Sins of Omission

The Flying Tigers

The first “paper & stick” model airplane I ever made was a Curtiss P-40 Warhawk.  I painted it in the color scheme of the famed Flying Tigers, including the shark’s mouth on the cowl and air scoop.  Mine was powered not by a 1040 horsepower V-12 Allison but by a rubber band that I wound by turning the prop dozens of times.  Flight duration was only a matter of seconds, but in that short time I shot down Zeros aplenty.  There was nothing more adventurous for a young kid in the early 50’s than daydreaming of the Flying Tigers dueling the Japanese in the skies over China and Burma.  Although the Flying Tigers were among the most legendary of our American heroes—we kids knew the names of many of the pilots—they have disappeared from the history textbooks used in our schools today.

The Flying Tigers were the creation of Texas-born and Louisiana-reared Claire Chennault, a zealous and outspoken proponent of fighter aircraft, an innovator of air-combat tactics, and a daring pilot.  In 1937, after serving nearly 20 years in the U.S. Army Air Corps, he retired and became an aviation advisor to Chiang Kai-shek and the Nationalist Chinese government, and the director of the Chinese Air Force flight school in Kunming.  Although Chennault worked wonders with the CAF, the Japanese had far superior forces, and by 1940 Chennault and Chiang Kai-shek asked the United States for pilots and planes. ...

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