The Fascinating Life of Bill Pawley and the Flying Tigers

27 Apr

CAMCO personnel at Loiwing, China, probably at the factory opening in 1939. Bill Pawley is standing in back, second from left. Ed Pawley is third from right, and Gene Pawley may be the man in the center of the photo; all three are wearing white shirt and tie. (Hat tip: Eugenie Buchan)

Like Lauchlin Currie at the White House, Bill Pawley was central to the creation and management of the American Volunteer Group, but was so hated by Chennault that he never got full credit for his role. This is a first cut at a Pawley biography, with emphasis on its intersection with the Flying Tigers story.

William Douglas Pawley was born in Florence, South Carolina, in September 1896. His father was a wealthy businessman based in Cuba, so Pawley attended private schools in Havana and Santiago. He later attended Gordon Military Academy in Georgia. In 1925, he began work as an estate agent in Miami, but two years took up the career that would make him modestly rich: he began working for the Curtiss-Wright Corporation.

In 1928 Pawley returned to Cuba to become president of the Nacional Cubana de Aviacion Curtiss, which post he held until the company was sold to Pan American Airways in 1932. Pawley then became president of Intercontinent Corporation based in New York; the company had evidently been founded by Clement Keys, former president of Curtiss-Wright. Meanwhile, he moved to China in 1933 and became president of the China National Aviation Corporation; CAMCO, I believe, was jointly owned by Intercontinent and the Chinese government of Chiang Kai-shek. Over the next five years, it built and operated three aircraft factories–assembly plants, really, for the Chinese. (Pawley bought Intercontinent outright in 1938, named his brother Edward as vice-president, and seems to have used it thereafter as a family holding company). Continue reading


Chinese Tribute To The Flying Tigers

29 Mar

This article is entirely credited to the China Daily News

Tribute to the Tigers
by Wang Ying
China Daily 12/15/2008 (page eight)

Glen Beneda (circled) and his colleagues in China, 1943

US pilot Glen Beneda’s P-51 fighter was shot down by several enemy aircraft during an attack on a large Japanese base in Hubei province in 1944.

The 20-year-old lieutenant bailed out and landed in a rice paddy while his aircraft sank in a nearby lake. Local people saved him and helped him return to his squadron two months later.

Beneda, who became a firefighter in Los Angeles after the war, was recently stunned to learn that local people had started excavating his crashed aircraft and want to repair and display it in a memorial hall at the crash site in Hankou.

“I often dreamed about my former fighter being brought back – I still cannot believe that my dream will soon come true,” Beneda said in a letter to the China Cultural Links Project Organization, which is in charge of the excavation project.

“If my health allows, I will go back to China to see my former aircraft with my own eyes,” says Beneda who is now 84 and will soon undergo heart surgery. Continue reading

Flying Tigers Historical Park In Guilin China

23 Feb

Excerpted from The Flying Tigers Heritage Park website —

Why the Flying Tiger Historical Park?

The obvious answer is it is a chance to honor, preserve the memory of, and record for history the remarkable story that is the Flying Tigers, the Chinese and the CBI theater of World War II.  A story that for many reasons has been overlooked, forgotten, or buried. 

Many books have been written about the Flying Tigers and the pilots who flew the Hump (Air supply route from India to China across the Himalayan Mountains… the most dangerous air supply route in the world.) but for the most part the story and record set by these combatants has been passed over when reporting on the larger history of the Pacific War in WW II.  The Chinese contribution has all but been ignored and yet their sacrifices where what made it possible for our American fighting men to achieve the success they did. Continue reading

Chuck Older “Aced” In P-51s After The Flying Tigers

18 Feb

Charles H. Older: P-51 Ace

Joining the Marine Corps for flight training, Charles Herman (Chuck) Older received his wings and commission at Pensacola on 1 April 1940 and was assigned to VMF-I. In July 1941 he resigned his reserve commission to join Chennault’s American Volunteer Group (AVG), then forming in Burma.

Assigned to the 3rd Pursuit Squadron (“Hell’s Angels”), Older participated in the first massive air battles over Rangoon, Burma and became one of the first two AVG aces on Christmas Day, 1941 when he added three Japanese aircraft to two destroyed on 23 December.

Credited with five more victories by the time the “Flying Tigers” were disbanded on 4 July 1942, he returned to the States and joined the USAAF.

Returning to China as a major in 1944, Older became group operations officer and deputy commander of the 23rd Fighter Group flying P-51 s. Continue reading

WWII Flying Tiger News Reels

9 Feb

The Flying Tigers!

China Invades China in 1931

The Flying Tigers Bite Back!

Kunming Air Battle Relived – First Fight For The Tigers Almost 70 Years Ago

12 Dec

It was a crisp December morning almost 70 years ago. The war with Japan was just 13 days old. Claire Chennault, commander of the American Volunteer Group stationed in China, under secret orders of President Roosevelt, was standing “dawn patrol” at Kunming airfield.

 Their make-shift air raid alert relay system of Chinese volunteers strung out across the towns and villages throughout China began to report sounds of heavy aircraft making their way from Vietnam toward Kunming.

 By 9:30 am it was certain Japanese bombers were headed for another bombing raid against the helpless people of Kunming. The Japanese virtually owned air superiority in the face of an ill equipped and poorly trained Chinese Air Force and had begun to grow complacent in their air campaign that sought to cut the supply line from the port of Rangoon to Burma – dubbed the Burma Road. Just the day before Kunming had been pounded by 8 to 10 twin engined Kawasaki Ki-48 medium bombers, code named “Lily” by allied pilots. Continue reading

“Pappy” Boyington’s Colorful Life Before And After The AVG Flying Tigers

11 Oct

The following account is attributed to XPDR blogger at

(Somerdale, NJ) – It’s not often that you get to ‘stand inspection’ for a Medal of Honor winner. The word was passed that Colonel Gregory (Pappy) Boyington, WW II Medal of Honor and Navy Cross recipient with VMF-214, would be visiting MCAS El Toro and the Marine Wing Service Group-37 tomorrow. This was a big deal. Medal of Honor winners do not pay visits every day.

Pappy Boyington was the highest ranking WW II Ace in the Marine Corps. Gregory (Pappy) Boyington was born in Coeur D’Alene, Idaho on December 4, 1912. He died in Fresno, California of cancer on January 11, 1988 and is buried in Arlington National Cemetery. After graduating from the University of Washington with a B.S. in aeronautical engineering in 1934, Boyington went to work for Boeing as an engineer. Now married he was ineligible to become a pilot in the Marine Corps. Ignoring the rules, Boyington, who was raised by his stepfather and used the name Hallenbeck, obtained a copy of his birth certificate and learned the name of his real father, Charles Boyington. His parents had divorced when he was only a infant.

‘Stretching the rules,’ Boyington applied as a cadet pilot under the name Gregory Boyington. There was no record of marriage for Gregory Boyington. His ruse worked. By all accounts, Boyington was an excellent pilot. There were no air-to-air missiles, radar, or electronic gear in those days. Fighter pilots depended on their eyes and reflexes. After completing flight training at the Naval Air Station, Pensacola, Florida, he was designated a naval aviator on March 11, 1937. Continue reading

Aces High – The Last Of The Flying Tiger Raiders

13 Aug

Charlie Bond, "Tex" Hill and Ed Rector

Charlie Bond, one of the last pilots of a covert World War Two fighter squadron, died recently, but the heroics of the US servicemen who took on the might of the Japanese air force in Burma will never be forgotten

Originally published: Bangkok Newspaper
October 25, 2009
Spectrum Section

Charlie Bond, one of the last surviving pilots of the legendary World War Two 1st American Volunteer Group (AVG), dubbed the “Flying Tigers”, died in Dallas, Texas, on Aug 18, at the age of 94. Major General Charles R Bond, Jr, served 30 years in the US Air Force, retiring in 1968.

His life was intertwined with Thailand for a period spanning more than 60 years.

In the early days of World War Two, when the Japanese were invading Burma from bases in Thailand, Bond was part of a force of 10 Flying Tigers that made a surprise dawn attack, on March 24, 1942, against the Japanese 64th Hayabusa Sentai (Falcon Group) based at Chiang Mai airfield. Continue reading

Development History Of The Curtiss P-40 Used By The Original AVG Flying Tigers

15 Oct

Curtiss P-40B
Reviewed by Brad Hagen
Photos by: Raymond Chung, Vernon Rabbetts, Scott Murphy, Buz Busby

Curtiss knew that their radial engined P-36 couldn’t be developed any more, so to increase its life they decided in July 1937 to install an Allison V-1710 inline engine with integral supercharging. Curtiss gave it the designation of Model 75P and the USAAC gave it the designation of XP-40.

In order to adapt the liquid cooled Allison, a considerable amount of replumbing needed to be done. The carburetor intake for the single stage supercharger was installed on top of the nose between the nose guns, the oil cooler was mounted under the nose, and the radiator was located under the fuselage just aft of the wing.

The XP-40 flew for the first time on October 14, 1938, the early flight trials were disappointing and the radiator was gradually moved forward until it reached its final location. The new radiator intake was designed to include both the oil cooler and the two coolers for the ethylene/glycol engine coolant.

On January 25th, 1939 the manufacturers were invited to submit proposals for a new pursuit aircraft, Curtiss submitted their XP-40 and were up again such planes as the XP-39, the XP-43, and the XP-38. Even though the XP-40 couldn’t match the performance of some of the other types, it was chosen because it was based on already proven airframe, it was less expensive, and could reach production in quantity at least a year ahead of the others so on April 26, 1939, the Army ordered 524 production versions under the designation P-40 (Curtiss Model 81). Continue reading

Exclusive Ken Jernstedt Interview – 2nd In The Series – Flying The P-40 In Combat

8 Oct

I had about a fifty minute chat again today with Ken Jernstedt, Flying Tigers Ace and one of the last remaining pilots from the original AVG who served in Burma & China the last half of 1941 to July 4, 1942.

Ken arrived in Rangoon China in September of 1941 after a “pretty fun really” hopscotch journey by ship, stopping off in Hawaii, the Philippines and Borneo. They were met at the harbor in Rangoon by AVG personnel and “travelled by train a couple hundred miles North to Toungoo.”

He first flew the Curtiss P-40 Warhawk at RAF controlled Kyedaw Airfield near Toungoo. There were no P-40 two seater trainers. They were briefed on the flight characteristics and expected to take the aircraft up and fly it without much else in the way of flight instruction. “It was the first liquid cooled aircraft I’d ever flown”, Ken told me. I asked him if he remembered his first flight and he told me: “Oh yeah! It was a real thrill”, he remarked with I’m sure a real twinkle in his eye.

I asked Ken about the P-40’s performance. He told me: “Its was a very powerful airplane and heavier so we could out dive any of the Japanese fighters.” He told me he was one of the few AVG Marine fighter pilots and that generally the Navy pilots had less difficulty with the P-40 compared to the Army pilots. He had already flown the F4F Wildcat and logged eleven carrier landings in flight training prior to coming to China. So he didn’t feel intimidated by the P-40.

We talked about flying his first missions for the AVG and his first aerial kill. “It wasn’t very long after I first started flying for them that I got my first one. It was the day before Christmas 1941 over Rangoon.” Their tactics were drilled into them by Chennault in daily pre-dawn briefings: Continue reading