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Americans at War in Foreign Forces

                                          1914 -1945

American Volunteer Group / Flying Tigers

From Americans at War in Foreign Forces:
[Claire Chennault’s] goal was to create a small, but well-equipped air force in China that would succeed by focusing on the Pacific supply lines of the island nation. It was not an attractive idea to American military leaders in 1941, but Chennault found that China had a small, quiet advocacy group in Washington and the White House, including two of President Roosevelt’s closest advisors. They helped Chennault to form what came to be called the American Volunteer Group (AVG). In April 1941, Roosevelt issued an executive order allowing enlisted men and reserve officers in the flying corps of the various services to resign for the purpose of enlisting in the AVG. They would not lose rank in the U.S. military. The nature of Roosevelt’s order would remain controversial into the 21st century. It was written but not officially published. Some who would later choose to interpret Roosevelt’s actions before Pearl Harbor as secretly intended to undercut American isolationism and get the country into the war would point to the stealth creation of the AVG as an attempt to place a foothold in China. It had followed by one month the implementation of Lend-Lease aid, which provided materiel to the allied nations already at war, although the United States was still neutral in the conflict. Those 300 who joined initially were required to sign a one-year contract with the Central Aircraft Manufacturing Company (CAMCO) to manufacture, repair and operate airplanes at monthly salaries ranging from $250.00 to $750.00 ($11,500 in 2013 dollars), plus 30 days leave, traveling expenses and some rations. An unstated understanding added $500.00 for every destroyed Japanese plane, whether in the air or on the ground. The first AVG group left for China in July 1941, and, soon thereafter,Roosevelt authorized the creation of a second group that would arrive one month before the eventual American declaration of war. Upon their arrivals in China, they were noted as tourists, acrobats and artists. They quickly came to be known as the “Flying Tigers.”