We have been having some discussions among our members about who the AVG was over in China to fight for. ROC or PRC….Chiang Kai-Shek or Mao Zedung or USA?
So I would like to ask our forum members and history specialists if they have any thoughts on this subject.
Chennault had a relationship with Madame Chaing and the Generalissimo, so I would say ROC. Additionally Tex Hill having been to China previously as the Child of a Missionary wanted to help the Chinese people. American values, spirituality, etc. didn't mix with Communism. Wasn't Chenault also a friend of John Birch and the Dulles.
Each individual had their own reason, money, help the Chinese People, get Combat Experience, etc. None of the biographies of the Pilots or Ground Personnel ever mentioned the Communist.
Chiang, and Nationalist China were the direct beneficiaries of American aid in the form of the AVG. The communists were benefited to a certain extent in that they were also fighting the Japanese, but the focus of the AVG was to defend Nationalist China.
Excluding direct political statements one way or another , I feel that humanitarianly, the Avg and later US CbI forces would have to be credited with collectively fighting for the freedom of the Chinese People from the Japanese Empire's domination. I don't know of any statements against fighting for the French or British on Anti-socialist or anti-royalist grounds. I have heard several reports that the AVG is revered by the whole of china as shown in the AVG memorial, which supports the idea that both sides "put away" the politics a little for a common goal against a common enemy. I restate that I am giving opinion and theory, not document supported facts. I thank the forum for the opportunity to contribute and learn from you all.
Of course, we can only speculate about who/why the AVG was over in China to fight for. Many AVGers came for different reasons. However, I believe that if Chennault had his way, he would have utilized his forces to neutralize the Communists. Unfortunately, most US military brass, the Congress, and the President did not agree. Of course, both Chennault and Wedemeyer were very anti-Communist. Just imagine, if they had their way, there would in all likelyhood have been no Korean War and no Vietnam War! In addition, the current Chinese would not be 50-75 years behind, thanks to Mao the madman and his tyranny. So, to directly answer the question, in my humble opinion, they (AVG) were there to assist the Chinese Nationalists in their fight against the Japanese Empire. The Nationalists (ROC) were the controlling government entity until 1949. The PRC did not exist until 1949. The Communists did not want to get too involved in fighting the Japanese. Mao purposely husbanded his Red Army and mostly watched as the nationalists took the vast majority percentage of casualties (even after taking into account the different sizes of the two Chinese armies) so he could preserve his forces for the final push against the Nationalists and Chiang. Unfortunately, due to that and other conditions mentioned above as well as internal problems within the Kuomintang (Chiang's Nationalist Party/Government), Mao was successful.
Perhaps is is correct to say that the AVG was there to assist the Nationalists since they were the recognized government of China at that time.
It seems to me that they helped the Chinese people...all of them, and certainly the PRC now reveres the Flying Tigers.
Today the AVG (FTA) is caught between the two Chinas.
Yes, the entire Chinese populace was assisted by the AVG both militarily against the Japanese and in a humanitarian sense by keeping supplies flowing over the Hump and into China which was under a stranglehold. I do believe that if Chennault and Wedemeyer had their way, after the Japanese surrender, they would have finished-off the Communists with the blessings of Chiang Kai Shek/Nationalists. Of course, that would have occured several years after the AVG disbanded, and Chennault was gone from military service just prior to the end of the war. Just imagine, if the U.S. government had backed the Nationalists to the end, there in all likelyhood would have been no Vietnam War and no Korean war. Just imagine ....... Finally, in my experience, the younger Chinese populace has no idea about the AVG and their contribution to the defeat of the Japanese and saving of China. They are taught that the Communists defeated the Japanese. As an American, it is amusing to me to read "their history" while visiting various war museums and monuments throughout China. That is their propaganda. There is only very slight mention about the Nationalists "assisting". As I walked aroung Kunming, which has a fantastic Flying Tigers museum exhibition, I asked a few individuals if they knew who/what was depicted on the shirt I was wearing. They had no idea. Hopefully, that will change with the opening up of the large Flying Tigers Heritage Park in Guilin (formerly Kwelin) this year. And, prior to going to China, I had no knowledge about the Flying Tigers and their epic contributions. I do not remember it being taught in our schools either. That should be changed.
Sadly, it was certain politicians in the former Roosevelt / then Truman administration that were enamored of the concept of communism and held a deep dislike and distrust of Chiang. They wanted an end to the Chinese civil war....no matter the cost. Chiang had Mao on the ropes until the US cut off virtually all aid for about a year until Chiang had no recourse but to submit. Thanks to those fools, Mao was able to regain his footing and drive the Nationalists off the mainland. As was stated previously, had China stayed Nationalist, there likely would have been no Korean war, and possibly no Vietnam. I know I would sleep better if China was not the communist nation it is today. And untold numbers of Chinese would not have been slaughtered by Mao's purge
BillC, you are right-on!!! If Roosevelt had lived, things would have most likely been different. However, Chiang's regime was corrupt even though he, individually, was a man of high moral values and led a simple life. His government just got too big and too out-of-hand. Many of his relatives (on Soong side) and government and military personnel were crooks. Also, from what I have read, at times, he had a way of really turning-off his friends with his hot temper. That may be the reason why so many of his officers defected to the Reds. There is no logical
reason that he lost the civil war. Today, China is definitely paying the price for those dumb peasant masses that believed in Mao and delighted when he took away the landowners' properties. After he came to power, he killed them (peasants) too! Nobody will never know for sure, but I have read upwards of 70 million Chinese slaughtered, and most during peacetime! Without, a doubt, Mao was the world's worst mass murderer. Imagine how Roosevelt would have felt to see in Sept.-Oct. 1949, the Red Army parading into the cities atop of U.S. tanks that were turned-over to them by defecting Nationalist soldiers while Chiang and his supporters were forced to flee to Taiwan! No, history is not always fair or "right".
When Dick Rossi and a few of the other AVG members first traveled to China about 1994, there was no official recognition of the Flying Tigers. We were hosted by the President of the Bejing Aviators Association who had flown for CNAC over the Hump, became a General in the PAC Air Force, was a professor at their AF Academy, and spoke excellent English. We learned that Mao Zedong had written history to his liking which excluded any mention of the allies help in WWII.
Of course, there were many people who knew of the allies, and slowly, after Mao died, the stories became more accurate. Every time we traveled to China, the recognition became greater, until in 2005 we were feted at a state dinner (about 2000 people) in the Great Hall of the People, Tianenmen Square. Dick sat at the table with the President, Hu Jintao, who toasted him and thanked him for what the Flying Tigers and other American allies had done for China. (attached photo)
From then on the Flying Tigers became huge heroes to the people of the PRC.
Lydia, thank you very much for posting that wonderful photo. I did happen to see it a while ago on the web. Unfortunately, the "proper" and "just" recognition from the Chinese eluded most of the members of
AVG during their lifetimes. However, it appears that things are finally moving in the right direction as evidenced by recognition from the Chinese government. Also, the opening of new museums dedicated to the Flying Tigers is also a great sign in the proper direction. As a new Forum member, I do not know if this has been previously done. I was thinking of starting a list of all of the museums and monuments throughout the world that maintain permanent exhibits related to the Flying Tigers/AVG. This would be a list contributed with the help of everyone's input. Whether the contributor has visited the location is not a factor in contributing to the list. If they have visited the location, it would be great to briefly comment on their experience and the scope of the exhibit. The purpose is to create a mini-database so that those interested in learning more about the AVG will have solid resources to visit during their travels. This on-going database could be permanently postioned as a hyperlink on this website homepage. What do you think?
I would love to have a page at our website devoted to the location of all of the AVG displays around the world. It would be a wonderful addition. As the editor of the site (I have a web designer who does most of the maintenance) we can put up the page and when the information is sent to me I can then add it to a growing list. Links and photos would be great to add, plus as you suggest, personal experiences from those visiting.
Thanks for the inspiration!
Today the AVG (FTA) is caught between the two Chinas.
Lydia, I would be interested in hearing more about how you feel the AVG (FTA) is caught between the two Chinas. I think the involvement of the United States in China prior to and during WW II has had and continues to have valuable reverberations in our relationships with the two Chinas today. From my admittedly distant perspective, you and Nell Calloway have done an excellent job of communicating with the two Chinas in a diplomatic and helpful way.
To answer Brad's question: the AVG is having their annual reunion in Dallas this year. We have always invited the ROC to join us at our reunions and back when everyone was much younger we would see them at our reunions regularly. Lately (for about 1 or 2 years now) the PRC has been invited and last year they brought a delegation to Huntsville and seemed very delighted to be there. They were happy to know about this year's event and have kept in touch with our reunion chairman and plan to be there. Our chairman casually mentioned this to members for the ROC community in Dallas and was treated very coldly... told they would not be supporting or attending. We are trying to move this up the chain of command of the ROC to see if this is, in fact, their position. We are told the PRC has no problem with it.