Author(s): Samuel Kleiner
The thrilling story behind the American pilots who were secretly recruited to defend the nation's desperate Chinese allies before Pearl Harbor and ended up on the front lines of the war against the Japanese in the Pacific Sam Kleiner's Flying Tigers tells the story of the group young American men and women who crossed the Pacific before Pearl Harbor to risk their lives defending the embattled forces of Chiang Kai-Shek's China. These 300 individuals were effectively paid mercenaries, secretly recruited by a mysterious shell company that the federal government had created to circumvent its official stance of non-intervention in the war. Drawn from across the armed services by the prospect of seeing the world and earning a good salary, they traveled to Burma under false identities in the late summer and fall of 1941 and began training there under legendary and leathery general Claire Chennault. The pilots first saw action twelve days after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, and for the next seven months performed an invaluable strategic service by keeping the Japanese occupied in China and thus enabling the United States to build up its armaments before fully engaging in the conflict. For their daring exploits and remarkable string of victories, they became known as the Flying Tigers. In his book Samuel Kleiner takes readers into the cockpits of their iconic shark-nosed planes--one of the most familiar images of the war-- as the Tigers perform nail-biting missions against the Japanese, destroying some 297 enemy aircraft in Burma, Thailand, and China. He profiles the outsized personalities involved in the operation, including Chennault, whose aggressive tactics went against the prevailing wisdom of military strategy; Greg "Pappy" Boyington, the man who would become the nation's most beloved pilot, whose rescue from a P.O.W. camp would make him the stuff of legend; the two nurses who were the only women in the group; and Madame Chiang, who serve as the intermediary between Chennault and her husband, and was designated the Tigers' "honorary commander." A dramatic story of covert operations whose very existence would have scandalized an isolationist United States, Flying Tigers is the unforgettable account of a group of Americans whose actions changed the world, and who today are viewed as heroes not only in our own country but are revered in China as well.