100 Fair

100 Fair Pilots: The Men Who Became the Flying Tigers

In the summer and fall of 1941, recruiters from the Central Aircraft Manufacturing Company toured American military bases, hiring Army, Navy, and Marine Corps pilots to fly for China. Most of them would fly the Curtiss P-40 Tomahawk in the combat squadrons of the American Volunteer Group. ("Boy," wrote Claire Chennault early in the Sino-Japanese War, "if the the Chinese only had 100 good pursuit planes and 100 fair pilots, they'd exterminate the Jap air force!" He was now trying to make good on that prediction.) The recruiters also hired 10 flight instructors, as check pilots for fledgling Chinese aviators. In December, after Japanese bombs crippled the U.S. Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor, these men would win immortality as the Flying Tigers, arguably the most famous American combat unit of all time — though they civilians in the employ of a foreign air force!

For thirty years, Daniel Ford has researched the history of the American Volunter Group, a challenge made easier with the introduction of the world-wide web. Now he has compiled all he learned about those "100 fair pilots" and the flight instructors recruited at the same time, many of whom joined the combat squadrons in the spring of 1942. About 70 pilots would actually qualify as "Flying Tigers," as we understand the name. In addition to the officer who wasn't allowed to sail with them to Burma, several quit soon after they began training at a disused Royal Air Force base north of Rangoon. Three died in training accidents, and others just couldn't cope with the P-40 or lost their nerve at the thought of flying against a hot new Japanese fighter that Chennault had seen in China — the Mitsubishi Zero.

The survivors of the training regimen would be credited with destroying 296 Japanese warplanes, 230 of them in air-to-air combat. In the end, 67 men received combat bonuses ranging from $135 to $7,775. And 16 qualified as aces, credited with shooting down five or more enemy aircraft in air-to-air combat.

Fighter ace or slacker, each of those 110 recruits has a short biography in this book. With photographs, an introduction, notes, and a look at combat claims as opposed to combat reality. Available as a $3.99 e-book for the Amazon Kindle and other digital reading devices and apps. This book is included in the boxed set, Tales of the Flying Tigers.

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The author

As a novelist, Daniel Ford is best known for Incident at Muc Wa and the acclaimed Vietnam film Go Tell the Spartans that was based on it. This and two other novels were published by Doubleday & Co. and are still in print.

As a military historian, he won the 1992 Award of Excellence from the Aviation-Space Writers Association for Flying Tigers: Claire Chennault and the American Volunteer Group, published by Smithsonian Institution Press and now available in a revised and updated edition from HarperCollins. "War history as it should be written!" exclaimed the reviewer for the Naval aviation journal The Hook.

In recent years, under the imprint of Warbird Books, Ford has published many shorter books in digital format, most of them dealing with military and aviation subjects.

Flying Tigers

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Posted December 2021. Websites ©1997-2021 Copyright Daniel Ford; all rights reserved.