Flying Tigers
revised and updated


A Piper Cub awaits its covering

Six One Zero ready for 
I grounded myself when I turned eighty, and I've more or less forgotten the joys of flying over the New Hampshire countryside behind a 65-horsepower engine. I break my silence this month because Mark Rhodes reports that his J-3 Piper Cub is ready for covering. It's shown above in the hangar of Cajun Air in Jean Lafitte, Louisiana. Doesn't look like much, does it? But it took Mark three and a half years and a lot of help to get this far. Read about it on the Piper Cub Forum.

An involuntary Flying Tiger tells his story

My Flying Tigers roster includes a page of personnel attached to the American Volunteer Group at one time or another, including 15 Royal Air Force enlisted men who were caught up in the Battle of Burma and who wound up retreating with the Americans into China, where they worked for Chennault in Kunming for the AVG and the uniformed squadrons that replaced it in July 1942. Among them was Wilf Jepson, an "aircraftman 2nd class" whom the RAF loaned to Bob Neale's 1st Squadron in the last days of Rangoon. He went back to his barrack one night to his belongings stacked on his bunk but all his mates were gone. With no way to rejoin them, he stayed with the 1st Squadron as it retreated to Magwe, then to Mandalay and over the precipitous Burma Road to China. Come to find out, his recorded memories are available at the Imperial War Museum in London. If you scan down the page a bit, you'll find that the collection consists of five half-hour segments, with the AVG making its appearance soon after the second set begins. Wilf was a married man and a bit older than most of the airmen. He liked the Americans, and he tells about them in great detail, good humor, and in the order it happened. I was completely charmed by him, and I found Wilf easier to understand than the dignified lady who conducted the interview. (A tip of the virtual hat to Edward Rogers.)

Mr Colt's six-shooter and other good reading for July

What a great book! I've long had the habit of reading something Serious during daylight hours, then switching to an entertainment for the evening. But Jim Rasenberger's Revolver: Sam Colt and the Six-Shooter That Changed America upset my routine, and I had to put the latest Harry Bosch aside until the biography was done.

I've always admired Colt-the-company, not only for the famed "Peacemaker" worn by every self-respecting Hollywood cowboy but also for the AR-15 that it produced (though didn't invent) and that became the basis for the M-16 rifle and its descendants that have equipped the US Army for more than fifty years. But I knew little about Samuel Colt, a wild lad who went to sea and was flogged for stealing sweets; invented the modern pistol, with "a rotating cylinder containing several chambers" that would "discharge through one barrel"; raised the money to develop it by staging demonstrations of laughing gas; and acquired British and American patents for the device -- all by the time he was twenty-one! -- and in the process more or less invented the "American System" of manufacturing stuff on an assembly line, using interchangable parts. To be sure, this is subject to debate, thanks to Colt's habit of fabulizing, but Mr Rasenberger makes a formidable case for his version of the story. And he writes so well, swooping with apparent ease through wars both domestic and foreign, but especially those that so changed the United States in the second half of the 19th century. He irritated me by apologizing for the woke sin of writing about a weapon, and by referring to "muskets" in the hands of American soldiers during the Civil War, by which time any shoulder weapon with a grooved barrel was called a rifle. But those are small sins in one of the best biographies I've ever read.

Also reviewed this month: Dick Lehr's Dead Reckoning: The Story of How Johnny Mitchell and His Fighter Pilots Took on Admiral Yamamoto and Avenged Pearl Harbor; and War on the Run: The Epic Story of Robert Rogers and the Conquest of America's First Frontier, in which John Ross thinks he has found the origins of US Army Special Forces. For these books, see the Warbird's Book Club. Blue skies! -- 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: