Saturday, October 20, 2012

The Flying Tigers and Shenawlt

Before going to Chongqing, I had never heard of Chennault, despite his appearing on the cover of Time and Life during the course of the Second World War. I had heard of Four-Star General Joseph Stilwell, relieved of command by FDR in 1944, but was not familiar with Lieutenant General Claire Lee Chennault (September 6, 1893 – July 27, 1958). In one of the most infamous internecine debates of the war, Stilwell differed as to strategy with his subordinate, Claire Chennault, who had the ear of Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek. In the end, Chiang Kai-shek asked FDR to recall Stilwell and replace him with anybody else, because "Vinegar Joe", who would die of stomach cancer a couple years later, could not cooperate with his Allies or Chinese leadership. 

A contentious officer, Chennault was a fierce advocate of "pursuit" or fighter-interceptor aircraft during the 1930s when the U.S. Army Air Corps was focused primarily on high-altitude bombardment. Chennault retired in 1937, went to work as an aviation trainer and adviser in China, and commanded the "Flying Tigers" during World War II, both the volunteer group and the uniformed units that replaced it in 1942. His family name is French and is normally pronounced shen-o. However, his family being Americanized, the name was instead pronounced "shen-AWLT."

My photograph of the bust of Gen. Stilwell on a rainy Thursday morning in Chongqing.
In Chongqing, there are two museums right across from each other. The one that gets the attention and glory is the headquarters of Stilwell, but there is so little to see and I was reprimanded for taking pictures of the sparsely furnished apartments. Across the street is the gem: the museum of the Flying Tigers. Lots of fairly well-written captions and a series of photographs brought me up to speed and filled me in about the air campaign in Burma during WWII. If the two museums would combine and seek some serious donations of planes and other paraphernalia, this sleepy little street could become one of the most important tourist stops in the city.

Further down this 1.5 lane, two-way byway is the gate to the property that served as the headquarters of Stilwell.

The entrance to the Flying tigers Museum could easily be missed.

The baseball bat used by the Flying Tigers. Sooo cool!

The dining room of the Stilwell residence. The only picture I was able to capture.