Thursday, February 19, 2009

World War II Flying Tigers (飛虎) "Pappy"

Flying Tigers (Fei Hu 飛虎) was the popular name of the 1st American Volunteer Group (AVG) of the Chinese Air Force in 1941 and 1942. In essence, the group was a private military contractor, although the volunteers have also been called mercenaries. They were former United States Army (USAAF), Navy (USN), and Marine Corps (USMC) pilots and ground crew, recruited under Presidential sanction and commanded by Claire Lee Chennault. The group consisted of three fighter squadrons flying the Curtiss P-40 fighter aircraft. It trained in Burma before the American entry into World War II with the intention of defending China against Japanese forces. In 30 weeks of battle the Tigers downed over 100 Japanese planes and lost but 14 of their own.

AVG fighter aircraft were painted with a large shark face on the front of the aircraft. About the same time, the AVG was dubbed "The Flying Tigers" by their Washington support group, called China Defense Supplies. The Tigers' shark-faced fighters remain among the most recognizable of any individual combat aircraft of World War II. The “Flying Tiger” insignia was created by the Walt Disney Company.

Action Unique released this World War II era Flying Tigers uniform set which consisted of a US Navy Flight suit and belt with buckle, leather flying jacket with First Air Commands Group and "Hell's Angel" insignia of the 3rd Pursuit Squadron (AVG), blood chit on back, White Silk Scarf with red stamp of Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek, brown leather boots, Smith & Wesson "Victory" Model 0.38 caliber revolver in shoulder holster, Browning High Power (HP) automatic pistol in hip holster on service/pistol belt, tan Overseas Cap with National Chinese "Sun" insignia, Flight Helmet (Type A-8), Flight Goggles (Type B-7) and aviator's kit bag/flight bag.

"Pappy's" one-piece flight suit with pistol belt, Browning High Power (HP) automatic pistol in hip holster

A close-up view of the inside of his leather jacket

Overseas Cap with National Chinese "Sun" insignia and aviator's kit bag/flight bag with China-Burma-India (CBI) Command insignia and 14th Air Force insignia

Note the China-Burma-India (CBI) Command insignia on the left sleeve of his jacket

A faithful reproduction of the “blood chit” issued to the American Volunteer Group (Flying Tigers) pilots. The Chinese characters read: “This foreign person has come to China to help in the war effort. Soldiers and civilians, one and all, should rescue, protect and provide him medical care.”

"Pappy" with his Type A-8 flight helmet and Type B-7 flight goggles

MAJ Gregory “Pappy” Boyington was discharged from the AVG in April 1942 and returned to active duty with the US Marine Corps. He went on to command the successful “Black Sheep” Squadron in the Solomon Islands, an outfit with many similarities to the Flying Tigers, and was one of two AVG veterans (the other being James H. Howard of the USAAF) to be awarded the Medal of Honor. From 1976 to 1978, Robert Conrad (the original Secret Service agent James West in the 1965 to 1969 "The Wild Wild West" TV series) portrayed MAJ Greg "Pappy" Boyington in the "Baa Baa Black Sheep" (later syndicated as "Black Sheep Squadron") TV series flying the F4U Corsair.

Another movie, "Flying Tigers" was a 1942 black-and-white film starring John Wayne as "Pappy", one of the mercenary fighter pilots fighting the Japanese in China. Actual combat footage were shown in some scenes.


Jacquie Ream said...

Hi there! I just wanted to say thanks for this post! I'm a WWII history buff, and I wrote a novel about a Flying Tigers pilot, but I never would have guessed there was an action figure made!

alex teo said...

Hi Jacquie, you're most welcome :) In fact, there were at least two made. This one and another by Dragon, link here. Thanks for visiting

Jacquie Ream said...

It's so much fun to see those when I had no idea the action figures even existed! Are they hard to find?

alex teo said...

once in a while, you do see them on ebay (usually the one by Dragon Models, see link below)