Who are the Flying Tigers

Who are the Flying Tigers

The First American Volunteer Group of the Republic of China Air Force in 1941–1942, nicknamed the Flying Tigers, was composed of pilots from the United States Army Air Corps, Navy, and Marine Corps, recruited under President Franklin Roosevelt’s authority before Pearl Harbor and commanded by Claire Lee Chennault. Their Curtis P-40B Warhawk aircraft, marked with Chinese colors, flew under American control. Their mission was to bomb Japan and defend the Republic of China.

The group consisted of three fighter squadrons of around 30 aircraft each that trained in Burma before the United States officially entered into World War II to defend the Republic of China against invading Japanese forces. The airmen began to arrive in China in April 1941 and first saw combat on December 20, 1941 – 12 days after Pearl Harbor.

The Flying Tigers were officially members of the Republic of China Air Force. The group had contracts with salaries ranging from $250 a month for a mechanic to $750 for a squadron commander, roughly three times what they had been making in the U.S. forces.

The Flying Tigers demonstrated innovative tactical victories and gave hope to America and the Allied Forces that they might eventually defeat Japan. The group earned official credit and received combat bonuses for destroying 296 enemy aircraft, while losing only 14 pilots in combat.

Guarded by a Chinese soldier, a squadron of Curtiss P-40 fighter planes, decorated with the typical shark face of the famed Flying Tigers
Claire L. Chennault – Commander of the Flying Tigers

On July 4, 1942 the AVG was disbanded and replaced by the 23rd Fighter Group of the United States Army Air Forces, which was later absorbed into the U.S. Fourteenth Air Force with General Chennault as commander. The 23rd FG went on to achieve similar combat success, while retaining the signature nose art on the left-over P-40s.