The Pacific Aviation Museum Pearl Harbor has opened its American Volunteer Group/“The Flying Tigers” Exhibit in honor of the pilots and support personnel who protected the China skies. The permanent exhibit is housed in the museum’s Hangar 79.
A Curtiss P-40 Warhawk Flying Tiger, which was one of the most popular and successful American aircraft of World War II, joined the aircraft collection at Pacific Aviation Museum Pearl Harbor in July 2010 and is the centerpiece of the new exhibit. The aircraft is valued at $1.5 million and is on loan to the Museum from FedEx.
Prior to the United States involvement in World War II, a group of volunteers was formed to train and equip the Republic of China Air Force with fighter aircraft. They soon became the only aerial support for a country under attack. Parallel to the effort was a group of air transport pilots who “flew the Hump” carrying war material, food, and other supplies.
According to Executive Director Kenneth DeHoff, “The P-40 displayed in our new Flying Tigers exhibit is depicted as number 67, flown by pilot Robert Prescott. On the tail horizontal stabilizer are the names of some of the American pilots and crew who supported the ninety P-40 aircraft received in China to fight. It’s an incredible addition to our museum and we’re grateful to FedEx.”
Artifacts to be included in display cases around the exhibit include uniforms and patches that were worn by both American and Chinese members of the three fighter squadrons and the transport group, tools and gear carried by the crews, and original photographs of the aircraft, people and airfields.
The exhibit is dedicated to one of those transport pilots who was a great supporter of aviation and Pacific Aviation Museum Pearl Harbor in his later years — Alaska Senator Ted Stevens. The event will feature a special tribute to Stevens, who was a lieutenant in the U.S. Army Air Force and flew the Curtiss C-46 and Douglas C-47 cargo transports “over the Hump” into China, in 1944 and 1945.
Built in 1942 for the Royal Canadian Air Force and used primarily for training during World War II, the aircraft changed ownership before being shipped to Hawaii in 1969 to be used in the filming of Tora! Tora! Tora!
The aircraft recognizes Flying Tiger Line founder Robert Prescott, American Volunteer Group (AVG) ace and a member of Flying Tigers in China. The AVG consisted of pilots recruited from U.S. Forces and contracted with the China National Aviation Corporation to fly for China. The Tigers are credited with 299 confirmed enemy aircraft destroyed during their service from 1941-1942. The FedEx aircraft on loan to the Museum is the P-40E model painted to resemble the Flying Tigers P-40B Number 67. Many of the pilots signed the left side and the support crew signed the right side of the horizontal tail assembly, during a reunion in 1981.
Manufactured by the Curtiss-Wright Corporation, the “67” on the side of the plane represents the original number that crashed early in the fighting. A red illustration on the front fuselage represents the Third Pursuit Squadron, “Hells Angels.” An insignia on the wings represents the Chinese Air Force.
For more information: PacificAviationMuseum.org or 808-441-1000.