About those AVG victory creditsAVG pilots were paid $500 for each Japanese plane they destroyed--a substantial sum, equivalent to perhaps $10,000 in our much-depreciated greenbacks. Unlike the practice in most air forces, a plane burned on the ground was given the same weight as one shot down in aerial combat. The record was further muddled by that face that pilots sometimes shared bonus payments among everyone taking part in a mission. (This was especially likely to happen when a pilot was lost.)
In 1986, aviation enthusiast Frank Olynyk worked through the AVG records, tossing out claims against aircraft on the ground and restoring air-to-air credits to the pilots who actually scored the kills, as shown by their combat reports and other documents. I have not checked his work, but it looks looks good to me, and I have used it in my profiles of the 15 AVG aces and in the table that appears below.
CAMCO credits vs. air-to-air killsHere are the 67 Flying Tigers who received bonus payments from CAMCO, followed by each man's victories as customarily shown, then by his air-to-air victories as calculated by Dr. Olynyk from the AVG files in the Chennault Papers at Stanford.
|Pilot||bonus account |
|J. Gilpin Bright||6.00||3.00|
|David Lee Hill||11.25||10.25|
|C. H. Laughlin||5.20||2.20|
|C. Joseph Rosbert||4.55||6.00|
|J. Richard Rossi||6.29||6.00|
|Robert H. Smith||5.50||5.00|
|Robert T. Smith||8.73||8.90|
Altogether, 67 Flying Tigers received bonus payments. Of this number, 60 were credited with destroying one or more Japanese aircraft in aerial combat, and 18 were aces in the traditional sense: i.e., credited with five or more air-to-air kills. This is not to say that the "kills" actually took place: fighter pilots in all air forces claimed many more planes than they actually shot down. The AVG verification system was occasionally excellent (especially in small combats over Chinese-occupied territory) and often sloppy (especially in furballs over Burma). The February 25-26 combats in Rangoon and the "Emperor's birthday" battle on April 28 resulted in especially generous claims.
In a few cases, I was able to confirm or refute a specific claim. More often, it was impossible to match Japanese losses with AVG claims. This doesn't necessarily mean the claim wasn't valid, only that several Flying Tigers (and possibly some British Commonwealth pilots or even ack-ack) were shooting at the same aircraft.