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Thursday, June 30, 2011

Flying Tigers

I watched a special on the History Channel the other day about the Flying Tigers. These aviators were a volunteer group made up of Army Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps pilots who flew for the Chinese under the command of General Claire Chennault. These guys were actually harassing the Japanese before the bombing of Pearl Harbor and even during the first dark months of 1942 when the Japs seemed invincible, General Chennault's men handed the enemy their asses many times in the skies over Burma and central China.

I have always been amazed at the toughness and heroism of these men. They tolerated very primitive conditions and we're given obsolete aircraft with few spare parts. Sometimes replacement pilots sent to them were not always the best, but against all odds they were able to attain victory over Japan. The History Channel pointed out that at the time, the Flying Tigers were a rather obscure bunch and did not get much attention by the press. It was conjectured that if the press had been on its toes the Flying Tigers could have provided a boost in morale similar to that of Doolittle's Raid.

I particularly like the Flying Tigers story because my uncle, Thomas H. Barnes was an aviator in the same theater. He was not a flying tiger but he flew C-47 transports for the USAAF over "the hump", an equally dangerous undertaking. My uncle actually lost his aircraft to icing and had to bail out. Thankfully he was rescued and returned to his unit by friendly Chinese partisans. Many of his comrades were not so lucky and never came home again.
And besides all that, a shark-nosed P-40 is one of the coolest looking aircraft that ever flew!

1 comment:

  1. Just came across this cause I'm looking for pictures related to FLying Tigers. I couldn't resist mentioning that I in fact have a C-47 tattooed on my thigh, and it's awesome. I'm about to add the tiger!