In battle, the Fourteenth Air Force is a handful of bold-eyed young men, haunted by the necessity of economy in the use of their too-few aircraft, inspired by the genius and unerring tactical wisdom of Major General Claire Lee Chennault. On the ground it is a strange compound of unselfish human labor: patient Chinese who work miracles by numbers and sweat where machines are inadequate or just not available; windburned Americans in dusty coveralls who whoop and holler as they work, spend their off hours talking about home.

By last week, as the...

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