Category: History

Why the Communists are Winning as of 1976...
by William D. Pawley & Richard R. Tryon

Like the Lafayette Esquadrille, The Flying Tigers were an American volunteer organization set-up to help an enemy of freedom. In this case the young nation of a would be democratic China vs Japan.

Read this chapter to see how the Flying Tigers were created,recruited, maintained and paid for while the honor due the tactical commander General Claire Chennault was being built.

William D. Pawley was little known to most veterans of the AVG that became known as The Flying Tigers, and not much appreciated by those that did come to see or meet him. No matter what he could obtain to help, it was never enough and frustrated flyers did not hesitate to tell each other about that and more of what made their training and eventual five months of combat a most unusual story of WWII and the fight in the China, Burma, India theater.

Chapter Three

The Flying Tigers


Since the Chinese Government was our airline’s majority stockholder, my first official call was to Dr. H. H. Kung, the exceptionally able Chinese Finance Minister. Through birth, marriage and his own gifts, Dr. Kung was a man of great power and prestige in China. He was revered as the 77th lineal descendant of Confucius and respected as a scholar who had attained intellectual distinction in his own right. His wife, Al-ling, was the eldest of the three Soong sisters. The second sister, Chingling, was the widow of Dr. Sun Yat-sen and would eventually become a Communist. The youngest sister, Mei-ling, had married the Generalissimo in 1927 and would be known to the world as Madame Chiang Kai-shek. Finally, a brother, T. V. Soong, was China’s Minister of Foreign Affairs.
A rotund gentleman in his early fifties, Dr. Kung proved to be affable and informal. He quickly put me at ease with his command of colloquial English, which he had perfected at Oberlin College and at Yale, where he took his Master’s degree in 1907. He believed that our airline could do a great deal to knit China together. In this and subsequent conversations we formulated an expansion plan to present to the Generalissimo.
Kung arranged my first appointment with Generalissimo and Madame Chiang Kai-shek and accompanied me to make the necessary introductions. Chiang, whom I came to esteem as one of the outstanding statesmen of the era, gave the impression of tremendous controlled personal power. Steeped in the philosophy of Confucius despite his conversion to Christianity, he behaved with that courteous reserve. dignity and complete self-control which the Chinese gentry cultivated.
Aided by Madame Chiang, Dr. Kung translated my proposal that we extend China National Aircraft Corporation service from Shanghai southward to Canton and northward to Peking. Since these flights would be over either land or ocean, unsuitable for our small Loening amphibians in rough seas, I recommended that we buy Douglas DC-2’s. With Dr. Kung’s endorsement, Chiang nodded approval of the expansion and the interview was over.
From 1933 to 1935, as president of the CNAC I managed this airline on the fringes of the Russo-Chinese confrontation from my headquarters in Shanghai. I had the full support of President Chiang Kai-shek. The potential importance of the CNAC to the strength and unity of China was proved.


The importance of the airline also came under the surveillance of the famous “Sorge Spy Ring,” headed by Richard Sorge, a popular member of the German colony in Shanghai. He had gone on to Japan shortly before my arrival. Sorge was a powerful, attractive, soldierly German with a prodigious capacity for alcohol. Ostensibly, he was the correspondent of the Frankfurter Zeitung: his more important assignment was that of leader of the main Soviet espionage network in Nationalist China.
As I was to learn later, Sorge frequently flew CNAC on his information-gathering trips throughout China, and the activities of our company were closely scrutinized by the little group of Red Agents who met with Sorge in the Zeitgeist Book shop on Bubbling Wells Road in Shanghai.
It goes without saying the Sorge’s progress would have been unthinkable without the connivance of Communist agents inside the Gestapo at high levels, who were able to censor and falsify Sorge’s dossier. Having convinced his new Nazi friends of his bona fides, Sorge returned to Japan, where he became the confidant of the German Ambassador and the lover of the Ambassador’s wife. He had himself appointed press attache to the German Embassy and became privy to Nazi secret military and political plans in Japan. He then proceeded to build one of the most remarkable spy rings in memory, with access to the intentions of the Japanese armed forces through a member who attended meetings of the Cabinet.
Sorge was thus able to give the Soviets an authoritative early warning the Nazi Germany would break her non-aggression pact and invade the USSR in June 1941, a warning which Stalin disregarded and, by that short-sighted action, sacrificed millions of Red Army troops. He was able also to inform Moscow before. Pearl Harbor that Japan would not invade Siberia, but would move against England and America, intelligence which permitted Stalin (who had learned from his previous mistake) to transfer crack Siberian divisions to the Russian front and may have saved Moscow from falling into Nazi hands.
Sorge’s spy ring was detected by the Japanese authorities in 1942. In his long confession, written shortly before he was hanged, “Ika” Sorge revealed that, during his years in China, one of his directives had been surveillance of the China National Aviation Corporation. But of more significance for China’s and America’s best interests, was Sorge’s influence on two prominent American military leaders - General “Vinegar Joe” Stilwell and then Captain Evans Carlson, of “Carlson’s Raiders” fame.


In 1937-38, Stilwell had served as military attache in Peking, where he became a friend and admirer of Agnes Smedley, and American Communist zealot and a key member of the Sorge Spy Ring.
Driven by a wretched childhood, unhappy love affairs and fanaticism, Agnes Smedley dedicated herself to the Chinese Communist cause. Her coterie included Stilwell, John Paton Davies, Jr., and Captain Evans Carlson. The latter had once marched with the Communist Chinese forces in northern China and was observed walking around Hankow “in a dirty shirt with sleeves cut short and unhemmed, endeavoring to look like a Communist guerrilla.” His “strange appearance and ecstatic praise for the Chinese Communists” were regarded as ridiculous by John Paton Davies, Jr., at the time U.S. Consul in Hankow, but Davies too extolled the Chinese Communists as “true Christians.”
Carlson was foolish enough to write the “mutual confidence obtains between the Generalissimo and the leaders of China’s Communist Party.” He had commanded the Marine guard at Warm Springs in 1935, and President Roosevelt, who went there because of his infantile paralysis, developed a “friendly and intimate” attitude toward him. In China, he was encouraged by the White House to send his naive and somewhat gushing letters to FDR.
“The President was so interested that during a month long hiatus in the correspondence in October,” Barbara Tuchman writes, “he made inquiries of Carlson’s whereabouts. ‘My Chief loves your letters,’ Marguerite “Missy” LeHand, F.D.R.’s secretary and intimate friend wrote, ‘and asks me to tell you please keep it up.’”
During World War II, Carlson rose to the rank of Brigadier General while commanding his well-publicized “Raiders.” When he died in 1947, the Communist press revealed the Carlson had been a secret member of the American Communist Party.
Stilwell became a close friend of Agnes Smedley, and dubbed Carlson “Captain Courageous”. Probably under orders from her Soviet intelligence superiors, Miss Smedley introduced Stilwell to Chou En-lai, the number two leader in the Chinese Communist hierarchy, as early as the spring of 1938. Coincidentally, 1938 was the same year that our State and Treasury Departments, among other agencies, had been penetrated at the highest levels by Communist agents, as revealed later by the Congressional investigation of Alger Hiss.
Through the same questionable channel, Stilwell became acquainted with Yeh Chien-ying, the Communist Chief of Staff. After visiting and dining with Chien-ying, the Communist Chief of Staff. After visiting and dining with Chou En-lai, Stilwell, according to Mrs. Tuchman, concluded that the Communist leaders were “uniformly frank, courteous friendly and direct. In contrast to the fur-collared, spurred KMY (Kuomintang) new-style Napoleon... all pose and bumptiousness.”
In her fulsome work on Stilwell, Barbara Tuchman avoids informing her readers that Agnes Smedley was a Soviet spy. The oversight gives Stilwell’s associations at Hankow in the late 1930’s a more innocent air then they deserve. A clue to Mrs. Tuchman’s omission of fact is provided by her presence in 1934 on the staff of the American Council of the Institute of Pacific Relations, characterized by a Senate Committee as considered by the American Communist Party and by Soviet officials as an ‘instrument of Soviet military intelligence.” Mrs. Tuchman graces the pages of this Senate probe under her maiden name, Barbara Wertheim.


As a private citizen, I had been able to accomplish several projects to help the national interest in China. One was to organize the “Flying Tigers,” for President Roosevelt and the Republic of China. The story begins in China, in May, 1939. I had been invited to discuss certain matters of business policy with His Excellency, Dr. H. H. Kung. Accompanying me to Dr. Kung’s office were Captain B. G. Leighton, USN, Ret., and my brother, Edward P. Pawley, both vice-presidents of The Intercontinent Corporation.
At the conclusion of our formal talks I asked Dr. Kung what we, as Americans, might do upon our return to America that would be of the greatest benefit to China and the Chinese Air Force. After some thought Dr. Kung observed that one of China’s most urgent needs was for a Foreign Legion of American Volunteer Airman, who would give China’s ground forces the air support which they required. Dr. Kung reminded me of the magnificent job done by a group of American pilots in France during the first World War - the Lafayette Escadrille. Dr. Kung pointed out the great advantage to both China and the United States in having a group such as the Lafayette Escadrille active in the Asiatic theater. I at once saw the tactical military advantages that would accrue to America, should Japan attack us, by having a nucleus of airmen experienced in Jap air tactics.
We promised Dr. Kung we would do everything possible to put China’s problems before various men of influence in America. A few days later I flew back to America and Captain Leighton shortly joined me. We talked to many of our friends in the United States.
I arranged an appointment with President Roosevelt to discuss the project with him. That was not too difficult, since my close friend, Captain Leighton, had laid the groundwork carefully with the Navy Department, including the chief of Navel Operations. He in turn spoke to Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox, who recommended the idea to FDR.
The President received me cordially. I told him that since Central Aircraft Manufacturing Company (CAMCO), of which I was sole stockholder and president, was hiring mechanics and pilots for its normal operations, there was no reason why an increase in its employment rate to launch the new operation should necessarily arouse Japanese suspicions.
Roosevelt reacted favorably. He then called in Dr. Lauchlin Currie and introduced him as his adviser on Far Eastern matters, adding his opinion that CAMCO could provide and excellent cover for such an operation and that, if it should become a reality, I would be working closely with Currie.
After a number of patient discussions with Chinese Government officials and officers, permission was secured to employ a group of men to join our company and a formal agreement was entered into which the Chinese Government. Dr. T. V. Soong. now Premier, empowered me to employ 350 men - pay their salaries, traveling expenses, assist in the purchase and shipping of the necessary aircraft, receive the planes and assemble them at Rangoon.
Thus the American Volunteer Group - the Flying Tigers - was born.
In Los Angeles, I discussed the recruiting problem with my friend Captain C. C. Moseley, World War I ace and an able judge of men. Captain Moseley advised me to engage Richard Aldworth to seek out and hire our personnel. Aldworth was then a patient at Walter Reed Hospital, suffering from an ailment which eventually took his life. We reached him by telephone, told him the problem, told him why the group was being organized. Although ill, he agreed to meet us in New York within three days. Dick Aldworth did a magnificent job although he knew at the time he took the assignment that his days were numbered. Aldworth was promoted to Colonel in the U.S. Air Force shortly before his death. For his work in connection with the AVG, our government awarded him the Legion of Merit.
Soon the AVG was rolling, although our problems continued.
In mid-November, 1941, I flew to Manila to secure supplies for the maintenance and overhaul of the 47 airplanes left from the original 100 ships that had been sent to China. We desperately needed tires and tubes, Allison engine parts, radio equipment, .30 and .50 caliber ammunition. I found some real friends to whom I explained our urgent needs. They offered every possible assistance, but they had no supplies for P-40’s. I did manage, however, to secure 75 tires and tubes, engine parts, radio equipment and some ammunition.
On December 8th, Pacific date, Pearl Harbor was bombed. The day, after I conferred with General Chennault, we decided that one squadron of the AVG - 18 planes - would be sent to Rangoon.
Two weeks later, the Japanese, after arrogantly broadcasting their intentions, came over Rangoon to wipe out the American contingent. The Flying Tigers were ready. The combat situation: 18 American planes against 100 Japanese. When the fight was over, 9 enemy ships were definitely destroyed. One of our boys was killed and another had been forced to bail out, and 4 other planes had been badly shot up and required rebuilding. From the cracked-up planes 2 were repaired, making a total of 14 planes available.
On Christmas Day, the enemy returned, this time with 120 planes. But they did not reckon with the tactics worked out by Jack Newkirk and the Tigers after the first day’s battle. On that day, Roger Reynolds, our Lockheed pilot, Ed Pawley and I watched the results of the new tactics. We saw 120 trained, disciplined, experienced Japanese taken on in combat by 14 American boys - 14 boys who had seen combat only one.
When the smoke cleared and we were able to count the results, 24 enemy planes had been shot down. The AVG had lost none, although their planes, in many cases, looked like flying fish nets when they landed!
The Flying Tigers were really flying. In addition, they were bringing renewed confidence to the American people during those dark days after Pearl Harbor. Their contribution to the morale of the people of China and the United States can never be measured.
To quote Clare Boothe Luce:“The Flying Tigers were a blazing beacon of ultimate victory. For this happy revelation of theirs in our darkest hours their story is deathless. And deathless too is our gratitude.”
In 1939-1940 I sponsored a nationwide essay contest for American college students on the subject of our country’s high Pherbia Thomas Thornberg was the able administrator of the contest, and stakes in a free China. Among the distinguished judges for the cash awards were Pearl Buck, Henry R. Luce, Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., Lowell Thomas, Alexander Woollcott, William Allen White, and the Hon. Frank Knox.
More than a year before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, I was invited officially to brief air commanders and their staffs at that great naval base on the situation in the Orient. I warned my audience that the Japanese would begin hostilities in approximately a year with an aircraft carrier strike on Pearl Harbor, probably on a Sunday, with the backbone of our Pacific Fleet tied up at the dock and with our bombers and fighters lined up wingtip-to-wingtip at Wheeler and Hickam Fields. The air and naval commanders, Brigadier General Walter “Tony” Frank and Admiral Richardson, whose own intelligence coincided with mine, heeded the warnings and dispersed their ships and planes.
These two fine officers were abruptly replaced, however, by General Short and Admiral Kimmel, who, acting upon tragic and incomprehensible orders from the White House, reverted to the sitting duck posture that greeted the delighted Japanese pilots on Sunday, December 7, 1941. I also predicted that the enemy would sink a submarine to block the channel into and out of Pearl; the attempt was made, but the sub was sunk by one of our destroyers before reaching the channel. In Appendix “A” a letter from Retired General Jack Beam recounts the talk that I made to the air officers at Pearl Harbor, above referred to.
Let me hasten to give credit where it is due, namely to the reliability of the information given me by well-informed friends in Asia, rather than to any mysterious occult powers of the author. Nevertheless, a prediction which proved to be a Xerox copy of the actual event gave me a needed confidence in future confrontations with Presidents and other high officials who could have changed the course of history for the better had they been similarly well-advised, and had acted accordingly.
Two more years in a private capacity awaited me before I was to assume more serious responsibilities in diplomacy and negotiations, under President Truman.

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