Poland's Daughter


'He has crashed up three planes in the first week'

[A month before the Pacific War broke upon Southeast Asia, Claire Chennault wrote this rebuke to Central Aircraft Manufacturing Company, which handled the housekeeping details for the 1st American Volunteer Group then training at Toungoo, Burma.]

P.O. Box 2000, Rangoon, Burma
November 7, 1941

Central Aircraft Manufacturing Co.,
30 Rockefeller Plaza
New York, N.Y.

Sirs: -

I have just written Captain Aldworth [CAMCO's chief recruiter], warning against future misrepresentations by CAMCO agents to Pilots volunteering for service with the A.V.G. Serious as this matter of Pilots claiming misrepresentation has recently become, my letter by no means covered all the personnel problems with which the A.V.G. has recently had to deal

Typical of these problems is the case of Pilot Officer E.S. Conant, who reported at this station with nine other Navy pilots on October 29. Conant has the rating of a four-engine flying boat pilot. He informs me that for more than a year before your representatives accepted him for service with the A.V.G., he had never flown a land plane of any sort. He has no pursuit experience. I need hardly point out that a pilot so trained is hardly qualified for combat in Curtiss P-40s. I may add that the result of Pilot Conant's employment is precisely what might have been expected; he has crashed up three planes in the first week of flying. Furthermore, as he is a young fellow of some spirit, he still wishes to remain with the Group, and although he is obviously unsuited for the mission the A.V.G. must undertake, I can find no way of sending him home under the contract.

Two more of these ten Navy volunteers, Pilot officers Bowman and White, decided to go home within twenty four hours after their arrival at this station. Their stated reason was that the conditions of service had been falsely described to them, but I am certain that they were also actuated by a sense of unfitness for the work. None of the remaining seven Navy pilots has the sort of experience we want, and although two or three of them may eventually prove to be useful members of the A.V.G., the problem of adapting them to our purposes is exceedingly expensive.

The employment policy under which these pilots were hired is to the last degree uneconomical. First, according to their unanimous testimony, the conditions of service with the A.V.G. were not accurately represented to them. Second, after having volunteered under a misapprehension, they were accepted for employment without any preliminary selection. The results of this policy are simply that some pilots hired under it wish to return home as soon as they find out the truth, in which case their salaries and travel expenses become pure waste, while the others who stay are even more costly, since their inexperience unfits them to use our equipment. I request, therefore, that in future a more intelligent employment policy be followed.

In telling the A.V.G. story to pilots who may think of volunteering, nothing should be omitted. Far from merely defending the Burma road against unaccompanied Japanese bombers, the A.V.G. will be called upon to combat Japanese pursuits; to fly at night; and to undertake offensive missions when planes suitable for this purpose are sent out to us. These points should be clearly explained.

Then, after the timid have been weeded out, the incompetents should also be rejected. I am willing to give a certain amount of transition training to new pilots, but we are not equipped to give a complete refresh course. It is too much to expect that men familiar only with four-engine flying boats can be transformed into pursuit experts overnight. No volunteer should be accepted in any category whose record does not show sufficient experience in that category to limit the transition training to teaching the peculiarities of a new plane.

Let me repeat, much money and much irreplaceable equipment has already been wasted, the A.V.G.'s combat efficient seriously lowered, by the employment policy that has been followed. I am aware that this policy makes it far easier to fill the employment quotas. But I prefer to have the employment quotas partly unfilled, than to receive pilots hired on the principle of "Come one, come all."

Very sincerely yours.

Commanding, A.V.G.

Copies to: Dr. T.V. Soong.

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