National Geographic : 1944 Aug
The Aerial Invasion of Burma "Flip Corkin" Comes to Life as Col. Philip G. Cochran, USAAF The adventures of the popular comic-strip character in "Terry and the Pirates" are based on the real-life exploits of the leader of the First Air Commandos. Here at his India base headquarters, he buckles on his parachute before taking off for Burma. One of the war's most brilliant and likable air officers, the 34-year-old colonel came to General Arnold's attention as commander of a fighter squadron in Tunisia (page 129). Morale was high, and there was little paper work. The men said, simply, "If Phil or John says we do it, then, by God, we do it!" Officers and men, hot, dusty, and bearded, lined up together at the chow lines, ate quickly, and went back to work. They sweated shoulder to shoulder unloading freight cars. For security reasons native help was kept to a minimum. At one base the headquarters was a bamboo hut, and the men slept at night on hard charpoys, or native cots. There were many obstacles. At first, some cooperating Allied units were not sure that the AAF could do what it prom ised; so Cochran and Alison put on demonstra tions and proved their points. At one base, until it could get equipment, Cochran's photo graphic section developed its photos at night, using water from a near-by well and posting a sentry so that no wandering jeep's headlights would spoil the print. The Gurkha troops had never seen gliders before. They went through their training doggedly, but finally said, "We aren't afraid to go; we aren't afraid to fight. But we thought we ought to tell you-those 'planes' don't have any motors!" The battle plan was as follows: The C-47 transports would tow the heavy gliders carrying General Wingate's troops and equipment to the areas he had selected in north-central Burma.* He would indicate the areas; the AAF would pick specific places where our gliders could land. The first troops to land would guard the fields while Airborne Engineers built an airstrip with airborne bull dozers, scrapers, and other engineering equip ment. C-47 transports could then land with antiaircraft guns and other field equipment, * See "Manipur-Where Japan Struck at India," NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE, June, 1944, for map showing north-central Burma in detail.