Gathering of Eagles Foundation

Honored as an Eagle in:

1985 2004 2009

Eagle Biography

John R. Alison

While flying with the 14th Air Force under General Claire Chennault, 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 and joined the US 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 found himself heading for Moscow to train Russian pilots in the P-40, A-20, and B-25 aircraft. After 10 months of this "irksome" duty, Major Allison got clearance to fly combat. His new home was the newly formed 75th Fighter Squadron of the 23rd Fighter Group, which had recently been formed from the famed Flying Tigers.

Everything was in short supply including parts, ammunition, and fuel. Alison's first combat missions in the P-40 were uneventful, but on 30 July 1942, he made the first night kills in CBI. As a result of his experimental night interception, he was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross. Due to his combat leadership, he was later given command of this squadron. Operating from Kunming, China, in early 1943, Lieutenant Colonel Alison demonstrated his aggressiveness when he took off in the midst of an airfield attack. After an 80-mile pursuit, he spotted a formation of 21 bombers with a large escort of fighters. As he radioed his position to the squadron, Alison engaged three Zeros and achieved one probable kill. He then directed the arriving reinforcements to the battle, after which he made a stern attack on another enemy fighter at close range. Walking his tracers up the side of his target, it burst into flames. His gallantry and fighting spirit inspired his men and 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 probables. Returning to CBI for a second combat tour, Colonel Alison became the Deputy Commander of the newly formed 1st Air Commando Force. In this capacity, he led the glider assault that carried General Wingate's forces behind enemy lines in Burma. After the war, John Alison served as an Assistant Secretary of Commerce, President of the Air Force Association, and a major general in the Air Force Reserve. He recently retired as Vice President of the Northrop Corporation.

See the Lithograph
1985
Lithograph Setting

Night bombing was a favorite tactic of the Japanese Air Force against lightly defended Chinese cities and airfields. On the night of 29 July 1942, the enemy was misled into bombing fake P-40s decoyed around the perimeter of the airfield at Hengyang. Because they missed their target, the Japanese bombers were expected back the next night to finish the job. They did come back, but this time two P-40s were airborne. Led by newly assigned Major John Alison, the defenders spotted three Betty bombers at 15,000 feet and they rolled into the attack. 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 a third. Nursing the crippled P-40, he was able to crash land in the Siang River near the runway.

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