Most Americans know about the US involvement to assist the allied powers in Europe during World War II, but do they know about the American pilots, otherwise known as the AVG (Flying Tigers), who aided China during the same conflict? These fiction and nonfiction selections document the US-China alliance during WWII.
1. When Tigers Ruled the Sky: The Flying Tigers: American Outlaw Pilots over China in World War II by Bill Yenne
“In 1940, Pearl Harbor had not yet happened, and America was not yet at war with Japan. But China had been trying to stave off Japanese aggression for three years—and was desperate for aircraft and trained combat pilots.
“General Chiang Kai-shek sent military aviation advisor Claire Chennault to Washington, where President Roosevelt was sympathetic, but knew he could not intervene overtly. Instead, he quietly helped Chennault put together a group of American volunteer pilots.
“This was how the 1st American Volunteer Group—more commonly known as the Flying Tigers—was born.
“With the trademark smiling shark jaws on their P-40 fighters, these Army, Navy and Marine pilots became a sensation as they fought for the Chinese. Those who initially doubted them were eventually in awe as they persevered over Rangoon despite being outnumbered 14-1 by Japanese aircraft; as they were described by Madame Chiang Kai-shek as her “little angels” and by a Chinese foreign minister as “the soundest investment China ever made”; and as they ultimately destroyed hundreds of Japanese planes while losing only a dozen of their own in combat. Two of their veterans would later earn the Medal of Honor—and as a group, the Flying Tigers managed to rack up a better record than any other air wing in the Pacific theater. When Tigers Ruled the Sky is a thrilling and triumphant account of their courage and their legacy.”
2. Wings of a Flying Tiger by Iris Yang
“World War Two. Japanese occupied China. One cousin’s courage, another’s determination to help a wounded American pilot.
“In the summer of 1942, Danny Hardy bails out of his fighter plane into a remote region of western China. With multiple injuries, malaria, and Japanese troops searching for him, the American pilot’s odds of survival are slim.
“Jasmine Bai, an art student who has been saved by Americans during the notorious Nanking Massacre, seems an unlikely heroine to rescue the wounded Flying Tiger. Daisy Bai, Jasmine’s younger cousin, also falls in love with the courageous American.
“With the help of Daisy’s brother, an entire village opens its arms to heal a Flying Tiger with injured wings, but as a result of their charity the serenity of their community is forever shattered.
“Love, sacrifice, kindness, and bravery all play a part in this heroic tale that takes place during one of the darkest hours of Chinese history.”
3. Will of a Tiger by Iris Yang
“Sworn brothers—one American, one Chinese—captured, imprisoned, tortured. Survival is just the beginning of the battle…
“In 1942, Birch Bai, a Chinese pilot, and Danny Hardy, a downed American pilot, become sworn brothers and best friends. In the summer of 1945, both airmen’s planes go down in Yunnan Province of China during one of many daring missions. They are captured, imprisoned, and tortured by the Japanese for information about the atomic bomb. Just days before the end of WWII, Danny makes an irrevocable decision to save Birch’s life.
“For Birch, surviving the war is only the beginning of the battle. He must deal with the dreadful reality in China—the civil war, the separation of the country, the death of one friend in the Communist-controlled Mainland and another under the Nationalist government, and his wrongful imprisonment in Taiwan.
“From Chungking to Yunnan, and from Taiwan to San Francisco, the sequel to Wings of a Flying Tiger takes readers along on an epic journey.”
4. Pilots in Peril!: The Untold Story of U.S. Pilots Who Braved “the Hump” in World War II by Steven Otfinoski
“Historian Theodore White called it “the most dangerous, terrifying, barbarous aerial transport run in the world … the skyway to Hell.” Life Magazine called it “the most dangerous non-combat flying in the war, the world’s worst weather over the world’s highest mountains.” Both of these statements are referring to the Hump, which was a perilous 500-mile flight path across the eastern Himalayan Mountains many U.S. pilots flew during World War II in order to keep the Allies well-supplied in China. Between 1943 and 1945, about 3,000 pilots went down in the Hump. Only about 1,200 made it back to safety. This narrative nonfiction title recounts the many dangers pilots faced on their missions, including ice storms, high winds, narrow mountain passageways, and attacks by Japanese Zeroes. It also recounts the equally daring rescue attempts to save these pilots, many of which were made by the Indo-China Division of Search and Rescue. Using personal accounts from pilots, rescuers, and U.S. Air Force staff, this fast-paced narrative puts young readers in the cockpit alongside some of the war’s bravest pilots.”
5. Hump Pilot by Nedda R. Thomas
“Based on the true life exploits of a World War II pilot flying the dangerous route over the Himalayas, the book brings to light a little known facet of World War II. Flying the Hump, was the name given by American pilots to flying over the treacherous air currents of the Himalaya Mountains during World War II. It was an extremely dangerous but necessary route American pilots traveled to bring vital material to Chinese troops in China and American and other Allied forces in the Pacific. The materiel transported, critical to the Allied war effort in the early days enabled them to persist while the industrial might of the United States was retooling.”
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