An immensely detailed examination of the obscure expansion of American aviation into China during Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalist era.
Crouch (Enduring Patagonia, 2002, etc.), a West Point graduate and former Army Ranger, depicts this story of William Langhorne Bond and his intrepid shepherding of the American-backed China National Aviation Corporation (CNAC). Initially sent to China to help bolster the money-losing aviation enterprise of the Curtiss-Wright Corporation in 1931, Bond recognized that the key to success within employee relations was to treat the Chinese as partners. Modernizing the country was the aim of Chiang (and the U.S. allies), and when Pan Am wrestled in, buying up Curtiss-Wright’s share in CNAC and expanding routes across the Pacific, Bond was the professional enlisted in the effort. Loyal to both the Chinese and Americans, he managed to convince Pan Am chief Juan Trippe to continue its routes within China despite the crippling invasion of the Japanese in 1937. Circumventing the State Department’s neutrality laws, Bond agreed to resign officially from Pam Am and work solely for CNAC, which he helped get back in operation during the war, using Hong Kong as its base. The airline was instrumental in evacuating the Nationalist provisional capital Hankow in 1938, Hong Kong in 1941 and in the execution of the crucial airdrops over “the Hump” from Dinjan to Calcutta, thus aiding the U.S. Army in supplying the Chinese troops. The Hump provided the successful prototype for the later Berlin Airlift. What Crouch calls “the most successful Sino-American partnership of all time” was dissolved in December 1949, with China “gone red” and the U.S. government fearful of continuing.
Recondite but dramatically rendered and obsessively researched.