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 Use of Flying Tiger name, Following the thread of : My flying Tiger! (37 Replies, Read 130107 times)
LydiaRossi
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Widow of AVG pilot J. R. Rossi
I decided to start a new subject line more in keeping with the direction of the discussion at \"My flying Tiger!\"

I married Dick Rossi in 1966 when the battle with the 14th AF over the usage of the name Flying Tigers was in full swing. Most of what I know came from the lips of my husband, Tex Hill,  other members of the AVG, and written documents/letters.

Some folks like to say that the AVG was merged into the 14thAF. However, the 14th AF did not come on the scene in China until after the AVG had been disbanded for well over a year. There was no merging. If memory serves me, I think it was 5 pilots and 30 ground personnel that finally ended up in the 14thAF . While in China, the 14thAF were, at no time, named “Flying Tigers.” Everyone who was in China at the time knew that the when anyone mentioned Flying Tigers they were referring to the AVG. Tex stayed with Chennault throughout the war and he assured all who asked that at no time during the war, or for years after was the Flying Tigers anyone but the AVG. When the war ended, folks came home and they started up the associations and holding reunions. Tex, Rode, JJ Harrington, and a few others who had ended up in the 14th AF with Chennault, went to those reunions. Dick Rossi was friends with many 14thAF men, was invited to their reunions and attended several. At that time they called themselves “The 14th Air Force Association” with a nick name of “China Hands”. They would get publicity in the local newspapers where the reunion was being held with the announcement that the “Flying Tigers” were in town. (They later used this as part of their justification for taking the name.)

It was in the middle 1950s that the 14thAF, at a business meeting, discussed renaming themselves The 14th Air Force Flying Tigers. Tex and the other members were highly offended and fought very hard against them claiming their name. The 14thAF president at that time, Lt. General Charles B. Stone, was against the proposal, as was General Bruce Holloway. Eventually a very vigorous group was able to get it voted through. Dick Rossi, as president of the AVG, wrote letters to them demanding they stop using the name. Chuck Older (18 ace AVG pilot, was then a lawyer - later a judge) wrote to them demanding they stop. Unfortunately, the AVG did not have the name trademarked. There were also members of the 14thAF who did not think it was right to take the name of the AVG and they voted with Tex. But there were up to 20,000 people who had been in and out of the 14th by the end of the war, so against the AVG 295 persons, there was a lot of pushing. Tex was a very popular man in both groups and when he threatened to quit the 14th AFA unless they gave it up, many sided with him. But not enough. Milt Miller was a bombardier in the 14th and was the editor of the “Jing Bao Journal,” their newsletter. He was a friend of Dick’s and told Dick he was against the appropriation and was campaigning against it. But Dick later read Milt’s endorsement of the plan in the Journal. They weren’t friends after that. It is very hard to resist such a famous, sexy, swashbuckling, legendary, name; especially when all your relatives and neighbors have come to think of you as the real deal . . even if you were a clerk that came to China in 1945 for 6 months. So Tex and others quit the 14th AF Association in protest.

According to R.T. Smith in his article in Air Classics magazine on this same subject (June 1988, vol.24.no 6 Who Were The Real Flying Tigers?), it was after Chennault’s death in 1958 that the 14th stepped up its campaign for the renaming. They started with “The 14th Air Force Association Flying Tigers”. But a few years later they changed it again to “The Flying Tigers of the 14th Air Force Association”. I know this for a fact because we have their letters on file and were able to watch the change on their letterheads. I have scanned some of these, which will bear witness to the facts. In 1964 they still didn’t have the name changed on everything and were still calling themselves by the nickname “China Hands”(see scan). At an AVG reunion about 1966, the 14th  sent a representative to the reunion to try and patch things up. He was told in no uncertain terms that the only way was for them to stop using the name.

Tex said (to me) that he asked Chennault about the use of the name and the general told him that only the AVG were the Flying Tigers. I was told by Col. Henry Lee CAF, Chennault’s interpreter and long-time friend, that Chennault was very hurt over the split between the two groups. I asked Gen. Y.T. Low CAF if the 14th was called Flying Tigers during the war and he said positively not. As recently as 1997 General Bruce Holloway (4star) tried, at their business meeting, to have the name removed from the 14th AFA and was defeated.

Here is my personal take on the matter:
When it first was brought to my attention, I was as offended as any of the members of the AVG. Over time I have mellowed on my assessment of it (I think I got older also). I have met many 14th AFA members, have traveled with them in China, have been feted at banquets with them, and have called some of them my friends. They were out in China doing a job for the USA and China just as the AVG was. The Chinese don’t seem to notice the difference between the two (keep in mind that Mao Zedong wrote his own special Chinese history that was taught in schools and there was no mention of allies helping in WWII). That has all changed and if you just wear a jacket with a Flying Tigers insignia in China you will probably be asked for your autograph. There are now Chinese men in China who claim to be “Flying Tigers” and have formed their own organizations; I'm told there are over 20 such organizations all over China. The AVG has been swamped by the numbers and the lines have been blurred. I think all serious historians will be able to discover the differences. To many it doesn’t matter, but for some of us it does matter, as we have to live with all the blurring and the deep sixing of the true “Flying Tigers” honor.

I choose not to get my knickers in a knot over it, but I know what is right. 

Lydia Rossi




Edited by LydiaRossi : December 12, 2010, 3:48 pm
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Use of Flying Tiger name
BradSmith
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Absent knotted knickers, I agree and applaud Lydia\'s description and analysis of the use of the Flying Tiger name.  I also wanted to mention for those that may look for R.T. Smith\'s article in the June 1988 issue of Air Classics that the September, October and November 1988 issues include many, many letters to the editor about the article that I believe people would find instructive.


Edited by BradSmith : December 10, 2010, 5:30 pm
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Use of Flying Tiger name
LydiaRossi
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Widow of AVG pilot J. R. Rossi
Trying to upload 3 images.
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Use of Flying Tiger name
ForumAdmin
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I've always thought it significant that Robert L. Scott,
who actually flew some missions with the AVG prior to
disbandment, made it very clear that he was NOT a
Flying Tiger.
I was at Oshkosh when he was on the interview stand
and was introduced as a Flying Tiger. The first thing
he said when he took the mic was that he was not a
Flying Tiger because he was not a member of the AVG.

Jo



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Use of Flying Tiger name
SilverDollar
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Well, it looks to me like this issue has been settled and I'm glad.  You've heard it from the source and as far as I'm concerned, you can take that to the bank.  I knew there had to be more to the story to explain why Tex Hill dropped out of the 14th Assoc. than what was on the surface.  Thanks so much for that detailed explanation, Lydia. 

Edited by SilverDollar : December 10, 2010, 7:52 pm

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Sometimes a handful of patience is worth more than a truckload of brains. Author unknown.  Found in a fortune cookie and that's the honest truth.
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Use of Flying Tiger name
BillC
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Thank you Lydia. One should read R.T. Smith's and Erik Shilling's books, to 'hear' their views on the appropriation of the name 'Flying Tigers', to understand their feelings. One should appreciate that the AVG's battle against the Japanese was truly a David & Goliath situation. In addition, the pilots that the AVG faced were the cream of the crop. By 1944-45, the Japanese pilots were of an inferior quality. Many of the better, more experienced pilots had been lost through attrition. Less than 300 hundred Americans 'volunteered' to go in harm's way to face the might of the Japanese Air Force. Yes, they were well paid...but how much pay is worth risking your life, when you could be safe at home? They stand a little taller than those of the many thousand members of the later groups. Not to take away anything from the contributions of the CATF and the 14th AF....but they just did not face the same overwhelming odds as the AVG. No doubt that some would have performed as well as the members of the AVG....but it was the members of the AVG who took the opportunity to volunteer to go to China and defend the Burma Road....A matter of 'opportunity' that not everyone was privy to...by choice or by chance. By all accounts, the members of the AVG were a very special group, in a very unique situation....that some, no doubt, envied and admired. Who wouldn't want to be called "Flying Tiger"?


Edited by BillC : December 11, 2010, 2:31 am
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Use of Flying Tiger name
SilverDollar
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I just wish folks would stop referring to the AVG as adventurists and mercenaries as if they did a sleazy thing by volunteering to go to China.  As I mentioned in another thread, a huge portion of individuals who join the U.S military today are doing so for exactly the same reasons.  When someone comes up to you and says for one year, you can earn triple what you're making  by doing the very same thing you're doing now and what you've been trained for except you have to go too a foreign country, that offer is kind of difficult to turn down.  When you've joined the military to get away from a boring home town and you're looking for a little adventure in a foreign country, why turn down what you're there for in the first place?  Anyone who joins the military already knows that there's a good chance they're going to wind up in a foreign country anyway so when the opportunity arises, why not take advantage of it. 

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Sometimes a handful of patience is worth more than a truckload of brains. Author unknown.  Found in a fortune cookie and that's the honest truth.
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Use of Flying Tiger name
TonyM
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Quote From : SilverDollar December 11, 2010, 4:37 pm
I just wish folks would stop referring to the AVG as adventurists and mercenaries as if they did a sleazy thing by volunteering to go to China.  As I mentioned in another thread, a huge portion of individuals who join the U.S military today are doing so for exactly the same reasons.  When someone comes up to you and says for one year, you can earn triple what you're making  by doing the very same thing you're doing now and what you've been trained for except you have to go too a foreign country, that offer is kind of difficult to turn down.  When you've joined the military to get away from a boring home town and you're looking for a little adventure in a foreign country, why turn down what you're there for in the first place?  Anyone who joins the military already knows that there's a good chance they're going to wind up in a foreign country anyway so when the opportunity arises, why not take advantage of it. 


SilverDollar,
You say that you wish that folks would stop referring to the AVG as adventurists and mercenaries.  But some of the AVG were adventurists and they were all mercenaries in the technical sense of the word.  And there is nothing sleazy about either.  Folks refer to them as adventurists and mercenaries because that is pretty much what they were. 

Who says that AVG personnel are sleazy for being adventurists or for wanting to be paid for their services as fighting men?  I don't see that idea as being a really popular.  As you state in your post above, many people join the military "looking for a little adventure in a foreign country."  I guess they could be considered "adventurists."  Nothing wrong with being an adventurist.  People are motivated to join the military--or to become mercenaries--for a variety of reasons, I am sure it was no different for the AVG.  Despite the labels that you are sensitive to, most "folks" recognize the valor and sacrifice of the AVG, that is those who know what the AVG really is (as opposed to those who confuse the AVG with the 14th AF). 

TonyM. 



Edited by TonyM : December 16, 2010, 5:27 pm
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Use of Flying Tiger name
SilverDollar
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Hey Tony.  Read my first statement again but this time as one complete thought.  Notice I didn't say I wish they didn't refer to them as mercs and adventurists.  I said they were referred to as adventurists and mercs AS IF it were a negative thing.  I never said it was a negative thing and I don't believe it was a negative thing either.

Second, I've read a lot of info about the AVG over the years (and not necessarily those right books and articles endorsed on this forum) and not all of it is complimentary.  A number of members here know who and what I'm talking about.  I've seen advertizing for AVG repro jackets, uniform pieces and patches and I've seen presentations even on the History Channel that have characterized the AVG as misfits, undisciplined, ragtag, slovenly, only looking for excitement, only looking for money and a hundred other adjectives that just ARE NOT true.  Those are the "folks" I'm talking about.  they obviously have no idea of the true nature of the AVG. 


Another thing.  Too many people keep referring to the AVG as if they were different from the current military of the time.  You can't separate the men of the AVG from the men of the current military of that time.  Why?  They WERE the current military of that time because they were recruited from the US military of that time, not the general civilian population. 

Read my stuff again.  We're both on the same page.

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Sometimes a handful of patience is worth more than a truckload of brains. Author unknown.  Found in a fortune cookie and that's the honest truth.
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Use of Flying Tiger name
aaatripp
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Bravo both TonyM and Silver Dollar for your thoughts above.  Let me concur.  No one backed into becoming a U.S. military officer! There was the training, discipline, military doctrine & education...THEN, NOW and in the FUTURE....it's what makes our military a great and PROFESSIONAL force.  SD knows all about this....he IS one.  That's why movies like Broken Arrow are so ridiculous because they portray US military officers as rogues.  Reliability and professionalism is the
key element in our military!

Read Charlie Bond's book, there was a proposed revolt of some of the pilots due to lack of discipline in the AVG and Col. Chennault addressed it and told Charlie of his respect for him....Charlie Bond retired from a great USAF career as a 2-star general!!  There was some jealousy of US mlty. towards the AVG due to the high pay, but that all ended on 4 July 1942 with the disbandment of the AVG.  There was jealousy of the 509th Composite Group on the Marianas island of Tinian because they were just dropping "pumpkins" (practice bombs) and a derisive song was being sung about the 509th by the other groups.

Once the illustrious performance of the AVG and the 509th (Enola Gay & Bock's Car) became known, pride and admiration replaced the petty jealousies.



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Tripp

Tripp Alyn, chair
Historical & Museums Committee
AVG Flying Tigers Association
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Use of Flying Tiger name
TonyM
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Silver Dollar,

Yes, we're on the same page. 

Characterizing the AVG as a bunch of misfits is certainly wrong and far from the truth and it is disturbing.

The Flying Tigers of the AVG are certainly an inspiration and they did have an effect on the events in the early part of the war.  That's why I am here--to learn what I can. 

TM.
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SilverDollar
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Thanks for the kind words Tripp.  You're pretty much on the money when you describe military officers, Tripp.    There are some special cases though like the Army doctor who killed all those at Ft. Hood, but they're very rare and usually result from some type of mental breakdown.  The rest of the ding a lings don't usually last too long.  When they get in trouble, they get themselves nailed pretty fast. 

I'll tell you about one ding a ling that I would have liked to have bounced personally but he was getting out of the military shortly after this particular incident.  I told this story here once before but to me it's worth repeating especially on this forum.  He was a general denttist whose father was former American military and his mother was Japanese.  She was from a military family also.  His grandfather was a general in the Russo Japanese War.  He was also a bit weird but very proud of his Japanese heritage.  One day aat work while we were on a break, we were talking about the sneak attack on Pearl Harbor.  When he was asked about how he felt since he had Japanese ancestry, in no uncertain terms and very seriously, he piped up and said if He were there back then or the attack happened today, he'd resign his AF commission and go and fight for Japan.  As far as I was concerned those were not the words that should have come out of the mouth of a USAF captain.  That SOB got out 3 weeks later.  If he had decided to stay in, I can tell you he wouldn't have lasted after I got through with him.  We're not talking about me fighting with him, we're talking about taking him to the JAG. 

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Sometimes a handful of patience is worth more than a truckload of brains. Author unknown.  Found in a fortune cookie and that's the honest truth.
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Use of Flying Tiger name
aaatripp
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Yes, SD, loyalty and reliability are key elements of mlty. service.  Thanks for your
comments.

It's important to note here that one should examine the roster of the AVG (found on this website), not the sqdn. rosters.  You'll note some on the list have < ** > before their names which "Denotes AVG member who did not fulfill their contract or was not honorably discharged when the Flying Tigers were officially disbanded, July 4, 1942."

In reading books about the AVG you'll learn that at least two AVG "jumped ship" (I believe in Singapore) and never even arrived at Toungoo, others left along the way, some were discharged (including Gregory "Pappy" Boyington), some went into the prosperous black market---there wasn't much romantic about Toungoo, Burma.  Read about the heat, the heavy rain, the bugs dropping into
your soup, the terrible mess food in the early stages and.....the stench from the
dispositon of human waste.  We're talking STINKY STINKY here.  We're talking the exotic Orient here, got it?  Some guys bugged out early ('scuse the expression!).  But, the majority stayed, rolled up their sleeves and got to work.  Read about "Fearless Freddie", the cobra & the urinal.

Gen. Chennault was adamant that the discharges were not to be known later
as AVG (despite his Medal of Honor, high # of enemy a/c destroyed and time in
Japanese captivity Boyington was never allowed back into the fold).  The AVG "cleaned their own house" and got rid of the malingerers (this was even covered in the terms of their contract!).  They were allowed variable gear (ie. not everyone wearing the same uniform) and were not required to salute, but
Chennault required complete discipline in the air...for their success AND their survival against the more nimble Japanese fighter a/c.

Chuck Baisden has written his book; perhaps he can share some of his memories about the conditions in Toungoo and the AVG attitude towards the "bad apples" with us here......


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Tripp

Tripp Alyn, chair
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AVG Flying Tigers Association
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Use of Flying Tiger name
SilverDollar
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Now you've got my attention.  Where do I get to read the story of Fearless Freddie,  the cobra and the urinal?  It sounds like a typical flora and fawna situation.  In our field setups, we had to watch out for black widows under the toilet seat.  If you didn't bang on the seat first, you risked getting bit in the worst place possible.  A couple of guys learned that the hard way. 

I saw some pictures in some of the AVG books of Toungoo and some other areas of beautiful downtown Burma.  It sure doesn't look like my idea of ideal camping.  It's not having to shake out your boots before you put them on, it's about what will grab your boots and whack you with them.  I assume those bugs were big.  :cry:

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Sometimes a handful of patience is worth more than a truckload of brains. Author unknown.  Found in a fortune cookie and that's the honest truth.
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Use of Flying Tiger name
aaatripp
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cousin of Maax C. Hammer, Jr., AVG 22Sep41 RIP
SD----I'll check out the various books for the tale of FF and post it here for all to enjoy.


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Tripp

Tripp Alyn, chair
Historical & Museums Committee
AVG Flying Tigers Association
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