Charles Beard's Story
Radar Counter Measures in the CBI Theater

By Roger Cook, Past Commander, Tampa Bay Basha, CBIVA

   This story is about the advancement of Radar in World War II and it's profound contribution to bombing missions in all theaters, with particular attention to the CBI. Capt. Charles Beard, a former Tampa Bay Basha member was an early participant in the development of Radar Counter Measures (RCM). He served on active duty in the U.S. Army Air Force from late 1939 through 1945, and then transferred to the U.S. Air Force in 1947. His duties were classified "Top Secret," as they covered a highly technical aspect in the development of RCM.

   Contrary to the belief that Radar was developed during World War II, it was actually developed by the British during the period from 1935 - 1938, as a prototype apparatus at the mouth of the Thames River. The purpose was to control and direct marine traffic during periods of poor visibility. This system operated on the same basic principal as today's radar, by sending a narrow high frequency radio beam out, then measuring the azimuth of the beam and time in micro seconds for it to be reflected back to the source. From the data produced by this system the location of the object could be determined. Later, the height of the object could also be determined. Radar would later be expanded to aircraft detection.

   After the British entered the war in 1939, the U.S. sent several small groups to England to study this new technology. These groups were known as ETG (Electronic Training Groups) and composed of college research professors, design engineers and military officers with electrical engineering degrees. Charles, having earned an Electrical Engineering degree from Dodge Institute, served in one of these groups. After returning to the U.S., these groups would be assigned to start similar programs and ultimately projects putting the technology to work. The British later deployed it along their eastern coastline to alert them in advance of air attacks during the Battle of Britain. They named it the Chain Home Early Warning System. Due to the intense collaboration of the U.S. and British teams, we remained technically well ahead of the Nazis and the Japanese in the field of radar. And then with the development of Radar Counter Measures we were able to greatly reduce our losses in our bombing missions over Germany, Japan and the CBI. The famous raid reducing Hamburg to an inferno, demoralizing the enemy severely and the B-29 raids on Japan would be good examples.

   In late 1942, a small group stationed in Boca Raton, became interested in further developing "countermeasures" for these signals when used by the enemy. The men completing this training became classified as "Special Radio Officers," which led to the acronym of RADAR, from "Radio Detection, Azimuth and Range." Some of these men (including Charles, more often called "Chuck" in those days} were given a special MOS (Military Occupation Specialty) 7888 designation, for RCM. Two groups soon evolved: "RCM - passive" for collection of data and "RCM - active" for action taken from the passive group data. This data was also used for planning missions, to include route, course, altitude and selection of IP (Initial Point). Later, when jammers became available, they were also factored into use.

   The RCM equipped planes used for these missions were subsequently nicknamed "Ferrets," one of which in early 1944 was a P-38 in Project "Big Ben" and flown by Bill Stallcup, a U.S. Air Corp volunteer. He was stationed with the RAF 192nd Squadron, at Foulsham, England, during the V-2 Rocket threat of 1944 and 1945. Another, a B-17 operating near Algiers was being used to gather ELINT (Electronic Intelligence) on Nazi Radar systems. These aircraft became know as a "Raven" under the direction of a priority RCM Officer (a rated pilot) on board, known as a "Crow," who was in charge of directing the mission.

 ALECTRONIX and crew

Charles Beard (standing, 2nd from right) and the crew of the Radar Countermeasures equipped B-24 Alectronix

   In late 1943 Charles was assigned as Project Manager for Ferret 12 - "Alectronix," a B-24, directly under the U.S. CSO (Chief Signal Office). He reported to Major Mel Jackson, the deputy for RCM under General Olmstead, and was sent to Patterson AFB in Dayton, for outfitting. This Project would change the concept of Ferret aircraft, as they were able to consolidate the RCM equipment in a single (rear bomb bay) location, increasing efficiency, from the scattered placement in previous. smaller aircraft. The forward bomb bay was outfitted with two 450 gallon fuel tanks to extend the range. Upon completion, Charles took Ferret 12 to India and became attached to the 7th Bomb Group at Pandaveswar Air Field.

   Charles with a team including navigators, planned and laid out the famous Malaya EAC (Eastern Air Command) raid in early 1945, combining USAF and RAF B-24's. He then led the mission over it's 17-1/2 hour, 2500 mile course to the Kra Isthmus, in Ferret 12. The mission was described in a Roundup newspaper article of March 29, 1945:


EAC Liberators Fly 2,500 Miles On Malaya Raid

    HQ., EASTERN AIR COMMAND - A strong combined force of USAAF B-24's and RAF Liberators this week flew their longest formation mission of the war, a 2,500-mile, 17½-hour journey to the Kra Isthmus in Malaya, where they struck from as low as 440 feet at the Na Nien railway sidings.
  The planes braved ack-ack to sow explosives on the target, leaving a large oil fire and much of the yards burnt out, with damage to trains and bridges. Some crews passed within 700 miles of Singapore on the trip, which was equivalent to a nonstop hop from London to Leningrad and back.

   While the article describes the mission rather well, Charles mentioned that some of the planes were actually in the air for 20 hours. They struck the rail yards at Na Nien from levels as low as 440 feet and braved ack-ack to sow their bombs, leaving a large oil fire and also damaged trains and the Kanchanaburi bridge over the Kwai river. The EAC Liberators were out again after this record length mission, leaving a trail of wreckage along the Bangkok-Chiengmai rail line, while others bombed wireless installations on Great Coco Island, 50 miles northeast of the Adamans. These missions, along with our Naval Blockade were to impair major Japanese supply lines to Burma, and were effective in doing so.
 Click here to read Citation 7th Bombardment Group Malaya Mission Unit Citation

   Then in tandem with the bombing missions, our Northern Combat Area Command troops, including a substantial number of Chinese soldiers, under Lt. General Dan Sultan, were closing a trap on 30,000 Japanese troops with the help of British forces in the Myingyan, Meiktila, Mandalay triangle. These missions coupled with the ongoing EAC air strikes were instrumental in our gaining virtual control of the region. The contribution of RCM in enhancing the effectiveness of our air strikes against Japanese supply lines is not widely known. Not enough is told of the accomplishments of those who served in the CBI during World War II with particular attention to unique events which contributed greatly to Japan's ultimate defeat. Yes, we all rejoice in the American lives saved by Truman's decision to drop the A-Bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but some of our forces in the CBI were on a roll and were, in a way, a little disappointed in getting their multiplying successes cut off so abruptly. In all, Charles flew thirty nine combat missions and was awarded the Bronze Star for his meritorious service. He is also a recipient of the DFC, the Air Medal with 2 Oak Leaf Clusters, and was awarded a Presidential Citation.

   In the late 1940's, when the Department of Defense was formed and the Air Force was designated a separate Service, the classification "RCM - passive" became ELINT (Electronic Intelligence) and "RCM - active" became ECM (Electronic Counter Measures).

   Prior to his transfer to the U.S. Air Force in 1947, Charles had acquired a graduate degree in physics at Ohio State. He then remained in an active reserve status and flew some ELINT missions during the Cold War, the last of which was in 1976. His knowledge was so valuable that he was called back to fly these missions at nearly 60 years of age. In the late 70's Charles rose to the Active Reserve rank of Major General. In 1981 he became an inactive reserve officer, retaining that status until his passing in 2006. We members of the Tampa Bay Basha are proud to have had Charles as one of us.

 Copyright © 2008 Roger Cook

 Charles Beard and ALECTRONIX



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