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BOOKS > FLYING TIGERS > REVIEWS

'War history as it should be written'

Flying Tigers: Claire Chennault and the American Volunteer Group was published by Smithsonian Institution Press in 1991. The book won the Aviation/Space Writers Association Award of Excellence and was a main selection of the Military Book Club and the Aviators' Guild. "War history as it should be written," wrote the reviewer for The Hook, magazine of naval aviation. Here's what readers are saying about the new HarperCollins edition:

Well-researched

"Having been a fan of the Flying Tigers since I saw the John Wayne movie as a kid, I picked up this updated version of their impressive combat history. One of the most interesting aspects of Ford's well-researched book is its in-depth coverage of 1st American Volunteer Group (AVG) personnel, an odd lot of rugged individualists." Col Gordon Keiser in the Proceedings of the U.S. Naval Institute, February 2010.

Skillfully reconstructed

"Ford tells the story of a significant Allied operation at a perilous time during World War II. He skillfully reconstructs vivid pictures of events from the statements of participants recorded immediately after the actions. Many photos and accounts of living conditions and significant events that involved the AVG recreate places and scenes the men (and a few women) experienced, including weddings." -- Jiu-Hwa Lo Upshur in the Michigan War Studies Review, February 2009

Vivid and fact-filled

""In this vivid and fact-filled historical account of aerial combat, Daniel Ford completely updates and revises his 1991 work describing the extraordinary accomplishments of the pilots and support crews of the 1st American Volunteer Group (AVG) in the earliest days of World War II.... The author's depictions of air combat are especially gripping, often describing individual pilots flying for both sides, while providing ample technical information on the types of aircraft in the engagements....

"While correcting some errors and omissions, Ford stands his ground on the most controversial viewpoint expressed in his 1991 edition--that the Flying Tigers' claimed official record of 296 combat victories (including aircraft destroyed on the ground) was greater than what they actually achieved....

"Ford's book, then, is not a glorification of the Flying Tigers, but its meticulous examination of their genuine and courageous achievements pays them greater homage than the numbers would, however tallied. Ford closes his book with these words: 'More than sixty years ago, in their incandescent youth, they were heroes to a nation that needed heroes.... All honor to them.' Indeed, and acclaim to Daniel Ford for his thorough telling of an eventful war in the air, one that should be remembered" -- William Calhoun in Naval War College Review, Summer 2008, reprinted here in full

Worth having

"When Daniel Ford's history ... first appeared in 1991, his attempt to reconcile the unit's achievements against existing Japanese records impressed some and appalled others. Flying Tigers veterans ... took any suggestion of a mistaken claim--even in good faith--personally, declaring Ford persona non grata at any future reunions they had. Ford himself maintained that his research was never meant to deconstruct the legendary pilots' achievements, which he believed--even stripped of exaggeration--more than stood on their own merits.

"While the Japanese army records available at the time were far from complete, more information on the enemy's activities and losses have since come to light, and Ford was eager to compare that information with the AVG's log. The result is an updated version of his original book that should amend, at least in part, some of the previous edition's discrepancies. The honest intentions behind Ford's scholarship have also quelled some of the surviving Tigers' fury, a suggestion in itself that the upgraded Flying Tigers is worth having." -- Jon Guttman in Aviation History, July 2008.

A riveting read

"During the dark, early days of World War II, when the Imperial Japanese army, navy, and air force were running roughshod over Asia and the Pacific, it seemed that nothing could stop them. Only a small band of American mercenary fliers based in Burma and known as the Flying Tigers, led by a leather-faced fighter named Claire Chennault, seemed able to challenge and defeat the Japanese.... The exciting story of this legendary fighting force that wore American uniforms but Chinese insignia is told in Daniel Ford's definitive history of the legendary Flying Tigers. Every page contains a new tidbit of information and rich, long-forgotten detail.

"Most importantly, Ford's prose -- and the use of dozens of first-person accounts by the pilots who made up the AVG (American Volunteer Group, known variously among themselves as the Panda Bears, Adam & Eves, and Hell's Angels) -- puts human faces and flesh on a unit that everyone has heard of, but about which very few people know....

"The book is so full of stories of derring do and close calls that it seems like fiction -- a tall tale of brash young men in bygone era -- yet it's all true.... Anyone who loves stories of aviation combat and wants to learn more about the undereported war along the China-Burma border, will love Flying Tigers. A riveting read." -- World War II magazine, November 2007

Unlikely to be surpassed

"Apart from new material, the second edition retains the strengths of the first: honest scholarship and good writing. Ford clearly admires his subjects, but succeeds in telling the human side of the legendary airmen and the ground staff that 'kept 'em flying.' Claire Chennault's faults and foibles lend credence to the overall worth of this fine effort, which is unlikely ever to be surpassed." -- Barrett Tillman on Amazon.com.

An excellent history

"... an excellent history that, in my view, will help to preserve the accomplishments of the AVG for future generations. The book not only tells the story of the AVG, but tells the story in the context of the larger war ... looking at the events in Burma and China in 1941 and 1942 from various perspectives is a valuable exercise and a much richer reading experience than looking at history from only a single perspective (usually the winner's). I also like the way Ford's new book is integrated into his web site ... which provides additional information for those who are interested. I can, without reservation, recommend Dan Ford's Flying Tigers to readers of this forum." -- Brad Smith (son of AVG ace R.T. Smith) on the Flying Tigers Association message board.

A must

"I'm going through an advance release of Dan Ford's revised Flying Tigers.... If you have any interest in the subject and do not have the original (no longer available) this is a must. Even if you have the 1992 version, I recommend the new and revised edition. Amazingly Dan has added new information (from published and unpublished sources) and yet shortened and tightened up the narrative. -- Richard Dunn on the J-Aircraft Message Boards.

Book of the week

"In this second edition of his 'revisionist' history masterpiece, Daniel Ford tightens up the tale, corrects a few errors, and adds dramatic new details. But he does not back down against critics who prefer the legend to the truth. And he does not believe that the truth diminishes the stirring events, but only makes them more human and exciting." -- JDR on SeacoastNH.com.