Flying Tigers P-40
* screen colors may vary from print colors
Print Size: 20" X 27"
all prints are sold unframed
by Stan Stokes
Claire Chennault retired from the USAAF in 1937. Chennault had been an outspoken supporter of advanced fighter aircraft, but was at odds with many of his superiors who favored development of bombers. Chennault went to China to assist Chiang-Kai-shek in resurrecting the Chinese Air Force. In 1941 President Roosevelt authorized a plan to allow American servicemen to volunteer for a one-year duty assignment in China as members of Chennault’s American Volunteer Group. 100 Curtis P-40s were rerouted from the UK to Burma. A like number of pilots and a few hundred support personnel filtered into the group from various branches of the service. The AVG engaged the Japanese in combat from late 1941 through mid-1942. Despite being greatly outnumbered, and facing critical shortages of supplies and spare parts, the AVG’s official victory tally included 299 aircraft shot down and another 240 destroyed on the ground. The Flying Tigers have a special place in the hearts of aviation history enthusiasts.

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This story is taken from the 2002 Flying Tigers Reunion Program, produced by Valor Studios.


It is the spring of 2002 and 60 years have passed since General Claire Lee Chennault and his band of 252 men and women--pilots, ground crews and staff--passed into history in war-torn China.

Behind, they left an imperishable record, which many authorities have called a conquest without parallel in the annals of air battles.

In seven months of combat, this group of 87 pilots, with a fleet of 100 airplanes, shot down, by official count, 299 enemy aircraft, destroyed another known 240 planes and scored a total estimated kill of upward of a thousand aircraft, many of which could not be confirmed officially or by estimate, but which pilots felt reasonably certain disappeared in the mountains or sea or were caught in strafing raids.

Their own losses totaled four pilots lost in combat, 11 more in strafing for bombing actions, 45 airplanes in combat through accidents, and 45 more by accidents, bombing or capture by enemy ground forces.

How the Flying Tigers came into being is a story as unusual as what happened to them between their first air battle in December, 1941, and their disbandment in July, 1942.

In the mid-30's, an Army Captain, Claire Lee Chennault, had retired from a pioneer military flying career and had written a book about his concept of aerobatics. The text came to the attention of the Chinese, then engaged in a hit-and-run war with Japan. The beleaguered Chinese asked Chennault to help them develop an air force, and in 1937, he went to China.

Four years later, with the war spreading over the globe and the Chinese situation critical, Chennault was empowered by Generalissimo Chaing Kai-shek to seed a core of American airmen to help train the Chinese. President Roosevelt consented to allow members of the American Armed Forces to volunteer for duty with Chennault. A total of 252 men--87 pilots and 165 ground personnel--signed up for a year's service. Recruited from Army, Navy and Marine Air Corps ranks, they were shipped to Burma, where 100 P-40 fighters were sidetracked from other military assignments for their use.

Formed into three squadrons--Adam and Eve, Panda Bears and Hell's Angels--they had experienced hardly three months of training as fighting units before the aroused Japanese hit them at Christmas-time 1941 over Rangoon.

The fact that they not only survived the Japanese assault but repulsed the enemy with heavy losses electrified the Allied side of the war, which had been repeatedly defeated by the Axis powers. The American victory was once more, as at Lexington some 165 years earlier, a shot that was heard around the world, and the Tigers flew on through the Burma skies to an everlasting place in American history.

Often out-numbered as much as eight to one and fighting under primitive conditions with shortages of both food and supplies, their planes held together by the determination and resourcefulness of ground crews. This handful of less than one hundred pilots checked the Japanese invasion of China.

Chennault, recapping later the story of his group of rough and ready fighting men whose military informality recalled the stories of early American Indian fighting days, said that while the A.V.G. was blooded over China, it was their aerial exploits above Rangoon between Christmas and New Year's Eve of 1941 which put the stamp of history upon them. In the first nine days of initial combat with the enemy, the Tigers shot down officially 75 planes with a loss of only six of their own, and only two pilots.

In all the history of aerial combat, there never had been such a total air victory as this one.
History recorded the tributes of the war leaders--Roosevelt, who hailed their exploits as one of the great records of war--Churchill, who called that Tiger's repulse of the enemy a feat comparable to that gained in the Battle of Britain--and Chiang Kai-shek, who saluted their deeds "as one of the great military feats free men have accomplished for the cause of the righteousness."

Stan Stokes is a California native who developed a passion for vintage cars, trains and airplanes at an early age. Model building and RC planes filled the many hours of the young enthusiast's free time. However, unlike most other young aviation enthusiasts Stokes also displayed a great gift for artistic talent. After studying art in Junior College in Southern California Stan decided to pursue a career as a professional artist. Stokes initially focused his great talents on depicting uniquely realistic landscapes of Western desert and mountain scenes. More than twenty-five years ago a good friend suggested that Stan combine his passion for aviation history and flying with his artistic talents, and render an aircraft or two.

The rest is now history. Winner of the prestigious Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum's award for his painting of Jimmy Mathern's Lockheed 12-A in 1984, Stokes' originals are now in the collections of all the major aviation museums in this country. Stan has also completed several impressive murals for these museums as well, including a 106-foot long life-size scene depicting the Battle of Britain, which was displayed at the Planes of Fame Museum in Minnesota. In 1997 Stan completed the entrance mural for the new Palm Springs Aviation Museum, and he is currently finishing-up a 12 ft by 120 ft mural what serves as a tribute to the Tuskegee Airmen. This will be displayed for several months at Los Angeles International Airport.

Stan Stokes