by Phil Raschke
The month of August marks the 68th Anniversary of the famous World War II flying group known as the “Flying Tigers”. This unit came to life in Rangoon, Burma in 1941 under the leadership of BG Claire Chennault.
With fewer than 100 planes, 60 pilots and difficult living conditions, Chennault created the American Volunteer Group (AVG) of the Chinese Air Force…better know as the Flying Tigers. In less than a year in operation over China and Burma, the Flying Tigers scored 299 air victories before being merged into the Army Air Corp in July, 1942.
Ironically, over half of the original Flying Tiger pilots were former U. S. Navy airman. Also, the maintenance and ground support staff included three female members.
Two famous Hollywood movies, one starring John Wayne, heralded the fame of the Flying Tigers. The famous tiger shark mouth used on their planes still adorns the nose of some modern day fighter aircraft and attack helicopters. Famous members of the original Flying Tigers included flying ace Tex Hill and Greg “Pappy” Boyington of “Baa Baa Black Sheep” fame. Boyington attended high school in Tacoma and later won the Medal of Honor for his exploits while flying with the U.S. Marines in the Pacific.