The American Volunteer Group is one of the most studied and talked about combatants from WWII. Their legacy is a mix of lore and legends most of which are still debated. The veterans that are part of the group have slowly faded away to the point where only a handful remain. The one point that has never been argued and never will be is how much they contributed to the defense of China during the early parts of the war.
Seventy Six years ago was the first combat mission that the volunteers faced over China. Flying from their base at Toungoo, the First and Second Squadrons flew to Kunming on the 18th to fight over the Yunnan Province. The pilots at the helm of the P-40’s shot down nine of ten Japanese bombers with a loss of one fighter. Three days later the Third Squadron along with RAF Fighters shot down six bombers and four fighters. The RAF lost five aircraft and the AVG lost four. For the units first week in action it was a busy one and it would lead to a series of other engagements leading to an impressive record, one that is well remembered to this day.
Last year at Peachtree Airport in Atlanta at the 75th anniversary of the AVG, five P-40 Warhawks and two AVG veterans showed up to honor the other members both living and deceased. Their contribution to protecting our freedom will never be forgotten.
This weekend at the Atlanta Warbird Weekend hosted by CAF Dixie Wing in Peachtree, GA the 75th Anniversary of the American Volunteer Group is being honored. It’s not the actual date when President Roosevelt signed the unpublished executive order to help the Nationalist government of China fight Japan during WWII but this weekend we will have 9 P-40’s and two surviving AVG members to honor. The American Volunteer Group was made famous by General Claire Lee Chennault and the 1st Volunteer Group, better known as the Flying Tigers.
The Flying Tigers did not go into combat before the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7th 1941. Afterward, in their 100 P-40B’s they were instrumental in the defense of Burma and China. The unit was only active from April 1941 until July 1942 when it was replaced with the USAAF 23rd Fighter Group. Only five of the original members joined the new unit. The original plan called for three groups, the 1st, 2nd and 3rd AVG. Both the Second and Third AVG were recalled after the United States declared war on Japan and before they reached China. The 1st AVG held the fort down before more men and supplies arrived with the 23rd Fighter Group. The Flying Tigers created many hero’s and those men went on to inspire many more to join the cause and fly fighter planes. With an intelligent and charismatic leader like Chennault and the style of the infamous Shark Jawed P-40’s, the legends of the Flying Tigers will never cease.