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Fly Tiger PlaneThe Flying Tigers  - Real aviation unit stationed in China before World War II and the focus of the fictional dramas DING HOWE AND THE FLYING TIGERS/SYN/1950 and two versions of MAJOR DELL CONWAY OF THE FLYING TIGERS/DUM/1951-52/SYN/1953. The first adaptation starred Richard Denning as Chinese born Ding Howe (meaning "Good Friend" in Chinese), a former Flying Tigers pilot who returned to Kusang, China to help General Ching (Victor Sen Yung) defend his people from the terror raids of the Flame Dragons, a group of renegade pilots lead by the evil hill bandit, Hu Fang (Richard Loo). Ding Howe's squadron pilots were Bill Lester as Speed Darrow; Bob Bratt as Sergeant Burdy; and Rob Lee as Wing Lee, the group's mechanic.

The second version showcasing The Flying Tigers starred Eric Fleming (and later Ed Peck) as Major Dell Conway, a former World War II air force pilot who along with his partner Caribou Jones (Louis Van Rooten/Bern Hoffman) lead a double life as pilots for the Los-Angeles-based "Flying Tigers Airline" and investigators for G-2 military intelligence.

A later syndicated version of the "Major Dell Conway" Dumont franchise starred Art Fleming as Major Del Conway, the leader of the Third Pursuit Squadron stationed in China during World War II to battle the invading Japanese forces. Dell's squadron included Sandy Kenyon as Cashbox Potter; Carl Shanzer as Dick Rossi; Warren Nsein as Joe Suie; and Eddie Luke as Catfish.

The Fling Tigers by John Toland

TRIVIA NOTE: The real Flying Tigers "American Volunteer Group" was covertly assembled by General Claire L. Channault in 1941 under the auspices of President Franklin Roosevelt to help the Chinese defend their mainland from Japanese invasion in the days prior to the Second World War.

The AVG consisted of 100 pilots recruited from the U.S. armed services for a starting salary of $600 a month plus $500 for each Japanese plane destroyed.

The Flying Tigers was divided into three squadrons: Adam & Eve commanded by Robert J. Sandell; the Panda Bears, commanded by John Van Kuren "Scarsdale Jack" Newkirk; and Hell's Angels, led by Arvid Olson.

The success of The Flying Tigers lay in their attack strategy: climb high, drop down on a target from out of the sun, fire, and zoom past the enemy planes, never engaging them in a dogfight. Their P-40 aircraft's, although obsolete, could climb higher and cruise at a higher altitude than their enemies, thus providing the staging heights for the P-40's death swooping attacks. The front of each P-40 sported the painted deadly eyes and gaping mouth and jagged teeth of a tiger shark To increase their air speed (by as much as ten miles per hour), the AVG pilots rubbed down the P-40's fuselage with wax.

When an AVG pilot shot down a Jap Zero, he painted a miniature Japanese flag beneath the canopy of his P-40. The top-scoring AVG pilot, Robert H. Neale, was credited with downing sixteen enemy aircraft.

To confuse their Japanese counterparts, the AVG routinely repainted the P-40s and used multiple radio call signs to convince the enemy that their numbers were higher. Statistically, the Flying Tigers were outnumbered eight to one.

The AVG Flying Tigers (The tiger, a symbol of the Chinese Government) was officially credited with the destruction of 296 Japanese aircraft. The Flying Tigers unit was disbanded on July 4, 1942, when it was absorbed into the US Army's 14th Air Force. Winston Churchill once remarked of Claire Chennault's Flying Tigers group, "God Almighty, I'm glad he's on our side!"

On February 22, 1999, the PBS ninety minute documentary Fei-Hu: The Story of the Flying Tigers examined the history of AVG flight group. The Chinese words "Fei-Hu" translates "Shark's Teeth."

Specifications for the P-40 fighter aircraft follows:

  • Manufactured by Curtiss (Nicknamed "Warhawk");
  • Length: 31' 2"; Height: 10' 7";
  • Wingspan: 37' 4";
  • Empty Weight: 6350.00 lbs;
  • Gross Weight: 8263.00 lbs;
  • Max Weight: 8280.00lbs;
  • Propulsion: one center mounted Allison V-1710-39 engine with 1150 horsepower;
  • Max Speed: 354.00 Mph;
  • Weaponry: Two fuselage mounted .50cal machine guns.

For more information on 'The Flying Tigers' check visit the Champlin Fighter Museum at 4636 Fighter Aces Drive in Mesa, Arizona.

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