Looking Back From Ninety


China gives the Flying Tigers a new mission

I long ago realized that the Flying Tigers are better known in China than in the U.S., and I concluded that the People's Republic was using Claire Chennault, the American Volunteer Group, and the US Army squadrons that followed it as propaganda to bring the United States around to its way of thinking. But November was something else entirely. First up was the government's "Edgar Snow Newsroom". (Mr Snow was one of communism's "useful idiots" in the 1930s, an American who whitewashed Mao Zedong and the People's Liberation Army: "Chinese communism," he wrote, "... might more accurately be called rural egalitarnianism". Similarly, in Moscow, Walter Duranty whitewashed Stalin's Russia as bureau chief for the New York Times.)

The "newsroom" anchor is Ian Goodrum, a Texan who joined the Communist Party USA (yes, it still exists, though a shadow of its former self) in 2016 and soon got a job in China. On the air, he's very effective and not nearly as shrill as in his written work. On his Veteran's Day broadcast, he made the usual switch of ignoring the Nationalist regime of Chiang Kai-shek, as if Claire Chennault had come to China on behalf of the People's Liberation Army. The Old Man of course was anti-communist to the bone, famously writing of his first meeting with Chiang's wife, Soong Mei-Ling: "Granted an interview by Her Excellency ... who will hereafter be 'The Princess' to me." He was as good as his word: during the Chinese Civil War, his paramilitary airline supported the Chiangs, and he fled with them to Taiwan in 1949.

You can see the interview here -- and how reasonable it is! We meet Bill Peterson, a B-24 gunner in the 14th Air Force, who happily agrees that we must restore American and Chinese relations to what they were in the good old days of the Second World War. Next up is Chennault's granddaughter, Nell Callloway, president of the Chennault Aviation Museum in Monroe, Louisiana. And finally there's Larry Jobe of the Flying Tigers Historical Organization, like the others pleading for Americans to understand and love China.

There was a reprise a few days later, following the virtual summit between Joe Biden and Xi Jinping. The US media loved this bit of propaganda, which again featured Mr Peterson, the B-24 gunner, but reinforced this time by Cynthia Chennault, the Old Man's daughter from his late-life marriage to the formidable (and fiercely anti-communist) Anna Chan. Professor Chennault (she's retired from teaching Chinese history at the University of Florida) hoped that "Americans and Chinese will not be blocked by past failures, but together open new paths of collaboration for the world's well-being." And who can argue with that? The Associated Press story ran in full on the Washington Post and many other newspapers, and even Fox News fell for it.

While these perfumed breezes waft from Beijing, Xi Jinping of course continues to militarize his artifical islands in the South China Sea, weaponize his hypersonic missile, steal Western technology, and annoint himself China's leader-for-life with the goal of replacing the United States as the world's greatest military power and model for how other countries should govern themselves. I do not believe that Mr Peterson, Mr Jobe, Ms Calloway, and Prof Chennault will be very happy with how that turns out.

Other good stuff for December

The invaluable Richard Dunn recalls an incident when avgas was mistakenly added to Air Force fuel trucks that were earlier loaded with jet fuel. He advances that as a possible explanation for the calamitous crash of three Curtis Demon interceptors on December 23, 1941. See the Annals of the Flying Tigers for more about that.

Never judge a book by its author! I read Fire and Fortitude, the first book in James McManus's history of the US Army in the Pacific War. I didn't care for it, because he kept sniping at men of the 1940s for their racism, as if he would be so admirably woke if he had grown up in the 1920s and 1930s. Worse, he scoffed at the men on the Bataan Peninsula because they smoked cigarettes -- men who had no future but death or a savage captivity. So I was ready to pass on Mr McManus's second volume, only to have Random House send me a copy without my asking for it. And it's brilliant! Really, it's one of the great combat histories of the Second World War: Island Infernos: The US Army's Pacific War Odyssey, 1944. Also reviewed this month: Watching Darkness Fall: FDR, His Ambassadors, and the Rise of Adolf Hitler by David McKean. More about these books in the Warbird's Book Club.

I'm awfully grateful to those who ordered copies of Looking Back From Ninety: The Depression, the War, and the Good Life That Followed. I hope you enjoyed it, and if you did, kindly leave a review on Amazon or wherever else you bought it. Thank you, and Merry Christmas! — Daniel Ford

Welcome to the forum!

Here are a thousand or so files on airplanes, pilots, and the wars of the past hundred years, grouped under these headings:

Annals of the Flying Tigers
Annals of the Brewster Buffalo
Annals of Poland: war and exile, 1939-1948
Japan at War, 1931-1945
Annals of the Chinese Air Force
Glen Edwards and the Flying Wing
Remembering Bluie West One
Annals of Vietnam
War in the Modern World

Plus these excellent places to look for more:
The Warbird's Book Club
Daniel Ford’s books
The Piper Cub Forum

Flying Tigers
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