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Erik and pals

Flying Tigers at Kunming

The blonde gent perched on the cowling is Erik Shilling, who often flew the AVG photo plane. (Since the Tomahawk's wing guns are missing and taped over, this must be the photo plane, which is variously identified as #71 and #78.) Beside him is Bill Bartling, with Frank Adkins sitting in the cockpit.

Sitting on the wing are a rather plump Joe Rosbert and a rather elderly- looking George "Pappy Paxton" in summer khakis. (Paxton by this time was no longer a combat pilot but was serving as AVG finance officer.) According to Terrill Clements' analysis, they are sitting in front of the "swami's head" that would have positively identified this plane as #78. That may have been deliberate, since none of the Tomahawks in the Life photo-spread show their fuselage identification numbers.

Standing in front of the Tommi are Charlie Bond on the left, Bob Little on the right.

This photo appeared in Life on 20 Jul 1942, page 5. The caption reads thus:

The A.V.G. loll on one of their Flying Tigers on their airfield at Kunming, the main air base from which they flew against the Japs coming up the Burma Road. Officer in summer khaki on the wing is Paymaster George Paxton. The plane is a P-40 Tomahawk. When Photographer George Rodger reached the A.V.G. in April, the original P-40 Tomahawk had recently been reinforced by the faster and more heavily gunned P-40E Kittyhawk. Strafing Jap columns with the six .50 cal. guns of the Kittyhawk was a pure delight to the A.V.G.

Elsewhere on the same page, the cheery caption-writer notes: "They lived in Kunming in two specially-built hostels, having a wonderful time."

Although George Rodger is mentioned in the caption, the photo-spread is actually credited to Clare Boothe Luce (see p. 21), and Olga Greenlaw also names her as the photographer in The Lady and the Tigers. Olga recalled that Luce took the photos on Saturday, April 11, and noted that during her sixteen hours in Kunming, the famous playwright (and wife of Life's publisher) palled about with Shilling, Adkins, and Paxton--all of whom appear in the photo.

On page four of the same issue is a small black-white photo of Olga, wearing slacks and a vertically striped jacket with padded shoulders--the same outfit she wore on the road to Hanoi two years earlier (as shown in The Lady and the Tigers). Olga is holding her dog Lucy, and they're posed in front of a Tommi under repair.

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Flying Tigers
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