The following is an anecdotal story related to General Chennault.
On May 1, 1943, B-24 Liberator bombers of the 7th Bombardment Group (Heavy) of the USAAC 10th Air Force were assigned to bomb targets in Rangoon , Burma . The bombardier of one of these planes was Lt. H. Ross Garrett.
En route to the target, the bombers were attacked by Japanese fighters. One of the bombers was crippled in the attack, and losing altitude, was seen disappearing into the clouds
Lt. Garrett's sister subsequently received a letter from one of his squadron mates describing the Japanese attack and telling her that he believed that Ross's plane had crashed, but that he believed the crew could have bailed out since the plane was not too badly damaged, and that it should take Lt. Garrett and his crew about a month to reach safety. This of course did not happen.
Though only one of the crew was killed, the survivors were captured five days later by the Japanese. For the next two years, Lt. Garrett was listed as Missing in Action, Presumed Dead.
The pilot of their plane died of the beatings he received during interrogation. As bombardier, Lt. Garrett was likely to have been killed out of hand. He was spared because the crew convinced the Japanese that he was a pilot trainee and not the bombardier. The ruse worked simply because one of the crew had been killed and the crew convinced the Japanese that the dead man was the bombardier. Lt. Garrett later got very sick and was confined in hospital in the POW camp when the Japanese relocated prisoners from the camp. They abandoned the few prisoners sick in hospital and left them without food, medicine, or water. The rest of the prisoners were lead off on the “Burma Death March.” Of the abandoned POWs, a number died, but several survived, including Lt. Garrett. The surviving POWs were liberated May 8, 1945.
Why mention this story, you may ask. For several reasons. First, I admit that I am a sucker for interesting trivia. Second, because the 7th Heavy Bombardment Group was engaged in the war literally from the moment the US became involved. When the radar operators at Opana Point detected a large number of Japanese carrier planes approaching Oahu on the morning of December 7, 1941, the officer who acted on the message dismissed the radar sighting as a flight of twelve B-17 aircraft of the 7th Heavy Bombardment Group due to arrive in Oahu that Sunday morning. These 12 bombers arrived during the Japanese attack and two of the 12 were destroyed. The 7th BG was first deployed to Australia , where it flew missions against the Japanese in Indonesia , the Philippines , and New Guinea before evacuating General Douglas McArthur from the Philippines . The 7th was then reassigned to India , and began arriving in Burma in March 1942. Third, because the 10th Air Force gave birth to Chennault's 14th Air Force as the 10th Air Force was relocated, it is thus tied to the Chennault story. And fourth, because Lt. H. Ross Garrett is today a longstanding member of Madisonville Lodge No. 116 and my maternal uncle.
Chennault, Claire L., Way of a Fighter. New York : Putnam's, 1949.
Ford, Daniel, Flying Tigers: Claire Chennault and His American Volunteers, 1941-1942. Washington , D.C. : Smithsonian Books, 2007).
China-Burma-India, Time-Life WWII Series.
Caiden, Martin, Ragged, Rugged Warriors. New York : Ballentine, 1978.
Personal correspondence to Miss Lorene Garrett (1943).
Minutes and records of League City Lodge No. 1053 A.F.&A.M.
Many thanks to Bro. Jack Cotterell, secretary of League City Lodge No. 1053