Some AVG 'veterans' in Kunming[Kindness of Scott Nix, here's an album of Tomahawks at Kunming in 1943 or thereabouts, the property of the U.S. Army 23rd Pursuit Group. The commentary is Scott's. -- Dan Ford]
These photos are from the recently discovered collection of one Capt. Charles Clyde "C.C." Bunch of Amarillo Texas. (Also the home of John Edward Blackburn III, AVG 1st pursuit, killed 28 Apr 1942) Capt. Bunch passed away in the seventies, leaving these photos in an airtight box. I obtained the box from a friend of his niece. She was going to throw them away!
I am unable to find any info on Capt. Bunch, but from the photos I surmise that he was a transport pilot, supplying the 23rd and other groups. There are approximately 300 photos in the box, all in mint condition. They seem to chronicle operations in the C.B.I. from the AVG to about 1944. Some of the AVG photos are original prints while others have the look of mass produced prints. (Probably sold in the 23rd's PX.) Most or all are of the 23rd FG. The niece swears he was a fighter pilot with the original Flying Tigers, because she had heard this all her life.(sigh) And still, she was going to throw the photos away.(double sigh)
The first is a photo of Lt. Robert E. Turner's P-40 of the 74th FS. Apparently this a/c had originally been flown by Ed Liebolt of the 1st pursuit, AVG. Obviously not the one he went MIA in. At some point before disbandment it must have been transferred to 3rd pursuit.(I can find no evidence that squadron emblems were painted on later 23rd F.G. a/c, but they obviously didn't paint over the old ones.) What I find fascinating about this photo is imagining the thoughts of Lt. Turner on being assigned this a/c. Pilots being a superstitious bunch, I picture him in a quandry. "Do I leave the dead guy's name on my ship, or do I take it off? "Which is the worst luck?" I don't know the fate Lt. Turner but I hope he made the right choice!
More recently, email from Lt. Turner's son shed more light on this plane, which is actually named "Brat II" after Turner's wife. As to whether he made the right choice, his son writes: "He did; he made it back from China safely." Robert Turner II sent the above photo of his dad in the cockpit of his Tomahawk, again clearly showing Leibolt's name.
Scott Nix continues: Here is another interesting shot of an AVG P-40-* in service with the 23rd. Lt. W.R. Ladd's ship. This is no. P-8192 possibly P-8193. This would put it in the third allotment of original a/c. Clearly seen in the data block is "U.S. Army P-40B". I don't offer this as "proof" they were "B"s. Its' easy to make a stencil say anything. I include this photo only because I've never seen a data block on an original AVG P-40.
I'm attaching another .jpg of a most politically incorrect AVG "veteran" resting on her laurels. At least I hope shes' resting. Certainly looks as though she deserves one. Nice shot of a Kunming hangar too.