Los Angeles, CA (Merxwire) – The smoke of World War II, and Japan’s invasion of China, has long ago dissipated, but many heroic stories remain.
In the 1930’s Japan’s military was strong, and China was no rival. But the god of luck seemed to sympathize with China, sending a foreigner who had nothing to do with China – a retired American fighter pilot named Claire Lee Chennault. Chennault’s time in the military was marked by difficulty, including chronic health issues, such as partial deafness caused by prolonged exposure to the noise of plane engines.
Chennault joined the Army Air Service in 1918. In the early 20th century, when bomber theory was main stream, Chennault followed his own unique insights and advocated pursuit aircraft. Sadly, his innovative thinking was ignored.
Soong Mei Ling, wife of Chiang Kai-shek, China’s supreme commander at the time, sent an invitation letter to the retired Chennault. This letter changed both Chennault’s and China’s destiny. In August of 1937, he was employed as short-term contract military aviation advisor to Chiang Kai-shek.
Full-scale war between China and Japan erupted shortly after that. A huge gap in military power existed between China and Japan. Japan flaunted absolute and devastating air superiority.
After witnessing Chinese suffering, Chennault decided to stay.
In May of 1941, President Roosevelt signed the Lend-Lease bill, giving aid to China to purchase 100 P-40 fighters. He also secretly approved Chennault’s request to recruit pilots, ground crew, and administrative personnel from the U.S. military. They were discharged from the armed services and then employed as civilian contractors of the Chinese government. The American Volunteer Group (AVG) formally established on August 1, 1941.
On 4 July 1942 the AVG was disbanded and replaced by the 23rd Fighter Group of the United States Army Air Forces. In nearly seven months of intense air combat, the AVG had shot down 296 enemy planes, while losing only 14 pilots. AVG was later absorbed into the U.S. 14th Air Force with General Chennault as commander.
Between the date AVG established and Japanese’s surrender on August 15, 1945, totally 2,600 Japanese planes were destroyed, and million tons of war materials shipped by vessels were sunken.
General Chennault’s spirit of unremitting perseverance and the bond then established between the United States and China is now a legacy. And the legend of the Flying Tigers lives on.
This year marks the 80th anniversary of the Flying Tigers. Robert Young, founder of The Beauty and Praise of Altruists Foundation (BPAF) presented a series of paintings to depict those crucial historical events.
The album of paintings is now published as a tribute, dedicated to General Claire Lee Chennault, Flying Tigers, and all those who were willing to shed their blood and lay down their lives. It is because of their sacrifices and contributions we may breathe in the air of democracy and freedom today.
SOURCE: The Beauty and Praise of Altruists Foundation