSmen loved it. They laughed appreciatively. Not a man but yelled for his right to go along. So Sam Machotka and Mat Scovell and John Thompson chose sides, put their teams through the preliminaries, now old stuff to all of them, and got ready to shove off.
Sam Machotka's detachment took off first. They knew, then, that they were going to return with Mac Arthur to the Philippines. But at just what point the initial thrust would be made was still a secret. The best guess was Mindanao. That was the most southerly island in the Archipelago and closest to our advanced points, such as those on Halmahera and Morotai. MacArthur, however, in another of his brilliant strategies, crossed up the enemy and landed in the middle of the islands, splitting the enemy's defenses in half.
With the first wave of shock troops, Sam Machotka's AACSmen stormed ashore on the Tacloban airstrip in Leyte. They were perfectly methodical about it. Every AACSman had now been through the routine a dozen times or more, on islands all over the South Pacific. While our infantry and the Jap defenders exchanged fire all around them, Sam Machotka's boys pulled out their antennae, transmitters, receivers, and power units and began to put them together. The men worked rapidly, but without any fits and starts of fear. Theirs was a seasoned operation, and in its own way a work of art. Our airpower, both Army and Navy, needed the beam and traffic control to fly in to the place of battle, and the AACSmen aimed to give our side that needed air protection at the earliest possible moment.
Back in Hollandia, on New Guinea, tense men crowded around the AACS station WXXW. Stripped to the waist a single AACSman, headset clamped close to his ears, was the focus of attention, dialing now
and again as if trying to bring in a message already out on the ether somewhere. Then it came. There was no mistaking the fist of Sam Machotka pounding a key out there in the promised land of the Philippines. Nor was there any mistaking the words that the clear di-di-di-dahs formed:
The announcement of point-to-point and air/ground facilities was followed by news of the rapid installation of a homing beacon and Cheeky tower. Tacloban station, in the Philippines, was definitely in the world net. But could we keep it there? The enemy, too, had sensed the drama of the moment. Publicly, it had declared the battle of the Philippines the d ecisive one, the campaign which would more or less determine who would win this Pacific war. Under the circumstances, both sides could be counted on to throw their best against each other.
Tacloban airstrip is located on a narrow peninsula in full view of the harbor, and was therefore wide open to enemy attack. The enemy spared the AACSmen nothing. Bombing and strafing, in an effort to knock out the airways station, the Japs tried every artifice, including "jamming" to neutralize the advantage of these radio facilities. As if man's efforts were not enough, Nature opened up with one of its punishing hurricanes, whipping antennae and tower mercilessly. The AACSmen dug in and held on. On this Tacloban strip were enacted some of the dramas later narrated in Readers Digest, without reference to the unit responsible. Army and Navy fighter planes, exhausting their fuel during unplanned-for dog fights, were unable to return either to their base or to the carriers. It was station WXXR on Tacloban airstrip that guided these planes into the unfinished airstrip on Leyte, and it was the AACSmen who, from the tower, talked them down into a safe landing.
In the meantime, the second AACS detachment, under Mat Scovell, stormed ashore on Leyte and moved up, with the infantry, about fifteen miles inland to another airstrip just taken from the enemy, outside the village of Burauen. Here the famous, and nearly fatal, Buri incident occurred. Complying with instructions to follow the infantry as closely as possible, the AACSmen put the Buri station on the air in the shortest possible time following the infantry's capture of the airstrip. But the Jap was not giving up that easily. Despite our infantry's steady advance toward the village of Ormoc, our forces at the moment were becoming too thin as they continued to spread out, without adequate reinforcement. On December b\ the enemy struck suddenly at the thinnest part of our line, and broke through in the direction of the Buri airstrip. On
the same day, enemy paratroopers were landed to support the developing counterthrust, which now reached critical proportions.
A decision had to be made. Withdrawal by the AACSmen from the Buri strip meant destruction of most of the precious airways equipment, and elimination of the beam and traffic control that was saving so much of our limited airpower. Even as the decision was being weighed, the cry of "banzai" arose from the direction of the enemy. Mat Scovell, tough and tried on Guadalcanal, spat contemptuously and "cracked" to his men, "In the Army's words you're technician specialists. Well, grab those carbines and get the lead out of your pants or you won't be nothin'."
For three days and three nights, these radio Hams and brain-trust cryptographers poured lead in the direction of the "banzai" shouts, giving at least as good as they got. At Ardennes, it had been cooks and bakers who had refused to buckle before the German bulge. At Buri, it was the AACSmen, a mere handful, who held up the Jap counterthrust long enough for reinforcements to arrive. The cost was not low. Casualties ran 12%. A cryptographer, Private Roy E. Birdsong, was killed in the action, and eight others were wounded. If the Japs could only have known how pitifully small the defending force was, the result might have been different. At the end of the third night, it was quite apparent that the entire detachment, if it held on, would be wiped out by the vastly superior forces opposing them, so the AACSmen carrying their wounded with them, evacuated the station, destroying classified equipment and cryptographic materials. It was at this point that the tragedy occurred. AACSman Lieutenant Linfield and three cryptographers, crouched in a foxhole, spied a Jap sniper creeping up on them, barely ten yards away. Linfield opened fire just as the Jap released his grenade. It landed in the hole, next to Linfield's foot, but the bulk of it ripped into Private Birdsong's back.
The AACSmen's withdrawal was only temporary. Almost like a movie thriller, infantry reinforcements, taking advantage of the AACSmen's delaying action, charged back and retook the Buri airstrip before the Japs could do any damage to the airways station. To their joy, the AACSmen found their equipment so little harmed that, with the improvisation for which they were known, Scovell's detachment was able to put the Buri station on the air again. Later, on the island of Luzon, Scovell's detachment named a permanent control-tower, Birdsong Tower, for the AACSman who gave his life in the ambush near Buri.
Other installations followed rapidly. The spider was spinning again, and the Japanese fly, entangled and enmeshed, was beginning to lose his fight. Mindoro was invaded on December 16, and AACS Detach
ment Number 58, with 34 men, 6 vehicles, and 20 cwt. of equipment, stormed ashore D plus 3 hours, and within 12 minutes established radio contact. It was enough to make the enemy's head swirl. In less than two weeks, control towers Freeboot at Hill Strip and Hammer at San Jose were doing a land-office business with landings and takeoffs. And when AACS does a land-office business, it means only one thing—American airpower is meting out punishment such as no human defense can stand. The target, this time, was the main island of Luzon. The softening up for the final kill was under way.
On January 19 exactly two hours after midnight, the third AACS detachment, under Captain John W. Thompson of Finschhafen fame, landed at Lingayen Gulf, on Luzon, one hundred miles above Manila. Most of the equipment was portable and designed for immediate operation. There were 3 prefabricated towers, 2 K-43 Signal Construction trucks, an SCR 277 mobile range, 2 jeeps equipped with radio, and a battery-operated light gun which could be put to immediate use directing traffic at any airstrip.
The landing itself was as hazardous as any in the long series of AACS task-force operations. As the Navy LST carrying this precious cargo of men and equipment approached the beach, three Jap aircraft opened a vicious strafing attack. The Navy gun crew, with men of the AACS pitching in, shot two of them down, but not before Lieutenant Dick-eard, of the 15th Weather Squadron accompanying the AACS detachment, had been killed by flying shrapnel. In the confusion of action, the mobile range had been separated on a different landing craft, with only an AACS corporal and a student mechanic to guard it. Back at Hollandia, this student mechanic had made a perfect pest of himself asking questions of older men about the SCR 277 in an effort to learn how to onerate it. Without waiting for the delayed main AACS craft to arrive, this student mechanic now set to work to make the questions pay off. Unaided, he out the mobile range together and had it in operation sending out its steady beam to our aircraft before the main contingent of AACSmen arrived. These are minor heroics, to be sure, but put hundreds of them together, not only in AACS but also in countless other little units in our armed forces, and you have the stuff of which victory is really made.
Steadily the Luzon campaign went into high gear for the AACS. Dogging the infantry's every step, the AACSmen flashed airways facilities on within minutes after our loot soldiers said, "The strip is ours." During February, four stations on the way to Manila were set up. They included San Mereelino, Clark, and Nicholas airfields., and Quezon airstrip. At the first place, the convoy hearing AACS Detachment 52
steamed into Subic Bay on February 9th, and unloaded on the 10th. On the 11th, point-to-point and weather were on the air. Eyelid tower was put into operation to handle 350 contacts on the very first day. By the end of the month WXKQ had 7 operating positions in contact with Leyte, Mindoro, Lingayen, Nichols Field, and Manila.
Thirty miles north of Manila, AACS moved into Clark Field. Need for AACS facilities was so urgent here that the men of Conas set up shop in a wrecked Zero on the edge of the strip. But that was not all the help left by the retreating Japs. Rumaging around in the way they love to, the AACS found enough good Jap radio equipment to build a complete station in a building but recently abandoned by the enemy. Within forty-eight hours after Clark first went on the air, Nichols Field, south of Manila, reported in to the net. This was the same Nichols Field for which Colonel Blake, as early as September, 1941, had planned the main Philippines airways station. Now Blake's tough task-force commander, Mat Scovell, moving on from the rugged Buri job already a rear echelon routine, was pounding out that first message again. His detachment had squeezed in with an enveloping movement from below the capital, and, quick to take advantage of an airstrip capture, Scovell had set up shop without an invitation from anyone.
Finally, on February 5, Manila itself was liberated. The AACSmen moved faithfully with the infantry. There was no airstrip on Quezon. But air force was needed there, and air force needed traffic control. What if there wasn't an airstrip handy to Manila in our hands as yet? There was still the broad, concrete highway of the better pre-Japanese days, leading into the city. What more could one ask for to land planes a and help them take off? Alongside this highway stretch, the AACSmen set up Weaver tower, which began functioning immediately.
And now the mop-up came. Steadily, northern Luzon was reduced. In succession, the other Philippine islands succumbed to our attack— Cebu, Samar, Palawan, and Mindanao. And to each of these islands the AACSmen carried the symbol of stability and peace, the airways station, the stretch of highway in the sky that brought more and more of the world within sixty hours of our backyard.
While General MacArthur's Army-directed task forces were retaking the Philippines, Admiral Nimitz' Navy-and-Marine-directed task forces were striking deep into the approaches to Japan itself. From the Mariana bases of Saipan, Tinian, and Guam, increasing numbers of B-29's were softening up the main enemy islands of Kyushu, Honshu, Hokkaido, and Shikoku. Before they could be invaded, however, it was necessary to conquer some of the island approaches in the Bonin and Ryukyu groups. In preparation for these northward thrusts, the 70th
AACS group of Blake's 7th AACS Wing spent January and February improving its facilities and speeding up its services in the Marianas.
Marigold tower went into operation on East Field, Tinian, and Ranger tower on North Field, Guam, early in February. Speedy radio-teletype was set up for circuits between Guam, which steadily became advance headquarters for the Central Pacific push, and the B-29 base at Saipan, Aleutian North Pacific outpost at Adak, and Hawaiian headquarters at Oahu. Another high-speed circuit was established directly between Hickam Field's 7th Wing headquarters and Kwajalein, and with other stations in the Hawaiian interisland net at Barking Sands, Homestead, Hilo, and the Navy station on Maui. Six new D/F circuits were also opened. There could be no doubt as to what all this activity was readying us for.
Back in early November, like a piece of art returning to its beginning, an AACS detachment at Pearl Harbor, under Capt. Howland K. Johnston, was rehearsing for invasion. That it was to be no ordinary invasion, everyone could see. Colonel Blake had waited three long years for this day. It was quite different from that cold winter day, after the Pearl Harbor disaster, when he had briefed the three little detachments of five men each, under Sansone, Anderson, and Wooton to take out to Christmas, Canton, and New Caledonia, a thin lifeline of help for our Australian Allies. Now Blake could tell Wooton, Commander of his strong 70th Group to get ready for victory.
So Detachment No. 44, of the 70th AACS Group of the 7th AACS Wing, took off in two echelons, on January 24. Its destination was the Japanese island of Iwo Jima, a 16-square-mile "pork chop" in the Bonin group. Its mission was to install a superairways station, consisting of one point-to-point net, an air/ground security watch, two control-towers, a radio range, a homing beacon, D/F, two beacons, and a Ground Controlled Approach system for B-29's returning from Tokyo strikes. On February 28, the first three AACSmen drove ashore on the Iwo beachhead in a weapons-carrier.
They were followed quickly by three officers and fifteen more men, who met them at a prearranged rendezvous in an area where the Japanese had tunneled deeply and extensively. There was a calm, everywhere, that corroborated the stench of dead bodies. Quickly the men dug foxholes, opened cold rations, and posted guards for the night. Then, at 2100, Army designation for II cm. the big guns from the American batteries suddenly opened up. They were answered by terrific enemy fire. All around the AACSmen, the ground thundered. One Jap shell hit an American ammunition dump, starling an electrifying
display of small aims ammunition, rockets, mortal shells, phosphorus
bombs, and tear gas. The AACSmen grabbed for their masks, and crouched low. As if that were not enough for one evening, Jap bombers came over with 250-pounders, one of which exploded less than 400 yards awav.
Seven harrowing days followed. The limited confines of the entire operation, and the bitterness with which the holed-up-enemy contested every inch of their sacred soil, presented the AACSmen with some new problems. The necessity of greater mobility for their station than had ever been required before, stood out. As the tide of battle shifted back and forth, the AACSmen found it imperative to change their site continually. At first, the Marines objected to erecting antennas, for fear the mast would draw enemv fire. In the end, the antenna was erected and it did draw some fire, but not so much as had been anticipated. What the Japs failed to accomplish, one of our own B-29's did. Its fuel supply exhausted on the return of a round trip from Saipan to Tokyo, the Superfort sent out its SOS, indicating it would have to crash at sea. AACSmen under fire on Iwo heard the distress signal, and by air/ ground radioed the B-29, now approaching the Bonins, to tune to the new Iwo beacon and try to come in to that island. With only the crudest semblance of airways facilities in operation, the AACSmen guided the B-29 in for an emergency landing. Only one casualty resulted. As the huge Superfort came in, with its wide wingspread, it neatly clipped the antenna off the AACS tower jeep.
But this was just the beginning of such "saves." Iwo cut in half the return distance from Tokyo to Saipan. Exhausted Superforts which inevitably would have met watery graves, after bombing missions thai frequently required more fuel than allowed, because of unanticipated enemy interference, made it to Iwo when they could not make it to the Marianas. As more and more of these returns happened at night, or un der poor daylight visibility conditions, the AACSmen hastened to set up their full bag of navigational tricks. Mount Suribachi, pointing breach erously into the skv, could easily wreck an approaching plane. To coin bat that hazard, the AACSmen set up their CCA. It was a lifesaver, Nerves tingling, and almost dead from fatigue, the pilot of the B-29 returning from the long flight to Japan, and the fury of the defense over Tokyo, would welcome the calm, kind voice of the AACSman that came over GCA reassuringly: "You're doing fine. We have you in full view. You're going to make a good landing. You arc lined up with the run way now. Steady. Touchdown in three seconds."
It was as easy as that with the radar wonder of GCA. The pilot didn't have to see anything. It could be as black as pitch, but the marvel of radar was working for him. Every time radar and that AACSman saved
four of these B-29's, he paid for all the GCA equipment in the theatre, to say nothing of the lives. Read this letter of one B-29 crew to the Iwo Jima AACSmen:
This place looks almost like Paradise to us now. We still haven't stopped talking about the wonderful job that you fellows did. Your faith in what you were doing and your courage to carry it out will never be forgotten by us . . . We feel we owe our safety and our lives to you all, and that is a debt we will never be able to repay . . . This comes from the hearts of eleven grateful men . . .
On Iwo Jima, the AACSmen were not without recognition. Admiral Spruance of the Navy, General Moore of the 7th Fighter Command, Colonel Blake in command of the 7th AACS Wing, and Lieutenant Colonel Fogarty, A-2 from Conas, all gave the Iwo Jima station their first-hand inspection and their unqualified commendation. By direct order of General Arnold, a team of recorders arrived on March 24 to make recordings of actual tower operations, for later broadcast on the Army Air Forces Hour. Three bronze stars and a purple heart were also acquired by AACSmen of the Iwo detachment. A significant contribution was made to the knowledge of succeeding task-force operations.
In Conas, at the direction of General Farman and his A-2, Lieutenant Colonel Fogarty, a unique application of the historical program toward the winning of the war had been made. Each of the thousand detachments all over the world had been directed to forward "through channels," with speed, a monthly historical report narrating actual experiences, mistakes, innovations, and thoughts on improving operations. These reports, on a belt-line basis, were read and abstracted for ideas, which were then shared with detachments all over the world. The Iwo history, arriving while action was still continuing on that island, contained detailed descriptions of weaknesses in equipment, with suggestions for improvement. These ideas were extracted in Conas and rushed to development, so that some improvements were actually included in the next operation, on Okinawa.
The Ryukyu campaign began on the first day of April, when the 10th Army stormed the beaches, and developed favorably when little or no opposition appeared. As soon as Yontan airfield had been captured, a small AACS detachment of two officers and thirteen enlisted men were flown in from Guam and, within minutes, Station ND15 went on the air. Two control-towers, Drake and Ruby, followed as Yontan steadily expanded to take on the characteristics of a permanent station, but the conquest of Okinawa, which had begun so easily, grew steadily more difficult as the enemy fought back from their carefully prepared
positions deeper in the island. The advance, however, of both our Marine and infantry forces, ground relentlessly forward and, with the collapse of the European war, not only Okinawa but also Japan itself faced certain conquest.
Now events moved rapidly. Redeployment over the highways in the sky began to be felt all the way to the Pacific, as the Green and White plans of the 5th and 2nd Wings in Europe and Africa sent planes and men gliding easily over the vast world web of AACS. Some of these planes and men crossed on the North Atlantic superhighway of the 6th Wing to Airways Z.I. of the 1st Wing, and then out across the Pacific. Others proceeded across the South Atlantic, over the Latin-American highways of the 8th Wing, and by way of Airways Z.I. to the Pacific. And a goodly number, without seeing home at all, sped across Africa and the Middle East, on the airways of the 2nd Wing, to the CBI and those highways in the sky operated by the 4th Wing. Far to the north, in Alaska and the Aleutians, airpower moved over the airways of the 3rd Wing toward Paramushiro and the northern Japanese islands. Huge claws were beginning to clamp down on Tokyo from north, south, east, and west, over the mightiest airways system the world had ever known. Like a vast web, the AACS had tied the world up for delivery to the Goddess of Peace.
There was not long to wait. Peace came to the airways dramatically, with a last splendid gesture and a sensational achievement by the Army Airways Communications System. Through the long week-end of suspense when the world waited for word from the Mikado, diplomatic communications through Switzerland operated slowly. Once Tokyo reported that the Allied answer had come through, late. When tlic unconditional surrender was finally agreed to, and General MacArthm was named Supreme Commander, proceedings passed again into the hands of the military. Determining to act through his own tried and trusted communications system, MacArthur formulated his message ol instructions c"> the enemy, first, over the War Department Signal facili ties. As hour after hour passed without Japanese acknowledgment, Gen eral MacArthur ordered the AACS to broadcast the instructions over its network, also.
During the final stages of the Pacific campaign, when Allied victors became a certainty, psychological warfare was enlisted to hasten the end. As one aspect of this, United States forces began to dispense with the use of coded messages, sending their information deliberately in the clear to impress the Japanese that we believed they were no longei capable of contesting our advance, and that we were so far superioi that we could tell them exactly what our next move was going to be,
without fear of interference. Among other things, the AACS was permitted to broadcast weather information over its facilities without encoding. This information, the AACSmen had reason to believe, the Japs were monitoring religiously. On the frequency, therefore, over which AACS had been broadcasting weather in the clear, the AACSmen now tapped out the MacArthur instructions. Within less than two hours, the Tokyo reply came back.
One last dramatic incident of the war remained. In that, AACS had its part. One Monday night, in Asheville, North Carolina, General Farman and members of his Conas staff sat enjoying a social evening, listening to the music of Gladys Swarthout over the facilities of the National Broadcasting Company. Suddenly, the program was interrupted, as programs occasionally were, during the war, with a dramatic announcement:
Flash! The first American troops have landed in Japan. They are members of the Army Airways Communications System.
General Farman heard that, glowed with pride, knew that his friend, Gordon Blake, out there in the Pacific, had made good a mission and a belief that they had shared for all these years when so many pilots and other people thought planes alone could make flight safe.
Just fifteen years before, Second Lieutenant Ivan L. Farman, Communications Officer for Carl Spaatz' 7th Bombardment Group at Rockwell Field, New Mexico, had had an idea. It was an idea born out of his twin enthusiasms-for radio as a Ham, and for flying as a pilot. Rriefly, it was this: In tactical air operations-such as Billy Mitchell, and Hap Arnold and Carl Spaatz and all that coterie of advanced air-minded tacticians dreamed of-facilities for guiding planes to their destinations in a hurry are a "must." Carting radio equipment around, and then setting it up, takes time. Why not build radio stations in airplanes, so that facilities would be available as soon as the lead plane rolled to a halt?
In August, 1945, that idea bore fruit on Atsugi airfield, just outside of Tokyo. Colonel Blake's veteran AACSmen of the Pacific set to work lo carry out their boss' idea, designated "Crash Project Number One." Precisely General Kenny outlined to Colonel Blake what was wanted I,,i the Brsl phaieol the occupation of Japan: (1) a sufficient number of AACS units, completely equipped, to provide navigational aid for the big an operations; (~) communications with Hq at Okinawa; (3) air/ground with planes in flight between Okinawa and Tokyo; (4) a wealhei inhumation cue int. (,'.) Iiallic coutiol that would bring these plan.-, down QUll kl) and lately And there was one more thing: speed.
Exterior view of the C—47 which served as the flying AACS station of the 68th Army Airways Communications System group, that guided planes to and from Atsugi airdrome on 28 August 1945.
U. S. Army A.A.F. Photo
Flying AACS station of the 68th Army Airways Communications System group guided planes to and from Atsugi airdrome on 28 August 1945 during the first day of landings.
U. S. Army A.A.F. Photo
When the advance echelon of the 68th Army Airways Communications System group hit Atsugi runway on August 28, 1945, from one of its C-47's rolled a completely equipped jeepmounted control-tower. It was ready to handle air traffic before the last plane in the initial flight of 11 had touched the ground.
U. S. Army A.A.F. Photo
This communications plane served as the only means of communication between our initial occupational force in Atsugi, Japan, and the outside world for three days.
U. S. Army A.A.F. Photo
All these facilities had to be in operation before the first troop carrier planes began to take off.
Blake called his Group Commander, Nichols, into a huddle and, together with staff members, using scale models, they began to design their flying radio stations. A hurry-up call for two dozen C-4Ts went out to Clark Field, and within thirty minutes they were winging their way to Nielsen Field whence "Crash Project One" was to take off. Personnel, at the same time, was rounded up in the veteran AACS detachments at Leyte, Biak, Dutch New Guinea, and other Pacific islands. Supply men gathered up the necessary transmitters, receivers, and power units. Forty-two hours after Blake and Nichols had begun to confer, the AACS flying stations lifted off the runway at Nielsen on a test flight to Clark. There they were landed and parked according to a prearranged pattern. The AACSmen plugged in the wires, cranked up the power units, and put the stations on the air in forty-one minutes.
A few days later, the twenty-four heavy-laden C-47's took off for Okinawa. Diplomatic discussions, while the military leaders worked out the protocol for Japanese surrender, gave the AACS some additional time for rehearsal with simulated missions. The practices went off perfectly. Now for the real thing!
The suspense and delays incidental to surrender had aroused some suspicion that perhaps this was just another bit of Japanese trickery, that the first American units to arrive in Japan might meet with treachery. It was impossible for the AACSmen not to have acquired some of that suspicion as they received word in the wee hours of the morning of the 28th of August to "go." With the same calm with which he had faced the Japanese attack at Hickam, on the morning of the 7th of December 1941, Colonel Gordon L. Blake, master builder of the highways in the skies over the Pacific, climbed aboard his lead plane, taxied down the Okinawa runway, and took off toward the Land of the rising Sun. Behind him, in quick succession, came the other twenty-three flying stations of the AACS on their spine-tingling mission to Tokyo.
The aircraft landed exactly as had been rehearsed. Gingerly, Blake and his men stepped out and were met by English-speaking, courteous military personnel of the recently hostile Japanese armed forces. The AACSmen put their station at Atsugi on the air in record time.
Back at Conas in Airways Z.I., General Farman waited for the message that came over the world AACS net. It was brief and cordial:
Your dream fulfilled. Our air-borne Tokyo lashup accomplished. Hit field one hour prior other landings. On air in jig time and delivering. Regards Blake.
It is more than one year after V-J Day. In our nation's capital there is certainly a desire to maintain air supremacy, as much for security as for travel and transport. But there is as yet no tangible policy in regard to the fundamental of air supremacy—maintenance of a world-airways system.
Already, the mighty system of highways in the skies built during three short years of peace and four long years of war by the ingenuity, sweat, and blood of the Army Airways Communications System, has begun to disintegrate. Pressure from groups, from sections of the press, from men wanting to go home, are inactivating vast sections of the skyways. But above all, lack of a definite policy regarding these airways on the part of Congress and the people is relentlessly producing a situation for which we will all blame each other years from now.
An enlisted man at the Bahrein AACS station in the depressing Persian Gulf area is homesick. He has been overseas for months. All around him, American troops have pulled up stakes and left. Only the AACS detachment remains behind. Hour after hour, he sits with head set draped loosely around his neck. Nothing happens. Some energetic columnist writes a daily blast about the CPs with nothing to do but keep the brass hats in brass. Of course, the man with the headset knows better than that if he knows his job at all. He knows that the AACS-man's job is largely sitting and waiting, and that most of the time nothing happens. But he knows also that when something does happen, when that plane sends out its SOS, assurance that one patient AACS-man is sitting there, ready to help, is worth its weight in whatever the value of those lives is.
No one can take issue with the man who wants to go home. The policy of rotation should be such that no man will have to stay in an isolated station for over six months at a time. But to set up such a
policy, then- must be enough men and resources to operate the system efficiently. The trouble is that when a man wants to go home, nothing else counts. For his personal discharge, he is willing, to tear the whole highways system out ol the sky. Yet, as likely as mil, this same man, if ha Is nationally minded, will declare vehemently as a Cltlxen, in years
to come, "How could we have been so stupid as to throw away all our capital and let Britain or Russia take world leadership in the air away from us?" And if he is internationally minded, he will probably declare just as vehemently, in years to come, "What a boon for breaking down barriers between the peoples of the world, and promoting international good-will and neighborliness these airways might have been if we had kept them up!" But right now, that man wants to go home, and there are dozens of media of public opinion willing to espouse the veteran's various causes, right or wrong.
Well, what can be done with this world-airways system that the ingenuity and resources of the United States have developed? There are at least three distinct possibilities.
The first would be to leave the AACS as it is 1 a military organization serving aircraft of all branches of the armed forces—land, sea, and air. If this policy is determined upon, the AACS should be strengthened as an independent command under the Air Forces, or under the Air Division of the new unified defense plan. It should not be placed under the control of any one flying agency, neither Army Transport nor Navy Transport. For, as in the past, the AACS should continue to serve equally not only military air transport needs, but military air training, tactical, and information-dissemination needs. To assist in all these missions, AACS should not be identified with any one more than with any other. Under this plan, the United States would be assured of the essential for maintaining military air supremacy.
A second possibility is to convert the AACS into a joint civilian-military airways system to be used during peace largely by commercial aviation, and during war exclusively by the military. Such a possibility has much to be said for it if we tend toward the belief that we must rely on our own strength to maintain world peace. With a world-airways system, already working better than that of any other nation in the world, we can begin the race for air supremacy with a headstart on all of our competitors.
The third possibility may appear to be impractical, but it should not be dismissed without careful appraisal. Largely through the leadership of the United States, there is now under way a major attempt at world organization. The United Nations Organization, under its charter, now approved by more than the majority of nations required, including the United States, has been given greater powers than any other organi/a tion in any previous international attempt to maintain world peace. One of these powers—namely, the power to use the combined militaiv
1 Now known as the Air Communications Service
A group of AACSmen at Headquarters AACS trace the growth of radio highways around the globe.
forces of the United Nations to preserve peace—is vested in the Security Council and its joint chiefs of staff. The United States could arm the Security Council with one of the most tangible means of promoting world peace, by presenting outright to the Council the Army Airways Communications System,—with its millions of dollars' worth of equipment, its nearly 1,000 stations all over the world, and its staff of skilled airways communicators-to become the core of an international police force.
These are three possibilities. Whichever one the American people chooses will be a matter only less important than the necessity for making a decision at once. With each day that passes, the United States loses a little more of its air supremacy. Rapidly, the Army Airways Communications System, like all other branches of the armed forces, is being demobilized. Skilled technicians are returning to civilian life, to dissipate' theii experience and training on unrelated tasks, or on no job
«11 Meanwhile, the null.....s ul dollars ol capital invested by the
Women did a man-sized job in AACS. Above Air-Wac makes diagnosis of balky radio receiver. After eight weeks' training, she worked beside maintenance experts in station. Air-Wacs also served as airport control-tower operators, radio operators, teletype operators, message center clerks, and code room operators.
m^ highways iim the sky
people of the United States in the finest radio and radar equipment the world has ever known is being dismantled, in various parts of the world. In another six months, the magnificent world airways system the United States once boasted will be only a shadow of itself. As in other things, it is for the people to decide.
Today the giant skyliner takes off for its flight around the world. There is no fear for its safety, no danger that it will be lost in the vast spaces of the sky. For the heavens are lined with highways placed there by an army of pioneers who stand watch over these skyroads, everywhere in the world.
What sort of army is this? What do they do? How do they keep these highways open and safe for air travellers? Well, meet the AACSmen. There were over 50,000 of them on V-J day. They were all members of the Army Airways Communications System, the AACS, the aptly termed "unseen network." Hour after hour, for seven long years, unsung and unglamorized, they have stood on guard over the world's airways. But their part in helping man fly safely has never been exceeded for significance.
Others have been rewarded for flying over the Hump. But the AACSmen laid the highway in the sky over the Hump long before such flights could be made with any regularity. Many have flown across both oceans. But the AACSmen filled the skies above the seven seas with roads of safety before anything like wholesale flight was possible. There have been tales, without number, of airmen who flew through the blizzards of Arctic skies, or through the sandstorms of African desert, or over the jungles of the tropics. But our story has been about the men who construct and operate highways in the skies—the AACSmen.
Highways in the sky, of course, are not slabs of concrete nor strips of rail. Naturally, they are invisible to the naked eye—but they are there, just tlx- same They are as real to the pilot as the turnpike is to the mo-torist, "i ili< track to the engineer, and they guide an airplane to its destination just as surely. Without them, flight changes from routine to
A pilot moving away from an airport receives information by voice from the tower within a radius of 25 miles. Thereafter he lias the facilities of the radio beam, continuous wave air ground radio com munication and, at greater distances up to 1,000 miles, radai loran,
hazard. Highways in the sky are not visible, but they are audible. They are made of radio waves. They consist of things like Beams in the air and Towers on the ground. With these beams and towers men build highways in the sky.
There are many kinds of beams, and they differ in value and purpose about as much as concrete, brick, macadam, and gravel do in road construction. But all the beams have this in common; they exploit the radio or radar principle. They provide a three-dimensional highway in the sky by means of which an airplane can guide itself through the limitless air spaces to any destination in the world.
As a starter, consider one type of beam. The RADIO RANGE is probably the essential of any highway in the sky. Its physical support is five antenna towers, each at least 100 feet high, placed near a landing field, as shown in the illustration.
Each of the four outside towers broadcasts a code signal in one direction. The north and south towers transmit the letter "N" in Morse code, which is dash, dot (— .) and sounds like this:
dah dit
The east and west towers transmit the letter "A" in Morse code, which is dot, dash (. —) and sounds like this:
dit daJi
Every thirty seconds these continuous emissions of dah dit or di dah are interrupted for station identification. The fifth tower is used for transmission of information either by voice 01 by « ode
The beam is any one of the four paths curbed by an "A" emission on one side and an "N" emission on the other. This is purposely so. For when the dit of the "A" tower sounds, it is drowned by the longer dah of the "N" tower; and when the dit of the "N" tower sounds, it is drowned by the dah of the "A" tower. Consequently, if the pilot is really on the beam, he hears nothing but a steady dah, dah, dah, dah, which increases in volume as he approaches, and decreases in volume as he recedes from the station. But if, instead of dah, dah, dah, the pilot approaching a station begins to hear di dah, di dah, he is heading off the beam to the right and should correct to the left. Conversely, an increasing dah dit indicates off the beam to the left, and correction to the right is required.
The beam of the radio range is the most frequent type of highway in the open spaces of the sky. It takes the place of good concrete pavement, and insures the most direct path to the station from which the oncourse signal is emanating. When the airplane is equipped with radio compass, the radio range also provides visual direction by indicating on the compass the exact point from which the signal is beaming.
The steady dah, dah, dah increases in intensity as the plane approaches the radio range itself, and then suddenly the sound vanishes altogether. Disappearance of all sound means that the plane is over the zone of silence from which letdown can accurately be undertaken. As one of the legs of the range—usually the north quadrant—is lined up with the best runway, the pilot can descend with the "N" transmission and the aid of another device, known as Instrument Landing Approach (ILA). In very bad weather, ILA or GCA (Ground-controlled Approach ) will bring a plane down safely, even if the pilot can see nothing at all about him.
Here, for the sake of general principles, Radio Range, Radio Compass, Markers, ILA, and GCA are all considered navigational aids, symbolized by the beam, the stuff of which highways in the sky are made.
A plane on an airway is never alone. All the pilot need do to request assistance—emergency rescue, weather information, transportation upon arrival, or a hundred and one other things—is touch his radio key, and listen. In the thousand stations of the world's Army Airways Communications System, patient monitors equipped with headsets sit listen ing, twenty-four hours a day. They are trained to respond quickly and efficiently to every request. The emergency brings out the best in them
When a pilot makes a flight, he schedules a scries of contacts with
ground stations for the purpose of checking his progress between the two points. The AACS Air-to-Ground operator is constantly alert to these checks and, if they are not made on time by pilots, he is instructed to initiate the contact. Failure to receive a response from the plane after sweeping the band to be certain that the right frequency is being used, leads to an alarm all along the airway.
From time to time, the A/G operator broadcasts information to the pilot, dealing with weather, and changes in facilities available to him at destination. The test comes when a pilot reports he is off the airway, lost, trying to get a fix and a bearing. Instantly the A/G operator alerts the D/F (Direction Finding) net.
Now D/F is one of the wonderful radio navigational aids that enable men on the ground to locate exactly any plane in the air. The D/F operator immediately alerts two or more other stations in the D/F net, and then requests the pilot to hold down his key for five seconds. As soon as that has been done, three D/F stations transmit to a master station their direction from the pilot's signal. In a matter of seconds, the master station has, by a process of triangulation, plotted the plane's precise position. That information, together with instructions on direction, aie tlie 11 transmitted to the pilot From that time on, cheek, over air to ground, is made eveiy ,', minutes on the plane's pioeu
All along the airways the stations also keep each other informed, as well as the plane. Sometimes the method is by Morse code over radio, referred to as CW (Continuous Wave). More often, however, in the United States particularly, the method of communication from point-to-point is by teletype or radiotelctype. In the former, wires or landlines are required, but in the latter the same end result can be accomplished by wireless telegraphy. The principal advantage of teletype over CW is speed, since all messages are transmitted directly from typewriter to typewriter without requiring translation into Morse code.
This business of point-to-point communications, however, is big. In the Army Airways Communications System it means several Western Unions combined into one. On any single day, no fewer than 12,000,000 words are sent over the system.
What are these words about? Chiefly, they deal with the movement of aircraft over some 100,000 miles of airways. Every time a plane takes off from one airways station to another, a departure message is sent not only to the destination, but also to every intermediate point that might conceivably serve as an emergency landing. Every time a plane arrives somewhere, a safe arrival message is radioed back to the station from which the plane took off. These arrival and departure messages are known as flight messages, or simply as "PX's." A PX message is a message of extra priority. It takes precedence over all other messages, because it must travel faster than the plane in order to alert the airways ahead of the flight.
But the PX is not the only kind of message that is transmitted from point-to-point on the airways. Almost as urgent, and sped with nearly the same precedence, are weather messages. In various places along, the airways, meteorologists of the AAF Weather Service study wind and temperature, forecast storms and sudden changes in pressure, herald the coming of rain and snow, and furnish a guide to airmen who seek to fly through clear, calm skies. Unless this information can be dil seminated over the airways frequently and speedily to all concerned, the work of the meteorologists will be in vain. So the A ACS moves the. information on an hourly schedule from point-to-point. In some places, weather messages constitute 66% of all traffic moved by the \ ki S Besides PX (Flight) and WX (Weather), point to point also movei various other messages ranging in precedence:
O urgent! emergency life and death reports ol Initial
enemy contact, amplification!, plans m com i 1 action.
OP operational priority. Immediate—pertaining to oper-
P priority. 7mpor/rtnf-requiring immediate attention
upon receipt.
H routine. prompt delivery required--hut no prece-
D deferred. can wait—until the beginning of office
hours the day after.
All these many messages must be handled promptly, efficiently and with care. Somewhere a record of every one of them must be kept. None must be lost. So each airways station maintains a message center at which all incoming and outgoing communications clear. Logging, checking for precedence, delivering, and receiving are some of the duties of the message-center clerks.
During war, there is an added responsibility: the content of operational methods must be safeguarded from the enemy. So, in addition to precedence, the message center must check classification. Since military information is of varying degrees of value to foreign governments, messages sent over the airways are classified:
TOP SECRET Information to be made available to the
fewest people possible. example, details of the atomic bomb project before the first bomb was dropped.
SECRET Information to be made available to few
people. example, strength of troops in an active operational theatre.
CONFIDENTIAL Information to be made available to a
limited number of people. example, aerial photographs of territories in our control, adjacent to active theatre.
RESTRICTED Information not to be made available to
the general public. example, aerial photographs of territory under our control but remote from active operational theatres.
To transmit classified information in any of these categories, appropriate codes and ciphers must be used. After checking classification, the message-center clerk passes the message to the cryptographic section for proper encoding or decoding. So a whole new responsible and technical duty enters the airways. How important cryptography can be, the Battle of Midway and subsequent victories over the Japanese proved. By breaking the enemy's codes, we were able to understand
their operational plans and anticipate their moves before they were made. No small part of the AACS contribution to victory came from its cryptographers who gave our American world airways a remarkably high record of security.
Point-to-point messages flow along the airways somewhat in the pattern illustrated by the accompanying typical plan of an airways station.
Message Traffic Flow
From and to Other From and to Other From and to Aircraft Airways Stations Airways Stations in Flight over
over Weather over Point - to - Point Air - Ground
Frequencies Frequencies Frequencies
As the pilot arrives within 25 miles of his destination, he changes from Morse code on his key to voice over his microphone.
He says:
"Langley Tower. This is Army 5913. Give me a radio check, please. Over."
He hears in reply on his earphone:
"Fi-yuv, ni-yun, wun, thuh-ree. You are coming in loud and clear.
Over." He says:
"Langley. This is 5913, a B-24, now west of the field. What are my landing instructions, please? Over." He hears:
"5913. This is Langley. Give me a call on your downwind leg !<•« run
way Thirty-Five. Runway Three Five. At present, you are number three to land, following a C-78 on the downwind leg. Over." He says:
"Roger. Out."
From his crow's nest, the tower operator directs traffic off and on the field. At a busy station the traffic patter may look at a given moment somewhat as shown in the illustration.

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