A highly decorated combat ace of World War II and veteran of the Korean War, John R. Alison is the father of Air Force Special Operations. Born in Florida in 1912, Alison graduated from the University of Florida School of Engineering and joined the US Army Air Corps in 1936. He earned his wings and was commissioned at Kelly Field in 1937. Prior to Americas entry into World War II, he served as Assistant Military Attache in England and helped British pilots transition into the P-40. In October 1941, Alison traveled to Moscow to administer the sensitive US-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 China-Burma-India (CBI) Theater to fly for Major General Claire Chennault's newly formed 75th Fighter Squadron of the 23rd Fighter Group, previously known as the "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 on his own airfield. Alison engaged three Zeros and scored one probable kill. He then vectored arriving reinforcements to the battle, after which he made a stern attack on 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, also known as Project 9. 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, Alisons men flew more than 200 miles behind enemy lines, transporting, re-supplying, and providing fire support for over 9,000 Allied forces. Alison's innovative leadership and combat daring as co-commander of the 1st Air Commandos helped to turn the tide of the Allied war effort in the CBI theater. 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.
On the night of 5 March 1944, under cover of darkness and at great personal danger, Lt Col Alison flew the lead Waco CG-4A Hadrian glider onto landing strip BROADWAY during the dramatic aerial invasion of Burma. Undaunted by the fact that he had never flown a glider before, Alison deftly flew the lead glider, heavy with men and materiel, onto the austere jungle landing strip. Alison's men flew in supplies, recovered wounded, and provided fire support for over 9,000 Allied forces.