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.

Cowboy: interpreter, warlord, one more casualty


Chennault wedding Claire Chennault was fifty-four years old when he married for the second time, to the young Chinese journalist Chan Sheng-mai, who Americanized her given name as Anna. (She also apparently altered her birth year, which for most of her life was given as 1925 and only at her death did the Washington Post ungallantly revealed that she was two years older. In a comical counterpoint, Chennault for most of his life was two years younger than his stated age.)

The daughter of a Chinese diplomat, Anna as a high-school student in 1941 found herself in Hong Kong as the effective head of her family, her mother having died and her father out of touch in Mexico. Anna and her five sisters fled to Guilin to escape the Japanese occupation. Though they lived in poverty during the war years, Anna managed to graduate in 1944 from Canton Christian College, which likewise had relocated to "free China." Meanwhile, an older sister had become a nurse for the 14th Air Force Flying Tigers in Kunming, and through this connection Anna met General Chennault and interviewed him as a correspondent for the Central News Agency. Two years later, he divorced Nellie Chennault, the mother of his eight children, and a year after that he married the young journalist, who in time would give him two more daughters.

Inevitably, Anna became a young widow, wherepon she reinvented herself as an American, a writer (including books about Chennault and the Flying Tigers), a Washington lobbyist (I met her in 1986 at the K Street address that once belonged to the New Deal fixer Tommy Corcoran), anti-Communist, and Republican party stalwart who was accused of helping sabotage the Paris peace talks until Richard Nixon replaced Lyndon Johnson as the president in charge of the Vietnam War. Despite all that, she went to Beijing in 1981 as an unofficial emissary of the incoming President Reagan, and she seems to have helped Taipei and Bejing moderate their hostility. Indeed, it seems that her last profession was as an expeditor of trade between Taiwan and the People's Republic, and between the PRC and the United States. She died at the end of March, at the age of 94.

See the Annals of the Chinese Air Force for a nice photo of the CAF "Mach busters" of the 1960s, posted in honor of Major General Chow Shin-lin.

On Sunday, May 6, at 1 p.m., Tom Pandolfi will present "Flying Tigers," an illustrated talk and exhibit about the American Volunteer Group at the Manchester, Connecticut, History Center. There's a $5 admission fee for non-members. Blue skies! — Dan Ford

A 'Special Air Unit' for China:

Flying Tigers
revised and updated

The Tigers forge a legend:

The P-40 files:

The Bill Pawley files:

Tales of the Flying Tigers

Books, movies, comics:

A good myth never dies: