By Jodie Rogge
Suffering the blows of Civil War, China was very weak when imperialist Japan began to attack their borders. Japan was in need of more resources and were taking advantage of China’s weakened state. During World War II China was struggling to hold their own against Japanese threats. President Franklin D. Roosevelt was very insistent on keeping Japan out of China. In order to remain neutral and keep Japan out of China he assigned former US military officer, Claire Chennault, to recruit and assemble a team of fighter pilots to help the Chinese defend themselves. Chennault found his men from the ranks of the US Army Air Corps, Navy, and Marine Corps. The three squadron group was assembled just a couple months before the attack on Pearl Harbor.
100 American contract pilots arrived in Burma in 1941 to help protect a precious supply road from Japanese attacks. Distinguished by the rows of shark teeth on the nose of their planes, The Flying Tigers were the best at what they did. Taking down 296 Japanese planes and riverboats while only losing 69 planes is an unmatched record. Being Mercenaries they were also paid a much higher salary than the men in the US air force. The Flying Tigers, or officially known as the American Volunteer Group, earned around 650-700 a month with a 500 dollar bonus for each enemy plane shot down compared to just 250 a month.
The Flying Tigers were state organized mercenaries. Franklin D Roosevelt ordered Chennault to get a group together to fight for China. They weren’t affiliated with the military, but they also did not get together by themselves. Their fighting and winning gave hope to Americans and other Allied forces that they could beat Japan. The American Volunteer Group was organized by the American government, but they were paid by and fought for the Chinese. Although they only were together for a year, the Flying Tigers will never be forgotten.