Most of Dan Ford's books are available in digital editions; click
 here for more

HOME > TIGERS > RECRUTING

Recruiting the AVG

Procurement of Personnel for China

DEPARTMENT OF THE NAVY
Office of the Secretary
Washington

CONFIDENTIAL                                                      February 1, 1941

SUBJECT: Procurement of Personnel for China

        1. Mr. Pawley and Colonel Chennault called today and informed me that an agreement had been reached between Curtiss, Inter-Continent and the Chinese for the servicing of 100 P-40's for China. It is also agreed that Inter-Continent will handle the procurement of American personnel.

        2. Personnel requirements are:

                100 pilots
                150 enlisted ground crew.

        They emphasized the need for experienced personnel and the only feasible solution appears to be Reserve officers and enlisted men. They are ready to send [their?] people, Pawley, Leighton and Chennault, at once to the Air Stations, both Army and Navy, to find volunteers. They realize the necessity for keeping things quiet and will take due precautions.

        3. The following will be required:

                 (a) Approval by War and Navy Departments of resignations of Reserve personnel without detriment to their future status in the service, in order to accept employment with the Central Aircraft Corporation.

        Note: BuNav is ready to do this, but it will have to be taken up with the Army, and I understand that General Arnold has not yet been informed by Secretary Stimson. I suggest that you personally take this up with Secretary Stimson, and also with Admiral Towers, who is not very enthusiastic about the idea, I believe.

                 (b) Deferment of draft through Mr. [illegible], inasmuch as these people will all be subject to draft as soon as released from Reserve status.

                 (c) Passports to be cleared by State Department, the applicants requesting passports to China for employment with Central Aircraft Corporation.

        Note: I have taken this up with the State Department and they are willing to issue the passports to individuals as bona fide employees of Central Aircraft.

                 (d) Pawley, Leighton and Chennault should have letters from someone in the War and Navy Departments, either the Secretarys or Chiefs of Personnel, authorizing them to visit the various Air Stations.

                 (e) It was pointed out to me that this considerable organization would hardly be worth sounding out and estabishing unless there were an excellent prospect for further rlease of planes to carry on the work. They will have to start more or less from scratch in [illegible] and work their way in against probable opposition.

/s/ [illegible]

Introducing the recruiters

April 14, 1941

MEMORANDUM FOR Command Officer, Naval Air Station, Jacksonville

        1. This letter introduces Mr. C. L. Chennault, who has the permission of the Navy Department to visit your station.

        2. He will explain the purpose of his visit.

FRANK K. BEATTY
Captain, U.S. Navy
Aide to the Secretary

[Identical letters went to the Navy Air Stations at Opa Locka and Pensacola, Norfolk, and San Diego. Capt. Beatty used the same phrasing in letters introducing Rutledge Irvine of CAMCO to the air stations at Norfolk, Pensacola, Opa Locka, and Jacksonville, and Corpus Christi, and to the Marine Barracks at Quantico. Perhaps because of resistance to these early visits, he was more emphatic when it came to Pearl Harbor:]

August 4, 1941

MEMORANDUM FOR Captain James M. Shoemaker, USN, Commanding Officer, U.S. Naval Air Station, Pearl Harbor, Hawaii

        1. This letter introduces Lt. C. B. Adair, who has the permission of the Navy Department to visit your station. He will explain the purpose of his visit.

        2. It has been the policy of our Government for some time to facilitate the hiring by the Chinese Government of pilots and mechanics from our Services. The above-mentioned officer is a representative of the Intercontinent Company, which company is doing the hiring for the Chinese Government. The cooperation of the Commanding Officer is requested in permitting this representativde to interview pilots on your Station, to see if they are interested in being hired by the Intercontinent Company for service in China.

FRANK K. BEATTY
Captain, U.S. Navy
Aide to the Secretary
(By direction)

Memo for Admiral Nimitz

Navy Department
BUREAU OF NAVIGATION
Washington, D.C.

August 7, 1941

SECRET

Memorandum for Admiral Nimitz

Subject: Releases of naval personnel to accept employment in China with the Central Aircraft Manufacturing Company.

The following is a general statement of my knowledge of the subject of this memorandum.

1. About three months ago [early May?] Captain Shafroth, then Director of Naval Reserve, told me for advance information that there was a possibility of our being required to release from active duty a considerable number of officers and enlisted personnel for the purpose of accepting employment in China with the Central Aircraft Manufacturing Company....

2. About two months ago [early June?] I was called in to a conference to discuss this subject, at which the following officers were present, so far as I can recall: Captain Bidwell, Captain Shafroth, Captain Briggs, Captain Good and myself; also Mr. Bruce Leighton and Captain Aldworth, U.S.A. Air Corps, Ret., the latter two being representatives of C.A.M.C.O. It was indicated that the plan to release personnel for the purpose indicated had been approved by the Secretary of the Navy. My distinct impression was that the Secretary in turn had received his instructions from the President. A general discussion ensued as to the circumstances under which the individuals released might resume their naval status upon completion of such service. It was determined that all naval personnel, Regular and Naval Reserve, who were accepted for such employment must first be discharged from the Navy so that they would have no connection whatever with the armed forces of the United States.

3. It was agreed tht reserve officers who resigned might later apply for reappointment in the same rank as at the time of separation. At the direction of the Department, they might even be reappointed at a higher rank, or be required to serve less than the normal period in grade for promotion to the next higher rank. No particular problem appeared in connection with officers of classes other than A-V(N) [reserve aviators]. They would of course lose the retirement benefits in case of disability or death in line of duty, which accrue to personnel on active duty under certain circumstances. In the case of A-V(N) officers they would also lose the bonus which accrues for continuous service under the law.

4. Most of the discussion pertained to status of enlisted men of the Regular Navy of long service.... It was agreed that such personnel could be reenlisted in their former ratings and serve out the remainder of the active duty required to complete 20 years. In other words, their service with C.A.M.C.O. would be time lost but would not prevent their transfer to the Fleet Reserve after a total of 20 years' active naval service. Captain Briggs stated that the Department could legally reenlist such personnel, even though seriously physically disabled by accident or otherwise during the period of their civilian employment.

5. It was agreed that none of the requests would be handled by mail in the usual way, but that in all cases representatives of the C.A.M.C.O or naval officers would act as courier messengers to bring to the Navy Department the requests for release and separation from the Service, and to vouch for their authenticity.

6. It was my understanding that the original quotas of service personnel to be released for this prupose would be 100 officer pilots and 200 skilled aviation enlisted men, distributed approximately one-third to be furnished by the Navy and two-thirds by the Army. Up to this date, the Navy has released 23 A-V(N) officers for this purpose, and no Regular Navy officers. It is unde4rstood that the Marine Corps has released 3 marine reserve aviators. I do not know how many enlisted men have been released by the Navy or Naval Reserve.

7. I have at no time seen anything in writing regarding this program.

8. It is my understanding from Captain Beatty that there is a strong likelihood that the number of pilots and enlisted men directed to be released at their own requests for this purpose may be increased three or fourfold.

Respectfully,
J. B. Lynch
Commander, U.S.N.R.

Question? Comment? Newsletter? Send me an email. Blue skies! -- Dan Ford