In his book Way of a Fighter (1949), head of the Flying Tigers, Claire L. Chennault, gives his version of how snarling teeth look of the A.V.G. fighter planes came into being as found on page 135:
"Before I left the United States in the summer of 1941, I asked a few friends in Louisiana to watch the newspapers and send me any clippings about the A.V.G. Now I was being swamped with clippings from stateside newspapers, and my men were astonished to find themselves world famous as the Flying Tigers. The insignia we made famous was by no means original with the A.V.G. Our pilots copied the shark-tooth design on their P-40's noses from a colored illustration in the India Illustrated Weekly depicting an R.A.F. squadron in the Libyan Desert with shark-nose P-40's. Even before that the German Air Force painted shark's teeth on some of its Messerschmitt 210 fighters. With the pointed nose of a liquid cooled engine it was an apt and fearsome design. How the term Flying Tigers was derived from the shark-nosed P-40's I never will know. At any rate we were somewhat surprised to find ourselves billed under that name. It was not until just before the A.V.G. was disbanded that we had any kind of group insignia. At the request of the China Defense Supplies in Washington, the Walt Disney organization in Hollywood designed our insignia consisting of a winged tiger flying through a large V for victory."(source)
Even though Chennault says in the above quote he'll never know how the term Flying Tigers was derived from the shark-nosed P-40's, I kind of go with the quote below that is found in FLYING TIGERS: The Boy In The Man Remembers The Legend, which taken as it is, pretty much answers Chennault's query or concerns. It is backed up almost verbatim by what shows up in the last panel of the last page above where it says the Chinese gave the AVG the greatest praise in their language, naming the intrepid airmen the "Fei Weing" --- or, Flying Tigers! That and the quote below makes it kind of hard to get around:
"Learning that the superstitious Japanese feared sharks, the ingenious Yanks painted the snout's of their P-40s to represent grinning heads of 'tiger sharks.' The A.V.G. pilots called themselves 'Tiger Sharks' but it was not long before the admiring Chinese troops changed it to 'Flying Tigers' the tiger being regarded as a minor deity in some sections of China."(see)
WAR HEROES, No. 2 October-December 1942
There are a number of other stories, each in their own way vying for credibility as the one and only story. The two strongest, if you discount Chennault, although similar in some respects to Chennault's, vary enough to stand on their own as their own versions, although as I see it they either divided Chennault's version or he combined the two. One version claims that the design came exclusively from the Tomahawk-equipped Royal Air Force (RAF) Desert squadrons that used shark tooth insignias on their P-40s. The second version comes from Erik Shilling (1916-2002), one of the first U.S. Army Air Corps pilots to sign up with the A.V.G. He is said to have found a photo of a Messerschmitt 110 with a shark face on it in a British magazine. Using the photo he marked out s similar design on the nose of a P-40 with chalk to see how it looked, and then showed it to Chennault.
More precisely, but not necessarily any more accurate than the rest of the above, it has been reported that on November 15, 1941 members of the A.V.G. saw a picture on the cover of the November 2, 1941 issue of the Illustrated Weekly of India, depicted somewhat crudely below, that showed a color photograph of a P-40 Tomahawk with shark teeth markings taken from a September 1941 photo of the RAF P-40 "Menace," also shown below. Shilling credited pictures of a Messerschmitt BF-110 of the ZG76, said to have been in the same magazine as his inspiration as well. Chennault's long time second in command Col. Harvey Greenlaw and his wife Olga, who wrote the definitive book on the Flying Tigers in 1943 titled The Lady and the Tigers, are often cited as being involved knee-deep in the controversy too. Shilling, said to be the first to put the shark teeth on the A.V.G P-40's, offers the following from the source so cited:
"Many people wonder where the idea for the shark mouth marking came from. Shilling was actually the first one to apply the mouth after he got the idea from seeing a picture of a German aircraft with that marking. His aircraft was unique in having the only painting with a blue outline - the others were outlined in black. 'I just used what paint was available at the time. The blue came from the Chinese crew that was painting the Chinese rondel. The red came from the guy that was painting the Hell's Angel girl and I used the paint from that.'"(source)
LEFT, THE NOVEMBER 2, 1941 ISSUE ILLUSTRATED WEEKLY OF INDIA, ON RIGHT, ORIGINAL PHOTO
NOTICE IN THE PHOTO ON THE LEFT "MENACE" HAS A SMALL SHARK TEETH MOUTH WHILE "A" IN THE BACKGROUND HAS NO
SHARK TEETH. RIGHT PHOTO HAS "MENACE" WITH LARGER MOUTH, WHILE "A" IS NOW FULLY ADORNED WITH SHARK TEETH.
MESSERSCHMITT BF-110 TWIN ENGINE HEAVY FIGHTER AS SEEN IN MAGAZINE BY ERIK SHILLING
ERIK SHILLING: FLYING TIGER
Now, for the skeptics and all, nobody wants any of the above to be true, complaining on and on and on, even if the people who were there say what they say is true, people like Chennault and Shilling and others of similar ilk --- I mean, how could anybody trust them at their word. So, for those of you who insist on a less exotic more boring way the Flying Tigers became to be called the Flying Tigers, not out in the field where all the fighting and action went on, but back in some office someplace, if you must, please click first BORING then ADDITIONAL FOLLOW UP:
ADDITIONAL FOLLOW UP
SO, DID THE WANDERLING FLY?
(please 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.
Learning that the
Japs feared sharks,
the ingenious Yanks
painted the snout's
of their P-40s to
heads of tiger-
sharks. The A.V.G.
pilots called them-
selves "Tiger Sharks"
but it was not
long before the
troops changed it
to "Flying Tigers"
the tiger being
regarded as a
minor deity in some
sections of China.
Take a good look how the drawing in the fifth panel on the above page tagged "THE P-40'S PROVED THEY COULD TAKE A TERRIFIC BEATING AND STILL DISH IT OUT" and repeated again below, how the drawing duplicates the photo from a 1942 issue of Life Magazine almost perfectly.
(PHOTO SOURCE: LIFE, VOL. 12, NO. 13, MARCH 30, 1942)
I only bring the above up because I substantiate some of the quotes I use in the main text by presenting as proof that such-and-such a quote was said, then offer as proof pages from comic books. The same way the cartoonist and the story writers presented the drawing of the P-40 being worked on by using actual background material such as photos from Life Magazine, their quotes, the ones I have cited in the boxes above and below were just as well researched, first by them, then by me.
THE CLEVER CHINESE MAKE PROTECTIVE
HANGERS AND REPAIR SHOPS FOR
THEIR "FLYING TIGER" HEROES. MOSTLY
LOCATED IN THE DEEP JUNGLES,
THESE "GROUND BURROWS" ELUDE
THE SHARP-EYED JAPS WHO SEARCH
VAINLY FOR "FLYING TIGER" BASES.
Notice the underground facilities as depicted in the last panel on the above page. If you scroll down the Lone Tiger page below you will see, also in the final panel, his facilities are completely underground as well. For the complete Lone Tiger story please click the page:
The panel below is from Congo Bill Joins The Flying Tigers. It is the last panel in a several page story of a spy or a mole within the ranks of the Flying Tigers that was feeding information to the Japanese about the secret locations of the Tigers' bases. Notice the continuing theme even without a mole in the above two stories:
(please click image)
CONGO BILL JOINS THE FLYING TIGERS