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John R. Alison: Wikis


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John R. Alison
Born November 21, 1912 (1912-11-21) (age 97)
John Alison Eagle Litho 2004.png
John R. Alison
Gathering of Eagles 2004 Lithograph
Nickname Johnny
Place of birth Gainesville, Florida
Allegiance  United States of America
Service/branch  United States Air Force
Years of service 1936 - 1955
Rank Major General
Commands held 75th Fighter Squadron
1st Air Commando Group
Battles/wars World War II
Korean War
Awards Distinguished Service Cross
Silver Star
Other work Assistant Secretary of Commerce
Senior Vice President, Northrop

John "Johnny" R. Alison (born November 21, 1912), a highly decorated combat ace of World War II and veteran of the Korean War, is the father of Air Force Special Operations.[1]


Early years

Born near Gainesville, Florida in 1912, Alison graduated from the University of Florida School of Engineering and joined the US Army Air Corps in 1936.[2] He earned his wings and was commissioned at Kelly Field in 1937.[1] 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.[1] 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 Mitchell aircraft.[1] In his autobiography, Jimmy Doolittle wrote:

I might have gone to Russia, but Lieutenants Hubert Zemke and Johnny Alison, who had also been sent to England as observers, went instead. Good men, they both became aces later in the war. Johnny became a major general.[3]


L to R: John Alison, Tex Hill, Ajax Baumler, and Mack Mitchell at Kunming, China, July 1942.

After ten months and repeated requests for reassignment to combat, Alison got his wish. In June 1942, he reported to the China-Burma-India Theater (CBI) to serve as Deputy Squadron Commander under major David Lee "Tex" Hill in the 75th Fighter Squadron, part of Colonel Robert Lee Scott, Jr.'s 23rd Fighter Group, the USAAF successor of the AVG's famed Flying Tigers in the China-Burma-India Theater. Alison was called into theater by the previous commander of the AVG, Brigadier General Claire Lee Chennault, who was currently serving as Commander of the Fourteenth Air Force.[1] 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.[4] In early 1943, Alison demonstrated his aggressiveness when he took off during an attack on his own airfield. Alison engaged three A6M 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.[1] Ending his tour as commander of the 75th Fighter Squadron, Alison left as an ace with seven confirmed victories and several probable kills.[1] His former commanding officer, David Lee "Tex" Hill, had high praise for Alison:

John Alison had the greatest pure flying skill of any pilot in the theater—a touch on the controls that knew no equal. His talents were matched only by his eagerness for combat.[5]

Air Commando

After returning home in May 1943, Alison was recalled to the CBI theater by Gen. Henry "Hap" Arnold to co-command (along with Lt. Col. Philip G. Cochran) 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, Alison's 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.
—John Alison's Gathering of Eagles Biography[1]

Later Years

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.[1] He retired as vice president of the Northrop Corporation in 1984 and is a 1994 inductee into the Air Commando Hall of Fame.[6] In 1985 and 2004, Alison was inducted into the Air University's Gathering of Eagles program.[1] In 2005, he was enshrined in the National Aviation Hall of Fame.[7]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j "John Alison Biography". Gathering of Eagles Program. Air Command and Staff College. 2004. Retrieved January 30, 2008. 
  2. ^ Boltz, Images of Apollo's Warriors, pages 41-44
  3. ^ Doolittle, I Could Never Be So Lucky Again, p. 218
  4. ^ John Alison DSC Citation Home of Heroes (September 12, 1942); retrieved January 30, 2008
  5. ^ Hill, "Tex" Hill: Flying Tiger, p. 174
  6. ^ Air Commando Hall of Fame retrieved January 26, 2008
  7. ^ "John Alison in the National Aviation Hall of Fame". 2005. Retrieved January 14, 2008. 


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