China’s Museum Honoring the Flying Tigers and other Aviators of Sino-Japanese Conflict in the 1940s

Posted on June 17, 2011

The Chinese press does not always highlight the contribution of  US aviators and aircraft to their success against the Japanese during the early 1940s.  An example is an article that describes the two year old Aviation Martyr Memorial Museum in Nanjing.  But it is a start.  The undeniable fact is that the Flying Tigers were American Pilots; their planes were made in the US and that money aside, there was interest in helping the Chinese.

Flying Tigers was the popular name of the 1st American Volunteer Group (AVG) of the Chinese Air Force in 1941-1942. Arguably, the group was a private military contractor, and for that reason the volunteers have sometimes been called mercenaries. The members of the Flying Tigers had lucrative contracts with the Chinese government with salaries ranging from $600 for a pilot to $750 for a squadron commander. These salaries were three times what they had been making in the U.S. forces. They were mostly former United States Army (USAAF), Navy (USN), and Marine Corps (USMC) pilots and ground crew, recruited under Presidential sanction and commanded by Claire Lee Chennault. The group consisted of three fighter squadrons with about 20 aircraft each. It trained in Burma before the American entry into World War II with the mission of defending China against Japanese forces.

The Tigers’ shark-faced fighters remain among the most recognizable of any individual combat aircraft of World War II, and they demonstrated innovative tactical victories when the news in the U.S. was filled with little more than stories of defeat at the hands of the Japanese forces. [Tomahawks Adventure Travel]

But another reference refers to the fact that the Tigers gave up their commissions to sign on and also highlights the most important fact:  Average Chinese citizens remember today that which the Tigers did yesterday as countless reunion photos suggest.

The Flying Tigers were a group of US Pilots in the Army Air Corps who voluntarily gave up their commission in the US Military to go to China and fight against The Japanese, prior to Pearl Harbor and the US’s formal declaration of war against the Axis Powers.

General Stillwell was in charge of all US forces in China during the war, after the US officially declared war, including the forces previously known as the Flying Tigers.

Although there may be some animosity between our governments and their official political positions, lots of average Chinese people remember that Americans came of their on [sic]  free will to support China in their time of need, and in few places is that memory as strong as in Chongqing, where the headquarters of the US troops were based. [An Invisible Thread]


SamHenry’s father tested the planes the tigers flew.  He was Chief of Production Test Pilot at Curtiss-Wright Aircraft Company’s Buffalo, NY plant.  Buffalo was the cradle of the US aircraft industry.  Although he died in 1964, of course he is remembered each Father’s Day.  He left two pilot sons and a white knuckle flier of a daughter behind.

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