The Only War We've Got

Tomahawk nose art by Bert Christman

Allen "Bert" Christman of the AVG 2nd Squadron (aka the Panda Bears) had been a comic-strip artist in civilian life. As the story is told, he created the "Scorchy Smith" series about an American mercenary pilot in South America. Then life imitated art, as it often does, and Christman became the pilot-adventurer he'd drawn for the comics. When the AVGs set up shop at Kyedaw Aerodrome in Toungoo, Burma, he turned his talents to drawing caricatures of his squadron mates.

Christman started his project some time after September 8, because that was when Gil Bright had to bail out of his Tomahawk he collided with the Tomahawk flown by John Armstrong. ("Army" was killed in the crash, the first of three training fatalities.) Tex Hill was a natural, of course, and Christman portrayed him as a panda wearing cowboy boots, Stetson, and a pistol slung low on his left hip. The country boy Moose Moss is shown with a jug of moonshine and a checkerboard, while Jack Newkirk is shown as an urbane New Yorker with a black eye. This may be a reminder of his first night ashore in Burma, when instead of taking the Up Mail to Toungoo, he stayed behind to party in Rangoon with Butch Carney, Charlie Mott, and the women nurses. Peter Wright, a Pennsylvanian and Yale dropout, is portrayed as an uptight easterner. The spots that appear on some of these drawings might be panda footprints, and the numbers are the fuselage identifiers of the pilot's Tomahawk. (The Panda Bears, as the 2nd Squadron, were allotted numbers 34-66.)

I don't know how many of these sketches were actually applied to the AVG Tomahawks, though in his Osprey book, American Volunteer Group Colours and Markings, Terrill Clements says that the cowboy did indeed make it onto the fuselage of the Tomahawk crashed by Tex Hill on the first night of the war. I'm not sure whether that bore fuselage number 48, but at least one source says that 48 was indeed Hill's aircraft at some point.

These sketches were emailed to me by someone, whose covering message I've lost, so I don't know his name or where he got them. But here they are.

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

Flying Tigers
revised and updated

On this website: Front page | Flying Tigers | Chinese Air Force | Japan at War | Brewster Buffalo | Glen Edwards & the Flying Wing | Vietnam | War in the Modern World | The Spadguys Speak | Bluie West One | Poland 1939-1948 | Book Club | Book reviews | Question? | Google us | Website & webmaster | Site map

Other sites: Flying Tigers: the book | Daniel Ford's blog | Daniel Ford's books | Facebook | Piper Cub Forum | Raintree County | Reading Proust | Expedition Yacht Seal

Posted May 2019. Websites © 1997-2019 Daniel Ford; all rights reserved.