Note: If you are or know someone who is a Flying Tiger from WW II (AVG or 14th AAF) and would like to experience the special honor and esteem in which you are still held by the Chinese, as has been enjoyed by other Flying Tigers on our VIP Aviators’ Tour these past three years, please call us at (866) 669-2288.
So many wonderful memories and photos to add to each year below, so little time! We have had the extreme honor of escorting several Flying Tigers and/or those from the CBI from WW II each year and need to add their stories, etc., when time finally permits - perhaps by late spring of 2009?
FLYING TIGERS - 2008 Tour
[Watch this space for the addition of photos and stories from our now completed 2008 tour. Suffice it to say that it was another phenomenal experience for all.]
FLYING TIGERS - 2007 Tour
[Watch this space for the addition of photos and stories from our now completed 2007 tour. Suffice it to say that it was another phenomenal experience for all.]
FLYING TIGERS - 2006 Tour
[Watch this space for the addition of photos and stories from our now completed 2006 tour. Suffice it to say that it was another phenomenal experience for all.]
FLYING TIGERS - 2005 Tour
528th & 529th Fighter Squadrons
Our Flying Tigers and their wives, plus Larry and I, made a little history this year when we were invited into the pits at the Terra Cotta Soldiers Museum in Xi'an in honor of 2005 being the year in which we celebrate the 60th anniversary of the end of WW II. Only 37 dignitaries from around the world have ever had this honor prior to the six of us - and that included only two Americans before us ... former Presidents Bush and Clinton. We have joined very rare company indeed. Larry was so excited that he bought two life-sized replicas afterwards from the museum store which were shipped home and recently arrived to guard both our house and guest house (aka, "the Hangar House"). Here you see Larry and me on the left followed by Mary and Mark McDonnell (528th FS) and Jean and Paul Crawford (529th FS). This photo was taken by a member of the press from the museum and E-mailed to me along with the following two. The photo on the left, below, shows Mark and Paul sizing up these "old warriors" and then deciding to salute them, soldier to soldier, in the photo on the right. That second photo appeared on the front page of newspapers all over China.
Both Paul and Mark brought along wonderful items to share with all of us as they told us their stories. Mark was shot down and had quite a tale to tell about his rescue and return to his unit. During the war, both the Chinese Nationalists under Chiang Kai Chek and the Chinese guerillas under Mao Tse Tung were united to fight against the invading Japanese. Our fliers could depend on help from either group if they were shot down and were able to successfully bail out. The people in the villages would also offer amazing help and tremendous sacrifice to aid our boys.
2005 tour to this page soon.]
Below is a photo of the P40, the first aircraft we used in China - first by the AVG (American Volunteer Group), known as the original Flying Tigers, and then by the first of the 14th AAF (Army Air Force) to arrive to replace them after war was declared by the US and they were trained enough to be sent over (beginning in the spring of 1942). Even though the original Flying Tigers are truly from the AVG group, both China and the US Government labeled ALL pilots who flew in China during WW II as Flying Tigers ("Fei Hu") - a name reportedly given the AVG first by Madame Chiang Kai Chek.
Scenes from the Old Yangtang Airport near Guilin
Above left - the almost hidden entrance to the large cave used as headquarters by General Claire Chennault who commanded both the AVG and the 14th AAF and was revered by his men. The photo on the right shows a carved stone tablet which states "The site of the command post of the Flying Tigers of the 14th Air Force US Army" and gives the date range of Dec. 1943 to Sep. 1944. I bring along a number of DVD's to play while we cruise up the Yangtze River, one of which shows this field being created out of a rice paddy, stone by stone, by 90,000 local peasants including old women and young children.
Above left is Karl Bennett, NW Captain from the 2004 tour, standing on the rock that Chennault stood on to watch his boys in battle overhead. You, too, can stand on this rock. The middle photo shows the inscription created by Claire Chennault's widow which says, "The rock on which Gen. Chennault stood to watch air combats." Each tour member receives a hand rubbing of this inscription at the VIP banquet in Guilin from the Vice Mayor in attendance. The last photo above shows the peasant who spoke to us through an interpreter in 2004 about his memories of helping to create the airfield and aiding the crew stationed there. We had several appear in 2005 along with a TV crew and news media who conducted interviews and filmed from within the cave interior.
Below is a photo of Jim Dumas taken in July 2005 before we launched on a flight over Yosemite and the High Sierras with his lovely wife Lorene. Incidentally, he hasn't lost his touch on the controls of an airplane! I show you his photo because Jim is a Flying Tiger living in Calif. who almost went with us this year (and may try next year? - up to his doctor). He has the distinction of being the first pilot from the 14th AAF to set foot on Chinese soil as he reported for duty for the 23rd Fighter Group. As he tells it, he was the first one to step off the C47 when it landed in China! He also has written a fabulous book by himself (no ghost writer, etc.) that my husband and I absolutely loved reading called "Longburst and the Flying Tigers." In his book he tells you how he got the nickname "Longburst" and it occurred right above that field and cave outside Guilin that we visit with special government permission. He also has the distinction of having flown wingman for Tex Hill, probably the most famous Flying Tiger of all. Tex is still living and thriving in Texas, of course, and still has his remarkable stick skills honed, as was proven in a mock aerial battle last fall. He, too, wanted to see the country that the Flying Tigers helped to save as he has never returned to China since the war ended, but his doctor had stronger advice than even Jim received. After all, these guys aren't 20 any longer!
To order your own copy of Jim Dumas' wonderfully written autobiography, "Longburst and the Flying Tigers," mail a check for $23.85 ($20 + $3.85 for US Post Office Priority Mailing) made out to Jim Dumas, Sr. and mail it to him at 373 Circle Dr., Chowchilla, CA 93610. He'll even autograph it for you if you ask! You can view a photo of the book cover on the "Special Information" page on this website.
528th Fighter Squadron
The 528th Fighter Squadron flew more missions than any other fighter unit in China – a total of 7,036! They received 126 Air Combat Medals, 73 Distinguished Flying Crosses, 2 Silver Stars, 14 Purple Hearts, 2 Bronze Stars, and 8 Soldier Medals. They dropped over 1,527 tons of bombs and expended over 2.5 million rounds of ammunition. See the end of this page for great news about this remarkable squadron finally being awarded a Presidential Unit Citation - 60 years after all these accomplishments.
These are our four Flying Tigers who honored us with their presence in 2004 and showered us with marvelous stories of their experiences in China flying P51's against the Japanese. From left to right are Joe Walters, John ("David") Thompson, Bill Creech, and Hank Snow. Joe could brag he was the only one among the four here who was not shot down. David was shot down near the end of the war, rescued by the peasants in a nearby town, but later fell into the hands of a Chinese War Lord. Bill was shot down twice and became an expert on walking a long way out of a jungle alone and an expert on leeches - his only company on each solo journey. Hank was shot down but picked up by "friendlies" right away and returned to his unit. These four fellows had story after story and we never could get enough! It was the same in 2005 with Mark McDonnell and Paul Crawford.
Each day we invited one bus group into the Presidential Suite aboard ship to meet with the Flying Tigers and hear their stories in a more personal setting. The photo on the left, above, shows some of our national guides posing with our "celebrities" after such a session. The photo on the right, above, shows Karl Bennett (NW Airlines Captain) giving background about the 528th Fighter Squadron. Karl was responsible for bringing the Flying Tigers to our tour. A cousin of Karl's, John Disney, had flown with the 528th and volunteered to stay on beyond his required 100 missions. He was shot down and killed on his 165th mission but his burial place in China has not yet been found. Another member of the 528th, David Sloan, was also shot down and killed just before the end of the war. One of his sisters, Catherine Sloan, was on the 2004 tour. Another sister, Diana Soward (and her husband Neil) came with us in 2005. David's remains were returned to the USA but only recently was his final burial place found due to a lot of effort on the part of Karl Bennett. We were also honored by the presence of Evelyn Sizemore and her daughter. Evelyn's husband was flying the hump and she was living with their children in China where she had learned the language and customs and grown very fond of the Chinese. She had to escape in great haste with the children very shortly after giving birth to a new child as the Japanese invaded their area. The people, the stories, the country old and new ... we all come home enriched.
The above photos show the kind of welcome that greeted us both inside and outside all the hotels and the cruise ship throughout the 2004 tour. The 2005 tour was the same but I don't have the photos from that yet. In Shijiazhuang (4 hours SW of Beijing) we were surprised by a band playing to greet us outside our hotel on arrival, along with a horde of TV and news media. Over 300 policemen blocked the roads for our buses to move easily about during our stay there. While we loved Shijiazhuang and all it offered, we have eliminated it from the 2006 tour because of the tiring 4 hour bus ride each way. This allows us to shorten our tour from 19 days to 17 days, also.
Above is a group photo from the VIP banquet in Chongqing showing three local dignitaries including the vice mayor and our four Flying Tigers - John ("David") Thompson, Joe Walters, Bill Creech, and Hank Snow. Also in the line-up are Larry Jobe, Karl Bennett, and K. C. Ma.
The above photo is from the Gen. "Vinegar Joe" Stilwell
Museum in Chongqing and shows the island airfield in the
middle of the Yangtze River used by the Flying Tigers. Below
is a photo taken outside the Stilwell Museum. There is also
a new Flying Tigers art gallery across from the museum that
includes more memorabilia.
In Shijiazhuang (SW of Beijing) we were able to examine China's first general aviation aircraft, the "Little Eagle 500" and even climb inside for a chance to get a feel for the space and comfort as well as a good look at the proposed panel. This turned out to be a big media event as we were the first Americans to have this opportunity. Two prototypes were brought to the company hangar and, once again, TV and newspaper folks were everywhere. A head table was set up for an official presentation and our Flying Tigers (and Larry Jobe and KC Ma) were seated there as VIP's. This aircraft just received certification while we were in Xi'an this March, so we missed seeing it in Shijiazhuang.
Each year, we also visit the largest aviation museum in all of Asia, located outside of Beijing. Special officials and dignitaries greet us and there is a ceremony with gift exchange followed by a docent led tour. The inside of the museum is actually built inside a mountain and is very large. The collection is quite extensive and well presented. The tour continues outside where another large number of aircraft sit on display. Our Flying Tigers got a chauffeured transport! A United Airlines DC10 once flown by Larry Jobe and later donated to Orbis, the flying eye hospital, is also on display there following its retirement and replacement by a newer model.
The last photo above was everyone's favorite photo op at the museum - having our four Flying Tigers pose beside a P51 Mustang similar to the type they flew in WW II while based in China. And that's a good note on which to end the Flying Tigers' page!
BIG NEWS!!!!!!! - It took nearly 60 years, but the 528th Fighter Squadron has FINALLY been granted a Presidential Unit Citation for their extraordinary record during WW II! There are many people to thank for their enormous effort on behalf of the 528th and I will be posting their names here soon. I know Bill Creech's daughters were keenly involved (Bill has published a book I will be featuring on the Special Extras page soon!) and I also suspect Col. Mike Cosby, an F16 pilot who was also on the 2004 tour with us and now serves in Iraq, had a lot to do with helping to spearhead this very overdue honor. Many on the tour also wrote to their Congressmen/women asking for support and we should learn which ones actually responded with help so we can thank them. The citation was presented to the members of the 528th present at their annual reunion in Seattle in early October of 2005. I was fortunate to join Stan and Sue Crawford from the 2004 tour to be there to witness this well-deserved and long-overdue honor.
This page last updated December 11, 2008
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