The 1st American Volunteer Group (AVG) of the Chinese Air Force who helped American Air Force fought against Japan in 1941-1942.
Created by PeteWachirawit on Apr 24, 2011
Last updated: 04/26/11 at 11:09 AM
The U.S. Air Force awarded the pilots the Distinguished Flying Cross and the ground crew were all awarded the Bronze Star.
Just before their 50th reunion in 1992, the AVG veterans were retroactively recognized as members of the U.S. military services during the seven months the group was in combat against the Japanese. The AVG was then awarded a Presidential Unit Citation for "professionalism, dedication to duty, and extraordinary heroism."
God is My Co-Pilot is a 1945 American propaganda film based on the autobiography of the same name by Robert Lee Scott, Jr. The film tells the story of Scott's association with the Flying Tigers and the United States Army Air Forces in China and Burma during World War II.
The Sky's The Limit is a musical comedy film with a wartime theme starring Fred Astaire, Joan Leslie, Robert Benchley, Robert Ryan and Eric Blore, with music by Harold Arlen and lyrics by Johnny Mercer. The film was directed by Edward H. Griffith, and released by RKO Radio Pictures.
The success of the AVG led to negotiations in spring 1942 to induct it into the USAAF. Chennault was reinstated as a colonel and immediately promoted to brigadier general commanding U.S. Army air units in China, while continuing to command the AVG by virtue of his position in the Chinese Air Force.
With the Burma campaign over, Chennault redeployed his squadrons to provide air protection for China. The Doolittle Raid had prompted the Japanese to launch an offensive to seize AVG air bases that could be used as launching points for attacks on the Japanese homeland. By 1 June, personnel that would form the nucleus of the new USAAF 23rd Fighter Group (the AVG's replacement) were beginning to trickle into the theater. Some of the last missions the AVG flew were defending Guilin against raids by JAAF Nates, Lilys and new Kawasaki Ki-45 Toryu ("Nick") heavy fighters. The AVG's last combat was over Hengyang on the day it was disbanded, 4 July. In this final action, four Ki-27s were shot down for no loss.
the AVG was replaced by the 23rd Fighter Group. Most AVG pilots refused to remain with the unit as a result of the strong arm tactics by the USAAF general sent to negotiate with them. However, five pilots accepted commissions in China including "Tex" Hill, one of Chennault's most loyal devotees, with others remaining for a two-week transition period. Most AVG pilots became transport pilots in China, went back to America into civilian jobs, or rejoined the military services and fought elsewhere in the war
After Rangoon was lost to the Japanese at the end of February, the AVG relocated to Magwe, a small British airfield more than 300 miles north of Rangoon. Chennault started moving elements of the now reconstituted 3rd Squadron to Magwe as reinforcement to his worn down 1st and 2nd squadrons. Aircraft attrition became so high that at this point, individual squadron distinctions became meaningless, and all three squadrons had elements based there, along with a number of RAF aircraft. In total, the Allies had 38 aircraft, including eight P-40s and 15 Hawker Hurricanes. Opposing them were 271 Japanese aircraft, including 115 fighters. Although the AVG and the RAF scored some successes against the JAAF, Magwe was continuously bombed, including a very heavy raid on 21 March by 151 bombers and fighters. On 23 March with only four aircraft left, the AVG was forced to relocate to Loiwing, just across the Chinese border.
As with all air forces, there was overclaiming by the AVG due to the confusion and speed of air combat. For example, in the big Christmas Day battle over Rangoon, AVG and RAF pilots claimed 28 Japanese aircraft while 10 were actually lost. In the same combat, Japanese Army Air Force pilots and gunners claimed 36 Allied aircraft while eight were actually shot down. It would only be after the war that true combat losses could be determined by comparing the after action and loss reports of the combatants.
The AVG was officially credited with 297 enemy aircraft destroyed, including 229 in the air. As often happens, however, a researcher who surveyed Japanese accounts concluded that the number was much lower: 115. Fourteen AVG pilots were killed in action, captured, or disappeared on combat missions. Two died of wounds sustained in bombing raids, and six were killed in accidents during the Flying Tigers' existence as a combat force.
Baoshan was repeatedly bombed by the Japanese Army Air Force. Still, the AVG scored against their JAAF tormentors, bringing down four "Nates" on May 5, 1942 of the 11th Sentai and two "Anns".
The wreck of another AVG P-40 is believed to be in Lake Dianchi (Lake Kunming). The fighter is believed to be a P-40E piloted by John Blackburn when it crashed into the lake on a gunnery training flight on 28 April 1942, killing the pilot. His body was recovered from the aircraft, which was submerged in 20 feet of water.
Gregory “Pappy” Boyington was discharged from the AVG in April 1942 and returned to active duty with the U.S. Marine Corps. He went on to command the “Black Sheep” Squadron and was one of two AVG veterans to be awarded the Medal of Honor.
The wreckage of a P-40 with CAF serial number P-8115 is on display in Chiang Mai, Thailand. The aircraft is believed to be that flown by William “Mac” McGarry when he was hit by anti-aircraft fire while flying top cover over Chiang Mai on 24 March 1942. The aircraft crashed into the rain forest in northern Thailand. McGarry was captured and interrogated, and spent most of the war in a Thai prison. Toward the end of the war the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) arranged for the Free Thai Movement to spirit him out of the prison to a PBY Catalina in the Gulf of Thailand. The wreck of his P-40 was discovered in 1991, and consists of the P-40's Allison engine, Hamilton Standard propeller and parts of the airframe. Today the wreckage is displayed at the Tango Squadron Wing 41 Museum in Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Despite these minor victories and Chennault's reinforcement of the "Panda Bears" with pilots from the "Adam and Eves", by mid-February, only 10 P-40s were still operational at Mingaladon. Commonwealth troops retreated before the Japanese onslaught, and the AVG was pressed into the ground attack role to support them. One unfortunate result of these missions was a prolonged air attack on a suspected Japanese column on 21 February that turned out to consist of Commonwealth troops. More than 100 Allied lives were lost in this friendly fire incident. On 27 February, after hearing that the RAF was retreating and pulling out its radar equipment, the AVG withdrew to bases in northern Burma.
Japanese launched their Burma Campaign. Significantly outnumbered, the AVG was gradually reduced through attrition, but often exacted a disproportionate toll of their attackers.
The AVG had its first combat on 20 December 1941, when aircraft of the 1st and 2nd squadrons intercepted 10 unescorted Kawasaki Ki-48 "Lily" bombers of the 21st Hikotai raiding Kunming. Three of the Japanese bombers were shot down near Kunming and a fourth was damaged so severely that it crashed before returning to its airfield at Hanoi. No P-40s were lost through enemy action, and the bombers jettisoned their loads before reaching their target. Furthermore, the Japanese discontinued their raids on Kunming while the AVG was based there.
At this time, the focus of Japan's offensive efforts in the AVG's coverage area was southern Burma. The 3rd Squadron — 18 aircraft strong — defended Rangoon from 23 December–25 December. On 23 December, Mitsubishi Ki-21 "Sally" heavy bombers of the 60th, 62nd and 98th Sentais, along with single-engined Mitsubishi Ki-30 "Ann" attack bombers of the 31st Sentai, sortied against Rangoon. They were escorted by Nakajima Ki-27 "Nate" fighters of 77th Sentai. The Imperial Japanese Army Air Force (JAAF) formation was intercepted by the AVG and RAF Brewster Buffalos of 67 Squadron. Eight Ki-21s were shot down for the loss of three AVG P-40s. The 60th Sentai was particularly hard hit — it lost five out of the 15 bombers it had dispatched. Nevertheless, Rangoon and Mingaladon airfield were successfully bombed, with the city suffering more than 1,000 dead. Two Buffalos and two P-40s were destroyed on the ground, and one P-40 crashed when it attempted to land on a bomb-damaged runway.
After stops in Hawaii, Java, and Singapore, Charles Bond arrived in Burma on November 12, 1941. The unit, based in Burma and China, was tasked with protecting supply routes between China and Burma and with supplying Chinese forces fighting the Japanese. The group was credited with shooting down 299 Japanese aircraft and became known as the "Flying Tigers" with the image of snarling tigers and shark's teeth painted on the nose of their planes.
Charles Bond joined the Flying Tigers, an American Volunteer Group in China, commanded by General Claire Chennault.
Boyington abdicated abdicated his in the Marines so he could assume a job with the Central Aircraft Manufacturing Company an organization established to protect the Burma Road. Later on, CAMCO became the American Volunteer Group known as the famous "Flying Tigers." Greg 'Pappy' Boyington in the AVG Flying Tigers.
the American Volunteer Group, which later came to be known as the Flying Tigers, was formed under the leadership of US Gen. Claire Lee Chennault to help China drive out invading Japanese troops.
Histories of the Flying Tigers say that on April 15, 1941, President Roosevelt signed a "secret executive order" authorizing servicemen on active duty to resign in order to join the AVG. However, Flying Tigers historian Daniel Ford could find no evidence that such an order ever existed, and he argued that "a wink and a nod" was more the president's style. In any event, the AVG was organized and in part directed out of the White House, and by the spring of 1942 had effectively been brought into the U.S. Army chain of command.
The American Volunteer Group (AVG), or "Flying Tigers," reached Burma to begin training under Claire Chennault, whom Chiang Kai-shek had promoted to Colonel in the Chinese Nationalist Air Force in 1938.
The P-40 first flew. It was a tough rugged aircraft, and flew with US Forces, Commonwealth forces, including the RNZAF, and the Flying Tigers during WWII.