Also called the 1st American Volunteer Group (AVG) of the Chinese Air Force in 1941/1942. They were nicknamed the Flying Tigers. Comprised of pilots from the US Army Air Corps, Navy, and Marine Corps. They were recruited by presidential authority (under FDR) and commanded by Claire Lee Chennault.
The nose art of the Flying Tigers is one of the most recognizable images on any individual combat aircraft of WW2 (looks like a shark). Group was made up of three fighter squadrons of around 30 aircrafts each. First battle was 12 days after Pearl Harbor. Their notable success gave Americans hope that they might actually defeat the Japanese.
The group was disbanded on July 4 1942 and replaced by the 23rd Fighter Group. The group was declassified in December 1991 after 50 years and the veterans were awarded the Presidential Unit Citation. Some pilots were awarded Distinguished Flying Cross and some ground crew personnel were awarded the Bronze Star Medals.
The AVG was divided into squadrons that all came up with separate names. The first squadron was called “Adam & Eve’s”, the second was called “Panda bears”, and the third was called “Hell’s Angels.”
The name “Flying Tigers”:
- The name is credited to a United Press Correspondent named McGrath for an article written on December 26th 1941 titled “Ragoon” – can’t find the actual article
- Chennault said that he and his men were surprised to find themselves called the “Flying Tigers.” He didn’t know how the name was derived from the shark-nosed P-40’s.
- The full quote from Chennault on the genesis of the “Flying Tigers” nickname can be found here:
- The idea for a shark nose art was not original with the A.V.G., they copied it from an illustration in the India Illustrated Weekly – couldn’t find illustration
- Just before the group was disbanded, the Walt Disney organization designed the groups insignia: a winged tiger flying through a V for victory