Posts Tagged Claire Chennault

Cool Stuff: The Flying Tigers Heritage Park In China

“The victories of these Americans over the rice paddies of Burma are comparable in character, if not in scope, with those won by the Royal Air Force over the hop fields of Kent in the Battle of Britain.”-Prime Minister Winston Churchill on the Flying Tigers

Folks, this is quite the thing. I recently stumbled upon this massive memorial park project in China, and no one knows about it. At least I have never heard about it and I track this kind of stuff. And how cool is this?

So why is this significant? I am speculating here, but this would qualify as probably the worlds largest park ever dedicated to the sacrifice and efforts of a private military company, in the history of private military companies.( AVG or The Flying Tigers were a private military company/air force, and the work they did during WW 2 is the stuff of legends.)

The park is being built in Guilin, China. The site itself is located next to Claire Chennault’s command cave, which has been a tourist attraction over the years.  Now, there will be a massive park built right next to it.

The Flying Tigers Heritage Park committee are still seeking donations for the project, but obviously they have received some serious funding to get the park to this level. I recommend checking out the links below, and following their progress via their Facebook page. –Matt

Website for park here.

Facebook page for park here.


This is the artist’s rendition of what it will look like when complete. Here is some of the progress made. Here is a photo of the command cave with some tourists heading up there to check it out. With this artist’s concept overhead view, you can see the size of the project.


Why the Flying Tiger Historical Park?
The obvious answer is it is a chance to honor, preserve the memory of, and record for history the remarkable story that is the Flying Tigers, the Chinese and the CBI theater of World War II. A story that for many reasons has been overlooked, forgotten, or buried.
Many books have been written about the Flying Tigers and the pilots who flew the Hump (Air supply route from India to China across the Himalayan Mountains… the most dangerous air supply route in the world.) but for the most part the story and record set by these combatants has been passed over when reporting on the larger history of the Pacific War in WW II. The Chinese contribution has all but been ignored and yet their sacrifices were what made it possible for our American fighting men to achieve the success they did.
So, within the park grounds, the museum and the cave, we will tell their story. We will have memorial walls and statues honoring those who gave the ultimate sacrifice on foreign soil. The museum will have archives which will hold records, books and personal accounts of that dark period in our world history. Photographs and artifacts, both military and personal, will be on display. Archival film footage will allow one to revisit that time and experience a little of what these warriors experienced.
The Less Obvious Answer Is More Compelling…

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History: Prime Minister Winston Churchill On The Flying Tigers, WW2

This is neat. I stumbled upon a great post by Defense Media Network about the Flying Tigers and they opened it with this quote. I had never heard of it before, but Churchill’s words are pretty significant. Especially when he compared the Flying Tigers to the RAF during the Battle of Britain.  (which also had a significant amount of foreign volunteers in it during that time)

On a side note, did you know that the Flying Tigers were converted into the 23d Fighter Group, which exists today and has flown in the current wars? They fly the A-10 Warthog which is an awesome aircraft. They even paint the Flying Tigers shark mouth on the aircraft. Kind of cool to see a government military carrying on the traditions and memory of an American PMC like the Flying Tigers. Enjoy. –Matt


“The victories of these Americans over the rice paddies of Burma are comparable in character, if not in scope, with those won by the Royal Air Force over the hop fields of Kent in the Battle of Britain.”-Prime Minister Winston Churchill on the Flying Tigers.


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History: The Flying Tigers–America’s Celebrated PMC During World War Two

This is a supplement to the post on Claire Chennault and it gives you a real feel for what I am talking about here. Back then, this PMC called the Flying Tigers or AVG were heroes in the war, and produced such folks like Pappy Boyington who went on to lead the Black Sheep squadron in the Marines. It is also interesting to note that Chennault created the company called Civil Air Transport, and later converted into Air America during the Vietnam War. Both companies were involved in many cold war related conflicts since WW2. –Matt


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Publications: Claire Lee Chennault–Theorist And Campaign Planner, By Major John M Kelley

I wanted to post this as a resource for anyone studying private military forces and their uses by nations. Claire Lee Chennault led the company called the American Volunteer Group or AVG in China against the Japanese after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, all with US blessing. His small force of mercenary pilots fought for 600 dollars a month (which was two to three times more than their military pay) and 500 dollars per Japanese aircraft they shot down.(offense industry)

What makes Claire significant is his theory of war, and the US military’s desire not to heed his theories. Matter of fact, it was this clash that led to Claire leaving the military, and later going to China with the blessings of the US to advise China’s fledgling air force. Claire in essence had an outlet to apply his theories of war, and not only did he advise the Chinese, but raised a mercenary army to assist.

This small mercenary army of aviators took on the entire Japanese air force at that time, and it was Claire’s planning and strategic thinking that evened the odds against the Japanese. He was certainly able to prove his theories of air power as soon as Japan bombed Pearl Harbor and brought the US into outright war with Japan. AVG was the only asset of the US that could strike back at the Japanese immediately after that attack.

And boy did they stick it to the Japanese. Their private war lasted about 6 months, and they did some damage:

The AVG was officially credited with 297 enemy aircraft destroyed, including 229 in the air. However, a researcher who surveyed Japanese accounts concluded that the number was much lower: 115. Fourteen AVG pilots were killed in action, captured, or disappeared on combat missions. Two died of wounds sustained in bombing raids, and six were killed in accidents during the Flying Tigers’ existence as a combat force.

The fight was also very uneven, and this was a PMC versus the air force and resources of a nation. Here is a statistic of how many folks we are talking about. Which further emphasizes how the AVG had to really depend upon the support of the people and really effective use of aerial strategy.

By November 1941, when the pilots were trained and most of the P-40s had arrived in Asia, the Flying Tigers were divided into three squadrons: 1st Squadron (“Adam & Eves”); 2nd Squadron (“Panda Bears”) and 3rd Squadron (“Hell’s Angels”).They were assigned to opposite ends of the Burma Road to protect this vital line of communications. Two squadrons were based at Kunming in China and a third at Mingaladon Airport near Rangoon. When the United States officially entered the war, the AVG had 82 pilots and 79 aircraft, although not all were combat-ready.

The paper below goes into detail about the theory, and pay particular attention to how similar the thinking is to Sun Tzu. Yet there is not one mention of him studying Sun Tzu?  You see concepts like attacking weakness with strength, using deception, the effective use of lookouts and networks, and the whole ‘know yourself, know your enemy’ theme.  He really focused on the strengths of the Chinese people and bringing them into the strategy.  The people are the ones that called in enemy fighter positions through an organized system of observers, helped build up the 100 bases that were crucial to Claire’s mobility strategy, and helped rescue downed pilots. This was an aerial version of guerrilla warfare.

There is a lot of good stuff in this paper, and the point I want folks to think about for the grand picture of this story, is that private force can be a strategic asset of a nation.  Claire and his AVG ‘airmen of fortune’ were celebrated in the US and world as they prosecuted the war in Asia in the post Pearl Harbor days. It would be like DynCorp waging war in Pakistan in the days right after 9/11, and everyone cheering them on as they decimate terrorist hideouts.

The AVG or the Flying Tigers also remind me of Stirling’s Private Army in Yemen. I wouldn’t be surprised if AVG is what inspired Stirling, because AVG’s private war in Asia was big news around the world.  You could also classify this as a case for the successful use of a PMC in offensive operations, or actually fighting a war. (much like with Executive Outcomes) And of course, it is another case study of offense industry, with the use of bounties as an incentive. So for all of those reasons, I think it is important to give some attention and credit to this man and what he and his company was able to accomplish. –Matt

General Claire Chennault

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