Double Victory: Minorities and Women During World War II
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Magwe, Battle for (8–22 March 1942)

Air battle in Burma, pitting Japanese aircraft against those of the United States and Britain. On 28 February 1942, remaining American Volunteer Group (AVG) P-40s of the "Adam and Eve" Squadron were forced to abandon Mingaladon Airfield near Rangoon and evacuate to Magwe. Between 8 and 13 March, they were reinforced by 10 B-17s from the U.S. Army Air Forces (USAAF) Tenth Air Force that flew in 474 men of the British Innishilling Fusiliers and 29 tons of supplies from New Delhi, India. On the return flights, these aircraft evacuated 423 civilians. On 15 March, Royal Air Force (RAF) Blenheims of Number 113 Squadron from Calcutta flew to Magwe to use it as an advanced base for raids on Japanese Fifteenth Army troop concentrations and supply areas in the Irrawaddy Valley.

On 19 March, 2 AVG P-40s armed with fragmentation bombs flew from Magwe to sweep the Japanese air force's 5th Air Division airfield at Moulheim. The airfield was 250 miles by air from Magwe, and the Japanese believed they were beyond the range of P-40s and had made no effort either to camouflage or to disperse the 20 fighters on the ground there. The 2 P-40s destroyed 15 of the 20 Japanese aircraft on the ground without a shot fired in return. On 20 March, 9 Blenheims of Number 113 Squadron, escorted by 10 Hurricanes of Number 67 Squadron, mounted an attack on Mingaladon and destroyed 16 Japanese aircraft on the ground and 11 others that took off, of the 50 Japanese aircraft based there. Although some were damaged, all British aircraft returned safely to base.

In turn, the Japanese attacked Magwe Airfield. The 98th Sentai (attack group) sent 27 Ki-21 ("Sally") bombers, escorted by 20 Ki-27 "Nates" from 1st Sentai, destroying 6 AVG P-40s and 2 Hurricanes of Number 67 Squadron and 3 Blenheims of Number 113 Squadron. However, 5 AVG P-40s and 2 RAF Hurricanes of Number 67 Squadron shot down 5 of the Japanese bombers.

On 22 March, Ki-27 "Nates" of the 1st Sentai, escorting Ki-32 "Mary" light bombers of the 31st Sentai, attacked Magwe Airfield. Only 3 AVG P-40s and 4 RAF Hurricanes of Number 67 Squadron remained operational. With Magwe's position compromised and the airfield in poor condition, the 4 flyable RAF Hurricanes were shifted to Akyab Airfield near the India-Burma border and the 3 AVG P-40s were moved to Laiwing on the Burma-China border, where 5 damaged aircraft were also transported by truck. The evacuation of Magwe left the British Imperial and Chinese troops in Burma devoid of air cover.

Steven M. Cunningham


Further Reading
Carter, Kit C., and Robert Mueller. The Army Air Forces in World War II Combat Chronology, 1941–1945. Washington, DC: Center of Air Force History, 1973.; Owen, Frank. The Campaign in Burma. London: Whitefriars Press, 1946.; Schultz, Duane. The Maverick War: Chennault and the Flying Tigers. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1987.; Smith, Myron J. Air War Chronology, 1939–1945. Vol. 2, pt. 1. Manhattan, KS: Military Affairs/Aerospace Historian, 1977.
 

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