was a nickname of American Volunteer Group of fighter pilots that fought
against Japanese forces in the beginning of US entry into World
War Two. It had links to OSS.
Flying Tigers was a creation of Claire Chennault, retired US Air Corps major who had become military aviation advisor to Chinese generalissimos Chiang Kai-shek in the Sino-Japanese War. In occasion Chennault may have piloted a plane himself. Due to poor fighter material, results were not impressive.
In 1941 Chennault negotiated a purchase of 100 Curtiss P-40C fighters (also known as Tomahawk II ). He visited USA and recruited 100 pilots - 40 from US Army Air Corps and 60 from Navy - and 150 more for the ground crew. All were officers in reserve who were officially discharged to fight as mercenaries in the army of a foreign country. They received a salary of $600 a month plus $500 for each destroyed enemy aircraft. American Volunteer Group (AVG) was formed.
Unfortunately, many AVG pilots were either inexperienced or quit at the first opportunity. In addition, fighter planes were slow in coming. Real average strength of AVG was about 62-80 men and fighters.
One of the more famous pilots was Pappy Boyington, who was dishonorably discharged in April 1942. He went on to create the Black Sheep Squadron, modeled after Flying Tigers.
AVG fighter planes were painted with large shark teeth on the front of the plane, which later lead to the nickname of The Flying Tigers . Chennault also gave the planes large numbers to give an impression of much larger force. Flying Tigers had three squadrons - 1st Squadron (Adam & Eves); 2nd Squadron (Panda Bears) and 3rd Squadron (Hell's Angels). All pilots had blood chits. 21 pilots were killed or went MIA during the existence of Flying Tigers.
When USA officially entered the war, AVG had 82 pilots and 79 planes. Two squadrons in protected the Burma Road from Rangoon to Chongqing and a third at Mingaladon defended Mandalay before Japanese captured the air field.
Flying Tigers had their first real fight in December 20 1941 when they shot down three or four Japanese bombers. Afterwards The 3rd Squadron - 18 planes strong - defended Rangoon in December 23-25 and shot down maybe 90 planes, most of them heavy bombers. After the fall of Rangoon to Japanese in March 1942, squadrons moved back to Kunming. They had destroyed maybe 115 enemy aircraft.
Chennault was reinstated into USAAF major general and became a commander of the U.S. Army's 14th Air Force. After July 14 1942, Flying Tigers became China Air Task Force and later 23rd Fighter Group. Most pilots were transferred to air transport duties or went back to USA into civilian jobs. Only five remained in China. However, many US pilots and US press went on using the name Flying Tigers afterwards.
Information courtesy of http://www.nebulasearch.com/
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