The 80th fighter group, organized at Farmingdale and Mitchel Field in New York in 1942 , and trained in P-47s for assignment to the European Theatre. A change in priorities resulted in the 80th fighter group, consisting of the 88th, 89th, and 90th fighter squadrons being diverted to Karachi, India, where they were equipped with P-40Ns, and in mid 1943, deployed to the Assam Valley, where their mission was air defense of the 10th Air Force bases in the valley, engaged in the “Hump Airlift Operation”. ATC, Combat Cargo and others staged out of these bases, flying supplies across the High Himalayas to the 14th Air Forces bases in China. Concurrently, a continuous combat patrol of 4 P-40s was initiated to protect the most vulnerable part of the route where the transports crossed the Himalayas on a northern route, where the Japanese fighters liked to sneak up the Irrawaddy and Salween river valleys to pick off unarmed transports as they struggled to cross the high mountain ranges.
By October 1943, a fourth squadron was formed from the group, the 459th fighter squadron. It was equipped with P-38Hs and assigned to the Chittagong area in the southern area near Calcutta where they were involved in frequent clashes with the Japanese Air Force in southern Burma.
October 1943 also saw the beginning of interdiction missions into Northern Burma by the 80th group, targeting airfields, supply depots, troop concentrations, and bridges, particularly railroad bridges on the Burma Railway.
By early 1944, this part of the mission was greatly accelerated. One squadron was moved to Shingbwiyang in north Burma, beginning the leapfrog moves aimed at pushing the Japanese forces out of north Burma, and the construction of the Ledo Road, and capture of Myitkyna. From February 1944 through May 1944, a Herculean effort was made by the 80th group, to support Merrill's Marauders, Pick's Engineers and Stilwell's composite forces, during their drive down the Hukawng valley to Myitkyna. Countless dive bombing, strafing and Napalm attacks were made, many as close as 50 yards from our own troops. Top cover missions for air drops were flown to protect the troop carrier planes dropping supplies. Many of these missions were combined top cover, followed by attack missions before returning to base.
The 80th group P-40s had a deaths head skull painted on each side of the engine cowling, which was intended to send a message of terror to the Japanese ground forces. A belly mounted air siren was sometimes used, which created what we called the ‘Banshee Wail’. The 80th Fighter Group picked up the nickname of ‘The Burma Banshees’ We were in effect the flying artillery for the ground forces, who had great difficulty negotiating the treacherous Burma jungles with heavy equipment. A particularly effective weapon we used was a land mine, which created terrific concussion, and when dropped on troops in the jungle was
deadly for anyone near.
On the 17 th of May, our forces captured the airdrome at Myitkyna. This gave us an advanced base to operate from, with troop carrier planes flying supplies in from then on. Fierce fighting continued as the Japanese counter attacked from the south, including a massive attack by the Japanese Army, aimed at cutting the Bengal-Assam rail line, in order to deny supplies to the 10th Air Forces bases in the Assam Valley, for jump Operation. This attack was aimed at the British Forces in the Imphal-Kohim. The 80th group was called on for close air support to the British Forces and were instrumental in thwarting the Japanese from achieving this goal.
June 1944 marked the beginning of conversion from P-40 to P-47 aircraft, and by July, the 89th began operating P-47s from bases in Assam, attacking Japanese forces in the Bhamo, Loiwing and Lashio areas, which had been unreachable with
P-40s. Tingkawk Sakan was 4000 feet of gravel carved out of a 200 foot high teak forest with temperatures running well above 100 degrees. In the interim period, the 89th moved from Nagaghuli in Assam, to Myitkyna, which was about the same
length as Tingkawk Sakan, and by September in full operation from Myitkyna. Air superiority over northern Burma allowed the airlift operation to fly further to the south, avoiding the high Himalayas, and shortening the route and increasing the
The 80th group engaged in numerous air battles, destroying over 100 aircraft in the air, and probably more than that on the ground. The 459th scored most of the victories, with 6pilots becoming aces. By January 1945, there were few
lucrative targets left in north Burma as the area south from Bhamo to Lashio had been pretty well worked over. The Ledo road was continued past Bhamo, to join the old Burma Road, where overland traffic by truck commenced in February.
Detailed accounts of individual air to air actions by P40 pilots in the 80th group as well as other units flying p-40s in the CBI can be found in a recent publication by Osprey Publishing, titled "P-40 Warhawk Aces of the CBI", by Carl Molesworth,
ISBN 1-84176-079-x. Osprey website is WWW.ospreypublishing.com. _.