The Flying Tigers

blueface666, with your background in military history I guess you would know quite a lot about the Flying Tigers, Claire Chennault, Madame Chiang and so on. That’s quite an interesting and under appreciated part of WWII. If you have any interesting stories about it that you wouldn’t find from the usual sources I would be interested to hear them.

One the things about the AVG (American Volunteer Group) most people don’t know is that when it was brought under Air Corps command (July, 1942) most of the pilots resigned and refused to continue flying in China. It was kept quiet and the former Flying Tigers were reassigned to other theaters. The AVG was renamed the 14th Air Force and regular Air Corps pilots were brought in (March, 1943).
Why did the original Flying Tigers resign? Chinese corruption, pure and simple. The AVG was equipped with Curtis-Wright P-40s. All replacement parts and fuel had to be flown in from India across the Himalayas by the CNAC (China National Aviation Corporation). The AVG did not have it’s own supply mechanism and relied on the Chinese. After WWII the truth came out. Pilots had to buy fuel, ammunition, spare parts, medicine, etc from KMT functionaries. In his autobiography, Maj. Greg (Pappy) Boyington said his squadron had to buy fuel and tires from a KMT official’s wife…that usually they stuffed the tires with straw so they they could be used longer.


The story of the Flying Tigers is romantic but it’s mostly due to wartime propaganda…and Chennault was a master. The fact is, Chiang Kai-Shek wasn’t that interested in fighting the Japanese. He figured the US and the Flying Tigers could hold them off until the Japanese surrendered.* He was more interested in fighting Mao. Unfortunately, neither Chennault** nor Chiang had strong military educations. Stilwell insisted a strong ground component was necessary…but this would cost more money and possibly weaken Chiang’s power base. As a result, during the Ichi-go Offensive, one of the prime Japanese objectives became the air fields based in East China. With no ground forces to protect them, they fell easily to the Japanese and more Chinese territory came under Japanese control since the beginning of the war. It was a political as well as military defeat and it was all as Stilwell had predicted.

*He was encouraged in this belief by Chennault. Since the 1930’s, American Air Force officers have been under the sway of Giulio Douhet’s theories/claims of air power being the “be all and end all” of warfare. Thank God the USMC and US Navy don’t share their beliefs. Unfortunately, the news media listens to the Air Force.
**There used to be a bronze bust of Chennault downtown in the 228 Park. It was decided that it was “warlike” and the bust was removed. Before the removal, veterans used to come to Taipei very year for a memorial. After the removal they stopped. Another “gold star” for Taiwan’s public relations.

Wow, I didn’t know that Pappy Boyington flew with the AVG in China. I met the man twice and have an autographed picture of him sitting on my computer table.

My elemenatry school speech therapist (was an awful stutterer) flew supplies over “the hump” and he told me one time he went back to look at what was in the boxes and he found perfume and other cosmetics. He was not very happy to learn that he was risking his life for that kind of stuff.

Thanks for the lesson, BF.

Ooo I like war stories! more! more!

My classical Chinese professor back in the States, Cynthia Chennault (Chen Mei-li), is the daughter of the aforementioned commander of the Flying Tigers, Claire Chennault. Also interesting to note that the wife of Claire Chennault (her name escapes me at the moment) is also very famous in her own right. She was originally a journalist in Shanghai (very rare for a woman at that time), and later on because a major figure in US/China/Taiwan relations/politics, and also played a major role in negotiations during the Vietnam War. Not to mention, she is best friends with Madame Chiang, and also good friends with Jiang Zemin at the same time … interesting stuff, and my professor had tons of interesting tales to tell. I’ll try to post some if I get some more time.

Yes, she helped blow the peace talks in Paris in 1968. … ndex2.html