The illustrated story below, as found in Real Heroes No. 7, November 1942, written and published during the actual time of the war, in the heat of the battle so to speak, is a straight forward uncomplicated account of Claire Chennault, his background, who he was, and how he came to be the commander of the American Volunteer Group, the A.V.G. However, officially named or called the A.V.G. or not, to the press on both sides of the action and any military adversaries the A.V.G. encountered, as well as by all the people who loved and held them in the highest regard, they were affectionately known and forever will be as:
THE FLYING TIGERS
Months before the U.S. ever officially entered World War II, that is, before the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, Chennault was already leading his under-funded and under-provided ragtag group of pilots and crews against the Japanese, as the Japanese war machine continually plowed through China, Burma, and Thailand toward India with almost unfettered military power. That is, until they ran up against and virtually stopped by the Flying Tigers and their considered to be obsolete P-40 Tomahawks. Although the Flying Tigers were highly successful going up against the Japanese it was based on Chennault's tactics and the pilots expertise, not because of massive formidable strength. The following paragraph is from Flying Tigers US, regarding Chennault and the A.V.G., and continuing in the same theme, cuts to the quick by condensing facts:
"Under the command of Chennault, whose tactical understanding of Japanese fighter planes accounted for much of the AVG’s success, the unit was based in Kunming, Yunnan province, China. It served in combat from December 1941 until July 1942, entering the history books as the most effective and respected fighter plane unit in the history of warfare. The Curtiss Tomahawk P-40, with its iconic fierce shark teeth and glaring eyes, is one of the most recognizable fighters in aviation history. The AVG never had more than 50 combat-ready planes at a time, never more than 24 in the air at once and never more than 70 pilots ready to fly."
CHRISTMAS DAY 1941
On that exact same Christmas day in 1941 that the Flying Tigers were being attacked as found in the very last panel of the above page, back in the United States just a few miles off the coast from where I, as a young boy lived in Redondo Beach, California, a giant Imperial Japanese Navy long range aircraft equipped submarine, the I-19, under the command of Lieutenant Commander Narahara Shogo, off Point Fermin California, between Catalina Island and the mainland near San Pedro, torpedoed the McCormick Steamship Company's 5,695-ton American lumber carrier SS Absaroka. The subchaser USS Amethyst (PYC-3), on patrol off the Los Angeles Harbor entrance, depth charged the I-19, but without success, the I-19 escaping unharmed.
The I-19 went on to kill again before its ultimate demise on November 25, 1943. It is officially recorded as racking up considerable damage and sinking a number of other vessels prior to that demise --- and not just unarmed freighters. For example, on September 15, 1942, the I-19 fired a half dozen torpedoes at the aircraft carrier USS Wasp, two of which hit and sank her. The remainder of the four torpedoes hit and damaged the battleship USS North Carolina as well as the destroyer USS O'Brien which sank later.
JUNIOR AIR RAID WARDENS
ATTACK ON THE SS ABSAROKA
WORLD WAR II COMES TO REDONDO
ZHUANGYUAN LOU GATE, OVER WOMAN'S SHOULDER LOWER LEFT ABOVE
In the fourth panel of the third page above, three Flying Tiger pilots are mentioned by name, Newkirk, Hill, and Cole. Newkirk was John V. Newkirk, also known as Scarsdale Jack. Hill, who would become one of the most famous Flying Tigers all the while never seeking such status, was David Lee "Tex" Hill, a triple flying ace with over twelve kills in the A.V.G. and six as an officer in the United States Army Air Corps after leaving the Tigers. Cole was Thomas Jefferson Cole Jr. Both Newkirk and Cole were killed in action as Flying Tigers. There are discrepancies in both of their deaths. Newkirk's demise is pretty much covered in Jack Newkirk of the Flying Tigers, however, in the illustrated account above regarding Cole as found in the first two panels of the last page, the story shows he was machine gunned to death while still in his parachute after bailing out. Not all coverage regarding Cole's death agree with that scenario. Other versions says his plane exploded in mid-air after a direct hit by ack-ack fire and he was killed instantly. Either way, Cole, as a Flying Tiger pilot was a hero in any sense of the word. Officially he is considered a combat loss on January 30, 1942 over Moulmein, Burma, a MIA/KIA, lost behind enemy lines. What complicates things is pilots for the A.V.G. were not military, but civilians, so records are not always clear nor were they investigated by military authorities. Most accounts come from fellow Flying Tiger pilots who were on missions with the downed airmen and at the time busy themselves, along with sometimes somewhat sketchy on the ground eyewitness reports that usually floated in well after the fact.
There is, however, a Flying Tiger pilot who was still in the air in his parachute killed by the Japanese that was confirmed. The killing occurred just seven days prior to Cole's death to a pilot and former cartoonist by the name of Bert Christman, so there is a possibility of a mix up in stories. Christman had his P-40 basically shot out from under him over Rangoon right in the middle of a serious dog fight with the Japanese, and on the way down, still in the air and in his chute, they machined gunned him to death. Below is partial coverage of the incident as found in the online page The Lady and the Tigers:
"On Friday, January 23, 1942, 72 Japanese aircraft attacked Rangoon. Christman was one of the 18 planes that were launched to intercept them. He would never return. Christman's plane had come under fire and been hit in the engine. He was forced to bail out once more. This time, however, as he hung in his parachute and decended to the ground, a Japanese pilot strafed him. Bert was hit in several places and probably died as a bullet passed through the back of his neck. He was buried the next day at the church of Edward The Martyr in Rangoon. His remains were returned to Fort Collins after the war, where he was laid to rest on Saturday, February 4, 1950."
The aforementioned The Lady and the Tigers by the way, both the online site and a book she wrote, is about Olga Greenlaw and her experiences with the Flying Tigers, the title coming from a book under the same name published in 1943 --- written by her while the war still raged on and the Flying Tigers were just being or actually by then, disbanded.
Greenlaw lived the adventures of the Flying Tigers from day one working directly for Chennault himself. By all measures those who came across her or knew her, she was invariably considered exotic, beautiful, covertly cunning and provocatively ingenuous. Others simply cast the smart-as-a-whip Olga Greenlaw's preeminent standing in the Flying Tigers as being based solely on her marriage to Col. Harvey Greenlaw, the second in command of the Flying Tigers. Those that did were usually in for a rude awakening. Even if that was the case initially, over time, because of who she was, the right person in the right place at the right time, it wasn't long before her being there took on a life of it's own.
OLGA GREENLAW, CIRCA 1943
(please click image)
The company that published Real Heroes that contained the illustrated story on Claire Chennault was based in New York City, with the art work for the story attributed to a man by the name of Harry Ramsey. Most would agree that Ramsey did a fairly good job on his drawing rendition of the Flying Tiger P-40s. However, that wasn't the only time Ramsey drew P-40s during his career. A few years after the Chennault story was published he drew a story that appeared in Blue Bolt, Issue No. 6, January, 1944 that has come to be know as the P-40 Goose Shoot wherein a handful of P-40s, the same type plane flown by the Flying Tigers and considered obsolete then, but still being used by our brave pilots as late as 1944, destroyed over 70 German planes over the Mediterranean as they were attempting to flee North Africa:
"On Sunday, April 18, 1943 the U.S. Army Air Force's 57th Fighter Group stationed at El Djem, Tunisia in North Africa, on a routine mission over Cape Bon had 46 P-40 Warhawks in the air along with 18 British Spitfires flying top cover. Low on fuel and basically returning to base they came across a 100 plane flotilla of German JU-52 troop transport planes flying just above sea level over the Mediterranean, escorted by 50 Messerschmitt fighters. Catching the Germans completely off guard, while the Spitfires drew off the Messerschmitts and kept them busy, the P-40s split into pairs diving on the enemy planes tearing the transports to shreds, with an overall kill count of 77 enemy aircraft destroyed."
The interesting part of Ramsey's illustration of the Goose Shoot story is that most of the planes the P-40s engaged that day were tri-motor Ju-52 Junkers while Ramsey, in his four page story drew the planes as having six-engines. Please notice however, in the last panel of the Goose Shoot story below, even though he didn't draw the German planes as tri-motors but with six motors, he still called them Junkers.
The Germans had two types of six-engine models in operation around the time of the publication of the Blue Bolt Goose Shoot story, the Me-323 made by Messerschmitt and the Ju-390 made by Junker. The problem is the existence of either was not widely known even in the theater of operation and being kept a secret outside of it. The question is, in that the drawings of the P-40s were not bad, and since it was generally known the German planes in the Goose Shoot were three engined, i.e., tri-motor, Ju-52s, how is it Ramsey come up with the idea for a six-engine German aircraft? Did he just happen to look up from his drawing table on the afternoon of August 28, 1943 and see a six-engine Junker flying in the skies out over New York City and simply incorporate them into his story published January 1944 as though they as a bomber were an everyday German plane?
As a matter of fact I have it on good authority that Harry Ramsey's access to the knowledge of the existence of a six engine German bomber was based on just such an eyewitness account. For more click the below image:
WORLD WAR II GERMAN SIX-ENGINE JUNKER JU-390
(please click image)
Back to Chennault. You could go to a hundred sources to find out the same information as presented below, but as they say, a picture is worth a thousand words. So again, to cut to the quick and show the difficulties he faced, below is an illustrated page that appears online in Flying Tigers linked at the top of the page and of which can be reached by clicking the illustration below, an illustration that was originally published in WAR HEROES, No. 2 October-December 1942:
(please click image)
ONE OF CHENNAULT'S FLYING TIGERS THAT DID NOT MAKE IT. A P-40-B SHOT OUT OF SKY ON RAID
OVER CHIANG MAI, THAILAND MARCH 24, 1942. WRECKAGE FOUND 50 YEARS LATER IN THE JUNGLE
(for more please click image)
PEARL HARBOR SURVIVOR
P-40 GOOSE SHOOT
GHOST AND HAUNTED B-29
P-40 FIGHTER PILOT DAN ROWAN
CURTISS P-40: THE OBSOLETE WAR HERO
TANGO SQUADRON AIR MUSEUM, CHIANG MAI
P-40: FIGHTER IS A REBUILT PIECE OF WWII HISTORY
FACT OR FICTION: DID THE FLYING TIGERS BOMB HANOI IN 1942?
THE FLYING TIGERS BOMB HANOI: 1942
GROUND VERSUS AIR ADVERSARIES STILWELL AND CHENNAULT
(for more on Stilwell click image)
As to the subject of donations, for those of you who may be interested in doing so as it applies to the gratefulness of my works, I invariably suggest any funds be directed toward THE WOUNDED WARRIOR PROJECT and/or THE AMERICAN RED CROSS.
MY MEETING WITH COLONEL GREENLAW:
A few years after graduating from high school but before being drafted, a buddy and I went on road trip throughout Mexico. We bought a 1951 Chevy panel truck we fixed up like a camper and drove down the Baja peninsula crossing by ferry to the mainland from Santa Rosalia, eventually going as far as the Yucatan before turning back toward the states. During the trip, which is fully outlined at the link cited after the quote below, I sought out Colonel Greenlaw who was living in Baja Mexico at the time. Even though where he lived was a rather remote area, it was fairly convenient because our route took us almost right past his place. A little detour and we were there. To wit:
"After leaving Ensenada we continued south on some pretty crummy roads eventually turning eastward across the peninsula to the little town of Santa Rosalia, taking a ferry across the Sea of Cortez to Guaymas. On the road south just before it turns more eastward across the peninsula to Santa Rosalia we turned on Highway 18 not far from Guerrero Negro as I wanted to catch up with a man I hoped to meet who was said to live at a place called El Arco. The man was Colonel Harvey Greenlaw, the onetime second in command of the infamous Flying Tigers of World War II fame. I had read his wife's book Lady and the Tigers (1943) and heard somewhere along the way that Greenlaw lived there. Since I was close by and most likely would never be back I made it a point to look him up, spending a couple of days."
THE MAYAN SHAMAN AND CHICXULUB
When I was eight or nine years old I went on an almost all summer long excursion throughout the desert southwest visiting a variety of major and minor historical sites as well as fossil and archaeological sites all across Arizona and New Mexico with my uncle. One of the places we visited after we got to New Mexico was Fort Sumner, stopping there specifically for me to see the gravesite of the infamous western outlaw and bad guy Billy the Kid.
Because of a few highly memorable adventures and people I met during that excursion I created a couple of web pages devoted to it. One of the pages revolves around a post high school teenager I met named Tommy Tyree. Tyree worked on a ranch for a man whose dad's brother, in 1908, shot and killed Sheriff Pat Garrett, the man who had in turn shot Billy Kid in 1881. Because of such Tyree was a minor historian of Billy the Kid. However, his major claim to fame was his stature as a witness to the events surrounding the alleged crash of an object of an unknown nature that came out of the night sky during the summer of 1947 related to what has come to be known as the Roswell UFO. The other page, because of my visit to Billy the Kid's gravesite, I have dedicated it to Billy the Kid. On that page I use a graphic of a fairly famous oil painting done in 1937 of the Kid by a fellow desert southwest artist and friend of my uncle named John W. Hilton, of whom, through my uncle, as a kid I both met and as well, saw the original painting.
BILLY THE KID BY JOHN W. HILTON, 1937
In an article on the net about Col. Harvey Greenlaw said to have appeared in Cabo Life Magazine, reportedly states that the same artist, John W. Hilton, painted a mural on Greenwall's wall a year or two before I visited him --- during the same period Hilton was gathering material for a book he was writing titled "Hardly Any Fences," a book that dealt with his various travels in Baja California from 1933 to 1959. In a chapter or section of that book, published in 1977, titled "South to El Arco," in his own hand, Hilton presents a slightly different version of any attempt at what could possibly be misconstrued as him having painted a full wall mural:
"I took a liking to Harvey Greenlaw at once. His house had a dirt floor but there were murals on all of the walls painted and drawn by artists and would-be artists who had stopped by to visit him. I added some cereus and cactus plants on each side of a painting of the Virgin of Guadalupe. This gave her a local touch, we thought."
Two years later I was working as crew on the marlin boat come yacht of the multi-millionaire heir to the Halliburton oil fortune, David J. Halliburton Sr. On the way back from Cabo San Lucas I talked the skipper into pulling into Scammon's Lagoon not far from Guerrero Negro for a quick dirt bike trip over to Greenlaw's place in El Arco. However, except for a housekeeper who didn't know where he was and didn't know when he would be back, the place was empty, my trip to see him too no avail.
Greenlaw, who was born November 14, 1897 in Wisconsin, died January 10, 1982 in Baja California, Mexico after residing in Baja for almost all of his post Flying Tigers life. See:
COL. HARVEY GREENLAW
NOTE: The opening quote at the top of this footnote shows up as a footnote in Of Cobras, Scarabs, Maseratis, and Zen except I make reference to some of the conversation between Greenlaw and myself.(see)
OLGA GREENLAW WRITES ABOUT THE DESTRUCTION OF THE HUITONG BRIDGE
Both up to and long after the Flying Tigers were disbanded and departed the China-Burma-India theater of operations for points elsewhere, the Japanese continued to take over and solidify huge swaths of Southeast Asia on their way toward India. In 1942-1943, in her book The Lady and the Tigers, on her way home to the states, albeit while still in India, Olga Greenlaw wrote:
"The Calcutta newspapers annoyed me. I noticed how they were building up the R.A.F. and the new American Tenth Air Force and giving the A.V.G. slight credit --- if at all. I found one story --- about the Jap Advance toward Yunnan Province --- particularly irksome:
THE DRIVE TOWARD PAOSHAN
In north-east Burma another border battle is taking place, and the Japanese vanguards thrusting up the Burma Road are 60 miles to the west of Paoshan, 200 miles inside the Yunnan border. The Chinese have destroyed the bridges across the Salween River and are holding the east bank. Small parties of Chinese appear to be operating in many directions up the Burma Road, and guerilla warfare stages appears to have been reached.
"On and on it went. The whole thing is so familiar to me. No mention of the A.V.G., who were the one who had destroyed the large bridge across the Salween by dropping bombs."
THE GORGE, THE BURMA ROAD, THE SALWEEN RIVER, AND THE HUITONG BRIDGE
An equally tantalizing synopsis that quickly and accurately sums up the whole Huitong Bridge thing in one paragraph, albeit a tad more dramatic and exciting than Olga's account of the same event --- but written historically sometime afterwards --- can be found in a descriptive analysis accompanying Tigers in the Gorge by by John D. Shaw --- the Gorge being of course as shown in the above graphic along the Salween River and Tigers being the Flying Tigers:
"Thousands of refugees fled down the tortuous Burma Road toward Kunming, China to escape the advancing armored forces of Imperial Japan. With the armies of china devastated, it was evident that nothing but the winding Salween River at the bottom of the treacherous gorge could slow the enemy's surge toward the capitol city. After destroying the bridge behind them, those fleeing watched helplessly as the Japanese hastily started to construct a makeshift pontoon bridge. It appeared that China would face certain surrender if the enemy made it across. Hopes of an easy victory quickly began to fade through, when suddenly through the gorge rang the echoes of snarling Allison engines, powering shark mouthed P-40s of the legendary American Volunteer Group, better known as the Flying Tigers! With 'Tex' Hill leading the charge, and with only a handful of men and planes, the AVG stopped the Japanese cold in the Salween River Gorge, and China would not fall."
Another tantalizing account of the attack on the Salween Bridge is found in the following paragraph from the source so cited:
"At the Battle of Salween Gorge in May 1942, the AVG held back the crack Japanese 56th Red Dragon Division from crossing into China. For four days, Tex Hill led eight AVG P-40s, now equipped with bomb-racks, in dive-bombing the armoured column. After losing 4,500 troops, the Japanese retreated, ending their northward advance. Had the Red Dragon Division crossed the Salween River, the road to both southern China and India would have been open to them."(source)
In the war against the Japanese in China during World War II U.S. General W. Joseph Stilwell was, for the American cause, albeit under Chiang Kai-shek in the chain of command, in charge of the Chinese Army, more-or-less in an attempt to run the ground war. Claire L. Chennault, with his 100 plane or less, and usually less, A.V.G. was running the air war. In the process Chennault was getting much better results with a heck of a lot fewer men. Stilwell had his hands full true enough, but even though the press back home was giving him rave reviews, and at that time we needed as much good news as we could get, not much in the way of positive results were forthcoming.
Not everybody loved Stillwell at the level the press seemed to lavish on him. The A.V.G. certainly didn't seem to appreciate him anywhere near how the press seemed to lay him out. Some think he copped out. Erik Shilling, a pilot for the Flying Tigers and the person considered responsible for having the shark teeth imagery painted on the nose of the A.V.G. P-40s as found in FEI WEING: Birth of the Flying Tigers, thinks Stillwell's actions closely replicate just such a scenario. And his opinion ties in perfectly with some of the other comments below. Shilling writes:
"The Chinese army, that had been under General Stillwell's command, was in disorganized retreat, going back to China. Stillwell had abandoned his command, and left the Chinese army to fend for themselves.
"'Vinegar Joe' Stillwell was retreating in the opposite direction on his way to India. The only thing that stood between China and Japan's Red Dragon Division was Chennault's Flying Tigers. Had the Japanese army been successful in crossing the Salween river, it was most likely that the entire country of China would have fallen.
"Although the allied world was crumbling, the unparalleled success of the Flying Tigers over the Japanese was an answer to fervent prayers of the free world. This taste of victory against Japan was a light at the end of a long dark tunnel, and a ray of hope in face of the disasters befalling the allies throughout the rest of the world. Our successes against unbelievable odds, left no doubt in the minds of the American people as to the eventual outcome of the war. Oddly enough we were flying a fighter plane the British didn't want, and by U.S. Army Air Corps standards, was considered obsolete, yet we were making aviation history with the Curtiss P-40.
"From a military standpoint, the most important, but seldom referred to, and overlooked concerning its importance to the war effort, was that the Flying Tigers alone stopped the rapidly advancing crack Japanese army, known as, 'The Red Dragon' at the Salween River Gorge."
For those who may be so interested I have provided an access-link to a free and complete PDF online version of Olga Greenlaw's book by going to the The Lady and the Tigers link listed elsewhere.
JAPANESE INVASION OF INDIA DURING
WORLD WAR II
THE TEA-HORSE TRADE ROUTE
THE WANDERLING: OF OLGA GREENLAW, FIREHAIR, AND
A BUNCH OF OTHER EARLY INFATUATION EXPERIENCES!
"It has been reported that a Ju-390 left Europe coming in over Canada crossing into U.S. airspace to photograph defense plants in Michigan only to exit out over the Atlantic sometime after noon on August 28, 1943 by coming in behind any east-facing aircraft detection systems and passing directly over New York above the Empire State Building. Ironically, without any fanfare or raising controversy, a drawing of a six engine German bomber by a New York based artist showed up in a publication dated January, 1944."(source)
My Uncle, who was an artist in his own right, knew Harry Ramsey from the old days when both were struggling artist. When my uncle discovered how much I loved the Goose Shoot story because it framed my favorite airplane, the P-40, in such a good light, he put together a situation where Ramsey and I could meet.
During our time together my uncle and Ramsey did most of the talking while I basically just listened. Some of it was interesting, some of it was boring. One of the things that came up was Ramsey's Red Cross service during the war. My uncle knowing there were a number of artists and writers that served with the Red Cross during World War I, he asked Ramsey if he knew any of the Literary Ambulance Drivers of the day. Although at the time I was just a kid I do remember they had a tendency to go on-and-on about Ernest Hemingway and Gertrude Stein. If they ever mentioned William Somerset Maugham, who was also an ambulance driver and whose main character in his book The Razor's Edge played such a major role in my life, I don't recall.
What I do recall and recall very strongly even up to this day is Ramsey's comments regarding himself being the artist for the Goose Shoot story. Because I was going to see Ramsey I took my copy of BLUE BOLT No. 6 that had the story of the Goose Shoot in it. I was very disappointed with some of the stuff he told me, very pleased with others. What I was mostly disappointed with was a seeming distance he had with the story, to him it was just another assignment while all those years I had read much more into it. What I wasn't disappointed with, and what has intrigued me the most to this day, was his comments about the German bomber he drew. What he told me was totally unsolicited and came about only as we were going through the story page by page. At the time we were talking I didn't know the difference between one German bomber and the next, and for the most part still don't to this day. What was most intriguing for me was that when he was creating the drawings for the story neither did he. One day at lunch or over coffee or drinks, and still struggling with his dilemma to complete the story, he mentioned his bomber problem to a fellow artist who just happened to be a cartoonist drawing comics day-to-day for the same publishing company.
The next day his fellow artist went through his morgue and came up with a series of three or four pencil sketches he drew dated August 1943 of a huge six engine plane with a German insignia on the fuselage he saw flying by his high perch window one day in the sky over New York. Since nobody was excessively over interested in drawings done by some low level cartoonist, he just stuck them away in his morgue. With a few minor changes Ramsey used the same low level cartoonist's drawings for his own bomber inspiration.
So, the bottom line or the take away here is, although Ramsey himself did not see the bomber personally in flight over New York City his fellow cartoonist did. The fellow cartoonist sketched what he saw from his high perch loft window and when Ramsey mentioned the need for some sort of inspiration to draw German bombers for his Goose Shoot story, the fellow artist gave him his sketches. Sketches he said that he had done from actual observation of a similar or like craft over New York clearly marked on the side of the fuselage with German insignia.
One summer many, many years later and long after being a kid, I was attending a warbird fly-in type air show in Merced, California officially called the Merced West Coast Antique Fly-In. After a long hot day of wandering around under and in a bunch of vintage aircraft I was invited to join a number of former World War II flyboys and crew quaffing down a few beers and swapping war stories. Being neither World War II or a flyboy, my only real contribution circulated around my uncle being shot by Axis infiltrators while traveling in the back-country of New Mexico during the war. In turn, hearing about him being shot on U.S. soil elicited the following, of which relates back to the six engine German bomber:
"The first (story), from an otherwise non-descript former airman, after interjecting he was of course sorry to hear about my uncle, said that my uncle's experience was nothing compared to what happened to him during World War II while stationed stateside. Although he wasn't shot like my uncle, he came close after being captured and held at gunpoint on U.S. soil by a bunch of German commandos infiltrating a U.S. air base along the Canadian border, a story of which I get into elsewhere."
A full account of the story as told by the airman, that is, about a huge camouflage-painted six-engine German bomber like the one shown above, landing at a nearly secret U.S. Army Air Corps military installation along the Canadian border during World War II, refueling in the middle of the night and taking off totally unmolested, can be found going to Footnote  of The Ghost and the Haunted B-29.
THE BEST OF THE MAUGHAM BIOGRAPHIES:
SPIRITUAL GUIDES, GURUS, AND TEACHERS INFLUENTIAL IN THE RAZOR'S EDGE: