Phase 3: Interpreting Information
In this Phase, I will be building my knowledge on the Flying Tigers in order to aid my research in Xizhou. This will be working document with information being added until my inquiry project is 100% complete. I will be gathering information through, interviews, books, and online sources. I have made the decision to research the Flying Tigers during my time in Xizhou in Phase 1 and laid out the big questions that will guide my investigation for my inquiry project.
Background Information (from Phase 1):
General Claire Lee Chennault was a retired U.S. Army Air Corps Captain and accepted an offer from Soong Mei-ling to conduct a confidential evaluation of the Chinese Air Force. He received aid from Western nations because he was fighting the communists. However, Claire Lee Chennault's birthdate is not known and there is no proof of a man named Claire Lee Chennault born on September 6, 1893, in Commerce, Texas. In fact, Chennault himself claims that he is born in 1890. He was the leader of an aerobatics team called the Three Men on a Flying Trapeze.[1,2] Because he was a phenomenal performance in the air, he was asked to fly fighters competing to be the Army Air Corps' new generation of fighter planes, the Curtiss-Wright P-36, and the Seversky P-35. Gen. Chennault went from being a teacher in a one-room schoolhouse in Athens, Georgia to being the leader of the famed Flying Tigers. The Japanese and the Chinese were at the brink of an all-out war and was still relatively unready with biplanes that could be easily outperformed by advanced Japanese monoplanes. The public is kept in the dark about Chennault's position and role in the Chinese Air Force, and he maintains that he is simply a civilian advisor. [1,2] He was to create a new Chinese Air Force after the American counterpart. He expertly and strategically positioned airfields and also created a sophisticated and failsafe air raid warning system with Jing Bao to protect China's civilians from Japan's terror bombing campaign.
The Chinese were interested in purchasing a low-cost, export version of the P-36 fighter and sent a representative the Air Force along with the representative of Curtiss-Wright in China, William Pawley. His revolutionary opinions about aerial combat were not greeted with enthusiasm in the Army Air Force. He stepped on one too many toes in the military, ending his career in the air.[1,4] Because China has always been a major client of Curtiss-Wright. Because of the Fall of France, the products of a production line dedicated for the French was to be sent to the Britain for the Royal Air Force. The vice-president of Curtiss-Wright, Burdette Wright, came up with a proposal for British, if they were to waive their 100 priority P-40B's, they will be provided with 100 later-model P-40's more suitable for combat. This proposition was accepted by the British, as they will be provided with 100 planes that are more advanced. The Flying Tigers also benefited and received their first 100 planes.
The name Flying Tiger was given by the grateful Chinese population after it routed Japanese bombers near Kunming on December 20, 1941. The local newspaper dubbed the group, "Fei Hu," or Flying Tigers.[2,4,5] The pilots were paid $600 per month and a bonus $500 per Japanese plane shot down. This was enticing as the pay was much higher than an average U.S. airman serving with the Marine Corps, Army Air Corps, or Navy. Also, many Americans wanted to fight the Japanese but couldn't do so in the American military as the United States was still neutral. The Flying Tigers were to protect China's lifeline, the Burma Road, from Japanese attacks.[1,2] Japanese attacks and invasions have forced the government to retreat into its Western plateaus. Manchuria was invaded in 1931 and the China proper in 1937.[1,3] The only port of supply for China is only Rangoon in the British colony of Burma. As Japan has made attempts to capture Burma, it threatened to sever China's lifeline completely.
The tension was mounting in the region after the annexation of Manchuria and Korea. The tension rose further with the Marco Polo Bridge incident. During the incident, Japanese and Chinese forces exchanged fire as the Japanese forces tried to take the Marco Polo Bridge for a tactical advantage. The Japanese sent a message to the Chinese demanding the right to search the city after Private Shimura Kikujiro of the Japanese military failed to return to his post. The Chinese held the bridge amid the waves of Japanese onslaught and a truce was negotiated.
The area of Southern China and Yunnan has played an important role in the history of the Flying Tigers. It was the site of the first Flying Tigers attack on the Japanese Air Force, kickstarting their legacy and boosting Chinese morale. Southern China also marks one end of the Burma Road, a crucial supply line the Flying Tigers protected to keep China in the war.
Information from local contacts:
03/08/17 Mr. Yun:
Mr. Yun works in the Linden Centre, he knows where the Flying Tigers sites are. This is a secondary source and this information needs to be verified with a primary source.
- The Flying Tigers radar station is at Jishanyi.
03/09/17 Mrs. Zhao:
Mrs. Zhao was 8 or 9 years old when the Flying Tigers arrived in Xizhou. She shared some memories of the Flying Tigers era.
- The Flying Tigers were kind, gave her needles and yarn for knitting, as well as medicine.
- They were very good-looking young men.
- Planes circled overhead everyday, several times per day.
- She was scared when the Flying Tigers first arrived but became closer after daily interactions.
- She also remembers talking to Gen. Chennault through an interpreter.
- The Flying Tigers were welcomed in the community because of their kindness.
- After the Flying Tigers headed for home, they left for good.
- She regards the Flying Tigers as "the very best".
- An obelisk near the house commemorating the Flying Tigers is not in good conditions.
03/13/17 Mr. Linden:
Mr. Linden has been in China for about 10 years. He is the founder of all Linden complexes.
- He has a book the Flying Tigers used to learn daily and military Chinese phrases, as well as rank insignias of the Chinese Army and identification of Japanese aircraft.
- Preserving history is hard because of the political climate.
- The Flying Tigers history does not favor the Communists.
- Flying Tigers worked with the Kuomintang, which persecuted the Communists.
- Some part of this history should and deserve to be preserved.
- Preserving history in China can have many nuances.
- There are not many contacts that are in Xizhou left
- Not everyone is willing to talk
- He heard from elders that the Flying Tiger members gave candy to kids
03/14/17 Mr. Zhao Shi Long:
Mr. Zhao lives on the former Flying Tigers radar site. He remembers the Flying Tigers staying in his house from 1942-1945.
- The Flying Tigers gave him a lot of fruit candy
- American cargo planes flying over "The Hump" will circle his house to gain altitude several times a day
- He lived on the first floor while the Flying Tigers operated the radar mounted on the roof on the second floor of the house
- The children of the Flying Tigers often came back to visit him
- Not everyone knew why they were here
- Mr. Zhao believes they were here to protect China and repel the Japanese
- He believes they helped the China a great deal and China should be grateful
- Mr. Zhao says he would only allow the government to transform his house into a museum if it is a beneficial move
03/15/17 Mr. Su:
Mr. Su is an antique shop owner born in the 70's.
- He reads about the Flying Tigers on novels
- His parents did not tell him much about the Flying Tigers
- There are some youths that do not think the Flying Tigers were real
- The Flying Tigers played a big part in the history and it is definitely real
- China should be thankful to the U.S. for the assistance in defeating Japan
- A country will be a failure if it cannot preserve their culture
- Mr. Su believes no one can rewrite history, even if it is 1,000 years later.
03/15/17 Mr. Yang:
Mr. Yang sells Xizhou baba at Sifangjie. Because he is an older member of his family, he somewhat remembers the Flying Tigers.
- He barely remembers the Flying Tigers because he was 4 at the time
- He recommends talking to people that are 80 or older
03/16/17 Mrs. Dong:
Mrs. Dong works in the Golden Flower restaurant.
- She does not remember the Flying Tigers and her parents did not tell her much
- There is an obelisk at the Flying Tigers site
03/16/17 Mr. Yan:
Mr. Yan sells Xizhou baba at Sifangjie.
- He does not hear much about the Flying Tigers
- His parents told him about how people from JiShanYi rescued a pilot of the Flying Tigers after the plane was downed
03/20/17 Mr. Yang:
Mr. Yang is a close friend of an antique shop owner also named Mr. Yang. He gave me some information about his views on the Flying Tigers.
- He knew about the Flying Tigers because his parents told him about it, he had an uncle that was killed in a Japanese bombing
- A North American B-25 Mitchell medium bomber crashed in Mt. Gong in the 1940's and was recovered in the 1990's.
- A former member of the Flying Tigers visited Tengchong, where the wreckage of the bomber was displayed.
- JiShanYi is a radar station to guide the planes over the Hump.
- It was important because the Himalayans were very tall, windy and foggy, making it dangerous for aviation.
- The Japanese planes often bombed Wuchiaba airport in Kunming.
- Another major target frequently visited by Japanese bombers is Chengbei Airport.
- They made a giant contribution in helping China defend against the Japanese.
- It is a piece of history worth preserving.
03/20-21/17 Mr. Kang:
Mr. Kang works at Old Town Snacks and is a history enthusiast.
- He learned of the Flying Tigers by reading history books.
- He started becoming interested in the Flying Tigers when he discovered them in middle school.
- There were many Flying Tigers personnel and planes stationed in Yunnan-yi.
- His parents did not know about the Flying Tigers because they are not from Xizhou.
- The brave acts of the Flying Tigers should be taught in schools to students.
- He tells his own children about the Flying Tigers.
- He believes this part of history should be kept alive because the Flying Tigers helped China defeat Japan.
Answers to Questions From Phase 1:
1. Why were the Flying Tigers deployed in the Southern China, more specifically Xizhou?
1. Ford, Daniel. Flying Tigers: Claire Chennault and the American Volunteer Group. Washington: Smithsonian Institution, 1991. Print.
2. "Brief History of the Flying Tigers." Flying Tigers Association. Web. 25 Jan. 2017.
3. "Sino-Japanese War." Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 02 Sept. 2009. Web. 25 Jan. 2017.
4. Dogfights: Flying Tigers. By Cynthia Harrison. Prod. Brooks Wachtel, Robert Kirk, Rob Lihani, Cynthia Harrison, and Jason McKinley. Dir. Robert Kirk. History Channel, 2006. Dogfights:Flying Tigers Season 1 Episode 3. EverythingAboutWWII, 25 Jan. 2014. Web. 27 Jan. 2017.
5. Regan, Ronald V. "American Volunteer Group: Claire L. Chennault and the Flying Tigers." HistoryNet. HistoryNet, 22 June 2016. Web. 27 Jan. 2017.
6. L., Orion. "Phase 3: Interpreting Information." Shanghai American School Microcampus. Orion L., 27 Jan. 2016. Web. 30 Jan. 2017.
7. Mr. Yun. Personal Interview conducted by Barton C., Mar 8. 2017.
8. Mrs. Zhao. Personal Interview conducted by Barton C., March 9. 2017.
9. Mr. Linden. Personal Interview conducted by Barton C., March 13. 2017.
10. Mr. Zhao. Personal Interview conducted by Barton C., March 14. 2017.
11. Mr. Su. Personal Interview conducted by Barton C., March 15. 2017.
12. Mr. Yang. Personal Interview conducted by Barton C., March 15. 2017.
14. Mrs. Dong. Personal Interview conducted by Barton C., March 16. 2017.
15. Mr. Yan. Personal Interview conducted by Barton C., March 16. 2017.
16. Mr. Yang. Personal Interview conducted by Barton C., March 20. 2017.
17. Mr. Kang. Personal Interview conducted by Barton C., March 20. 2017.
18. Mr. Kang. Personal Interview conducted by Barton C., March 20. 2017