Original U.S. WWII 23rd Fighter Group Flying Tigers A-2 Jacket with Blood Chit
Original Item: One-of-a-kind. This is a stunning incredibly rare excellent condition WWII United States Army Air Forces 23rd Fighter Group, 14th Air Force A-2 leather flight jacket.
The left chest bears an original 23rd Fighter Group insignia which appears be be Chinese made and hand embroidered. The Right shoulder has a leather full color multi-piece construction flying tiger patch. The right shoulder has a leather full color multi-piece construction CBI (China-Burma-India) patch and the reverse of the jacket has a wonderful large leather full color multi-piece construction American flag patch. Inside the jacket is the original lining and stitched to that is an original silk blood chit with red ink stamp.
Overall condition of the jacket is very good. The leather is still supple and does not have any major cracking or damage. There is some minor wear in places but it is as to be expected. The liner, cuffs, and waistband are all original. The zipper is TALON and is complete and functional. The data tag in the jacket is present. The jacket was produced by ROUGH WEAR CLOTHING and is a size 42.
Flying Tigers material is some of the hardest to find most sought after material on the collectors market due to the small number of pilots and their incredible performance during WW2. This jacket, while unnamed, is an exceptional part of the 23rd Fighter Group history and will be the centerpiece of any collection.
History of the 23rd Fighter Group: By 15 June 1942, under orders from Tenth Air Force, an advance cadre of pilots and aircraft had proceeded over the Hump to Kunming, China, for combat familiarization. Without ceremony, the 23rd Fighter Group was activated 4 July 1942, marking the first such activation of a United States fighter unit on a field of battle in World War II.
Claire L. Chennault, meanwhile, had been recalled to active duty with the rank of brigadier general and placed at the head of the China Air Task Force (later to grow into Fourteenth Air Force). The 23d Fighter Group became a component of the Task Force and was assigned three squadrons, the 74th, 75th, and 76th Fighter Squadrons.
The group inherited the mission of the American Volunteer Group "Flying Tigers" (AVG). Five of Chennault's staff officers, five pilots and 19 ground crewmen entered the United States Army Air Forces and became members of the 23rd Fighter Group. Approximately 25 Flying Tiger pilots, still in civilian status, volunteered to extend their contracts for two weeks to train the new group following the disbanding of their organization. The original aircraft of the group were a mixture of Curtiss P-40 Warhawks from a batch of 50 sent to China for the AVG between January and June 1942, and a follow-up shipment of 68 P-40Es transferred from the 51st Fighter Group in India and flown over the Hump by personnel to be assigned to the 23d, also mostly from the 51st Group.
Others from the ranks of the original Flying Tigers left China when their contracts expired, although some returned to duty later with the Army Air Forces in the China-Burma-India Theater. In addition to inheriting operational responsibilities from the AVG, the 23d Fighter Group also benefited from the knowledge and experience of the AVG pilots, and took on the nickname of the disbanded unit.
Col. Robert L. Scott Jr., already in India as a commander of the Hump operation, became the first commander of the 23d Fighter Group. He would later author the military classic, "God Is My Co-Pilot." On the very first day of its activation, the 23d Fighter Group engaged three successive waves of enemy aircraft and promptly recorded the destruction of five enemy aircraft with no losses to itself.
The next three years saw the 23d Fighter Group involved in much of the action over southeast and southwest Asia. It provided air defense for the Chinese terminus of the Hump route, but its operations extended beyond China to Burma, French Indochina and as far as Taiwan. The unit helped pioneer a number of innovative fighter and fighter-bomber tactics. The group used its so-called "B-40" (P-40's carrying 1,000-pound bombs) to destroy Japanese bridges and kill bridge repair crews, sometimes demolishing their target with a single bomb. The unit gained another increase in capability with its conversion to the North American P-51 Mustang aircraft in November 1943. Representative of the encounters undertaken by this small and often ill-equipped group was the defense against a major Japanese push down the Hsiang Valley in Hunan 17–25 June 1944. Ignoring inhibiting weather conditions and heavy ground fire, the 23d Fighter Group provided air support for Chinese land forces and repeatedly struck at enemy troops and transportation. Its efforts in this instance earned it the Distinguished Unit Citation for "outstanding performance of duty in action against the enemy." In 1945 it help turn the Japanese spring offensive and harassed the retreating Japanese by strafing and bombing their columns.
Before the 23d Fighter Group returned to the United States in December 1945, it was credited with destroying 621 enemy planes in air combat, plus 320 more on the ground; with sinking more than 131,000 tons of enemy shipping and damaging another 250,000 tons; and with causing an estimated enemy troop loss of more than 20,000 These statistics were compiled through a total of more than 24,000 combat sorties, requiring more than 53,000 flying hours, and at a cost of 110 aircraft lost in aerial combat, 90 shot down by surface defenses, and 28 bombed while on the ground. Thirty-two pilots of the group achieved ace status by shooting down five or more enemy aircraft.
The 23d Fighter Group left the theater in December 1945 and was inactivated 5 January 1946, at Fort Lewis, Washington.
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