Millan: Aerial Warfare Advances Made in Fight against Japan
May, Bill, THE JOURNAL RECORD
Richard F. "Dick" Millan would like to rewrite the history of World War II.
At least, he feels that portion of the history dealing with China's fight against the invading Japanese should more accurately reflect some of the significant advances in aerial warfare made there.
"China was given cast-off airplanes, the airplanes nobody else in the world wanted, and using American volunteers managed to tie up half the Japanese war effort," Millan said. "When (Lt. Gen. Claire) Chennault went over there as a volunteer to help the Chinese, he took this equipment and showed how to use it, developing fighter-bomber tactics that are in use today.
"When the Americans entered the war, the Chinese received, again, the cast-off airplanes, the C-46s, as cargo planes and we developed tactics for air supplying front-line troops. Before that, everything (resupply and troop transport) had been done by ship or by truck. But we showed them how it could be done.
"Nobody else was able to do this. The Germans found out how hard it is, they couldn't supply troops 70 miles away at Stalingrad, but we were supplying troops in China from our bases in India."
Millan, a soft-spoken retired U.S. Air Force lieutenant colonel, is not speaking from an academic historian viewpoint; he speaks from experience. He was a C-46 pilot flying "the Hump" between India and China during World War II, so he knows first-hand the tactics developed during that continuous airlift operation.
"These tactics were so good, the Americans used them a few years later during the Berlin Airlift after the Russians closed surface corridors leading into West Berlin," he said. "Many of the Hump pilots also flew in that airlift."
Lobbying for more recognition for Hump pilots is not something new to Millan, who is coordinator for the warbird, or World War II aircraft display and demonstrations, for Aerospace America.
But now the Oklahoma City man is in a position to make his feelings public and people are willing to listen, because he heads the 10,000-member CBI Hump Pilots Association, made up of aircrewmen who served in the China-Burma-India Theater in World War II.
With his new job, which he will hold until the 1990 reunion late next summer, Millan also is involved with international diplomacy, negotiating with the People's Republic of China to erect a monument to the Americans in Yunan Province.
"I'm not sure just where the negotiations stand right now, but I'm pretty sure we'll get to put up a monument there," Millan said. "Yunan province is in western China, probably the most remote province in the whole country. That's where the American Volunteer Group (better known as the Flying Tigers) operated from before America entered the war."
Even after the United States' entry into the Pacific war, American aircrews were stationed at several bases in Yunan province and were supplied by bases in India. Thus the aerial resupply route over the Himalaya Mountians, known as the Hump.
The association began negotiating to place a marker in Yunan province after a similar marker was placed at the Air Force Museum at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton, Ohio.
"We were the first unit to place a marker there," Millan said. "Now just about every other unit in the U.S. Army Air Forces of World War II has a marker there.
"What's so special about ours is that it is made from a rock taken from Yunan province, which was shipped to us by members in Red China. …