Gathering of Eagles Foundation

Honored as an Eagle in:

1985 2004 2009

Eagle Biography

John R. Alison

A highly decorated combat ace of World War II and veteran of the Korean War, Major General John R. Alison was credited with the first night victory in the China-Burma-India (CBI) Theater. Born in Florida in 1912, Alison graduated from the University of Florida, School of Engineering and joined the U.S. Army Air Corps in 1936. He earned his wings and was commissioned at Kelly Field in 1937. Prior to America's entry into World War II, he served as Assistant Military Attaché in England and helped British pilots transition into the P-40. In October 1941, Alison traveled to Moscow with Harry Hopkins, President Franklin Roosevelt's special emissary to Russia, to administer the sensitive U.S.-Soviet P-40 Lend-Lease program. He trained Russian pilots in the P-40, A-20, and B-25 aircraft. After ten months and repeated requests for reassignment to combat, Alison got his wish. In June 1942 he reported to the CBI Theater to fly for Major General Claire Chennault's newly formed 75th Fighter Squadron of the 23rd Fighter Group, which had recently been formed from the famed Flying Tigers. On 30 July 1942, Alison was credited with the first night kills in the theater. For his experimental night interception, he was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross. In early 1943, Alison demonstrated his aggressiveness when he took off during an attack against his airfield. Alison engaged three Zeros and scored one probable kill. After he vectored arriving reinforcements to the battle, he attacked another enemy fighter at close range, shooting it down. His gallantry and fighting spirit earned him the Silver Star. Ending his tour as commander of the 75th Fighter Squadron, Alison left as an ace with seven confirmed victories and several probable kills. After returning home in May 1943, Alison was recalled to the CBI theater by Gen. Henry "Hap" Arnold to co-command the newly formed 1st Air Commando Group. As leader of this secret and highly innovative flying unit, Alison led a composite wing of fighters, bombers, transports, gliders, and helicopters in the dramatic aerial invasion of Burma, dubbed Operation THURSDAY. The 1st Air Commandos supported the British "Chindit" Special Forces' infiltration of Japanese rear supply areas. In March 1944, Alison's men flew more than 200 miles behind enemy lines, transporting, re-supplying, and providing fire support for over 9,000 Allied forces. Due to his innovative leadership and combat competence as co-commander of the 1st Air Commandos, Alison helped to turn the tide of the Allied war effort in the CBI theater and became known as the father of Air Force Special Operations. After the war, he served as an Assistant Secretary of Commerce, President of the Air Force Association, and as a Major General in the Air Force Reserve. He retired as vice president of the Northrop Corporation in 1984 and is a 1994 inductee into the Air Commando Hall of Fame.

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Lithograph Setting

After arriving in the China-Burma-India theater, Major John Alison was awakened from his sleep by a night bombing raid of the Japanese Air Force. He asked his commanding officer for permission to attempt to intercept the Japanese aircraft when they returned. On the night of 30 July 1942, the enemy did return, but this time two P-40s were airborne. Led by Major Alison, the defenders spotted three enemy bombers above them at 15,000 feet. Misjudging his overtake during the intercept, Alison slid his P-40 into the bomber formation and was raked from nose to tail by a Japanese turret gunner. Alison persisted and downed two bombers while damaging the third. Nursing the crippled P-40 home, he was able to crash land in the Siang River near the runway. For his experimental night interception, Major Alison was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross.

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