Charlie Bond overcame many obstacles in his quest to become a military aviator. Born in 1915 and growing up during the 1930s, times were tough for his family and he chose to leave college after 1 year to get a job. His fortunes changed in March 1938 when he entered the Army Air Corps Flying Cadet Program, earning his wings and commission in February 1939. Bond then reported to the 2d Bomb Group at Langley Field as a Y1B-17 copilot with the additional duty of assistant operations officer. Assigned as the 49th Bomb Squadron Commander's copilot, his diligence in learning everything he could about the Y1B-17 Flying Fortress earned him a coveted position on the Second Goodwill Flight to South America.
In November 1939, a flight of six Flying Fortresses, commanded by Colonel Robert Olds and navigated by First Lieutenant Curtis E. LeMay, departed Langley Field and flew to Panama, Peru, Paraguay, and Brazil; the return flight was through Dutch Guiana, Venezuela, and Puerto Rico. The flight dramatically demonstrated the strategic utility of long-range aircraft: the New York-Buenos Aires sea route took 17 days and the Pan American Clippers took 5 days--the Fortresses did it in 34 hours. Bond was awarded the Brazilian Order of the Southern Cross for outstanding airmanship. Bond left the service in September 1941 to pursue his goal of becoming a fighter pilot. Travelling to Rangoon, Burma aboard the Dutch ship SS Boschfontein, he joined the American Volunteer Group (AVG) commanded by General Chennault, in China. Bond served with the AVG, popularly known as the Flying Tigers , until July 1942. Flying the P-40 Tomahawk, he destroyed 9 Japanese planes in aerial combat. He was awarded two Chinese medals, the Fifth Order of the Cloud Banner and the Seven Star Wing Medal, and the British Distinguished Flying Cross. He returned to the US Army Air Forces in late 1942 and was selected by General "Hap " Arnold to be the Chief of the Air Division, US Military Mission in Moscow.
He also served as military aide and personal pilot to Ambassador Averell Harriman. In 1947, Bond entered Texas A&M University under the USAF Institute of Technology program and graduated in 1949 with a BS in Management Engineering. After several years in various Air Defense Command assignments, he was promoted to brigadier general in 1957 and later served as Deputy Commander of the 2d Air Division and Seventh Air Force in Thailand. Major General Bond retired in 1968 after commanding Twelfth Air Force.
On 1 September 1939, Hitler's Wehrmacht invaded Poland and the Luftwaffe bombed Warsaw to begin World War II. The US, coming out of a period of isolation, was developing the industrial base to build forces to counter the Axis. Long-range, nonstop, intercontinental military flights were essential to prove the ability of strategic airpower. General Bond's South American flight was a historical milestone in military aviation, demonstrating the flexibility of large bomber aircraft as an awesome weapon system--a fact the Axis subsequently learned so thoroughly.