Americans in Wartime Experience

Philip Adair

World War II

  • United States Army Air Force
  • 10th Air Force, 80th Fighter Group, 89th Fighter Squadron / "Burma Banshees"
  • Pilot
  • World War II Ace
  • Silver Star
  • Legion of Merit
  • Distinguished Flying Cross

Philip R. Adair war born in Tuttle, Oklahoma and became a World War II ace and served as flight leader while with the 80th Fighter Group, 89th Fighter Squadron, the famed "Burma Banshees."  During a combat mission on 13 December 1943 Adair encounter the enemy for the first time.  Shortly after returning to base, the alarm sounding indicating enemy aircraft were incoming on their way to bomb 10th Air Forces bases.  Adair, after his P-40 was refueled immediately took off to intercept and found himself alone and facing the enemy, a group of 24 bombers with 40 fighter escorts.  Despite his aircraft being hit by several rounds, Adair stayed in the fight and no doubt saved lives by retarding the Japanese attack.

The Burma Banshees

The 80th Fighter Group, part of the 10th Air Force was made up of the 88th, 89th and 90th Fighter Squadrons and was based in Karachi, India.  Equipped with P-40N's, their primary mission was to to provide air cover for the 10th Air Force bases that were engaged in Hump Airlift Operations.  This operation was tasked with flying supplies over the Himalaya's to 14th Air Force bases in China.  The most vulnerable part of the operation was the northern route where the Japanese fighters routinely would attack unarmed transports as they were crossing the mountains.  In October of 1943, the 80th began flying interdiction missions into Northern Burma.

The P-40 Warhawk flown by the 80th manufactured by the Curtis-Wright Corporation was a fighter and ground attack aircraft.  As a form of intimidation, the P-40N's flown by the 80th had the Death Head Skull painted on the engine cowling.  Additionally, a belly mounted air siren was sometimes used as further intimidation of the Japanese.  When activated, the siren made what was referred to as the "Banshee Wail" As a result, the 80th embraced the nickname, "The Burma Banshees."

In this interview with Col. Adair, he tells his amazing story, including his solo encounter of 64 enemy aircraft, his becoming a World War II Ace and his earning of the Silver Star.

Back to Stories
The Americans in Wartime Experience explores the impact of war and conflict on America since WWI. It honors those who served in the military and on the home front and highlights the values they demonstrated in serving – duty, honor, and courage. It examines how periods of conflict have profoundly shaped American society. It educates visitors about the costs of war, both on a personal and social level. It challenges visitors to remember the service and sacrifices made by their fellow citizens to preserve and defend our freedoms. LEARN MORE

Join Now: Membership Benefits