The Aircraft of Air America, 5th edition

The CAT / Air America Archive

History of Aviation Collection


Special Collections Department

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Eugene McDermott Library,
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Richardson, TX 75083-0643

Paul Oelkrug CA,
Coordinator for Special Collections

The History of Air America, 2nd Edition of 24 August 2015 , by Dr. Joe F. Leeker

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The History of Air America is new e-book that covers the operational history of Air America. It is intended to serve as a narrative supplement to the database entitled The Aircraft of Air America (located at http://www.utdallas.edu/library/specialcollections/hac/cataam/Leeker/aircraft/index.html) published for the first time on 15 August 2003. Like its counterpart, The History of Air America is mostly based on material preserved at the Air America Archives at McDermott Library, University of Texas at Dallas as well as on material taken from other sources like the USAF Aircraft Assignment Records preserved at the USAF Historical Research Agency at Maxwell AFB, the records of the Director General of Civil Aviation of the Republic of China at Taipei, and other archives. Already the 3rd edition of The Aircraft of Air America, published on 29 May 2006 contained some narrative files describing certain aspects of Air America's activities. These files have been taken out of the 4th edition of The Aircraft of Air America, updated and supplemented by more narrative files dealing with other aspects of Air America's history to form this new The History of Air America, which is, again, a work in progress. This means that not all files given below will be ready for publication from the beginning.

As this e-book uses the same abbreviations, has been supported by the same people, and is based on the same sources as The Aircraft of Air America, there are no separate files called Abbreviations, Acknowledgments, and Bibliography for The History of Air America. Whoever is interested in these aspects, should consult the files given in the database called The Aircraft of Air America.

At the times of Civil Air Transport (CAT):

The early days I - CAT operations in China 1946-48
The early days II - CAT operations in China 1949-50
CAT, Air Asia, Air America – the Company on Taiwan I: Structure and Development
CAT, Air Asia, Air America – the Company on Taiwan II: Scheduled and Civilian Charter flights
CAT, Air Asia, Air America – the Company on Taiwan III: Work for the US Government
Working in Remote Countries: CAT in New Zealand, Thailand-Burma, French Indochina, Guatemala, and Indonesia

From Civil Air Transport to Air America:

CAT, Air Asia, Air America – the Company on Taiwan IV: Technical Services Division
CAT and Air America in Japan
Smaller Operations: Kadena Air Base, Clark Air Base
Missions to Tibet
Company Management I – 1947-59
Company Management II – 1959-73
Company Management III – 1973-77

At the times of Air America:

Air America in Laos I – humanitarian work, Part I
Air America in Laos I – humanitarian work, Part II
Air America in Laos II – military aid, Part I
Air America in Laos II – military aid, Part II
Air America in Laos III – in combat
Air America in South Vietnam I – from the days of CAT to 1969
Air America in South Vietnam II – from Vietnamization to the end, 1969-75
Air America in South Vietnam III – the collapse
Air America in Thailand - since the days of CAT
Air America at the Bay of Pigs
Scheduled Air Services Ryukyus
Air America in Cambodia – LMAT and the Khmer Air Force
Air America - Cooperation with other airlines

This work too, I dedicate it to the courageous people of Air America who many many times risked their own lives to save those of other people. And especially to those heroic men and women whose dedication was so high that they did not make it home.

Dr. Joe F. Leeker
University of Texas at Dallas, McDermott Library      11 August 2008

As no work of this nature can ever be considered to be complete or without errors, I kindly ask to send all corrections and additions to Paul Oelkrug, CA, Coordinator of the Department of Special Collections, at oelkrug@utdallas.edu. He will kindly forward all material to me.

© University of Texas at Dallas, 11 August 2008


The updates of 1 June 2009 and 23 August 2010 to this database include three new files published here for the first time:

- The early days I - CAT operations in China 1946-48
- The early days II - CAT operations in China 1949-50
- Air America - Cooperation with other airlines

While the 2 files about the early days of CAT are mainly based on old CAT Bulletins preserved at the CAT / Air America Archives and on information about the aircraft flown by CAT prior to 1950 obtained from Princeton University Library, the file about Air America's cooperation with other airlines mainly deals with the Company's relations with Southern Air Transport, Bird and Sons, Continental Air Services, Boun Oum Airways and all those airlines who had handling contracts with Air America, particularly for services at Clark and Kadena Air Bases. The file Air America Japan has been considerably augmented at the beginning, dealing with the history of CAT prior to the Korean War. And the file Air America in South Vietnam III - the collapse has as well been increased with material recently released by the CIA like trip reports in which several Air America pilots describe in detail how they spent the last 2 days in South Vietnam, that is 28 and 29 April 1975. The updates contain new material that came from a number of new collections and sources. Among them, I'd like to especially mention the following new sources:

  1. The material donated to the Archives by Patricia F. Walker, M.D., daughter of Captain Frederick "Fred" Frye Walker. This material includes priceless documents like all types of Memoranda, Notams, Contracts, Radio messages, and Daily Flight Schedules of several Air America bases, including the Saigon Daily Flight Schedules of 28 and 29 April 1975, that is of the last two days Air America was in operation.
  2. The photos sent to the author for publication by Dr. Jonathan Pote, documenting his one-year stay in Laos in 1965/66. These photos were very helpful for the sections about Continental Air Services and Boun Oum Airways.
  3. CIA material released in 2009. In the History, trip reports documenting Air America flights during the evacuation of Saigon as well as various commendations illustrate the heroism shown by Air America flight crews on many occasions.
  4. The material supplied by Princeton University Library, which includes the only known official list of aircraft operated by CAT between 1947 and 1950.

Once again, I kindly ask to send all corrections and all further additions to Paul Oelkrug, Coordinator of the Department of Special Collections, at oelkrug@utdallas.edu. He will kindly forward all material to me.

© University of Texas at Dallas, 11 August 2008, last updated on 23 August 2010


This second edition of The History of Air America, dated 4 March 2013, includes 7 new files published here for the first time:

  • CAT, Air Asia, Air America – the Company on Taiwan I: Structure and Development
  • CAT, Air Asia, Air America – the Company on Taiwan II: Scheduled and Civilian Charter Flights
  • CAT, Air Asia, Air America – the Company on Taiwan III: Work for the US Government
  • CAT, Air Asia, Air America – the Company on Taiwan IV: Maintenance
  • Smaller Operations: Kadena Air Base, Clark Air Base
  • Working in Remote Countries: CAT in New Zealand, Thailand-Burma, French Indochina, Guatemala, and Indonesia
  • CAT and Air America in Japan

The file “Air America Japan” has been completely reworked and has now become “CAT and Air America in Japan”, dealing in detail with CAT’s activities during the Korean War. Details about CAT’s operations in Guatemala, Indonesia, and French Indochina have been considerably increased and can now be found in the new file “Working in Remote Countries”, which also contains activities not mentioned before like Operation “Icebox” and the New Zealand operation. These new files are mainly based on material preserved at the Air America Archives like CAT Bulletins and the priceless material contained in the boxes of Professor William Leary. This includes, for example, the Memoirs of CAT pilot Connie Seigrist and all the interviews once conducted by Professor Leary with numerous CAT and Air America people. The material preserved at the Air America Archives also comes from the boxes of Joe Rosbert, CAT’s Director of Operations, and from the microfilms supplied by Gary Bisson. Very helpful were the log books of CAT pilots Connie Seigrist and especially “Doc” Johnson, scans of which have been kindly supplied by the sons of these pilots, i.e. by Steve Seigrist and James Johnson. Without the indefatigable efforts especially of James Johnson it would have been impossible to document and illustrate many of CAT’s and Air America’s “black” missions.

© University of Texas at Dallas, 11 August 2008, last updated on 4 March 2013


 

This final version of the second edition of The History of Air America, dated 24 August 2015, includes 4 new files published here for the first time:

  • Company Management I – 1947-59
  • Company Management II – 1959-73
  • Company Management III – 1973-77
  • Air America in Thailand – since the days of CAT

While the file about Air America in Thailandfollows the same pattern as the files about Air America in Laos or South Vietnam, so is arranged by contracts, types of operations, and periods of time, the 3 new files called Company Management, Administration, and Ground Support I, II, and III try to explain how CAT, Air Asia, and Air America were functioning behind the visible world of the flight crews – at Washington, at Taipei and on the level of an Air America base or station. At the same time, these files try to list all people who worked at a certain position at a certain place. As these lists are not based on any official Company roster of employees, but only on those documents that were available to me, this information is necessarily incomplete.

What else is new in this “final” version of my History of Air America?

- There are several new chapters in Air America in Laos. One of them (in Humanitarian work, part 2) deals with Air America working in USAID’s anti-narcotics programs and also tries to disprove the false allegations of drug running; another one (in Humanitarian work, part 1) gives new details about Air America’s SAR work; still another one of them (in Military aid, part 1) deals with the Seaboard World Services episode; and to all of them, many details about the historical background have been added.
- The file Missions to Tibet now has new details extracted from the log book of Merrill D. (“Doc”) Johnson.
- A new chapter (about Air Ventures) and many details (mostly about CASI) have been added to the file Cooperation with other airlines.
- The file CAT, Air Asia, Air America the Company on Taiwan III: Work for the US Government now contains details about the B-17s used by CAT and the RoCAF.
- The file CAT, Air Asia, Air America the Company on Taiwan IV: Technical Services Division now has, at its end, a summary of the history of Air Asia from its sale to E-Systems in 1975 to today.

After more than 21 years of work, I can finally say that The Aircraft of Air America and The History of Air America have been completed. Looking back, I am very happy to say that many people have assisted me over the years with the information they sent me – too many to mention here all of them. Whoever has assisted me in writing first The Aircraft of Air America and then The History of Air America is listed in the “Acknowledgments” file of The Aircraft – there is no separate “Acknowledgments” file for the History, as in many cases the material sent to me has been used in both e-books. However, I want to thank especially two persons whom I could contact for help for very many years and without whose indefatigable assistance these two e-books would not have been possible: the late Ward Reimer and Joe Hazen. So once again, many, many thanks!

There are also two institutions whom I’d like to thank here for their assistance: The staff of the Department of Special Collections of UTD was always very helpful – not only by making accessible to me the CAT and Air America material that had been donated to them, but also by arranging whatever they could, so that during my one week trips to Dallas I could check as much material as possible, and by their patience, trying to answer all of my questions that I sometimes sent them from home via e-mail. So thank you very much, Special Collections! The other institution I’d like to thank is the CIA – for generously declassifying an enormous amount of precious documents about CAT and Air America. Already in 1997 or 1998, the first shipments of the “CIA Corporate Records” arrived at Special Collections, followed by more declassified material over the years. In the meantime, CIA’s Electronic Reading Room is another source of information, without whom it would have been impossible to write these two e-books. So thank you very much, Declassification Staff!

It was in 1994 that I started to work on Air America, and my first visit to the McDermott Library of UTD was in 1996. Since then, several collections have been revised and so, probably a lot of material that has been quoted in my references by box and folder number, may have changed its box or folder within the same collection and so may have been given new box and folder numbers. Whenever it was possible, I tried to indicate the new box and folder numbers. As this has not always been possible, readers and patrons should ask a librarian when they are unable to locate in the library a document that I quoted.

© University of Texas at Dallas, 11 August 2008, last updated on 24 August 2015