Flying Tigers
revised and updated


In search of Moon Chen

Capt Moon Chen USAAF On a very hot day in July 1989, while visiting Washington on other business, I phoned a Flying Tigers veteran in nearby Arlington and found myself invited over for drinks and dinner. That was how I came to meet Moon Chen, the fabled China pilot I'd been reading about for years.

More recently I was privileged to learn more about this fascinating man, the US-born son of one of the Chinese laborers brought over to lay the tracks of the Union Pacific, Southern Pacific, and other railroads that linked the California to the East Coast in the second half of the 19th century. Moon's father settled in Mississippi when the work was done, and he married a much young woman whom he met through a matchmaker in New York. They eventually settled in Columbus, Ohio, where Moon was born in 1908.

Orphaned at 15, he managed to finish high school and the University of Michigan, graduating as an aeronautical engineer in 1932, the pit of the Great Depression. Somehow he scraped up the money to become a certificated commercial pilot. Unable to find work in impoverished and still-racist America, he moved to Shanghai and became a pilot for China National Airways. In time he joined the US Army Air Forces. In the photo (1943) he is a full-fledged captain in the 14th Air Force with his handsome wife and their two young sons. It's a great story, which I tell at some length in a new page, In Search of Moon Chen.

Anti-drone warfare

The Times of London reports that a US Navy ship has destroyed a drone at a considerable but unspecified distance using a 150-kilowatt laser beam. The weapon was developed by Northrop Grumman and is believed to have a range of "considerably more than a mile." It apparently would be effective not only on small unmarried aircraft but also against lightweight raiders like those used by Iran to harrass ships in the Persian Gulf. The current laser is mounted aboard USS Portland, an "amphibious transport dock" that includes both a flight deck for helicopters and a well deck like that of Second World War landing craft, from which amphibious vehicles can be launched to attack a hostile shore. See War in the Modern World for a photo and the full story.

Gods of War and other good reading for June

Gods of War: History's Greatest Military Rivals, by James Lacey and Williamson Murray, is the best book I've read in a very long time, and I recommend it highly. If you do seek it out, however, you might benefit from my experience and read the Conclusion first, because I've just now realized that I missed the point of the book. It mostly pairs two military geniuses -- Hannibal v. Scipio, Napoleon v. Wellington, Lee v. Grant -- and explores how each succeeded or not, often with one man winning the battles while the other won the war. (The Second World War merits three generals: Rommel, Patton, and Montgomery.) But it seems that strategic vision isn't what interests Messrs Lacey and Williamson. Rather, they're arguing that, over the centuries, battles have become more complex and wars even more so, so that now it's impossible to imagine a "god of war" with the qualities of Ulysses Grant, who could not only comprehend and win battles and campaigns, but could wage and win a war that stretched across the thousand miles separating Vicksburg from Gettysburg.

The Union Army gave the world its first "industrial" war, prefiguring the great bloodlettings of 1914-1918 and 1939-1945. And Grant, the authors argue, was the last man able to cope with war's growing complexity. There were few outstanding generals in the First World War, and though there were some in the Second, it was actually the politicians -- Stalin, Churchill, and Roosevelt -- who won it. (And the politician Hitler who lost it, largely because he thought he knew better than his generals.)

Also reviewed this month: The Return of the Russian Leviathan, a remarkable protest against what Putin has done to Russia, in words that echo the passion of The Gulag Archipelago; and Empires of the Sky: Zeppelins, Airplanes, and Two Men's Epic Duel to Rule the World, a fascinating account of a "duel" that in truth never really happened. For these reviews, see the Warbird's Book Club

And a tip of the virtual hat ...

... to Elon Musk and the men and women of SpaceX, who lofted two astronauts into earth orbit and sent them on a nineteen-hour journey to the International Space Station, which for years has been reached only with a boost from a Russian rocket. Three cheers for free enterprise! On to the moon and Mars! -- Daniel Ford

Welcome to the forum!

Here are a thousand or so files on airplanes, pilots, and the wars of the past hundred years, grouped under these headings:

Annals of the Flying Tigers
Annals of the Brewster Buffalo
Annals of Poland: war and exile, 1939-1948
Japan at War, 1931-1945
Annals of the Chinese Air Force
Glen Edwards and the Flying Wing
Remembering Bluie West One
Annals of Vietnam
War in the Modern World

Plus these excellent places to look for more: