Looking Back From Ninety


Young man behaving badly

Chennault at 18 Claire Chennault was passionate about everything he did, including his relations with women. He was an "enviable cocksman," as a friend and competitor told me, referring to their days in China, when Chennault was in his forties. But it seems that his conquests began much earlier. The photo at left was taken in 1911, when he was passing as nineteen but was actually a year younger and employed as a schoolteacher, shortly before marrying Nell Thompson. "For several years," wrote Martha Byrd in her fine biography of the man who would lead the Flying Tigers, "Claire continued to teach, returning to LSU [the state university] in the summers of 1912 and 1914 to upgrade his certificate." Between times, it seems, he helped campaign for several towns in northeastern Louisiana to build a consolidated school in Delhi, and he was duly appointed its first principal. During his first year there, he boarded with the Griffin family nearby while Nell stayed at the home place with their young son and another on the way. (John was born in 1912, Max in 1914.)

The Griffins had several children of their own, including Anna Mae, who was a senior at Delhi High. Sure enough, the young principal "paid attention" to her, in the arch language of the day. The outcome was a scandal of huge proportions, which neither Ms Byrd nor any other writer, myself included, managed to uncover. (Or, if anyone did, he or she kept quiet about it.) Apparently Chennault sired a son with the girl, which brought him back from LSU in a hurry. To give her a cover of respectability, he arranged for her to marry his brother, Bill Chennault, who like Annie was seventeen at the time. That was scandalous enough, but Claire then compounded the matter by eloping with Annie to Wisconsin, where they lived together in the late summer of 1914 as man and wife. As a result, he was arrested and convicted of "white slavery," the federal crime of transporting of a woman across state lines for immoral purposes. Read the story here or as much of it as we've yet been able to turn up.

What to read (and avoid) in January

Two very good books: Island Infernos: The US Army's Pacific War Odyssey, 1944, the second volume in James McManus's magnificent history of the US Army as it island-hopped up the western Pacific to Japan. I still find his wokeism annoying, but that doesn't disqualify it as a campaign history. Then there's Hitler's Fatal Miscalculation: Why Germany Declared War on the United States. It's a academic study, but I found it immensely rewarding, a whole new view of one of the three most important men of the 20th century. And finally, you can skip this one: 2034: A Novel of the Next World War, which is hugely hyped by everyone except those who have actually read it. (7,978 mostly favorable "ratings" on Amazon, but the actual reviews tend toward one and two stars, a perfect example of why one should examine the online merchandise.) Read more at the Warbird's Book Club

Blue skies and happy New Year! (2022 will be better -- really it will!) -- 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:
The Warbird's Book Club
Daniel Ford’s books
The Piper Cub Forum

Flying Tigers
revised and updated

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