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With the Tigers over China, 1941-1942

With the Tigers over China, 1941-1942

Jerome Klinkowitz
Copyright Date: 1999
Pages: 192
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  • Book Info
    With the Tigers over China, 1941-1942
    Book Description:

    In the twelve months centered around the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, a diverse group of American and British flyers fought one of the most remarkable air campaigns of WWII. Pilots including Claire Chennault, "Pappy" Boyington, and Art Donahue bought time for an Allied regrouping against Japan's relentless assault in the China-Burma-India theater. In the face of the 1941 bombings, Chiang Kai-shek turned to air power to survive, which he did thanks to Chennault's rebuilding of the Chinese Air Force and the leadership of the American Volunteer Group, or AVG.

    Formed by Chennault, the AVG, also known as the Flying Tigers, were contract employees working for the Chinese government. As a result, they received virtually no official American recognition for their efforts. The group was known for their romantic, reckless spirit. They performed remarkably with outdated planes and equipment in ill-repair, were almost always heavily outnumbered in battle, and were seen by outsiders as hard-drinking rebels.

    Whatever their image, the Flying Tigers were highly effective. In the words of Air Force Major General Charlie Bond, "During that first week of action the AVG destroyed fifty-five enemy bombers and fighters while losing only five Tomahawks. Unfortunately, two of our colleagues were killed, but at the same time two hundred enemy airmen were either killed or captured. We were shattering the myth that the Japanese Air Force was invincible."

    Jerome Klinkowitz, whose earlier books focused on flyers' attitudes toward the air war in Britain and Europe, continues his work with an exceptionally interesting group of Pacific warriors. He brings together not only the commanders' stories but the often more colorful--and sometimes more accurate--accounts of life and battle by the men who flew these planes and the women who participated on the ground.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-5771-9
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Geographical, Historical, and Textual Notes
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. Introduction: The War that Wasn’t First
    (pp. 1-10)

    No universally common date marks the beginning of the Second World War. Depending on when which of the eventual Allied or Axis powers joined it, its commencement can be years apart. The Soviet Union, for example, was a belligerent only in the European theater until August 1945, when at the very end it declared war against Japan. Italy was in an even more complex position, not declaring war on the Allies until June 1940 and being taken out of the Axis well before Germany surrendered. Britain’s declaration in September 1939 and America’s entry in December 1941 are more evident dates,...

  6. Tigers over Burma
    (pp. 11-54)

    None of it was meant to happen as it did. The individuals recruited for pay and adventure by retired Army Air Corps captain Claire Lee Chennault were supposed to fly in China, not Burma; their ninety-nine Curtiss P-40C fighters were intended to be just the escort for a larger bomber force that would take Japan out of World War II, perhaps preemptively. These planes were painted not as tigers but as sharks, and even this enfiguration—triangular teeth circling the engine’s air scoop and red-pupiled eye set just ahead of its exhaust ports—did not emerge from local circumstance but...

  7. At Odds in China
    (pp. 55-96)

    From the ground in Burma, matters looked less sanguine than they seemed in the air. When the 3rd Squadron of the AVG was relieved from its initial defense of Rangoon, one of its ground crewmen confessed his terror to radioman Robert M. Smith.

    “It was horrible, Smitty it was horrible,” the man reports in Smith’sWith Chennault in China.“Sixty-five tons of bombs were dropped on Rangoon. It was worse than anything the British saw at London. I never want to see another like it” (p. 46). Everything the squadron crew had on the ground was flattened; safety could be...

  8. The RAF’s Less than Finest Hour
    (pp. 97-148)

    The American Volunteer Group’s first view of the Royal Air Force in Burma was a revealing one: there was no one to be seen. The scene repeated itself as the three successive travel groups of AVG men arrived in Burma after their ocean crossing from the States. Before traveling up to the Kyedaw airfield outside Toungoo where they would undertake their training, Chennault’s recruits all had at least part of a day if not more to explore Rangoon and learn what this new place was like. There were sights and sounds, smells and textures galore, all of them exotic, from...

  9. An Adventurers’ War
    (pp. 149-166)

    By the end of spring 1942, Singapore and its environs to the south plus Burma had been taken by the Japanese. The Flying Tigers and, after July 4, regular United States Army Air Force units would fight on from China, their original destination, while the Royal Air Force would regroup in India and begin a different style of operations (largely ground attack and air supply) toward the retaking of Burma and points east. As opposed to the swiftness of Japan’s assault against ragtag, disorganized, and sometimes dispirited defenses, the new allies’ advance was painfully slow. Deliberate as it was against...

  10. Bibliography
    (pp. 167-170)
  11. Index
    (pp. 171-178)