Flying Tigers

released 1942 by Republic Pictures, black and white 35mm negative, Academy 1.33:1 screen ratio, mono sound, 102 mins.. DVD released 2000 by Artisan in black and white with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound re-mix.

Claire Chennault, from Life 1942/08/10
John Wayne, from Ricci




"Recruited with other Americans as an instructor and adviser for the Chinese Air Force, Chennault was forty-four when Japanese marines landed at Shanghai in September 1937. (He was born September 6, 1893, three years after the birthdate generally ascribed to him.) He seemed a generation older, his faced seamed and his hearing dimmed from years of flying open-cockpit fighter planes, and his lungs wracked by bronchitis -- the penalty for a two-pack-a-day addiction to Camel cigarettes. The U.S. Army had forced him to retire, supposedly because of his health, but more likely because of his gadfly insistence -- against the wisdom of the time -- that fighter planes could destroy incoming bombers before they reached their target. Though only a captain in the army reserve, who had never served at a rank higher than major, Chennault in China gave himself the honorific of "colonel." He became a favorite of Chiang Kai-shek's Wellesley-educated wife, the beautiful, clever and unscrupulous Soong Mei-ling. And Chennault was captivated by Madame Chiang, "who will hereafter be 'The Princess' to me," as he pledged in his diary. Chennault's theory of "defensive pursuit" was quickly proved in the air over Hangzhou and Nanjing, as Chinese fighter pilots cut a murderous swath through unescorted enemy bomber squadrons. As Chiang's chief of staff for air, Chennault could call upon a small cadre of Americans who knew and loved him from their service in the U.S. Army Air Corps -- most notably, "Luke" Williamson and Billy McDonald. They had been Chennault's wingmen in the Flying Trapeze, an army precision-flying team that prefigured the Thunderbirds of today." (quote from Annals of the Flying Tigers)


A Chinese soldier guards a line of American P-40 fighterplanes, painted with the shark-face emblem of the "FlyingTigers," at a flying field somewhere in China, 1942, from NA
One of the redoubtable "Fliying Tigers" ready to take off from an Alaskan point in a Curtiss P-40 (Warhawk) fighter plane., from NA
Landing wheels recede as this U.S. Army Air Forces Liberator bomber crosses the shark-nosed bows of U.S. P-40 fighter planes at an advanced U.S. base in China, from NA
Flying Tigers, from NA

AVG in Burma, from ILN, 1942/04/25

map of Japanese attack in Burma, threat to Burma Railroad to Lashio and to Burma Road to Chungking, from ILN, 1942/02/28

revised 3/10/02 by Schoenherr | Filmnotes | World War II Timeline