The AVG, the American Volunteer Group, was the result of a secret deal signed on April 15, 1941 between the Nationalist Government of China and the United States. This was done in secret to maintain the neutrality of the United States.
Pilots and maintenance crews were recruited from the ranks of the Army Air Corps, Navy, and Marine Corps. The order permitted these military people to resign their post with assurances that they would be reinstated to their former rank upon completion of their contract. Their job was to defend the Burma Road, China’s lifeline to Burma and Indian ports.
Led by Colonel Claire Lee Chennault who in 1937 was hired as an advisor by Generalissimo Chiang Kai-Chek, the three American volunteer squadrons, namely the 1st Pursuit Squadron (Adam and Eve), 2nd Pursuit Squadron (Panda bears), and 3rd Pursuit Squadron (Hell’s Angels) were honed into a very fine fighting machine.
In the nine months of their official existence until the United States was drawn into the war, the squadrons were dispersed at various fields throughout China and Burma such as Rangoon, Toungoo, Kunming, and Chunking. There they fought fiercely in their obsolete P-40s to inflict deep wounds on the Japanese air forces. Having shark teeth painted on the nose and a winged tiger on the fuselage as a moral booster, they soon became dubbed by the Chinese people as Fei Hu, or Flying Tigers. Following Chennault’s strict aerial tactics, the Tigers were officially credited with destroying 296 Japanese aircraft, which included 230 air to air victories.
The attack on Pearl Harbor on 7 December, 1941, put the Tigers into the history books, when early in July of 1942 they were absorbed into the Army Air Forces. Some of the Tigers stayed on to help in the transition, while others returned to their former service branches to continue the fight in Europe, North Africa, and the Pacific.
The big irony surrounding the Flying Tigers is that it took sixty years for them to receive credit and official recognition fro the Government of the United States.
Size: 4 inches (10 cm) by 5 1/2 inches (14 cm)
Material: Screened on natural tooling leather
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