In 1937, when the Sino-Japanese war broke out, Claire Chennault recruited more than 200 American volunteer pilots and technicians to join Chiang Kai-shek and his Nationalist forces in fighting the Japanese in China. Before the United States declared war on Japan, the Flying Tigers were known as the American Volunteer Group (AVG). In 1943, AVG was dissolved and merged with the Nationalist Air Force, but the Flying Tigers retained their legendary name. During World War II, the Flying Tigers transported supplies from India to China, and supported British troops in their fight against the Japanese in Burma. The Flying Tigers shot down more than 2600 Japanese planes, but at a cost of 563 of their own.
Early February, Hong Kong-born director John Woo announced in Taipei that he has raised US$150 million to make a film documenting the Flying Tigers story. Woo is known for directing action packed Hollywood films such as Mission Impossible 2, Face/Off, Broken Arrow and Windtalkers.
Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek, Madame Chiang and Claire Chennault (Courtesy of the ROC Air Force Academy in Taiwan).
The logo of the Flying Tigers, reportedly designed by Walt Disney.
A special badge issued by the Nationalist Chinese government to the combat pilots of the Flying Tigers. It reads, “This foreigner has come to China to help in the war effort. Both soldiers and civilians should rescue and protect him.” The badge was sewn on the back of a fighter pilot’s jacket so that Chinese people could extend a helping hand to downed pilots.
A Nationalist Chinese soldier stands guard over the fighter planes of the Flying Tigers.
The painting “Hawks over China” by US artist Roy Grinnell depicted the story of Arthur Chin (Chen Rui-dian), who flew the Curtiss Hawk in dog-fights with Japanese airplanes. The original is on display at US Air Force Museum (Courtesy of John Gong).
An autograph signed by Bob Layher, a member of the Flying Tigers and presented to Manfred Peng, publisher of Taiwan Insights.
A group photo of Chinese and American pilots of the Flying Tigers. (Courtesy of the ROC Air Force Academy in Taiwan).
The opening of Arthur Chin’s Special Exhibition at the Nationalist Chinese Air Force Academy in November, 2009. From the left to right, John Gong (Chin’s grandson), Susan Gong-Ennis (Chin’s daughter), Chen Chao-min (then Defense Minister of Taiwan), Lei Yu-chi (commander of Taiwan’s Air Force), and Mike Tien (superintendent of the Air Force Academy) (Courtesy of John Gong).