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 Why Tigers?, What sparked your interest in the Flying Tigers (6 Replies, Read 9904 times)
Lincoln
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When I was a kid, my dad built model Airplanes.  He built mostly Spanish Civil War Aircraft, but also did Arab-Israeli War Stuff (Spitfires with Egyptian Markings and Messerschmidt's with Israeli Markings.)

He never made any American Aircraft with American Markings, until he made a model of the "Kibosh" one of the last three P-40s that flew in the Philippines before they fell to the Japanese.

I thought what a cool looking plane!

Later I saw the Baa Baa Blacksheep T.V. Series and my dad talked about when he was a small boy, and the News on the Radio was bad from every corner of the globe during the early days of World War Two, there was one bright spot.

He talked about his family sitting rapt with attention, listening as the broadcasters described the feats of the Flying Tigers.

Reading about them, learning about history, coming to understand that in one of our Nations darkest hours, they gave hope and inspired a Nation, that we could overcome.

Learning that Chenault was an outcast, that the P-40s they flew were considered obsolete and inferior to the types they faced, the rag tag group of men, outside the channels of the Military, with little supply and against overwhelming odds, succeeded.

I had a conversation with Erik Shilling once and he asked me why the Flying Tigers were my heroes.  I said they were just men and they accomplished so much with so little, against such adversity!  Superman had super powers, Batman had wealth and resources, but when a person without advantages overcomes challenges, that is what Heroism really is.  Normal People overcoming great obstacles.

From start to finish that's the AVG/Flying Tigers.
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Why Tigers?
LydiaRossi
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Widow of AVG pilot J. R. Rossi
What a great message. Thank you Lincoln!
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Why Tigers?
Lincoln
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I was hoping a few others would chime in about their interest/fascination with the AVG.
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Why Tigers?
SilverDollar
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Hey Lincoln.  I wasn't sure but I thought that might be what you were aiming at.  I just didn't want to hijack the thread with my own story, but since you asked (and I'm glad you did) here's the skinny. 

My interest strictly in the AVG was peaked when I met AVG member George Bailey.  His son was a Lt. Col in the Air Force and was one of my patients when we were stationed together at McGuire AFB.  Lt Col Bailey said to me that his father was one of the original members of the AVG and asked if I wanted to meet him.  I basically said to him "Do flies land on dead logs?" of course I wanted to meet him.  Previously to that, my area of study was 8th AAF but I did hear of the Tigers because James Howard was AVG and he also flew a P51 B, Ding Hao.  When I met Col (the father) Bailey, I had about 1000 questions for him and he graciously talked with me for over an hour about AVG history and debunked a lot of the bad info I had heard in the past.  I also got in touch with Don Rodewald and RT Smith who were more that willing to help me with the history including pictures that RT had to confirm several facts.  Finally, I met James Howard at an 8th AF reunion.  I was wearing an 8th AAF uniform when he came up to me and said "that's a snazzy uniform there son".  Of course with the presence of a bobby soxer meeting Frank Sinatra for the first time, I was so excited to learn who he was, I scared him half to death.  I'm not even sure I didn't wet myself at that point but I was so happy to meet an AVG pilot face to face. 
  From that point on, I learned who the REAL Flying Tigers were and not the ones who were committing "stolen valor".  Just like Lincoln said, they were a group (not rag tag at all) who were volunteering to help a country they had no stock in because it was the right thing to do.  They were finally able to do what they were trained to do and do some good with it instead of sitting on the sidelines waiting for something to happen.  They were given junk to deal with because the USAAC was unwilling at first to part with their resources.  Their aircraft was already obsolescent  when they first hit the runway before even their first real mission. They had insufficient numbers of spare parts and supplies and yet did what few US groups could actually do in the field, i.e. knock down and destroy approximately 300 enemy aircraft in only about 6 months. There were of course many other things they did above and beyond that I'm ignorant of.  If those facts don't single the AVG out as true heroes, I don't know what does.  I myself couldn't do what they did.  I was in the USAF for 20 years and the most dangerous activity I had to perform was treating an AIDS patient.  The most serious injury I sustained in my career was when I fell into a hole in the dark during field exercises and scraped my elbow.  Big Whoop.  I can definitely recognize a hero when I see one and each one in the AVG deserves that title. 
Now how do I pay proper tribute to these great men?  Sometimes I wear a khaki shirt with Chinese wings and a Flying Tiger pin (both repros) and sometimes the shirt has a painted a blood chit on the back.  When someone asks me what the pins are or why I wear them, I give them a history lesson.  Of course I try not to glaze them over with long diatribes like this one but they leave with a little more understanding of the historical significance of one of the most prolific aviation squadrons in history.  Many times I meet like minded people with as much and even more knowledge about the AVG and have great conversations with them and often learn a thing or two.  With a contribution as important as the AVG has given, it behooves us to do whatever it takes so that they're never forgotten or worse, have their history revised by unscrupulous authors.  Thank you members and moderators for letting me rant. 
 

Edited by SilverDollar : December 1, 2014, 5:51 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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Why Tigers?
aaatripp
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cousin of Maax C. Hammer, Jr., AVG 22Sep41 RIP
Great tale, SD!  Thanks for relating your Flying Tigers experience to our Forum members.  We appreciate your longtime support of the AVG.


Over the years a common thread seems to appear amongst many admirers of the AVG-----that of having seen the shark-mouthed P-40 of the AVG Flying Tigers at an airshow, in an air museum, on a documentary or even in movies (Yes, I'm referring to the John Wayne movie about the Flying Tigers!).

While filled with major inconsistencies, the John Wayne movie, produced in 1942, was a major morale boost for the American people in the wake of the Japanese march across Asia and the Pacific following the surprise attack at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.  It is a shining example of strategic communications on behalf of the American people to the world (psy ops too!).

Of course, we can't forget the other major Flying Tigers movie of that era, "God is my Co-Pilot", which portrays the life of Col. Robert L. Scott, Jr.  While "Scotty"
was not a Flying Tiger, he flew with them and then bridged the gap when he assumed command of the 23rd Fighter Group of the China Air Task Force.  This
movie is much more accurate, although the death of John Petach portrays him returning to base....."Pete" actually crashed near the Japanese target which he was attacking and he was likely killed instantly.  In the movie you will see a Tigers pilot status board and most of those names are spot on...."Ajax" Baumler (the 100th Flying Tiger pilot) is included and he was on that mission on 10 July 42 when Petach (and Shamblin) were shot down.  Other Tigers depicted in the movie included:  Ed Rector, Gil Bright (who survived the midair with Armstrong on 8 Sep 41), Frank Schiel, Bob Neale, Tex Hill & Claire Lee Chennault.  In the final scene a bombing mission is briefed and Holstrom is mentioned as leading the squadron of B-25 bombers.  "Brick" Holstrom piloted Doolittle bomber #4 and remained in China to command the 11th Bomb Sqdn.

In summary, there are many examples of the famous P-40 out there to inspire the dreams of our youth (and big kids too!).

Tripp



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Tripp

Tripp Alyn, chair
Historical & Museums Committee
AVG Flying Tigers Association
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Why Tigers?
aaatripp
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Post Group: Super Member
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cousin of Maax C. Hammer, Jr., AVG 22Sep41 RIP
Lincoln:

Many thanks for starting this thread, and for the care in which you told your story of inspiration.  We appreciate your support as well.....

Tripp


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Tripp

Tripp Alyn, chair
Historical & Museums Committee
AVG Flying Tigers Association
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Why Tigers?
SilverDollar
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Thanks Tripp for the kind words.  I forgot to mention that my first encounter with an AVG member was 30 years ago.  I was lucky always to get the accurate histories until I hit the Daniel Ford book.  Thanks to the members on this forum, I was set straight on that issue. 

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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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