"Preserving the memory of their sacrifices!"
"Flying Falcons" / "China Glippers"
-- Foreword --
"World War II was the largest and most violent armed conflict in the history of mankind. However, the half century that now separates us from that conflict has exacted its toll on our collective knowledge. While World War II continues to absorb the interest of military scholars and historians, as well as its veterans, a generation of Americans has grown to maturity largely unaware of the political, social, and military implications of a war that, more than any other, united us as a people with a common purpose.And (just as with these two opening paragraphs) we have borrowed heavily from many of them.
During World War II thousands of men -- mostly boys, really -- were assigned to U.S. Army Air Forces units serving in south eastern Asia, the China-Burma-India theater. Their task, at the direction of American President Franklin D. Roosevelt and approved by Congress and the people of the United States, was to wage war against an aggressive enemy and to stop that enemy from enslaving the people and plundering the resources of the East Asian countries.
One of those men, not much different from all of them, was Francis Edward Strotman of Hamilton County, Nebraska. As 1941 was coming to a close, this young, married farmer was finishing up the necessary tasks following the fall harvest. He was probably considering the preparations which would soon be required to begin the spring planting, when on December 7th the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. We do not know the emotional or mental effect on him, but we do know that he recognized his duty to his country in the coming strife. Delayed in order to plant, cultivate, harvest and store the 1942 crops, he began the New Year of 1943 by joining the thousands and thousands of American men who were setting aside their jobs, plans and personal lives to take up arms in defense of America's foundations; life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Departing the farmland he knew so well, and the serenity it provided, he committed himself to serve his country in whatever manner might be choosen for him. Like the millions who preceded or who followed him, he became "an American Fighting man."
Like the multitudes joining the Army, Navy, Marines and Coast Guard and becoming America's 'citizen soldiers,' Francis didn't know what tasks he would be assigned, what duties he would perform, where he would be sent, nor what sacrifices he would be asked to make. Perhaps he didn't think about such things, for like his comrades-at-arms, he saw his duty and took things in stride. He had no idea what factors were involved in assigning him to the Army Air Forces, nor what circumstances put him into aircraft mechanics school. Nor did he know what stroke of luck, good or bad, caused him to be selected for engineer-gunner duties. He could not explain what twist of fate put him in the hospital with pneumonia and caused his reassignment from the B-17 replacement group, which went to Europe, to a B-25 unit ending up in eastern Asia, with the 491st Bomb Squadron of the 341st Bomb Group. Nor, to his discomfort, did he have explanation for why he returned home unscathed while some of his comrades were wounded, maimed or killed. We believe that as the years following the war passed he may have found some limited answer. For we once heard Francis, during a discussion of such things with a fellow CBI veteran, say, "I think, perhaps God threw the dice."
On June 6, 1944, Francis E. 'Ed' Strotman, engineer-gunner, slid from the hatch of a new B-25J, stepping onto the U.S. Army Air Base at Yangkai, China for the very first time. As a newly arrived member of the 491st Bombardment Squadron he joined the exclusive group of nearly 6000 men who served with the 341st Bomb Group in the CBI theater. The men of the Group, whether assigned to HQ or to its 11th, 22nd, 490th or 491st Bomb Squadrons, made the long trip from the United States of America to the corner of Asia designated as the "CBI theater." There they accepted their tasks and performed the work necessary to deprive the enemy of war materials, weapons and sanctuary.
These men served their country well! They overcame the hardships, accepted the sacrifices, and performed their duties outstandingly. In spite of their youth and naivete, and despite the isolation of being half way round the world from those they had vowed to protect, each of them accepted that Freedom is worth fighting, and perhaps dying, for! All of them knew the risks and many, ultimately, sacrificed their lives. Their outstanding accomplishments in, arguably, one of most difficult theaters of the war emphasize the courage, dedication and ingenuity of all the World War II veterans who defended an ideal and their way of life!
Yes, World War II was waged on land, on sea, and in the air over several diverse theaters of operation for approximately six years. However, our particular area of interest is the China-Burma-India theatre, "the CBI,". And, in particular, the activities of the 341st Bombardment Group (M), U.S. Army Air Forces, C-B-I theater. Our goal is to preserve the memory of the committed efforts of all the young men serving with the 341st Bomb Group! Their actions combined with the efforts of their comrades-at-arms in other theaters to defeat the Axis aggressors. Thus, their commitment, endurance, and patriotism assured us the freedoms, rights, and opportunities WE now enjoy.
Our thoughts of Dad, and what he might have experienced during the war, provided the inspiration and motivation to create our original web site. But, all we knew then about Ed's WW II experiences was that his crew arrived at Yangkai, China and flew combat missions in the China - Burma - India theater. What we have since learned is largely due to the help of his friends, his comrades and his fellow veterans, their family members, and other CBI researchers. The expansion and enhancement of the web site(s), and the creation of this website, are due to their contributions and encouragement! My deepest, heartfelt thanks to each and every one of them!!!
Correlating and documenting the activities and missions of the men and units, which were the 341st Bomb Group, has proven to be a difficult task. Not because they weren't active, for they were one of the most active medium bomber groups during the War. Not because there aren't stories to tell, for there are many, many stories... of heroism, of sacrifice, of overcoming hardship and privation. The problems in committing this wealth of information to paper have been twofold.
Our first difficulty, although somewhat aggravating, is being overcome through persistence and the contributions of many people -- veterans and families. That task was to collect stories and images which support and expand on the "official" reports, many of which were sketchy and/or incomplete. Often three or four of the Group's Monthly Histories would be combined into one, and reduced to two typewritten sheets, possibly to conserve paper, which was somewhat hard to come by in China because replacing it would take up payload in the planes bringing fuel and munitions over the 'HUMP.' Nonetheless, we have steadily built up our knowledge and documentation of the Group's activity related to who, what and where.
The real difficulty has been in overcoming one's personal limitations and resolving the puzzle of determining how to arrange the presentation of the vast amount of information and photos we have available so that it will make sense to you, the reader/viewer. A problem was that throughout its existence the 341st Bomb Group usually functioned as if it were two Groups, sometimes three! Soon after its activation in Sep 1942, three squadrons (22nd, 490th, 491st) and Group HQ were stationed and operating in India under direction of the 10th Air Force, while the 11th was stationed and operating in China under direction of the China Air Task Force, and later reorganized and reinforced to become the 14th Air Force. Then, fourteen months after its creation, Group HQ, along with the 22nd and the 491st, transferred to China, joining the 11th under command of the 14th Air Force. However, General Davidson, Commander of the Tenth Air Force, believed "his" 'Burma Bridge Busters' of the 490th were still needed west of the Himalayas, and held them in the India-Burma Theater, attached directly to his HQ. So, the dual-unit situation continued. And, it approached being three units when the 11th, supported by a detachment of the 491st, was operating under the East China Task Force.
Within the information presented here are some of the facts and images, as well as some of the personal stories and photographs, in an effort to preserve the memory of their sacrifices. We hope you enjoy exploring our tribute as much as we have enjoyed compiling it for you!
The contributions and the sacrifices of these men, must be remembered, and so too, the costs of that mighty war -- the lives forever changed and the lives cut short!