This day in history – the first battle of the WWII “Flying Tigers” on December 20, 1941.
DAYTON, Ohio -- Flying Tigers, Curtiss P-40E Warhawk at the National Museum of the United States Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo)
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The Flying Tigers were officially called the American Volunteer Group, and were known for their planes with iconic shark faces on them. They were equipped and recruited in the spring and summer of 1941, with the express purposed of aiding the Chinese in theater against the Japanese. The group trained at a Royal Air Force airfield in Burma that fall, but it was not until after the Pearl Harbor attack on 07 December 1941 that the group went into combat. They were led by Lieutenant General Claire Lee Chennault (September 6, 1893 – July 27, 1958).
During the Flying Tigers early battles in late 1941 and early 1942, they had success at what was otherwise a low point in the war. They were paid combat bonuses for destroying almost 300 enemy aircraft, and lost only 14 pilots on combat missions. There were 100 pilots – 60 from the US Navy and US Marine Corps, and 40 from the US Army Air Corps (the latter began at Fort Monmouth).
Because the group were private military contractors, and not military, that these volunteers have occasionally been considered mercenaries.
TEXT CREDIT: CECOM Historical Office