Civil Air Transport (CAT) was formed in China after World War II by General Claire L. Chennault and Mr. Whiting Willauer. General Chennault was well known by the Nationalist Chinese Government and by the Chinese people, having been the leader of the American Volunteer Group (The Flying Tigers) during the war. While not as well known as Chennault, Willlauer also provided significant services to the Chinese Government during the war and was highly respected.
Both strongly thought that there was an urgent need within China for airlift services because of the vast distances, the lack of communications services, and the primitive roadway system. After gaining approval, CAT organized as soon as possible and transported relief supplies from various ports to the interior of war-ravaged China. In many situations, they provided a wide range of services that were necessary to support the critical situations in China. As the civil war in China grew in intensity, CAT was also pressed into flying covert missions in support of Chiang Kai-shek and his Nationalist Kuomintang forces fighting against the communists under Mao Zedong.
The operation moved to Taiwan after the Chinese mainland fell to the communist forces in 1949. In 1950, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) purchased the airline through a Delaware holding company. CAT continued to operate commercial passenger flights, while also running the covert Air America flights for the CIA. CAT and Air America, along with Air Asia and Southern Air Transport, eventually fell under the control of the holding company Pacific Corp.
From the end of World War II to the end of April 1975, CAT and Air America flew covert missions in support of American interests in Southeast Asia. The exhibit is dedicated to the personnel that took part in one of the greatest relatively unknown chapters in the annals of aviation history.