Curtiss Hawk 81-A-2 P8127 ‘White 47’, Robert ‘R.T’ Smith, 3rd Squadron American Volunteer Group, Kunming, China, June 1942
As some of the most celebrated pilots in the history of air warfare, the Flying Tigers of the 1st American Volunteer Group achieved incredible success against overwhelming odds in their robust but ageing Curtiss ﬁghters, at a time when Japanese forces were advancing across vast areas of the Paciﬁc region. A volunteer force of just 100 pilots, equipped with aircraft originally destined for the RAF Desert Air Force, the Flying Tigers are often misconceived as an ill-disciplined group of journeymen ﬂyers, who were simply in it for the money. In fact, they were highly trained ﬁghter pilots who had all volunteered to ﬁght in some of the most inhospitable conditions endured by any pilots during WWII and as they entered combat in the days following the infamous Pearl Harbor attack, they were determined to destroy as many Japanese aircraft as they could. In this aim, they were spectacularly successful, posting some of the most impressive combat kill ratios of the entire war.