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Battlefield Surgeon
The War of 1812, Conflict and Deception
100 Years of Air Power and Aviation
War on Sacred Grounds
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Making the Unipolar Moment
The American Military Frontiers
Above the Thunder

Perilous MissionsPerilous Missions

Civil Air Transport and CIA Covert Operations in Asia

William Leary

Narrated by Gregg A. Rizzo

Available from Audible

Book published by University of Alabama Press

Civil Air Transport (CAT), founded in China after World War II by Claire Chennault and Whiting Willauer, was initially a commercial carrier specializing in air freight. Its role quickly changed as CAT became first a paramilitary adjunct of the Nationalist Chinese Air Force, then the CIA's secret "air force" in Korea, then "the most shot-at airline in the world" in French Indochina, and eventually becoming reorganized as Air America at the height of the Vietnam War. William M. Leary's detailed operational history of CAT sets the story in the perspective of Asian and Cold War geopolitics and shows how CAT allowed the CIA to operate with a level of flexibility and secrecy that it would not have attained through normal military or commercial air transportation.

William Leary is E. Merton Coulter Professor Emeritus at the University of Georgia and author/editor of 14 books, including Under Ice: Waldo Lyon and the Development of the Arctic Submarine.


Perilous Missions still constitutes our best resource on the origins of Civil Air Transport. It offers a rich treasury of oral testimony and documentary evidence.”

Journal of Military History

“Particularly gripping is Leary's account of CAT's role in efforts to bolster the defense of the doomed Nationalist stronghold of Taiyuan, an operation which rivaled in human drama the concurrent, and far more successful, Berlin Airlift which was then taking place in faraway Europe.”

Georgia Historical Quarterly

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