Seventy-five years after they died, three Flying Tiger pilots have come home -- or more accurately, they've been home since 1947, only nobody seemed to know about it. From left to right, they are John Armstrong, killed September 8, 1941; Maax Hammer, killed September 22; and Peter Atkinson, killed October 25. Each was on a training flight in a Curtiss Tomahawk, similar to the US Army P-40B. They were buried at St. Luke's anglican church in Toungoo. Unknown to their families, the remains were exhumed after the war, taken to India, then reburied at the Punchbowl Cemetery on Oahu, Hawaii. And there they have rested ever since, while the next generation of relatives tried to find out what happened to them. Only last summer were the graves were dug up and the remains removed to the US military lab in Hawaii for DNA testing. Finally, a week or so ago, the word came back: Armstrong, Hammer, and Atkinson have all been positively identified.
These portraits by Raymond Nielson were commissioned in 1945 by Bill Pawley, head of the company that had fed and housed the AVG in Burma. Pawley sponsored an exhibit and a 75-page booklet entitled Americans Valiant and Glorious, celebrating the 27 Tiger fatalities. He was trying to ingratiate himself with Chennault and the veterans' group; it didn't work, but Mr Nielson's paintings survived and are now on display at the Museum of Aviation at Warner-Robbins Air Force Base in Georgia.
Even when he wasn't behind the camera, R.T. Smith of the AVG 3rd Squadron took great photos. His son Brad has preserved (and in many cases cleaned up) the 35 mm images that R.T. took during his year with the AVG, both color and monochrome. In December, the city of Kunming mounted an exhibition to honor the Tigers, 75 years after their first combat, when they turned back a formation of Kawasaki medium bombers. They were credited with destroying four of the ten-plane formation, and the Japanese army air force never again returned to Kunming -- a story told in First Blood for the Flying Tigers. Blue skies! — Daniel Ford
Question? Comment? Newsletter? Send me an email. Blue skies! — Daniel Ford
Posted January 7, 2017. Websites © 1997-2017 Daniel Ford; all rights reserved.