Files and images about the American Volunteer Group commanded by Claire Chennault. The AVG Flying Tigers defended Burma and China with their shark-faced P-40 Tomahawks in the opening months of the Pacific War, December 1941 - July 1942.

Tales of the Flying Tigers


Tigers flying at Mach 1.6

Though they don't use "Flying" in their name, the Tigers of VMFA 542 have been airborne since 1944, when they flew the Grumman Hellcat out of the Caroline Island. Over the years they flew the twin-engine Tigercat in the Korean War, the turbojet Phantom in the Vietnam War, and most recently the Harrier jump-jet in Operation Desert Storm, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya. The Harriers are now being phased out, and the squadron is transitioning this year to the supersonic, stealthy, "fifth generation" fighter, the Lockheed F-35B Lightning II, which also has a tilt rotor to give it short takeoff and vertical landing capabilities. What's more, it can fly at 1.6 Mach (1185 mph), carry 15,000 pounds of weaponry, and hit a target 505 nautical miles distant and return on internal fuel.

While China had paid $93,000 for each of the AVG's P-40 Tomahawks (about two million of our much-debauched greenbacks), the F-35B clocked in at more than $115 million, while costing more than $9 million a year to fly. (The cost is supposed to drop over time.) The Tigers VMFA 542 (as the squadron is now designated) took delivery on the first of their new fighters at Cherry Point, North Carolina, on May 31.

A P-40 down in Montana

Paul Ehlen founded Precision Lens and became rich enough to fly a Second World War Curtiss P-40E to commute between his office and his homes in western Montana, near Missoula. On Tuesday morning, June 27, he took off from Ravalli County Airport, promptly ran into trouble, and crashed into a field, killing himself and wrecking the warbird. In the spring of 1942, as they retreated into China, the Flying Tigers of the American Volunteer Group took delivery on about fifty P-40Es, which they called "Kittyhawks" as the rugged fighter was known to the Royal Air Force.

And now an AVG Friendship School!

Even as it gears up to dominate Asia and indeed the world, Xi Jinping's China keeps peddling the "friendship" line that worked so well for Stalin in the 1940s. I've often commented on how the American Volunteer Group has been recruited toward this end. Abetted by the usual helpful idiots in the West, Flying Tigers Friendship Schools are now active in Liuzhou, South China, and Las Vegas, Nevada. And notice that the news is hosted at the China Military website!

Revised, updated, and a hardcover edition

Since the Smithsonian Institution published it in 1991, Flying Tigers has been the definitive history of the American Volunteer Group that bloodied the Japanese Army Air Force in Burma and China for the first six months of the Pacific War. HarperCollins published a second edition in 2007 that was translated into Chinese, and nine years later I updated that for Warbird Books. But new information about Claire Chennault and the AVG never stops coming. Last year the US National Archives released the Old Man's military records; a student of old newspapers discovered a scandalous romance in Chennault's youth; and I got an email from an unackowledged scion of that love affair. Then there was the earlier discovery of Olga Greenlaw's two youthful marriages, all of which called for yet another edition.

While I was at it, I have added a hardcover version for libraries and those who prefer a sturdier binding. If you shop at, the Kindle edition is $9.95, the paperback is $15.95, and the hardcover is $24.95. Blue skies! -- Daniel Ford

A 'Special Air Unit' for China:

Flying Tigers
revised and updated

The Tigers forge a legend:

The P-40 files:

The Chennault files:

The Bill Pawley files:

Remains - A Story of the Flying Tigers

Books, movies, comics:

A good myth never dies:

Question? Comment? Newsletter? Send me an email. Blue skies! — Daniel Ford

Looking Back From Ninety

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