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