During the summer of 1941, young American pilots under the command of Captain Claire L. Chennault (“retired” from the United States Army Air Corps) secretly trained in the jungles of Southeast Asia in preparation for an air war with Japan. On December 20, 1942, the 1st American Volunteer Group (AVG) composed of 112 Army, Navy and Marine pilots, was activated as part of the Chinese Air Force. Named Fei Hu by the Chinese for the snarling Tiger Sharks teeth painted on the on noses of their P-40s, they became known worldwide as the Flying Tigers.

The Flying Tigers’ successes against Imperial Japanese aircraft in the otherwise dismal initial phase of the war spurred American morale. Although postwar record review showed lower total kills, the Flying Tigers were credited with the destruction of ~300 enemy aircraft, while losing only 14 American pilots. The AVG was replaced in July 1942 by the 23rd Fighter Group of the United States Army Air Corps. The 23rd was later absorbed into the 14th U.S. Army Air Corps with General Chennault as commander.