The Flying Tigers, also known as the American Volunteer Group, were American volunteer fighter pilots who fought for China during the Second Sino-Japanese War (the Pacific front of World War II prior to U.S. entry). Led by Lt. General Claire L. Chennault, they were very successful against the Japanese, who expected to encounter poorly-trained Chinese pilots.
The fighter plane flown, and made famous, by the Flying Tigers was the American-made Curtiss P-40. It was less maneuverable than, and often outnumbered by, the planes of the Japanese, so the Americans usually used hit-and-run attacks, pouncing on the enemy from above and diving away before they could react. This allowed them to make the most of the American plane’s superior firepower, while minimizing the enemy’s advantages. The distinctive shark mouth design was inspired by a photo of RAF P-40s in North Africa with a similar design. When pilot Eric Schilling saw the photo in a magazine, he painted his own plane to match. Later, General Chennault ordered that all AVG fighters be painted with the same design.
- Oxford Guide to World War II, ed. by I.C.B. Dear, Oxford University Press, 1995
- Mercenaries, by Michael Lee Lanning, Presidio Press, 2005