U.S. Far East Air Force
- For other usages see Far East Air Force (disambiguation)
The United States Far East Air Force (FEAF), later known as the Far East Air Forces, was formed on August 4, 1941 and was the predecessor of the current Pacific Air Forces of the United States Air Force. Initially it was comprised mostly of aircraft and personnel from the Philippine Army Air Corps. It was largely destroyed during the Battle of the Philippines (1941-42). The surviving personnel and aircraft were later re-organised in Australia, as the U.S. Fifth Air Force.
On August 3, 1944, following the Allied landings in the Philippines, FEAF was revived in Brisbane, Australia as Far East Air Forces under the command of Gen. George Kenney. By the end of the war, it included the Fifth, Thirteenth and Seventh Air Forces. The latter two air forces were transferred and/or deactivated following the end of the war, and the FEAF name became synonymous with the Fifth Air Force. It was redesignated Pacific Air Command, U.S. Army, on December 6, 1945, before changing back to FEAF on January 1, 1947.
When the North Koreans crossed the 38th parallel June 25, 1950, FEAF consisted of Fifth Air Force, Thirteenth Air Force, Twentieth Air Force and the Far East Materiel Command. On July 1, 1957, FEAF was redesignated Pacific Air Forces and transferred its headquarters to Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii.
In 1941, United States Army Forces Far East (USAFFE) possessed 210 aircraft, including 31 P-40Bs. The rest were P-26s, P-35s, B-10s, B-18s, A-29s, C-39s, and various observation planes. This force was considered to be largely obsolescent.
The Force Headquarters was located at Nielson Field, however, the majority of the planes were at either Clark Field or Nichols Field. Major General Lewis H. Brereton became the commander of this unit, in the fall of 1941.
In July 1941, Chief of the Army Air Forces, Major General Henry H. Arnold, proposed sending four heavy bombardment groups (340 aircraft) and two pursuit squadrons (260 aircraft) to the Philippines, as reinforcements for the Philippine Army Air Corps. By October 2, 81 P-40s had been shipped to the islands, along with the 14th Bombardment Squadron of the 19th Bombardment Group (H). The rest of the 19 BG(H) arrived in November, for a total of 35 B-17 Flying Fortresss.
By March of 1942, the War Department planned to have 165 heavy bombers in the Philippines and, at least, 240 fighters. The 7th Bombardment Group (H) was en route when the Japanese invasion began. The 27th Bombardment Group (L)'s pilots and ground crews had arrived in November, but the unit's A-24s remained in Hawaii.
Disposition of FEAF in 1941
Within 130 km of Manila, there were six airfields. Outside of Luzon, there were another six airfields. Clark Field was the only one that could support heavy bombers, until the December completion of Del Monte Field. Another bomber base was scheduled for construction, in the Visayas.
In August of 1941, $10,000,000 was spent to improve the airfields. Most of these funds were spent on Nichols and Clark Fields, with the rest spent mostly on auxiliary fields at Iba, on the Zambales coast, to the west of Clark, and various points on northern Luzon.
Aircraft used by FEAF, December 1941
The number in () indicate the number of aircraft that were usable. Where un-noted, the number of usable aircraft is unknown.
- B-17C/D: 35 (33)
- B-18A: 18
- A-27: 9
- B-10B: 12
- P-40B/E: 107 (54)
- P-26|P-26A: 16
- P-35A: 52 (18)
- O-47: 12
- Other: 46
- TOTAL: 307
There were additional aircraft attached to the Philippine Army Air Corps.
FEAF units and personnel, December 8, 1941
As of November 31, the force contained 4,940 enlisted troops, under the command of 669 officers. The August strength was at 2,049 enlisted troops, under the command of 254 officers.
The numbers in brackets indicate the number of personnel, as of November 31.
- Far East Air Force Headquarters (147)
- 5th Bomber Command
- 5th Interceptor Command
- Far East Air Service Command (237)
- Philippine Army Air Corps
By the time of the Japanese invasion, the force possessed seven radar sets, but, only two were in operation. There were plans, for 1942, to build three detector stations and an information center. The two working sets were at Iba and outside Manila.
In lieu of working equipment and adequate personnel, USAFFE had organized a warning service consisting of watchers who would report plane movements by telephone (or telegraph) to the 5th Interceptor Command.
- Wesley F. Craven and James L. Cate, 1948-58, The Army Air Forces in World War II. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press).