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Letter from Col Cochran


December 3, 1968


Captain Eugene D. Rossel5716 Access Drive

Dayton, Ohio 45431


Dear Captain Rossel:


Your letter got set aside in a move. I’m sorry I haven’t gotten to it before this. I hope it can do some good.


First off, the aircraft list. We did have B-25 aircraft but I believe they were J’s. Anyway, they were the airplane with the cannon in the nose and I believe we had 15 of them, plus the spares. You have listed P-41A which, of course, would be P-51Aand we had 30 plus of those. They were rebuilt specifically for this effort. There were only 4 YR4 helicopters, 2 of which got into action. The other 2 were casualties. There were at least 13 C-47’s, plus replacements. They all were equipped with the fist of the heavy duty glider “snatch” reels. There were at least 225 CJ4A Gliders and a few training gliders with replacements, there were over 100 L-5’s and a few L-1’s which were a scarce article. I believe we had over 20 UC-64’s. Your list included P-47’s-we had none of these.


I would say that the 2nd and 3rd Air Commando Groups had similar aircraft (plus C-46’s) in slightly different numbers. They didn’t have any B-25’s nor did they have UC-64’s. I wasn’t in close touch with the forming of the 2nd and 3rd Air Commandos so my recollection wouldn’t be accurate.


We didn’t use airborne loud speakers.


That 10th Air Force Jungle Detachment helicopter was probably one of our leftovers. I say this because there weren’t’ very many of that article in the world. The January 24, 1945 air rescue would not have been the first. We made rescues by helicopter in April or May of ’44. I believe we affected 15 or so such efforts.


Yes, the white stripes on the middle of the fuselage of our aircraft was a standard marking for the 1st Air Commando aircraft.


I’m surprised you are having trouble finding photos because the Air Force Archives are loaded with them. I should think either they or the Army Signal Corp would have a great many photos. We were thoroughly over-photoed, mainly because we were an experimental unit.


The National Geographic article is good. There are several other articles including a book, “Back to Mandalay” by Lowell Thomas.


None of the information seems to have brought out the fact that the original organization was a “Task Force”. After we got in place there was no type of organizational set up to handle us-no table of organization so later in the game we became the 1st Air Commando Group. We were known in the beginning as “Project 9”. General Hap Arnold named us the “1st Air commando Task Force”. The Group came later and they were of a different design.


General John Allison, VP Northrup Corporation, Beverly Hills, California and a guy named Charlie Rushon who resides in New York City (whom you could find through the Air Force Association) would have a lot of information.


Sorry to have delayed this.


Best Regards,


Lyons Transportation Lines, Inc


Philip G. Cochran



Milton Caniff


28 July 1962


Col. Jack:


I am certain you agree that all items of unit history and honors contribute to morale and espirit, so I am taking the liberty of sending some pictures of Phil Cochran, together with the account of Gen. Arnold citing him and awarding the DSM in 1944.


The rather dim fax copies of airplane action are to point up the use of the stripes painted at an angle on the fuselage of the Commando fighter aircraft during the Burma action (the flew the B-25 as more of a fighter than a bomber). The numerical code was: Five for Squadron Leader, Four for Second in command, Three for all other elements.


I hope all this will be of some value to you.


As Lou told you, I shall be using the Commandos in October in Steve Canyon




Milton Caniff


New York, NY



Meet the real Flip



The Americans flew in the very worst of weather conditions to show the Boche that they are better fliers. They were led by Major Philip Cochran of Erie, PA-a mad young Irishman who acts like Flip Corkin of the cartoon strip “Terry and the Pirates.”-Chicago Tribune dispatch from Tunisia, Jan 6, 1943.


John Thompson, who filed the story quoted above, probably didn’t realize that he placed the cart before the horse, that Flip Corkin of Terry and the Pirates acts like Major Philip Cochran, leader of a Curtis P-40 Warhawk fighter group in Africa.


Milton A. Caniff, creator of Terry and the Pirates, declared in a recent letter to the Fly Leaf that”thanks”to Phil Cochran’s ability to do the spectacular thing at the right time, my Flip Corkin version of him has had to run to keep up.”


Here, in Caniff’s own words, is the background story of Flip’s origin in the cartoon strip followed avidly by millions of newspaper readers:


“Early in 1941 Lieut. Philip Cochran, an old friend from Ohio State University, came to my house for a weekend. He mentioned that he had a squadron under his command that looked like a “hot” outfit, and asked me to design an insigne for the group. His idea was a fighting cock with a chip on his shoulder and a shamrock (Cochran’s own good luck piece) around its neck. I put the design together and made up the necessary three colored drawings to be submitted to the Air Forces for approval.


“Some months later Cochran invited me to Groton, Conn., to watch the (then) 65th Fighter Squadron ‘fly a review.’


It was while watching these men lead their squadron in practice bombing, strafing and other fighter airplane maneuvers that I began to realize what potential material they were for Terry Characters. The reader reaction to Dude Hennick, who I had patterned after another Ohio State classmate (Capt Frank L. Higgs of China National Aviation Corp.) had convinced me that comic strip people inspired by real persons carried much more conviction than purely fictional heroes and heroines.


“Since we do not use real names in a strip, I introduced Cochran on 3 August 3, 1942, as Capt. Flip Corkin. Cochran has since received the Soldiers’ Medal for heroism in circumstances not directly connected with enemy action. In addition, he has been promoted to the rank of Major. Flip has not yet caught up in rating with his real life counterpart, but will soon do so.


“As I had hoped, the reaction to Flip Corkin was immediate. Not only did the general readers begin accepting him as a very real person (not knowing of the actual Flip) but all his old friends in the Air Force pounced upon the opportunity to send me anecdote abut Cochran covering the years he was in training, during which I had no contact with him.


“Since publication of the story of his being awarded the Soldiers’ Medal (which mentioned his connection with the Terry characters) and the Croix de Guerre, Cochran now gets fan mail direct. Some of it simply addressed to’ Major Philip C. Cochran, Army Air Forces, Washington, D>C>


These scrappy American make better copy and are better models than can be hired from an agency. The only trouble is that their real life adventure are so spectular I must turn out fast continuity to keep up with what I read about them in the papers.”


Yes the Curtiss-equipped Fighting Cock Squadron is moving fast these days, too fast for Flip Corkin to keep up with its colorful leader but Flip is doing all right, isn’t he Rogers


From Curtis “Fly Leaf” Magazine and from the First Air Commando Association newsletter dated Fall 2000



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