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 Erik Shilling, Smithsonian (17 Replies, Read 112752 times)
BillC
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Am re-reading all my AVG books...again...noted that Erik Shilling also saw the bias in the Smithsonian sponsorship of ford....when they were also re-casting the Enola Gay exhibit as an anti-war...anti-American exhibit....Can you say 'agenda'? Chuck Baisden's book is next for a re-read. Chuck was kind enough to dedicate a copy of his book to my daughter's high school...whose mascot is a TIGER....!    For those that can, I encourage you to donate copies of AVG books to your local schools, so that the history of the AVG can be accessible to the next generation.


Edited by BillC : December 3, 2010, 2:22 am
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Erik Shilling
basketweaver
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I agree that more needs to be in the school history classes.  My daughter is a high school teacher with  majors in history and english.  Two years ago she was teaching history and asked me about the AVG.  She did a one day lecture on them when they got to those years.  I loaned her my Pistole book, with all the signatures I was able to get, along with the other AVG books.  I gave her strict orders that they were not to be out of her sight!!!!  She went through the books to prep for the class but  took only the Pistole book to her class because of all the pics.  She told the class that they are her mother's books and if anything happens to them she will bring her mother in to deal with the kid/kids!!!  Needless to say the books came back to me in perfect condition.

The AVG is not in the history textbook she used, but since I have the books and went to some CNAC reunions and one AVG reunion she knew that I could give her the info.
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Erik Shilling
SilverDollar
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Unfortunately, the AVG is one group in history that's very, very misunderstood.  They're known as legends, mercenaries, ragged irregulars, bums, misfits, heroes, and whatever monikers got thrown at them throughout history.  Unfortunately, there will come a time when those that were there in China will no longer be there to set the record straight.  That's where we come in.  It's up to us now to get as much truthful info from the actual AVG members to make sure that AVG history is accurately recorded and guarded from revisionism, which as some of us know is already happening.  By donating the right books and volunteering to give accurate presentations, we help to keep that memory alive and well.  It's unfortunate that the media at the time of WWII called every aviator that fought in China throughout the war Flying Tiger.  I see so much info on the net talking about Flying Tiger reunions all over the country and how these men served with the AVG.  If you look up their names and when they served, they're all usually 14th AF, 23rd FG or whatever group they came from and never set foot on the same land as the AVG.  It's like someone saying their relative guarded the Alamo 5 years after Sam Houston defeated Santa Anna's forces after the Alamo was sacked.  They may have been stationed there but they were not a part of the group that made that hallowed ground sacred.  It's not fair to the AVG and their decendants.  I was told at one time when the members of the FTA are gone, the organization ceases to exist.  That's it.  I for one can't let something like that happen.  there's got to be something to carry on.  Here I go getting splinters in my feet from standing on my soap box.  :-x 

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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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Erik Shilling
3AVG@Toungoo
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Niece of John D. Armstrong
I am the niece of John Armstrong who was a part of the lst AVG group to serve. Yes,  they were among the earliest members of the  Greatest Generation.  Yes, they were very special, but not so unique in the larger arena of WWII. I think of my father who was awarded the DFC as a B-17 crew member flying more than his share of missions over Germany.  Have any of you seen the inside of a Flying Fortress?  It has been compared to that of a wooden coffin.  Those who survived were very fortunate. My father was a quiet hero who did not talk about his missions as if he were special. He remembered bombing German civilians and did not talk about this as heroic.  I think of my mother, sister of John Armstrong,  who interrrupted her teaching career to serve as a Physical Therapist at Ft. Sam Houston and who lost her lst husband who was a test pilot in Texas.  I think of my aunt who served with the Red Cross and was aboard the vessel that received survivors of one of the Nazi death camps. She finished college, raised a family and never completely survived her experiences witnessing the horror.    I think about a friend whose father survived the horrors of battle in New Guinea.  He likewise, returned home and quietly integrated into the US fabric of the post war.  How wonderful that the FTA exists to enhance, elevate and preserve the Flying Tiger status. This is all well and good but these men were mercenaries recruited by the promise of adventure.  To suggest that the men who served in the 14th AF should be diffentiated from the original AVG as less important  from those who were in the original volunteer group does a diservice to the men and women who served  as heroically as the AVG.  My uncle was an experienced naval pilot who probably did seek adventure and was lured by the promise of fame and glory.  I would classify him a mercenary.  It should not have a negative connotation.  I believe we need more detailed information about the tactics and propaganda used to recruit these men from their respective military status into volunteer status.  My uncle died, was buried and left behind in Burma where he remains. No one cares except his family who is still looking for the location of his grave. Revisionist history is touting the exploits of those who live to tell their tales and burying the stories of those who can\'t speak for themselves. CAMCO and Wm Pawley never responded to a request by the Army for information on the location of the graves of Armstrong, Atkinson and Hammer who all died prior to Pearl Harbor.  The US Army recognized in the early 50\'s their status for repatriation even though they were technically volunteer status.  AVG via CAMCO did not respond to the Army\'s request for burial location so they were never recovered even though their location was well documented at that time.  I have the documentation to demonstrate this fact.  So much for AVG hero status.  Instead of notifying the Army of the location of the graves, Pawley comissioned the portraits of the AVG who died.  At least my grandparents had the Americans Valiant and Glorius Booklet and  Pawley\'s commissioned portrait of my uncle which we can view anytime we choose...just as any other museum patron.  Anyone who knows the location of the burial site at St. Luke in Toungoo or has photos, please respond.











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Lynn Evans
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Erik Shilling
SilverDollar
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Lynn, I believe you're misinterpreting my post.  You need to go back and reread it again.  First of all, no where in that post did I say the AVG was more important to the overall mission during WWII than any other group, career field or location.  No where in that post did I say any one member or the whole group was more heroic than any other during the war.  No where did I say that anyone's accomplishments meant less than those of the AVG.  No where in that post did I say that the AVG were the ones who suffered the worst of all or did I try to diminish anyone else's suffering.  What I'm trying to do is differentiate one group from another and that's all.  This is a site dedicated to discussing the exploits of the original American Volunteer Group, a group of 300 men and only 300 men who performed a particular task.  Too often, they are lumped in with other groups or overlooked completely.  Maybe they were mercenaries because they did what they did for money.  In that case, we're all mercenaries otherwise we don't eat.  Maybe they were out for adventure but a large portion of the military in this country joined for the very same reason.  I ought to know.  I spent 20 years as an officer in the USAF and I didi it for the experience in my career field. A number of AVG members joined because they wanted to get a crack at an enemy who was doing something they hated.  It was their chance to help out a weaker "kid" against a bully.

Second, you mention that revisionists tout the exploits of the living and burying those of the dead.  The revisionists I'm talking about are out to discredit and change history in favor of their own agendas and their own viewpoints.  They're discrediting the accomplishments of the AVG and trying to knock them out of their rightful place in history.  Revisionists are in the process of denying the Holocaust calling it a Jewish plot for attention and money.  That's the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard.  (I'm Jewish and my entire family in Europe was exterminated in the death camps.)  Revisionists are in the process of denying the Nanking Massacre during which a large number of unspeakable acts that you would never believe were committed.  Revisionists are using the Enola Gay as an antiwar monument against this country when they really don't understand what happened.  Revisionism is the act of destroying the truth, not saving it. 

Thirdly, I care very much where those men killed in action are buried and I feel bad when any one of them are forgotten.  I feel for the families who would love to visit the sites but can't because they either can't find them or can't afford to find them. 

Finally, I have flown in a B 17 and have even gotten into the ball turret with the door closed.  tight but comfortable.  True it wasn't the easiest duty but if you want to talk about the size of a wooden coffin, try getting into and flying a P40B at night or in a cloud bank where all you can see is nothing but your instruments.  That'll wake you up. Don't try to diminish that experience in favor of another.  Of course many veterans don't speak as if their accomplishments were heroic.  War fighting has always been a nasty business and very traumatic on the veterans but the alternative of not stopping the cruel acts of an enemy is worse especially when they get to your doorstep and no on has done anything to stop them.  I have talked to countless former bomber crew men from some of the most famous B17's and bomb groups in the war and have the utmost respect and admiration for them but this particular forum is not about them.  It's about the AVG.  I belong to a number of forums dedicated to those men and I laud their accomplishments over there and work hard to preserve their unique history but here, I talk about the AVG and do what I can to preserve their unique history.    Thank you and good night. 

                                                      Lt.Col. Jeffrey L. Himan USAF ret. 

Edited by SilverDollar : December 5, 2010, 10:36 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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Erik Shilling
BillC
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While I would not say that the AVG was "more important" than others who fought  in WWII, one has to acknowledge that the odds that they fought against, were much greater than what the groups that followed them faced. The action at the Salween Gorge was a major success that likely saved China, and kept them in the war. Had the Japanese 'Red Dragon" division crossed the Salween, it would have likely knocked China out of the war and allowed untold thousands of Japanese to engage allied forces further west, resulting in many thousands of casualties to American, British and other allied forces. Not just my opinion, but that which was expressed by Johnny Allison at the 60th anniversary reunion dinner of the AVG at the Seattle Museum of Flight in 2001. My late wife and I had purchased a museum membership just so we could buy tickets to the AVG dinner. It was a memorable event.


Edited by BillC : December 6, 2010, 2:43 am
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Erik Shilling
3AVG@Toungoo
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Niece of John D. Armstrong
Jeffrey;
Thank you for your thoughtful and informative response.  It is quite refreshing to read posts with some substance.  It is my observation and opinion that meaningful discourse is generally not the norm on this forum.  Perhaps a few more perceived misinterpretations might initiate interesting and informative discussions.

I don\'t believe I misinterpreted your post.  I will concede that I ineffectively expressed my thoughts.  I intended to make two points regarding your post.  I do understand the specific purpose of this forum and I am grateful that this platform is available to share information about the Flying Tigers and of their valuable contributions.  I do understand their significance in the CBI Theatre. I am certain we could agree that there were untold significant contributions by many unsung heroes of that generation. I am also quite knowledgeable regarding the significance of historical and of present day revisionism.  I believe it is unhealthy for any organization to be proprietary, closed to new thoughts and ideas and to actively discredit those who question or perhaps present an alternative theory.  That has been my perception of the association through exposure to this forum and through additional research.  Cloistered and closed organizations create their own brand of revisionism.  My perception was this attitude permeated your original post. 

Secondly, I have read posts on this forum that are extremely dismissive of individuals who are seeking information about family they believed were Flying Tigers.  What would it hurt to inform an individual that their relative did not serve in the original AVG but to acknowledge their service to their country and perhaps suggest an alternate website to locate information?  I\'ve seen return posts whereby buying a member\'s book is offered as an answer to a question.  I personally experienced this type of response.  In my opinion this reflects negatively on the legacy of the Flying Tigers and of this forum. While your original post did not outright disparage those who were not members of the original Flying Tigers, the undertone was there; or at least that was my perception. 

When I originally contacted this forum for information about my uncle, I did receive some limited information.  I had to work very hard to get some type of response from this forum.  It was through the efforts of one of the members who interceded on my behalf, gave me the name of an historian who had independently collected documentation that would assist me in my specific search for information.  My family did receive our uncle\'s DFC being held by the FT Association.  However, other internet forums that are not solely dedicated to the preservation of the legacy of the Flying Tigers provided immediate and direct information.  Veterans of the CBI Theatre were very helpful as was the Anglican Church and various authors, historians and personal contacts in China.  From these contacts, I have been provided on going support in my family\'s search for the location of my uncle\'s grave. 

Again, thank you for taking time to respond, to care about those left behind, and for your service and sacrifice to our country. 

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Lynn Evans
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Erik Shilling
LydiaRossi
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Widow of AVG pilot J. R. Rossi
Lynn,

I think Jeffrey Himan did an excellent job of responding to your messages. I just have a couple of things to add.

You wrote:
“It is my observation and opinion that meaningful discourse is generally not the norm on this forum. Perhaps a few more perceived misinterpretations might initiate interesting and informative discussions.”

II’m sorry if you think the discourse here is not meaningful. I’m not sure what it is you want to read that isn’t readily available, if not here, then in the many books on the AVG. Of course, if the information you seek is the current whereabouts of your uncle’s remains, that is beyond the scope of our knowledge and will require in-depth research. I commend you for undertaking that research. There are only 11 AVG members still alive and of those, only 1 regularly posts at this forum. We recommend the books as a source for that which we may not have ready answers. I don’t know what to say to one who is offended by being pointed in the direction of a book for answers to questions.

“My uncle was an experienced naval pilot who probably did seek adventure and was lured by the promise of fame and glory.”

I can assure you that the volunteers were never promised fame and glory or anything even close. No one knew what would happen to them in China. They did not know that Pearl Harbor would be attacked just as they were gearing up to defend the Burma Road. They certainly knew they were in danger of being killed. Most of them loved the idea of the adventure; being able to fly the hottest fighter plane is every pilot's dream and the high pay was a big draw. But fame and glory was definitely not on the agenda.

“My family did receive our uncle\'s DFC being held by the FT Association.”

The reason your uncle’s DFC was being held by the FTA is because there was no one of record to send it to. They were awarded in 1996 and only when you later contacted us did we then send it.

I wish you luck in finding your uncle's remains and having them returned home. I understand from Tripp that there is some positive information on this.


Edited by LydiaRossi : December 12, 2010, 1:14 pm
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Erik Shilling
3AVG@Toungoo
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Niece of John D. Armstrong
Yes, Lydia.  I agree that Jeffery Himan did an excellent job responding to my post. My family appreciated his response and I believe that I thanked him on this forum. 

Thank you also for your diligence and for taking the time to respond.  Your expertise on the AVG is acknowledged.  Your points regarding the purpose of this forum; the fact that there is only one living AVG who regularly contributes, the fact that there is a vast amount of historical information available for research is well taken.  I am quite aware of the historical information and I think you would agree that some of it is conflicting information.  I do not intend to further discuss my definition of what constitutes as meaningful.  I think it would serve no purpose and be counter productive at this time. I do believe that any contributing member of this forum should agree to disagree.  But, perhaps not.  Perhaps there is no latitude on this forum for that type of discourse.

  How about tossing out the recruitment efforts as a topic of discussion?  I should think there might be some interesting discussions and we all might learn something new.  One would have to admit that the official version of these brave young men resigning their military positions to volunteer and become employees of CAMCO is intriguing to say the least.  I think fame and glory was on the proverbial plate.  Of course they did not know what would happen in China and of course they did not know Pearl Harbor was on the agenda.  Of course, you must be aware that there are theories that they were recruited to strike first.  Another good topic perhaps for another time.

Thank you again for your response. Your name is well known among my family as being responsible for the acquisition of our uncle\'s certificate and DFC.

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Lynn Evans
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Erik Shilling
SilverDollar
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It's interesting that you bring up the recruitment pitch.  Back in the mid 80's I had a patient at McGuire AFB who was a retired full bird colonel.  From May 45 until the end of the war, he was the commander of the 2nd Air Commando Group.  You usually hear about the 1st ACG but rarely the 2nd.  He told me he was in Puerto Rico in 1941 before the start of WWII flying P36's when some guy came up to him and asked him if he wanted to go to China to help out the CAF.  I asked him who the man was and he said some guy by the name of Skip something.  I said, Skip Adair and he replied something like that.  Of course I took that with a grain of salt until he came back to my clinic with a completed application with the words American Volunteer Group and signed by Skip Adair (written C.B, Adair).  It also had a Flying Tiger logo letterhead on top.  With that in mind, I think it might have been an application for the second or third AVG.  I wouldn't think they had the logo at that time the 1st AVG was formed.  Man, I wanted to get a hold of that application.  Unfortunately, I didn't know enough about the AVG to ask him about how he was recruited.  I could kick myself in the butt for that but we all know 20-20 hindsight is worthless. He never went to China then because he was considered overseas in Puerto Rico and the USAAC wouldn't let him go.  He wound up going to the CBI anyway flying P51's until the end of the war.  He did however fly around some of the Burma Road and Salween River area.  He also had some pretty funny stories but I can't tell them on this forum. 

Edited by SilverDollar : December 12, 2010, 11:04 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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Erik Shilling
aaatripp
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cousin of Maax C. Hammer, Jr., AVG 22Sep41 RIP
Lynn,

One of the most enjoyable experiences in reading the approx. 30 books on the AVG which I possess is about their early days in military aviation.  Of course, everyone's military situation and story is different.  As for recruiting, some were at a private AVG recruiting meeting in their squadron, some heard via the grapevine or their buddies, some just chanced across this opportunity.  All of these personnel were influenced by their experiences during the Great Depression and by the low military pay grades and slow, very slow rate of promotion.  This is one of the reasons that Jimmy Doolittle left the military in early 1930 to work for Shell Oil.  The pay was probably the leading incentive. As for adventure, you just have to hear the enthusiasm in Ed Rector's voice as he describes the thrill of visiting the land of Kipling in the film FEI HU----but this did
not come from AVG recruiting from the way the books describe it.

Tex Hill had been born in Korea and Jim Howard had been born in Canton, China
so both had feelings of revisiting and aiding in the defense of their places of birth (ie. Asia under attack by the Japanese since 1931, then 1937).

As for Alan Armstrong's premise of 1st strike/pre-emptive strike that would have
been from the 2nd & 3rd AVG.  The P-40Bs of the 1st AVG only had 6 guns with
no bomb racks (for an attack role), thus they were only counter-air and defensive in nature.  When the P-40E Kittyhawks starting ferrying into the AVG, they had the capability for the ground attack role.  Despite this fact, many joined the AVG because they wanted to get into the fight and to fly a hot fighter aircraft....even with the risk of their life.  The strategic objective of the AVG was to protect the Burma Road and to keep China in the war.  As difficult and bloody as our landings in the Pacific were, just imagine the carnage had we been fighting Japan's "A" Team, the Kwantung Army, brought over from a surrendered China to defend Japan's security perimeter of islands.

Maybe Chuck Baisden knows if any P-40Bs were fitted for carrying bombs??


Edited by aaatripp : March 18, 2015, 1:18 am

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Tripp

Tripp Alyn, Historian
AVG Flying Tigers Association
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Erik Shilling
BillC
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Let me add....I had the good fortune to be in Seattle in 2001 to hear Johnny Allison's take on the AVG's efforts to stop the Japanese' attempt to cross the Salween Gorge. Until then, I did not realize how important  the AVG's contribution was. He explained how, the AVG's repulse of the Japanese 'Red Dragon' division, likely saved hundreds....thousands.....tens of thousands....of allied lives....by the AVG's actions at the Salween Gorge. Had the Japanese successfully crossed the Salween River.....China would likely have been knocked out of the war.....and hundreds of thousands of Japanese would have been moved to the west, and would have inflicted untold casualties on Allied forces. It was "THE" moment that validated the AVG's effort in China.


Edited by BillC : December 16, 2010, 1:49 am
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Erik Shilling
aaatripp
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cousin of Maax C. Hammer, Jr., AVG 22Sep41 RIP
Shall we say " PIVOTAL MOMENT " Bill?

Cheers,
Tripp

P.S.  Great job describing the importance of this engagement.  The operational effects of this key battle were to stall the Japanese advance, fix them in place and to destroy troops, equipment and supplies vital to knocking China out of the war.

Since this was a choke point, you can compare it to the 300 Spartans at Thermopolae (using geography & tactics to overcome a vastly superior ground force).  Sadly, Bob Little was lost.  Dr. Carl Brown was on his port (left) wing and he told me that he thought that a bomb had hung up or been detonated by ground fire because Little's left wing was badly damaged and he perished.


Edited by aaatripp : December 16, 2010, 8:41 am

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Tripp

Tripp Alyn, Historian
AVG Flying Tigers Association
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Erik Shilling
SilverDollar
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If you google Salween Gorge, you'll find a pdf written by Reagan Schaupp which pretty much gives the story of what happened on that mission.  For those not familiar with the name Reagan Schaupp, that's Tex Hill's grandson.  It's pretty good reading. 

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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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Erik Shilling
jbrown
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My name is Julia Brown. I'm one of 3 daughters of Carl K. Brown. There are 6 children all alive and well.  My dad is an "original" Flying Tiger.  He is living in California and he is 93 years old.  I read somewhere that throughout the years the Flying Tiger's have been called all kinds of silly names like misfits, on and on.... for the record my father was in his senior year of college studying engineering when called to war.  He went into the Navy, then volunteered as a Flying Tiger/pilot. After the war he went to USC medical school. Became a Dr. practiced medicine  until he was in his 80's.  While practicing medicine he went to law school earned his JD.  Today he spends his time mostly reading.  He's happy to share his knowledge and experience of war etc. with people who have an interest. 
Thanks
Julia
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