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Before appeasement at Munich, before the invasion of Poland, before Dunkirk, and before the attack on Pearl Harbor, one American man was already fighting in World War II. That man’s name was Claire Chennault. His story, and that of his American Volunteer Group (AVG), is the subject of The Flying Tigers: The Untold Story of the American Pilots Who Waged a Secret War Against Japan, a fascinating new book by historian Sam Kleiner about the eponymous pilots.
The Flying Tigers, formally the AVG, recruited members mostly from the American Navy, Marines, and Army. Their covert actions began eight months before Pearl Harbor, and were authorized by President Franklin Roosevelt without the knowledge of the isolationist Congress. These men wanted to fight, to see the world, and to be paid well to do it.
Military - Bases - Authority - Government - Battle
So they resigned from the military, left their bases, and were contracted under the authority of the Chinese government to battle Imperial Japan. Readers unfamiliar with the group may recall the iconic images of their P-40 Tomahawk fighter planes, purchased by the Chinese through a third-party corporation, whose noses the airmen painted with shark teeth and eyes.
Sent halfway around the world, these roughly 100 pilots and their ground crew flagrantly violated their country’s official neutrality and trained in Burma during the second half of 1941. After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, they were perfectly positioned to enter combat, to keep China in the fight against Japan, and to ensure that America’s enemy could not focus all of its might on a shaken and unready United States.
Group - Origins - December - Time - China
The group’s origins can be traced back to December 1936. At that time, China’s premier couple, Chiang Kai-Shek and Madame Chiang, sought an American to build and train the faltering Chinese Air Force. They found Claire Chennault, an army pilot from Louisiana with...
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