Phase 3: Interpreting Information

Updated 6 years 8 months ago

This is Phase 3, where I will be collecting information through research, three-to-fives, as well as interviews with local contacts. There are four big categories that my research falls into: background information, information from my three-to-fives, information from local contacts, as well as answers to previous questions that I created in Phase 1. 

Background Information (from Phase 1): 
The Flying Tigers were the first American volunteer aviation group, lead by Lt. General Claire Lee Chennault[1, 2, 3, 4, 5], who was a retired U.S. army pilot. The volunteer pilots fought the Japanese in Burma (Myanmar) and China during 1941-42. Japan had control over China's ports and transportation system.[1]

President Franklin Roosevelt secretly authorised Chennault to bring 100 Curtiss P-40B fighter planes that were originally intended for Britain. Roosevelt was looking for a way to aid China in the war against Japan (Sino-Japanese War).[5] The United States were not a part of World War II at the time, so the volunteer pilots, who were recruited by Chennault, flew to a British airfield in Burma to begin training as an unofficial corps.[4]

Chennault said, "Every pilot who arrived before September 15 got seventy-two hours of lectures in addition to sixty hours of specialised flying. I gave the pilots a lesson in the geography of Asia that they all needed badly, told them something of the war in China, and how the Chinese air-raid warning net worked." Lt. General Chennault also said he taught the volunteer pilots all he knew about the Japanese through lectures from his notebooks. The pilots not only learned about Chennault's previous experience fighting the Japanese, but also Japanese tactics.[3] The Flying Tigers flew out on their first missions twelve days after the Japanese bombed the Pearl Harbour (December 7th, 1941).[4] 

After the Pearl Harbour attack, the Chinese and the British agreed that one squadron of the Flying Tigers would assist the RAF (Royal Air Force Far East Air Force)[6] in Rangoon, Burma (Myanmar) and the other two squadrons would be stationed at the China end of the Burma Road in Kunming. Their first combat was over southern Yunnan Province on December 20th, 1941, during which the first and second squadrons shot down nine out of ten Japanese bombers, whilst only losing one AVG aircraft.[3] 

A former Flying Tigers member named John M. Williams says he helped Chennault to develop an early warning system, called the Jing Bao, in Yunnan. There were about 165 radios that were distributed to their most trusted members. The radios were connected to the AVG Headquarters in Kunming by miles of two-strand military communications wire.[5] A former radio station of the Flying Tigers is five minutes away from the Linden Centre.[2]

Another member of the AVG who was their chief meteorologist, Donald Whelpley, says he helped John Williams to set up a weather forecasting system as well as the Jing Bao warning system. He recalls, "If they [the Japanese] came toward any of our airfields, Chennault would wait until they got within 50 miles of a base. Then he would order the P-40s up to engage them." By doing this, the AVG saved thousands of gallons of aviation fuel.[5]

The Flying Tigers were famous for their "fearless flying."[2] The aviation group lost a total of 69 planes and 25 pilots.[5] Although the Japanese were better-equipped and had a larger group,[1] the Flying Tigers were able to destroy 297 Japanese aircraft in the seven months they fought as mercenaries.[4] They also provided air cover for the Burma Road[1] and dispatched supplies to the Chinese who were crossing the southern Himalayas.[2] 

On July 4th, 1942, members of the Flying Tigers were absorbed into the US 14th Air Force under the command of Claire Lee Chennault.[1,3]

The Flying Tigers pilots benefited from the hospitality of the Bai people.[2] Jacob E's inquiry project, especially Phase 3, says that either the Japanese bombers or the Flying Tigers did daily "fly-by's", as well as air-raid practices or actual air raids a few times a week. It is unclear whether Jacob meant the Flying Tigers or the Japanese.[7]

Jacob also stated that the Flying Tigers were known around Xizhou. Mr Yang told him about his memories of sharing crackers with some of the pilots.[7] Another local, Mr Zhao, remembers 7-8 Americans staying in his home when he was four years old. The pilots also had a Jeep that he liked to chase after. A neighbour of the Linden Centre remembers when a plane of the Flying Tigers crashed near Lake Erhai. The local villagers saved the man from the wreckage and nursed him back to life.[1]

Information From 3 to 5's:
Back in Phase 2, I did my three-to-fives with Mrs Linden, Ms Mai, and Mr T. Besides giving me contacts, they also gave me some information on the Flying Tigers in Xizhou. There is an obelisk memorial near the Zhao family compound[8, 10, 11] that was constructed by a descendant of one of the Zhao family members who was alive during the time of the Flying Tigers.[10] There is also a video made by the Flying Tigers veterans. Funding has just been approved for restoration of the radio room.[12] The Flying Tigers and China National Aviation Corporation (CNAC) are two different things, although most people liked to just call them both the Flying Tigers.[8] Most of the memorial museums are in Kunming or Dali.[13] 

Information From Local Contacts:
Mr Yang (former lawyer)
Mr Yang, the former lawyer, was living in Chengdu during the time of the Flying Tigers, so the information he gave was quite limited. He did say a university that was associated with Yale and had to be relocated to Xizhou. The interview with him helped to raise one main question, which is: What does the university have to do with the Flying Tigers? (This question is later on answered by Mr Linden.)
Mr Tafel (23 April bike ride)
During Mr T and my bike ride to Mr Yang's place, we stopped by the Zhao family compound. Before turning onto the road to the compound, there is a small obelisk memorial for the Flying Tigers. On one side are the big Chinese words, which say -- ji shan yi, which is the name of the village.[14] The other two sides have a brief summary about the Flying Tigers and what they did in both Chinese and English. Here I have typed out the English side of the obelisk, which do have a few spelling errors but is typed according to what is written.
Hump Airline: In 1942, Chinese anti-Japanese fascists War was in hard time, under the concition that Japaneses fascists blocked the international sea, land and air passage to China. At that time, the American retired Officer chennaultde composed of volunteer fleet, named "flying Tiger fleet", which flied over the highest mountain - Himalayas in the world from America to Kunming airport xiangyun airport etc, in china Yunnan province Via india, got through the only passsage of international aids for chinese anti-Janpanese fascists war. Opened the famous "Hump Airline" during the Word WarII. After came to Yunnan province under the assistance of Zhao kang Jun of zhao's family in Jishan village, the secretary of Yunnan, Provincial chairman, general chennault set Up guidance station, recorded in the history of world warII, also saved many flying tiger members remrning American under the help of local people during the periode of air fights to Japanese. Guidance station Was concented after Japanese surrender today although many years have been past, the glorious remains of guidance station still existed, warm welcome distinguished guests from domestic and abroad to visit. 
Address of Guidance station Remains; Jishan village, xizhou Town, DaLi, city, Yunnan china. 
The Remains of Famous Himalayas Hump Airline Guidance station during the world anti-fascism waRII—Zhao's Ancestral Hall in Jishan Village.
Written by yunlong, anti0—Japanese General at the age of Ninty years old.
Mrs Zhao
Isabella helped me to find a nice elderly woman whose family name is Zhao. Originally we asked another woman who lived next to the compound where the radar station is, but she brought us to Mrs Zhao, who lives behind the compounds next to the radar station. Mrs Zhao is eighty years old and said she used to be quite wealthy before the Cultural Revolution. While the Flying Tigers were in Xizhou, she was only about eight or nine years old, but was still able to tell me a few things about the Flying Tigers. The locals liked the pilots as they were extremely polite and had good manners. Mrs Zhao remembers that her husband, who was twelve at the time, had a good relationship with one of the pilots. He invited the pilot over to his house but the pilot refused as he did not want to bother the family.
6 May — The pilots were very busy and usually stayed at their base, but whenever they spoke to Mrs Zhao, they would kneel down and would be very kind. They would give her carrot candy and she would always see them around, as she lives very close to the radio station. Everyday when she came back from school, the pilots would give her food and candy, although they did not accept gifts themselves. They also gave her medicine for her chapped lips. 
7 May — The men living at the radar station were not pilots but radar men. They had a Jeep truck that all the villagers would go to see. Mrs Zhao remembers once they had candy for her, but her hands were dirty, so the men told her to go wash her hands first and then get the candy. Another time a part of her shirt ripped, and they wanted to give her some needle and string that was at their base. She said in the beginning, she was kind of afraid of them, so instead they brought the needle and string to her. The men helped the villagers with farming - things like carrying the rice buckets and other tasks of the sort. Once there was a flood in the area, and a man took the some of the sand barriers to help construct a house/build something. He was sued, but the Flying Tigers men rescued him and worked to help him be released. Mrs Zhao said the men probably liked living here as where they stayed was very nice and hospitable. The Zhao Ancestral Hall was where the radar men lived. Everyone in the village easily agreed to let the pilots stay there, and nobody was against it. There were only eight men, and two of them would always go hiking up on the mountains, for reasons unknown to the villagers. One of the Flying Tigers' members grandsons came to visit the village a while ago, and donated money to repair the radar station.[16]
The information that Mrs Zhao gave me is very helpful for answering my Big 10 questions, as most of the questions are about how the Flying Tigers affected Xizhou and the people in particular. Most of information is from asking the Big 10 questions. Before my interviews with the locals, I did not know much about what the locals thought, except for what I learned from Jacob E's inquiry project. 
Mr Linden
I had a chance to talk to Mr Linden about the Flying Tigers and how they interacted amongst the locals. He heard from the locals that the pilots used to ride around in Jeeps, throwing candy to the children. They also helped celebrate Christmas in the main square in 1941. They helped bring in doctors as they had a connection with the university associated with Yale, although they were Chinese doctors from the coast. The Japanese did not exactly attack Yunnan, although Baoshan was bombed and Tongchong was completely destroyed. In Xiangyun County, there is a runway that the Flying Tigers used. The Flying Tigers' reputation has grown increasingly well known as many locals were very fond of them. Most locals were not aware that the pilots were working as mercenaries and were being paid to protect the area. Nevertheless, they are known as heroes known for their fearless flying. The radar station in the Zhao family compound was more of a communication station for emergencies, for example if a plane had just crossed the Himalayas, they would be able to use that station to get in contact with the other members of the Flying Tigers. Mr Linden also said that they have just received an approval for funding the restoration of the radio station, which is to be turned into a museum. The new buildings will be torn down and the rest will be restored to capture what it might have looked like during 1941.[15]
Flying Tigers Reference Book:
In the Linden Centre, there is a book that was a gift from one of the locals. The American pilots used it as a sort of guidebook to help with English-Chinese translations, Chinese characters as opposed to Japanese characters, and identifying Japanese planes. The translation section takes up a majority of the book, with the last few pages being a identifying guide to different insignia of ranks of the Chinese army. The last section contains pictures of Japanese planes so the American pilots had a way of recognising which planes were which. The translation section is split up into ordinary terms - operatives, various expressions, verbs, ordinary terms - things, military terms, medical terms, dental terms, artillery terms, and Chinese numerals and important words needed for identification of units. I used the book to get a better grasp of how the Flying Tigers functioned as an aviation group. It also was able to show me which things the American pilots knew, as well as which things they might have been not so clear on, such as the Chinese vs Japanese characters. The inside of the book looks to be in very good condition, especially for a seventy-three year old book, which makes me wonder how often the Flying Tigers used the book. 

Answers to Previous Questions (from Phase 1)

1. How did the Flying Tigers affect Xizhou's people during WWII? 
The Flying Tigers became an everyday presence for the villagers, so I assume that the villagers were used to the pilots in their community.

2. Are there any specific memories of experiences with the pilots?
The radar men who lived in the Zhao ancestral home would give kids candy and food, and were very friendly in general as well as very well disciplined. The men would not accept gifts or invites to people's homes out of respect and courtesy.[16] The men used to ride around in a Jeep and throw candy to the children.[15]

3. What impact did that make on the person/people?
When asked about the impact of the Flying Tigers, Mrs Zhao did not really specify how these experiences impacted or affected her.[16] She did seem quite proud and  pleased when telling the stories of her memories of the Flying Tigers, although I am not sure as to whether it is because of the experience or her personality. 

4. What kind of relationship did Xizhou's people have with the pilots?
The radar men were extremely polite and well disciplined, and all the villagers were very fond of them as they were protecting the area.[16]

5. What influenced that relationship? (Language barriers, schedules, etc.)
The language barrier seems like an obvious issue, but the men had books to help them translate,[15] as well as a translator who was almost always around. The pilots were pretty busy, but were always seen around the area. [16]

6. Was the interaction between the villagers and pilots restricted?
The relationship itself was not restricted, although different schedules and the language barrier were probable issues. 

7. Did the townspeople see the Flying Tigers as beneficial? Why or why not?
All the villagers in Jishanyi (at the time) saw the Flying Tigers as good people. Although they were not pilots, the villagers still thought they were doing good.[16]

8. What was life like during WWII?
The Japanese attacks did not exactly reach this far into Western China, as they were coming from the East,[15] so the villagers had a good life as did the pilots.[16]

9. Did the Flying Tigers have the same impact on Xizhou as they did in surrounding areas (other places in Yunnan or along the Burma Road?) Or were they only around Xizhou?
Most Flying Tigers memorial museums are near Kunming,[12] although there were might have been many other bases near this area or Dali.[16] The base in Jishanyi (near Xizhou) was more of a communication station to help with emergencies.[15]

10. How did the Flying Tigers feel about living/fighting in China? 
Mrs Zhao says the radar men probably liked living where they were (Zhao ancestral home) because the compound was very nice and comfortable.[16]

New Questions:
11. How often did the Flying Tigers members use the book for translations?

12. Did they depend more on the translator or the book?

13. How did the villagers feel when the Flying Tigers first went to their village as opposed to when they left? 


  1. Online: Flying Tigers (United States military),, accessed 31 March 2014
  2. Online: Flying Tigers | Linden Centre,, accessed 2 April 2014
  3. Online: AVG - A Brief History of the Flying Tigers,, accessed 30 March 2014
  4. Online: Who Were the Flying Tigers?,, accessed 30 March 2014
  5. Online: American Volunteer Group: Claire L. Chennault and the Flying Tigers,, accessed 30 March 2014
  6. Online: Far East Air Force (Royal Air Force),, accessed 30 March 2014
  7. Online: Jacob E's Inquiry Project,, accessed 2 April 2014
  8. Mrs Linden, head of the Linden Centre. Personal interview conducted by Kelly W, 21 April 2014
  9. Mr T, head of Microcampus. Personal interview conducted by Kelly W, 22 April 2014
  10. Yeling. Personal interview conducted by Kelly W, 21 April 2014
  11. Craig Evans, manager of the Linden Centre. Personal interview conducted by Kelly W, 21 April 2014
  12. Andrew, travel curator of the Linden Centre. Personal interview conducted by Kelly W, 22 April 2014
  13. Mr Yang, former laywer. Personal interview conducted by Kelly W, 24 April 2014
  14. Isabella. Personal interview conducted by Kelly W, 28 April 2014
  15. Mr Linden, head of the Linden Centre. Personal interview conducted by Kelly W, 29 April 2014
  16. Mrs Zhao. Personal interview conducted by Kelly W, 7 May 2014

Next is Phase 4: Preparing to Share. I will be making a plan for how I can share all the information I have collected. As with any inquiry work, it must eventually end in order to move on. I may be missing some information that I would like to use for my final project, but I think that a lot of the information I have right now is important as well.

Hello! My name is Kelly and I am fourteen years old. I have an Australian passport although I was born in Hong Kong and lived there for four years before coming to Shanghai. Xizhou is so beautiful and Microcampus was an incredible experience. I hope to visit again soon!