In the twelve months centered around the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, a diverse group of American and British flyers fought one of the most remarkable air campaigns of WWII. Pilots including Claire Chennault, "Pappy" Boyington, and Art Donahue bought time for an Allied regrouping against Japan's relentless assault in the China-Burma-India theater. In the face of the 1941 bombings, Chiang Kai-shek turned to air power to survive, which he did thanks to Chennault's rebuilding of the Chinese Air Force and the leadership of the American Volunteer Group, or AVG.
Formed by Chennault, the AVG, also known as the Flying Tigers, were contract employees working for the Chinese government. As a result, they received virtually no official American recognition for their efforts. The group was known for their romantic, reckless spirit. They performed remarkably with outdated planes and equipment in ill-repair, were almost always heavily outnumbered in battle, and were seen by outsiders as hard-drinking rebels.
Whatever their image, the Flying Tigers were highly effective. In the words of Air Force Major General Charlie Bond, "During that first week of action the AVG destroyed fifty-five enemy bombers and fighters while losing only five Tomahawks. Unfortunately, two of our colleagues were killed, but at the same time two hundred enemy airmen were either killed or captured. We were shattering the myth that the Japanese Air Force was invincible."
Jerome Klinkowitz, whose earlier books focused on flyers' attitudes toward the air war in Britain and Europe, continues his work with an exceptionally interesting group of Pacific warriors. He brings together not only the commanders' stories but the often more colorful—and sometimes more accurate—accounts of life and battle by the men who flew these planes and the women who participated on the ground.