During World War II, in the skies over Rangoon, Burma, a handful of American pilots met and bloodied the "Imperial Wild Eagles" of Japan and in turn won immortality as the Flying Tigers. One of America's most famous combat forces, the Tigers were recruited to defend beleaguered China for $600 a month and a bounty of $500 for each Japanese plane they shot down—fantastic money in an era when a Manhattan hotel room cost three dollars a night.
To bring his prize-winning history of the American Volunteer Group up to date, Daniel Ford has drawn upon on the most recent U.S., British, and Japanese scholarship, along with new information about AVG pilots and crewmen, their Royal Air Force colleagues, and their Japanese opponents.
"Admirable," wrote Chennault biographer Martha Byrd of Ford's original text. "A readable book based on sound sources. Expect some surprises." Even more could that be said of this new edition.
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About the Author
Daniel Ford has spent a lifetime reading and writing about the wars of the past hundred years, from the Irish rebellion of 1916 to the counter-guerrilla operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. He is best known for his history of the American Volunteer Group--the 'Flying Tigers' of the Second World War--and his Vietnam novel that was filmed as Go Tell the Spartans, starring Burt Lancaster. Most recently, he has turned to the invasion of Poland in 1939 by Germany and Soviet Russia. Most of his books and many shorter pieces are available in digital editions He lives and works in New Hampshire.
Read an Excerpt
Claire Chennault and His American Volunteers, 1941-1942
On a sunny October afternoon, Quint Matthews's red Ford truck roared along the endless gray highway that stretched through the wide-open spaces of far West Texas. As he sped past tumbleweed forests, sparse mesquite trees stunted from lack of moisture, and scattered pumpjacks laboring against the horizon, Quint returned his cell phone to its cradle on his dash and cussed again. This was getting old, damned old.
The Visa customer-ser-vice representative had been polite, even sympathetic, just as she had been every time he had called and reported unauthorized charges on his credit card. His credit limit was "no limit" and the girls in his office always paid his bills on time. Canceling his card altogether was something the bank had already proved it was not eager to do. "Don't worry, sir," the customer-ser-vice rep said. "We'll cancel this card and issue another."
When he asked for help in identifying the unauthorized user, she suggested he speak to the bank's fraud and abuse department. Quint had talked to the fraud and abuse department a dozen times and gotten nothing but absurd excuses about how the charges hadn't been large enough to set off alarms and cause automatic action.
The credit-card abuse was aggravating enough, but the real blow was that deep down in his heart and ego, Quint believed he knew the abuser. Monica Hunter. It had to be her. The pieces he already knew about fit the borders of the jigsaw. What was missing was the rest of the puzzle.
Monica had entered his life like a tsunami swamping a sleeping sunbather. Just when hehad been playing it safe, too.
And just when he had been vulnerable and recovering from an experience so horrible he couldn't bear to speak of it. He might not talk about it, he might try not to think about it, but he would never forget how a good-looking redhead had perpetrated an outrageous deception, fooled him completely, and publicly humiliated him. For months, tabloid newspapers and magazines blaring about the scandal had appeared beside the cash registers of every grocery store in Texas. And who knew where else?
Since that nightmare, Quint had limited his social life to hooking up with women through an exclusive—and expensive—Internet dating site that thoroughly screened all of its members. His relationships with the women he met on the Internet had amounted to nothing more than casual dinners and one-night stands. Then one evening as he surfed the Net, Monica had come online and hit him harder than a rodeo arena floor. Up to then, he had been seeking nothing serious with the fairer sex. Monica had turned his world upside down. For ninety blissful days and nine ideal evenings, he had entertained the notion that he had found The One.
Then she disappeared.
What had appeared, on the other hand, and in a matter of hours, really, were myriad baffling charges on his Visa.
Well, he had no intention of shrugging it off and moving on. No intention whatsoever. He was no ordinary lovesick fool. What Monica didn't know, couldn't possibly know, was just how royally she had screwed up. In the world Quint Matthews had carefully carved for himself in years of living in the rough-and-tumble world of ProRodeo, he was the King. And everybody knew, you don't shit on the King. Nosiree, baby. You don't squat wearing spurs and you don't shit on Quint Matthews.
He picked up the phone again and keyed in another number that had been programmed into it for several years. On the third ring, he got an answer. He recognized the hello and a sense of relief flowed through him. The voice on the phone was the one he shouldn't have let get away. "Debbie Sue?" he said with a grin. "Hey, darlin', this is Quint. How you doin', sweetheart?"
"Why, Quint. What a surprise."
Debbie Sue Pratt was the only human alive he trusted to help him solve his current problem. "I've been thinking about you, darlin'. When I need somebody good-looking and clever, I always think of Debbie Sue Pratt."
"Why, thank you, Quint, but you know my name isn't Pratt anymore."
Shit. He did know that. He just didn't like to think of her being married to Buddy Overstreet. Buddy, who used to be the sheriff in Cabell County, had always looked at him with a jaundiced eye. These days the guy was a Texas state trooper, working toward becoming a Texas Ranger. Big deal.
"Sure, darlin'," he told the one who made him feel more alive than any woman he had ever known. "I heard you and Buddy got together again. But just because you got married, you wouldn't high-hat an old friend, would you?"
"Nope. Not for a minute."
"You and your pal up for taking on a new customer?"
She laughed. "You need a detective?"
Quint laughed, too. He loved the way nothing got past her.
When Debbie Sue and her partner, Edwina, had solved the mystery of Pearl Ann Carruthers's murder, a reputation for being experts at crime solving descended upon them. Quint had even read about them in Texas Monthly.
Debbie Sue had taken advantage of the publicity. Dragging her partner along, probably kicking and screaming, she had opened sort of a private investigation agency in one end of her beauty shop. The Domestic Equalizers, she had bragged in the article, specialized in spoiling the fun of philandering spouses and significant others.
Quint had neither, but when it came to his love life, he might be better off if he did."I do need a detective, darlin', and I need one now. Look, I'm gonna be in Salt Lick on Saturday. You think Buddy would care if I stopped by your shop for a little visit?" Flying Tigers
Claire Chennault and His American Volunteers, 1941-1942. Copyright © by Daniel Ford. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
What People are Saying About This
“Without question, the most readable and complete account of the AVG yet written.”
“A major contribution to the history of the air war in the Pacific.”
“Totally engrossingjust like reliving those days fifty years ago.”
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
The first edition was the definitive history of the American Volunteer Group, and with further research the second edition is even better. When first published, this work stirred bitter controversy among former AVG members due to it's assertions (backed up by research) that the AVG overclaimed victories (like every other combat air force in every other conflict) and that the AVG never faced the Mitsubishi "Zero" fighter (they didn't; there were no Zeroes or any other Navy planes in their area of operation. Like everyone else in those days, they misidentified the Army's very similar Ki.43 as Zeroes.) Further research using original sources has refined the new edition's position on the AVG's kill claims. Interestingly, presumably as a result of contacts with former AVG personnel, Ford backs off from a couple things he maintained in the first edition. In the first edition Ford wrote that the term "Flying Tigers" was a media creation, unknown to the men of the AVG (who, he wrote, referred to themselves simply as "AVGs") until they returned to the US. In the new edition he mentions how Walt Disney's company developed the Flying Tiger logo for the AVG and he presents photos of AVG planes wearing the decal markings provided by Disney. He also mentions that some AVG personnel were quite miffed when the U.S. Army's 23rd Fighter Group adopted the Flying Tigers name, clearly indicating that the AVG men were familiar with the term while they were still in Asia, and claimed it as their own. In the first edition Ford wrote that one of the AVG's squadron was slow to begin scoring against the Japanese because its commander "didn't want to fight." Nothing like this appears in the new edition. I strongly recommend this book to anyone with an interest in the American Volunteer Group or air combat in the early months of the Pacific War. Because of the expanded and updated material, this book is worthwhile even for readers who have the original edition.
The B&N store attaches a sample chapter for 'Flying Tigers' that seems to come out of a bad contemporary novel. This book actually begins as follows: 'The man behind the Flying Tigers was born in Commerce, Texas, on September 6, 1893-or was he? Commerce is right, though there's no documentary proof of Claire Lee Chennault's birth there or anywhere else. As the story is told, his father left Louisiana after a horse trader tried to sell him an unbroken mustang as good farm stock. Mr. Chennault shot a hole through the man's hat, and a sojourn in Texas was thought advisable while the matter cooled.' Blue skies! -- Dan Ford