Original U.S. WWII General Chennault American Volunteer Group (AVG) Flying Tigers Signed Note of Provenance - Insignia, Overseas Cap, Patches and Photograph

Item Description

Original Items: One-of-kind Set. This is a fantastic part of United States World War Two history. A wonderful "Flying Tigers" set form a decorated General that served during WWII in China and the Pacific Theatre of Operations (PTO).

Lieutenant General Claire Lee Chennault (September 6, 1893 – July 27, 1958) was an American military aviator best known for his leadership of the "Flying Tigers" and the Chinese Nationalist Air Force in World War II.

Chennault was a fierce advocate of "pursuit" or fighter-interceptor aircraft during the 1930s when the United States Army Air Corps was focused primarily on high-altitude bombardment. Chennault retired from the United States Army in 1937, and went to work as an aviation adviser and trainer in China.

Starting in early 1941, Chennault commanded the 1st American Volunteer Group (nicknamed Flying Tigers). He headed both the volunteer group and the uniformed U.S. Army Air Forces units that replaced it in 1942. He feuded constantly with General Joseph Stilwell, the U.S. Army commander in China, and helped China's Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek to convince President Roosevelt to remove Stilwell in 1944. The China-Burma-India theater was strategically essential in order to fix many vital elements of the Imperial Japanese Army on the Chinese mainland to limit their use against Allied forces advancing towards Japan in the two Pacific campaigns.

Included in this incredible set are the following items

- 3' x 5" Note card hand written and signed by General Chennault the reads: "Kenneth, I lost you card, so here is one of mine, per your request. I enclose one of my Col's eagles I wore. C.L. Chennault".

- U.S. WWII Officer Overseas Cap with two Generals Star with screw back Star insignia and a hand written museum tag that reads "General Chennault's WWII Cap". The cap is not named. Size is approximately 7 1/8 US.

- U.S. WWII USAAF Thunderbird Field Flight Instructor Shoulder Patch. SIZE: 2-3/4" diameter. Canvas patch embroidered in red and black cotton/silk threads.

- WWII US Army CBI Theatre Shoulder Patch Light Blue Ring Variant with O/D Border. This is a World War II United States Army CBI (China-Burma-India) theatre shoulder patch with an olive drab border. The patch is a crest bearing red and white stripes and a white Chinese 12-ray sun and star against a field of blue, and has a light blue ring in the sun. SIZE: Approximately 3-3/8" in height and 2-9/16" in width. Fully embroidered in cotton/silk thread.

- U.S. WWII Era American Volunteer Group Flying Tigers 1.5 inch enamel Distinctive Unit Insignia (missing pinback)

- U.S. WWII Period Embroidered Overseas Bars from uniform cuff cutout.

- 8" x 10" color photograph of Lieutenant General Claire Lee Chennault in uniform.

A wonderful Flaying Tigers set form a highly decorated General that served in the PTO during WWII!

Chennault's 1st American Volunteer Group (AVG) – better known as the "Flying Tigers" – began training in August 1941 and was primarily based out of Rangoon, Burma, and Kunming, Yunnan. Just weeks after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, senior Chinese officials in Chongqing released details of the first aerial attack made by the group, when the American flyers encountered 10 Japanese aircraft heading to raid Kunming and successfully shot down four of the raiders.

Thus, Claire Chennault became America's "first military leader" to be publicly recognized for striking a blow against the Japanese military forces – despite not being a member of the American military, but a civilian mercenary who was paid and promoted to colonel by Chiang Kai-Shek.

The Flying Tigers fought the Japanese for seven months after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Chennault's three squadrons used P-40s, and his tactics of "defensive pursuit", formulated in the years when bombers were actually faster than intercepting fighter aircraft, to guard the Burma Road, Rangoon, and other strategic locations in Southeast Asia and western China against Japanese forces.

As the commander of the Chinese Air Force flight training school at Yunnanyi [zh], west of Kunming, Chennault also made a great contribution by training a new generation of Chinese fighter pilots. The Flying Tigers were formally incorporated into the United States Army Air Forces in 1942. Prior to that, Chennault had rejoined the Army with the rank of major on April 7, 1942. Three days later he was made colonel. Twelve days later he was promoted to brigadier general, and then within a year to major general, commanding the Fourteenth Air Force.[citation needed]

The first magazine photo coverage of Chennault took place within Life magazine in the Monday, August 10, 1942, issue. The first Time magazine photo coverage of Chennault took place in its Monday, December 6, 1943, issue.[35] Shortly before the Time issue appeared, Chennault encountered British Prime Minister Winston Churchill at the Cairo Conference. According to historian Carlo D'Este, Chennault "had been nicknamed 'The Hawk' by Time Magazine and described by Anthony Head, a member of the Joint Planning Staff, as 'resembling a Red Indian Chief who had just taken somebody's scalp.' Turning to [Gen. Hastings Lionel] Ismay, Churchill asked the name of the American officer in a loud voice that was overheard by the U.S. delegation and produced an embarrassed silence, finally broken when [Churchill] announced: 'I'm glad he's on our side.'"[36]
China-Burma-India theater

Throughout the war Chennault was engaged in a bitter dispute with the American ground commander, General Joseph Stilwell.

Chennault believed that the Fourteenth Air Force, operating out of bases in China, could attack Japanese forces in concert with Nationalist troops. For his part, Stilwell wanted air assets diverted to his command to support the opening of a ground supply route through northern Burma to China. The route would provide supplies and new equipment for a greatly expanded Nationalist force of twenty to thirty modernized divisions.

Chiang Kai-shek favored Chennault's plans, since he was suspicious of British colonial interests in Burma, and he was unprepared – and unwilling – to begin major offensive operations against the Japanese, preferring to save his troops for the eventual civil war.[37] He was also concerned about alliances with semi-independent generals supporting the Nationalist government, and was concerned that a major loss of military forces would enable his Communist Chinese adversaries to gain the upper hand.[citation needed]

The sharply differing assessments held by Stillwell and Chennault came out in a meeting in 1943 with President Roosevelt, who asked both commanders for their opinion of Chiang.[38] Stillwell stated: "He's a vacillating, tricky, undependable old scoundrel who never keeps his word."[38] Chennault by contrast told Roosevelt: "Sir, I think the Generalissimo is one of the two or three greatest military and political leaders in the world today. He has never broken a commitment or promise to me."[38] Chennault was supported in his disputes by Soong Mei-ling, Chiang's politically powerful wife, who was one of the richest women in 1930s China[39] and, unlike her husband, fluent in English.[40]

Stilwell and Chennault loathed each other partly because of their very different personalities, which were described by the British journalist Jonathan Fenby as a clash between Stilwell, the New England Puritan and proud "Yankee" who "prized moral courage" above all else, and Chennault, the Southern gentleman and "Good Ole Boy", who accepted "human foibles" as natural.[40] For example, Chennault opened up a brothel in Guilin for his pilots and recruited English-speaking prostitutes from Hong Kong who fled to the inland of China to escape the Japanese. He argued that his men needed sex and it was better to have his "boys" visit a brothel that was regularly inspected to reduce venereal diseases.[40] Chennault felt his men were going to visit brothels, regardless of what the rules said, and that was better to have them visit a brothel whose women were inspected for venereal diseases than one that was not since a man in the hospital for a venereal disease was one less man who could participate in the war. Stilwell was enraged when he heard about Chennault's brothel and promptly had it shut down by saying it was disgraceful that an officer of the US Army Air Force would open such an establishment.[40] British Field Marshal Alan Brooke, who met both Stillwell and Chennault in late 1943, wrote that Stillwell was a "hopeless crank with no vision" and Chennault was "a very gallant airman with a limited brain."[40]

In November 1943 the Japanese Army air forces were ready to challenge Allied forces again, and they began night and day raids on Calcutta and the Hump bases while their fighters contested Allied air intrusions over Burma. In April 1944, the Japanese launched Operation Ichi-Go-the largest Japanese offensive of all time-that committed 1 million Japanese soldiers to action.[41] The 14th Air Force was involved in strafing and bombing attacks against the Japanese advancing on the city of Changsha, which Japanese had tried and failed to take three previous times since 1938, making the city into a symbol of Chinese defiance.[42] Relations between Stilwell and Chennault reached their low point in 1944.[40] Stilwell used the success of Operation Ichi-Go as proof the fallacy of Chennault's claim that air power alone could defeat Japan while Chennault accused of Stilwell of deliberately taking a defeatist attitude as a gambit to force Chiang to cede more powers of command to him.[43] As the Japanese took Changsha in June 1944, Chennault criticized Stilwell for trying to command the Chinese armies from Burma, sending a message to Washington saying no-one had seen Stilwell in southern China recently.[44]

Following their victory in the Fourth Battle of Changsha, the Japanese began to advance on the city of Hengyang held by the 10th Chinese Army commanded by General Xue Yue.[44] The 14th Air Force bombed the supply lines of the advancing Japanese and Chennault reported to Washington that his "boys" had shot down 210 Japanese planes in the aerial battles over Hengyang.[45] However, the Chinese soldiers holding Hengyang were ill-equipped, with the American journalist Teddy White reporting that only a third of the Chinese infantrymen had rifles, their artillery consisted of just two French artillery guns from World War I, and the majority lived on starvation rations of one bowl of rice per day.[45] Despite their bravery in resisting Japanese assaults on Hengyang all through July and August 1944, the Chinese weaknesses in regards to weapons and food began to tell with Xue reporting his men badly needed supplies to hold Hengyang.[45] Channault wanted to airdrop food, weapons and ammunition to the 10th Army but was vetoed by Stilwell on the grounds that to air drop supplies would "set a precedent for further demands that could not be met."[46] Chennault did have the pilots of the 14th Air Force brave Japanese anti-aircraft fire to fly in as low as 300 feet to drop supplies of food, ammunition and medical supplies, but Xue stated he needed far more. A request from Chennault to air drop 500 tons of weapons to the 10th Army was rejected by Stilwell as a "waste of effort."[46] On 7 August 1944, Xue reported the Imperial Japanese Army had broken his defense lines and entered Hengyang and the next day, Hengyang fell with Xue ordering his men to abandon the city.[46] Fenby wrote that Hengyang would have probably fallen as the Japanese had committed overwhelming force, but the city could have held out far longer than the seven weeks that it did if only Xue and his 10th Army had received more supplies, stating that Stilwell was remiss in attempting to command Sino-American forces fighting in Burma and in China at the same time.

The Japanese ground forces advanced and seized Chennault's forward bases. Slowly, however, the greater numbers and greater skill of the Allied air forces began to assert themselves. By mid-1944, Major General George Stratemeyer's Eastern Air Command dominated the skies over Burma, a superiority that was never to be relinquished. At the same time, logistical support reaching India and China via the Hump finally reached levels permitting an Allied offensive into northern Burma. Chennault had long argued for expansion of the airlift, doubting that any ground supply network through Burma could provide the tonnage needed to re-equip Chiang's divisions. However, work on the Ledo Road overland route continued throughout 1944 and was completed in January 1945. Training of the new Chinese divisions commenced; however, predictions of monthly tonnage (65,000 per month) over the road were never achieved. By the time Nationalist armies began to receive large amounts of supplies via the Ledo Road, the war had ended. Instead, the airlift continued to expand until the end of the war, after delivering 650,000 tons of supplies, gasoline, and military equipment.[citation needed] Chennault was replaced as commander of the U.S. 14th Air Force by Lt. Gen. George E. Stratemeyer in June 1945. Following the surrender of Japan in August 1945, Chennault retired from the Army Air Forces on October 31, 1945.
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