Synopses & Reviews
A balanced, well-documented portrait of a brave and controversial airman who commanded a training air force for Nationalist China.
Born in rural Louisiana in 1893, Claire Lee Chennault worked as a teacher before joining the army and becoming a commissioned officer. Although he was initially rejected for flight school, he continued to apply and was finally accepted in 1918. He eventually became the lead pilot in the U.S. Army Air Corps’ precision flying team.
During this time, Chennault developed air-to-air combat techniques that he believed should play a decisive role in warfare. However, his opinion contradicted the official Air Corps policy that military aircraft be used primarily for strategic bombing. Chennault’s frustration and dissatisfaction with this stance was so great that when Generalissimo Chiang Kai-Shek offered him the opportunity to lead advanced fighter pilot training in China, he quickly left the American military and accepted the position in 1937. There he played a key role in the formation of the American Volunteer Group (AVG), popularly known as "the Flying Tigers."
The aviators of the Flying Tigers fought against Japan on behalf of China before and during World War II. Early war newsreels showing them defending Burma mythologized the fighter pilots, and Chennault became a romantic hero to the American public. In 1942, the AVG was deactivated and Chennault returned to active duty with the Air Corps, but his disregard for traditional military procedure earned him many enemies among his peers and superiors and he eventually retired.
This book was originally published in hardcover in 1987 by The University of Alabama Press. It was hailed as the best of several biographies of Chennault. Reference and Research Book News stated, "This book is of far better quality than the others previously released. The research employed by the author and the depth of detail give the reader an accurate picture of this controversial and charismatic man."
"This is an excellent book, undoubtedly the definitive biography of an important and controversial American airman and his relationship with the Chinese enigma."—Airpower
About the Author
Martha Byrd wrote three other books, including A World in Flames: A History of World War II and Saratoga: Turning Point in the American Revolution.