The American Volunteer Group (A.V.G) Flying Tigers is the most successful air combat fighter group in aviation history. They were led by controversial commander, Claire Chennault, who, despite inferior equipment, kept his pilots alive with superior air combat tactics. Reviled by his superiors but respected like a father by the men under him, Chennault and the Flying Tigers provided America with victories in the air against a Japanese foe that had just devastated Pearl Harbor—giving America a ray of hope when she needed it most.

 

Typical A.V.G. Odds

A Flying Tiger P-40 painting by Terry Pyles

In 1993, I collaborated with one of the A.V.G.’s top aces, Charlie Bond, to portray a historic one-man sortie that took place in China on May 4, 1942. Bond and I spent many hours going over memories and historical details to create this artistic depiction, which has been called the most accurate representation of the Flying Tiger’s P-40s.

 

On that day in 1942, two waves of Japanese bombers over flew the base of operations of the 1st fighter squadron, the "Adam and Eves." As the first wave approached their field, a call went out to man their fighters. Moments later, the alarm was recalled because it was feared bombs would start falling before the planes could get off the ground.

 

Bond, having already fired up his engine, ignored the recall and took off in the face of the bombers now over the field. Having missed his chance to reach the first wave of bombers, he concentrated on the second wave as he struggled to fly his plane while still donning his flight gear. He caught up to the second wave and made several diving attacks on the extreme right end of the huge "V" formation. He managed to shoot one down before his guns jammed. Some 40 years later, surviving Japanese flyers informed him that he had severely damaged three other planes, which were barely able to make the return to their base.

 

On his landing approach after his heroic sortie, Bond was jumped by three Zeros and shot down at only 500 feet in altitude, the bare minimum to deploy a parachute. Bond miraculously survived by bailing out of his flaming cockpit and landed in a Chinese graveyard where he was able to extinguish his smoldering flight suit in a nearby stream. Suffering burns to his face and hands, Bond returned to combat a short time later.

 

Bond was the Vice Squadron Commander of the 1st pursuit squadron and was the first to paint the shark teeth on his P-40B #5, an idea he borrowed from the British and which soon became the hallmark of air supremacy. The Flying Tigers’ record kill ratio has never been surpassed in the history of air combat—all in spite of overwhelming numerical odds, which they faced routinely, sometimes 20-1 and in Bond's case 27-1. Bond’s exploits earned him the nickname, “The Lone Ranger.” Bond is also credited with leading the Tigers, in extremely poor visibility, to the Cheng Mai aerodrome. This was the most devastating raid on a Japanese airfield inflicted by the Flying Tigers.

 

Bond, the wingman of Flying Tiger's top ace, Robert Neale, was credited with 9-7/8 aerial victories and was shot down twice. He went on to achieve the rank of Major General, the highest military rank achieved by any of the original Flying Tigers.

 

Each print is signed by members of the American Volunteer Group Flying Tigers. The print signing took most of three days before the official beginning of the Flying Tiger's 50th reunion at the Embassy Suites Hotel in Scottsdale, Arizona, 1993. Not all prints received the same number of signatures due to the late arrival of some signators.

“Typical A.V.G. Odds” Signatories

 

Charlie Bond | Ace, Vice squadron leader 1st squadron

Major General, USAF, Ret.
 

Dick Rossi | Ace, Flight leader, founder of Flying Tigers Air Freight
 

Bob Layher | Flight leader

 

Peter Wright | Flight leader
 

“Twisty” Bent | Clerk Operations
 

“Bus” Keeton |Flight leader
 

Charlie Mott | Flight leader, first American
serviceman captured by the Japanese

 

Bill Towery | Mess Supervisor
 

“Rode” Rodewald | Armorer (recipient of the Chennault Trophy) first paraplegic to fly around the world solo

 

Chuck Engle | Crew chief

 

Rich Richardson | Communications specialist
 

Robert J. “Catfish” Raines | Flight leader
 

Joe Poshefko | Armorer
 

P.J. Greene | Flight leader
 

Chuck Older | Ace, Flight leader (who also tried Charlie Manson court case)
 

“Burma” Bob Locke | Propeller specialist
 

David Lee “Tex” Hill | Ace, Squadron leader 2nd squadron
 

Robert M. Smith | Communications

 

Ed Stiles | Crew chief

 

Carl Brown | Flight leader

 

 Joe Rosbert  | Ace, Flight leader

 

Paul Clothier | Clerk Operations

 

Harvey C. Wirta | Armorer

 

Francis R. Doran | Administration Clerk

 

Terry Pyles | Artist (Not A.V.G. member)

© 2018-20 Terry Pyles Art
 

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