Biplanes flown by the AVG

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Senior Airman
Jul 15, 2004
Nicholson, PA
Anybody know what kind of biplanes they flew before they had the P40s? I saw a few pictures but I'm not much into biplanes so I have no idea what model(s) they were.
Chennault had 80 pilots assigned to his combat squadrons when the war began. Some never flew a combat mission, but on the other hand seven CAF flight instructors joined the squadrons in the spring of 1942. (Some Tigers don't regard these men as AVG, but they flew many combat missions, two died while on duty with the squadrons, and one was credited with two Japanese a/c.) So 80 is a reasonable figure for Chennault's potential pilot strength.

Of this number, 21 died or went missing during the AVG's combat career, which according to the U.S. Air Force extended from 7 Dec 1941 to 14 Jul 1942. Five were lost in the air over Rangoon (though nobody knows whether Leibolt was shot down or crashed because of mechanical failure):

Flight Leader Neil Martin, killed in action, Dec. 23, 1941
Wingman Henry Gilbert, killed in action, Dec. 23, 1941
Flight Leader Allen Christman, killed in action, Jan. 23, 1942
Flight Leader Louis Hoffman, killed in action, Jan. 26, 1942
Flight Leader Edward Leibolt, missing in action, Feb. 25, 1942

Nine were lost while attacking ground targets (Cole was strafing friendly troops in error when his plane exploded, probably as a result of ack-ack; nobody saw Newkirk go in, but he was strafing a Japanese truck convoy when he crashed):

Flight Leader Charles Mott, captured, Jan. 8, 1942
Wingman Thomas Cole, killed in action, Jan. 30, 1942
Wingman William McGarry, captured, Mar. 24, 1942
Squadron Leader John Newkirk, killed in action, Mar. 24, 1942
Wingman John Donovan, killed in action, May 12, 1942
Vice Squadron Leader Lewis Bishop, captured, May 17, 1942
Flight Leader Robert Little, killed in action, May 22, 1942
Flight Leader John Petach, killed in action, Jul. 10, 1942
Wingman Arnold Shamblin, captured, Jul. 10, 1942

Arnold Shamblin was a CAF flight instructor who became an AVG pilot in May 1942. He bailed out of his plane after it was hit by ack-ack and was either executed on the spot or died in captivity. The other prisoners survived the war.

And seven men died in accidents and air raids (Blackburn was another of the former flight instructors):

Wingman Lacy Mangleburg, accidentally killed, Dec. 23, 1941
Wingman Kenneth Merritt, accidentally killed, Jan 8, 1942
Squadron Leader Robert Sandell, accidentally killed, Feb. 7, 1942
Wingman Frank Swartz, died of wounds, Apr. 24, 1942
Wingman John Blackburn, accidentally killed, Apr. 26, 1942
Wingman Ben Foshee, died of wounds, May 4, 1942
Vice Squadron Leader Thomas Jones, accidentally killed, May 16, 1942

In addition to the combat pilots, flight instructor Marion Baugh died in a crash, ground crewman John Fauth was killed in an air raid, and headquarters staff member Joseph Alsop was interned by the Japanese.

Boyington didn't like the AVG, and he roasted both Chennault and the Flying Tigers in two books, his autobiographical Black Sheep and a thinly disguised novel called Tonya. For his part, Chennault gave Boyington a "dishonorable discharge" when he quit the AVG in April 1942, three months before his contractual year was finished.

Among his gripes was his combat record. To the end of his life, Boyington insisted that as a Flying Tiger he had destroyed 6 Japanese planes, which together with his Marine Corps victory claims would have made him the leading USMC ace of World War II. The AVG record, for its part, shows Boyington with 3.5 "bonus credits," of which only two were air-to-air kills.

Boyington's claims in Burma as a member of the AVG. This is a rather complicated affair. He claimed 6 kills; the AVG documents credit him with 4.5. The Chinese government payed him for 3.5 kills.... In addition, the paperwork made at the time seems to be rather sloppy, with contradictions between RAF documents, AVG documents, and diaries of AVG members.
JCS said:
Anybody know what kind of biplanes they flew before they had the P40s? I saw a few pictures but I'm not much into biplanes so I have no idea what model(s) they were.

They flew at least one Fleet Finch as a hack. Below is a well-known shot showing this aircraft:


They may have flown other Chinese AF bipes at various times as well, as mention is made of flying types other than the Hawks in several anecdotal accounts by members of the group. But they did not fly any types in combat other than the Hawks.

Fade to Black...
I doubt that the AVG ever flew the Fiat CR.32, certainly not in combat.

While looking for a new fighter aircraft for the CAF during the early 30's, I believe that the CR.32 was the prime competition for the Curtiss Hawk II and there was undoubtedly an example or two of the Fiat in China at that time. But the CR.32 was not chosen, and when the AVG came into being I doubt that there were any CR.32's remaining in China. If there were one still around, it is certainly possible that the AVG pilots could have had a chance to fly it but, again, I rather doubt it and, in any event, they flew only the Hawk 81 in combat.

There was another volunteer unit, the 14th VBS (Volunteer Bombardment Squadron), made up mostly by Americans and organized under Chennault's leadership in the autumn of 1937. They certainly would have flown some bipes, namely Curtiss Hawks, although I am not too awful familiar with this particular unit as there seems to have been no official record kept of its exploits. The only contemporary record of the unit that is currently known lays within the diaries of some of the unit's members.

Although an obscure unit, perhaps some are confusing the 14th VBS with the AVG?

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