Flying Tigers
revised and updated


This time, the Tigers are on the other side...

Hong Kong's 'Tigers' at work

China specializes in stealing intellectual property from the West, the better to overtake and dominate it. For me, the most outrageous of these thefts has been to name one of its police units after the American Volunteer Group that came to the country's rescue in 1941-1942, defending southwestern China and the Burma Road from Japanese attack. And it did this, as is Beijing's custom, with Western help.

Sixty years ago, when Britain controlled the "Crown Colony" of Hong Kong, it set up a Special Defense Unit which at the time consisted of ten men skilled in "special weapons and tactics," like the semi-militarized SWAT teams that are now common in police forces around the world. (The University of New Hampshire, which when I was an undergraduate was guarded by just one officer -- who also served as chief of the town's one-man police force -- now has a SWAT team of its very own.) Hong Kong's SDU was trained at various times by the British SAS and the Boat Service, so from the beginning probably had a bias toward commando-type offensive operations. It's impossible to know when they adopted the name of Flying Tigers, just as it's impossible to know how many of them there are. In 1997, when Britain was about to surrender its "Crown Colony" to the Bejing's control, the SDU website boasted that "it consists of over 120 officers. Few police forces in the world can field a counter-terrorist unit as highly trained, prepared and equipped." Certainly they're well-equipped, having since acquired armored personnel carriers and automatic and semi-automatic pistols, rifles, and shotguns. And their numbers have probably grown from a few hundred to a few thousand, who call themselves the Flying Tigers.

I can't swear that the pistol-pointing gent above is a Hong Kong Tiger, but he's wearing civilian clothese under his combat gear, and that suggests he belongs to the SDU. (The officer to his right probably isn't, since his shield is labeled POLICE, a term the SDU avoids.) And the SDU Tigers have definitely been deployed in Hong Kong's streets in recent months, accused among other things of "false flag" operations, in which they set fires and persuade bystanders to break the law, the better to take them off to prison. Thus the casual civilian clothing.

And all the while, Beijing combines its ruthless suppression of those it can control with a smiling courtship of innocents abroad -- the "useful idiots" whom communist governments have long depended upon to advance their cause. (In its earliest known form, in Yugoslavia in 1946, it was the more benign and probably more accurate "useful innocents.") Among those who have fallen for this trick is Larry Jobe of the Flying Tigers Historical Organization, which in May accepted a donation of 6,000 masks to protect members, friends, and donors from the coronavirus that was incubated in Wuhan and from there exported to the rest of the world. "In a letter of appreciation," wrote the China Daily, "Jobe hailed China's efforts in combatting the pandemic as well as the assistance China has offered to other virus-hit countries."

There will never be a shortage of useful innocents.

A great campaign history, and other good stuff for August

Roger Moorhouse was first a researcher, then a collaborator, and finally a co-author with Norman Davies, one of the first English-language historians of Poland under Soviet rule. He dedicates this book to his mentor, and what a tribute it is! Poland 1939 is the finest campaign history I have ever read, rivaled only by J. P. Harris's Vietnam's High Ground. (Both authors are Englishmen, as indeed is Mr Davies. Is that a trend?) On September 1, 1939, Adolf Hitler sent 1.5 million men crashing into Poland from the north, west, and south, and after seeing how well that was going, Joseph Stalin closed the noose by sending 500,000 Red Army troops across Poland's eastern frontier. The Poles had one of the better armies in Europe, but they were overwhelmed by the onslaught and betrayed by their allies.

Britain and France honored their treaties sufficiently to declare war on Germany -- though not on Russia! -- but sent no aid and did nothing more than posture on the west. Mr Moorhouse is particularly good on puncturing the myths that Nazi and Communist propagandists used to befuddle the West, and that still inform Americans' understanding of Poland's destruction.

Also reviewed this month: Jeremy Yellen's The Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere: When Total Empire Met Total War and Eric Larson's curiously titled The Splendid and the Vile: A Saga of Churchill, Family, and Defiance During the Blitz. 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: