My father is an Army Air Corps veteran, so I was very happy to see the terrific article, “A Physicist with the Air Force in World War II,” by Alex E. S. Green, in the August 2001 issue of Physics Today ( Physics Today 0031-9228 54
The American Volunteer Group (AVG) 1 was created on 15 April 1941 by President Franklin Roosevelt in response to Colonel Claire L. Chennault’s conclusion that Chinese Air Force pilots could not be trained in modern air-combat methods in time to prevent a Japanese thrust through western China and into Burma. The pilots and support personnel who joined the AVG arrived in Burma in September 1941. Due to the time that it took Chennault to train the pilots in his innovative combat techniques, the AVG did not actually enter into the fray until 20 December 1941, when they decimated a group of enemy bombers, preventing them from striking Kunming, China.
During the subsequent six months, the AVG established its legendary combat record, and received the “Flying Tigers” nickname from a grateful Chinese populace. The AVG, which was actually part of the Chinese Air Force, was dissolved on 4 July 1942 and replaced by the China Air Task Force (CATF), commanded by Chennault, under the control of the US Army’s 10th Air Force. Just before the CATF’s creation, many of the original AVG pilots left following a seniority dispute with the army.
On 9 March 1943, the CATF was dissolved, and the next day, the 14th Air Force was formed, and flew until it was disbanded in December 1945. The CATF and the 14th Air Force were also referred to as the “Flying Tigers,” indicative of their heritage. Thus, when Green’s plane landed at Xian (also Sian or Hsian) 1,2 in 1945, the airfield was not used by the famed AVG, but by their equally famous 14th Air Force successors.
My father, Lawrence C. Troha, who served with the 69th Depot Repair Squadron, 301st Air Depot Group, 14th Air Force, in Kunming, supplied me with the historical references.