At 0001, July 1, 1957, when the new Headquarters Pacific Air Forces was inaugurated, a long-sought objective of the USAF was attained. For the first time in its history all USAF fighting forces assigned to the Pacific and the Far East areas were consolidated under a single commander in the field.
Only a month after Pearl Harbor, command of air units was divided four ways under the loose confederation of Gen. Archibald P. Wavell’s over-all command of the armed forces of four nations—American, British, Dutch, and Australian. ABDA was urged to employ its available air forces to secure control of the air. ABDA used the limited air forces that were available in a piecemeal manner. ABDA was defeated piecemeal and was driven out of existence by a vigorous Japanese offensive after only six weeks.
It was even more complicated in the China-Burma-India Theater. The US Strategic Bombing Survey reported that by the end of 1943, “There evolved the most fantastic and involved military organization the world had ever seen. Five colors ink in solid, broken, and dotted lines were required to depict the various relationships” in the Southeast Asia Command.
After Japan’s surrender, the Strategic Bombing Survey presented these conclusions: Control of the air was essential; greater economy of force was possible; and, “the lessons strongly support … organization which provides unity of command. …”
As a result of the lesson at Pearl Harbor, the Air Force has continually endeavored to consolidate the command of all of its combat units based in the Pacific-Far East in a single command shorn of committees in the Pentagon. The overriding reason for consolidation has been the Air Force’s desire that one military commander on the spot should have capability to move instantly any or all elements of the USAF wherever they might be needed to meet emergencies.
In 1955 when Communist pressure was forcing the evacuation of Nationalist Chinese forces from the Tachen Islands, FEAF’s 18th Fighter-Bomber Wing was ordered from Okinawa across the arbitrary command boundary into Taiwan.
The execution of this maneuver was near perfect, and a tribute to the men who planned and performed it. However, the delay in getting this unit orders to move was a serious flaw which might very well have caused it to fail.
Rapid movement to meet potential air threats is a basic essential of the jet age, but it is especially an acute problem in the vast reaches of the Pacific-Far East. Recently a replacement pilot was taken for an orientation flight at Chitose, the most northern air base in Japan. As the T-33 circled the tip of Hokkaido the pilot banked and pointed to a hazy landmass to their left. He spoke into the intercom and the newcomer heard these words: “That is Russian-held territory. And it is just three minutes away by jet!”
There are over 100 major air bases in the Communist Far East capable of striking at Japan, or at Korea, or Taiwan. Some of the bases were on one side of the arbitrary line and some on the other. Under the divided command system, we could not marshal our full retaliatory force where and when needed. Those stationed in the other area would require permission from Washington to move to the threatened command.
The new Pacific Air Forces and its predecessor, FEAF, are proud of having helped to bring about this new organization. It ranks as one of FEAF’s major accomplishments.
FEAF’s long-term policies and objections to the divided command system have been expressed many times. In November 1954 they were registered in a formal recommendation to the Chief of Staff, USAF.
It also called for major redeployment of FEAF’s air forces and for establishment of wide dispersal and protective facilities. Finally, it recommended a greater cooperation with the national air forces of our Free World friends in this area.
The existing command structure was found adequate; studies submitted by the two Pacific area commands were considered in reaching this decision.
FEAF immediately presented its strongly held views to Headquarters USAF, listing five exceptions to the plan as presented, and making three recommendations.
The second recommendation urged that the air component commander for CINCPAC have general responsibility for air defense.
These recommendations were utilized in an Air Force position paper submitted on November 6. After receipt of papers from the Army and Navy, an ad hoc committee was appointed to bring the divergent views into line.
This plan called for dissolving the Far East Command, relocation of the UNC in Korea, establishing a subordinate Unified Command in Japan, and required CINCPAC to submit by January 1, 1958, recommendations for further consolidating subordinate unified commands of the Pacific Command. It also called for normal exercise of unified command of major combatant forces through the service component commanders, desired CINCPAC to disassociate himself as soon as possible from direct command of the Pacific fleet, and stated that the Navy would become the executive agency for the United Nations Command by July 1, 1958. The Commander, Fifth Air Force, was designated as head of the subordinate Unified Command in Japan.
Within FEAF there have been other accomplishments, some of even greater caliber. It is unnecessary to recall the vital role played by FEAF in World War II and in Korea. Today the accomplishments of FEAF are important only insomuch as they lay the foundation for the Pacific Air Forces and guide the new organization in its future course.
Primarily, to follow the advice George Washington once stated to Congress: “To be prepared for war is one of the most effective means of preserving peace.”
Our future depends upon our ability to maintain the friendship and support of Free Asia.
We in the new Pacific Air Forces must continue FEAF’s roles of diplomats, economists, teachers, and businessmen. Making friends is a basic and vital part of our work. Each of our bases has its own community-relations program. Here good community relations automatically become good foreign relations.
Those of us who attended were interested by a story about the meeting which appeared in the Hong Kong newspaper. It was called “The Secret Confab That Never Was.”
Robin Hutcheson summed it up in his Hong Kong story like this: “The idea of Operation Roundup was that the new American commander of the Far East Air Forces simply wanted to get to know some of his friends in the same line of business. …
“The idea of these gatherings is certainly one that corresponds to the present trend in Western policy—to consolidate friendship by quiet unspectacular diplomacy.”
During these operations, some twenty C-119s proved our ability to provide material, maintenance, and other support with commendable speed, over great distances and in large quantities. The pipeline from Ashiya Air Base, Kyushu, Japan, to Indochina was more than 2,000 miles long.
Two years ago FEAF pilots were flying F-94s, F-86s, F-84s, B-29s, and B-26s. Today in Pacific Air Forces we have F-100s, F-84Gs, and B-57s. For better reconnaissance we are now we are now equipped with RF-84Fs, RB-50s, and RB-66s.
With the accomplishments of FEAF as its solid foundation, the Pacific Air Forces, operating under its new and more logical command system, is entering an area of more effective utilization of airpower. Despite the accomplishment of many of our objectives, many important tasks and objectives still face us in the Far East.
We have the delicate task of making sure that the beguiling tactics of sweet persuasion do not obscure the avowed Communist objective of domination of the natural resources, industrial capacities, and the vast populations of Asia. Complacency will be fatal. We must continue to recognize the need for common defense—both militarily and psychologically—against tyranny its in current guise. While the Pacific Air Forces is improving its combat potential qualitatively and quantitatively, we must not forget that the airpower situation in the Far East cannot be viewed in exclusively military terms. Air Force doctrine divides national power into four basic elements, defined as the political, the economic, the military, and the psychological. The latter includes the moral force that nation can exert.
I am confident that we can generate the skills and effort to keep this problem solved. Communist airpower, stronger than its opposition in the local area, has not been used offensively since Korea. The problem of keeping the peace has been solved to date. It can be kept solved.
Daily Report: Read the day's top news on the US Air Force, airpower, and national security issues.
Daily Report: Read the top news on the US Air Force, airpower, and national security issues.
An F-35A Lightning II assigned to Hill AFB, Utah,
conducts a training flight with F-16 Fighting Falcons assigned to Kunsan
AB, Republic of Korea, over the city of Gunsan, on Dec. 1, 2017,
in preparation for Vigilant Ace 18.
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