COLONEL MERIAN C. COOPER
CHIEF OF STAFF
FIFTH BOMBER COMMAND
1943 - 1945
The Creator of King Kong served in the USAAF in the SWPA
Merian Caldwell Cooper served in WWI as a DH-4 bomber pilot and was shot down by the Germans and captured. He served the remainder of WWI as a POW.
The Polish 7th Air Escadrille or Kosciuszko Squadron was founded by Merian C. Cooper and initially 7 other American volunteer pilots in 1919. Merian C. Cooper was in this squadron from 1919 - 1921 during the Polish - Soviet War. He was shot down on 26 July 1920 and was captured by the Cossacks. He convinced them that he was only a corporal and nine months later he escaped from a POW Camp near Moscow, and survived with the aid of the Resistance and travelled to Latvia. There is apparently a life sized statue of him in Warsaw, Poland according to one source.
Whilst he was the head of production at RKO Pictures, Merian C. Cooper directed a number of Hollywood movies including King Kong (1933). Merian flew the little plane that circled the Empire State Building in the movie. Another one of his more successful movies was "The Four Feathers".
In June 1940 he was part of a conference on photo reconnaissance for the US Navy organised with the Director of Naval Intelligence Captain Ellis M. Zacharias. Merian presented his proposals on the photographic needs for intelligence purposes for the US Navy. He had gone to Annapolis but left under a cloud without graduating.
Merian had a heart condition and also had serious burns to his arms from the DH-4 crash during WWI and should not have remained in the military during WWII. Colonel Merian C. Cooper worked with Colonel Robert L. Scott as Briefing Officer/Logistics Liaison for the First Special Aviation Project, the Doolittle Air Raid on Japan. He then went to Dinjan Airfield in Assam on about 23 April 1942 and worked with bomber pilot Colonel Caleb. V. Hayes to set up the Assam-Burma- China Ferrying Command.
He then flew with Chennault's "Flying Tigers" and became General Claire Chennault's Chief of Staff in the China Task Force the forerunner of the 14th Air Force. Not only did he fulfill the role of Chief of Staff, Merian was also A-2, and A-3.
He then moved to the Southwest Pacific theatre of war and served as Chief of Staff to the Deputy Commander of the Fifth Air Force, Major General Ennis Whitehead.
General George Kenney had heard that Merian was back in the US and had sent a message through to General Arnold requesting that Merian work for him as they had known each other since 1917. Merian C. Cooper arrived in Brisbane on 2 May 1943. Kenney told him to "stay around Brisbane for three or four days to find out what the score was and and then report to Whitehead".
In June 1944 at Nadzab Colonel Merian C. Cooper had lunch with Charles Lindbergh. Whilst at Nadzab, Merian regularly conferred with senior Australian Army Air Liaison Officers when he was planning Fifth Air Force operations.
Merian nearly always had a pipe in his mouth and would leave a trail of tobacco.
"Living Dangerously: The Adventures of Merian C. Cooper, Creator of King Kong
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© Peter Dunn 2015
This page first produced 12 March 20143
This page last updated 10 September 2018