Out of the Hangar: History Office explores 80th anniversary of World War II Chengdu Project (VIDEO)

  • Published
  • By Joe Danielewicz, Air Force Life Cycle Management Center Public Affairs
The Air Force Life Cycle Management Center’s History Office regularly produces work that connects current acquisition professionals with the work of their predecessors.
Many of the summaries can be found in weekly dispatches posted online.
Continuing to expand on historic events and how they can relate to today’s missions, AFLCMC Historian Robert Marcell explores the 80th anniversary of the completion of the Chengdu Project, a World War II effort to rapidly construct austere airfields in western China in support of Operation Matterhorn, largely built without the use of heavy machinery.
The Chengdu Project, managed by Gen. Claire Lee Chennault, of “Flying Tigers” fame, built five bomber and six fighter fields in China between January and May 10, 1944. The austere airfields supported Operation MATTERHORN, a strategic bombing campaign against Japanese holdings in southeast Asia and Japan using B-29s flown from new and existing bases in India and China. The Japanese blockage of China prevented heavy construction equipment and fuel from reaching the airfield sites. Instead, nearly 400,000 Chinese laborers used basic tools, like a hand-pulled 10,000-pound stone roller, to complete the fields.
“The reason the Chengdu Project is important to us today is due to its tie-ins with some of our present day efforts in the Air Force, particularly with regards to Secretary Kendall's Operational Imperatives,” Marcell explains in the video.
The United States Army Air Forces ability to operate from an austere and atypical location in the 1940s can be seen as a past example that connects with the modern-era’s Operational Imperative 5 - Resilient Basing, along with Agile Combat Employment (ACE), the service’s concept of being able to operate from small and improvised bases, in addition to larger fixed bases.

Watch the full video above or on YouTube.