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This information comes from the biographical file for pilot Chennault, CC-238500-01, reviewed by me in the archives of the National Air & Space Museum (NASM), Washington, DC.

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Your copy of the Davis-Monthan Airfield Register with all the pilots' signatures and helpful cross-references to pilots and their aircraft is available here. Or use this FORM to order a copy signed by the author.

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This link leads you to a book that describes and illustrates with black & white photographs the majority of military aircraft, including the Consolidated and Douglas aircraft flown by Chennault, that landed at the Davis-Monthan Airfield between 1925 and 1936. The book includes biographies of some of the pilots who flew the aircraft to Tucson as well as extensive listings of all the pilots and airplanes. Or use this FORM to order a copy signed by the author.

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Benton Book Cover

Benton, Jeffrey C. 1999.They Served Here: Thirty-three Maxwell Men. Air University Press. Maxwell Air Force Base. Montgomery, AL. 81pp.

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CLAIRE LEE CHENNAULT

THE ORIGINAL FLYING TIGER

 

Claire Lee Chennault landed at Tucson twice, on November 30, 1927 as a lieutenant, and on April 4, 1930 as a captain. On both flights he was flying typical military aircraft, on his way from and to typical military destinations of the time.

The image, left, is from a 1932 newsclipping (Chennault is 39 years old) showing the "Flying Trapezers". Chennault and Williamson (center and right) are both signers of the Davis-Monthan Airfield Register.

"The Men on the Flying Trapeze" performed at air shows throughout the early 1930s. Immediately below, courtesy of site visitor Joe Kranz, is a U.S. postal cachet from September 2, 1934 that commemorates the National Air Races (NAR) that year. The clipping below the cachet identifies the pilots as Chennault and Williamson again, but one of the crew has changed. McDonald has been replaced by Hansell (not a Register signer). The envelope is signed by Chennault, Williamson and Hansell.

 

U.S. Postal Cachet, NAR, September 2, 1934 (Source: Kranz)
U.S. Postal Cachet, NAR, September 2, 1934 (Source: Kranz)

The following is taken from this downloadable (PDF) book (see reference, left, and that book for images of Chennault). Google has many hits on "Claire Chennault", providing additional biographical information and images.

"In 1917 Claire Lee Chennault (1893-1958) left his job in an Akron, Ohio, tire factory to enter the Officers Training School at Fort Benjamin Harrison, Indiana. Ninety-days later he emerged as a lieutenant in the infantry reserves. Lieutenant Chennault, however, wanted to fly, so he quickly transferred to the Aviation Section of the Signal Corps.

"In 1919 he overcame Army opposition to his entering flying training because of his age and because he was married with three children. In 1920 he earned his pilot's wings. Later that year, Chennault obtained a regular commission in the newly organized Air Service and commanded a pursuit or fighter squadron in Hawaii.

"His early career was controversial. In 1931 he graduated from the Air Corps Tactical School (ACTS) at Langley Field, Virginia, and remained on the school's faculty when it moved to Maxwell Field, Alabama. At odds with most other ACTS instructors, Major Chennault tried to promote his airpower theories with the unpublished, but influential, text "The Role of Defensive Pursuit" and with the Flying Trapezers, his aerial acrobatic team. His advocacy of fighters, air superiority, and an air defense warning net (before the development of radar) was not well received by his fellow ACTS instructors who were promoting strategic bombing theories.

"Claire and Nellie Chennault and their eight children lived in the Stone-Young mansion on Old Selma Road and later at 322 Center Drive, Maxwell. Legend has it that Chennault rode his horse into the old Montgomery Country Club. He supposedly performed other noted feats. When Chennault lived at the Stone-Young plantation, he flew his P-12C under the Highway 31 bridge and even allowed a son to fly the plane, solo. Broken in spirit and body from constant debate about how airpower should be used, Chennault retired at his permanent rank of captain in 1937.

"At the invitation of Madame Chiang Kai-shek he went to China to organize and train the Chinese air forces. Quickly he found himself involved in the Sino-Japanese War. By 1940 he had secured American assistance and formed the American Volunteer Group (AVG) or Flying Tigers in August 1941. In the seven months following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the A VG was the most effective Allied fighter group in the Far East, shooting down hundreds of Japanese planes while sustaining almost insignificant losses.

"Chennault returned to US service in 1942 as commander of the China Air Task Force, which had to be supplied over the Himalayas from India. His acerbic personality and almost in- subordinate advocacy of his airpower tactics and politico- military strategy led to estrangement with Gen. Joseph W. "Vinegar Joe" Stilwell, commander of the China-Burma-India theater, and with Gen George C. Marshall, chief of staff of the Army. Major General Chennault retired just before Japan surrendered.

"Subsequently, Chennault formed a contract cargo carrier, Civil Air Transport (CAT), in the Far East. CAT provided Chennault, an outspoken anti-Communist and friend of Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek, with the means to support the Nationalist Chinese in 1948-49 during China's civil war. The Central Intelligence Agency took over CAT in 1950.

"Appropriately, the street that is home to ACTS's descendants the Air Force's professional military education schools at Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama is named Chennault Circle."

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These items are available at the National Air & Space Museum Archives, Washington, DC:

CHENNAULT, Claire Lee Papers
(1942-1945)
.4 cu ft
Call Nos. 42.041-34, 862.161A,B, 8162.289A, 862.317, 862.490-1, 862.662-1, 864.311
IRIS Nos. 00115227, 0268371-0268373, 0268521, 0258720, 0268741, 0268911, 0268979
(1890-1958). Lieutenant General. USAAF, 1917-1945. Born 6 September 1890, Commerce, TX. BA, Louisiana State Normal School, 1912. Air Corps Tactical School, 1931. Commissioned First Lieutenant, Infantry Reserve, November 1917; transferred to Aviation Section, Signal Corps, November 1917; discharged April 1920; commissioned First Lieutenant, Air Service, 1920. Career assignments include: various duties as company and field grade officer, 1920-1931; Senior Instructor in Pursuit Aviation, Chief of Pursuit Section, Air Corps Tactical School, Member, Air Corps Pursuit Development Board and Organizer, precision acrobatic team ("Three Men on a Flying Trapeze"), 1931-1935; Stations Operations Officer, Maxwell Field, 1936; Executive Officer, 10th Fighter Group, 1936-1937. Retired April 1937. Civil Advisor, China Air Forces, 1937; Organizer, "Flying Tigers" American Volunteer Group, 1941. Recalled to active duty, USAAF, April 1942. Commander, China Air Task Force and later Commander,Fourteenth Air Force, 1942-1945. Retired October 1945. Organizer, Chinese civil air transport system, 1946. Promoted to Lieutenant General, July 1958. Died 27 July 1958, New Orleans, LA. Author of The Role of Defensive Pursuit (1935) and Way of a Fighter; the Memoirs of Claire Lee Chennault (1949).

Personal and official papers relating Chennault's World War II service. Includes Chennault's personal correspondence file (7 May 1944-21 May 1945) as well as official correspondence, messages, and memoranda (1942-1943) pertaining to operations with specific reference to activities against Japanese shipping (3-25 September 1944). Contains correspondence between Generals Chennault and Bissell. Also contains letters from Chennault to General Arnold covering summaries of activities (July 1944-January 1945). Includes Plan for the Defense of China (4 June 1944) and Plan for Air Operations in China. Also includes reports (letters) on China operations (4 September, 10 October and 17 December 1944). Contains Chennault's 201 File (1942-1945).

Related materials located in the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace, Stanford University (National Union Catalog Manuscript Collections, MS 68-655) include other personal papers.

Additionally, this photo of Chennault's A-2 jacket is available at NASM online at this link.

Claire Chennault, A-2 Jacket, Ca. 1938
Claire Chennault, A-2 Jacket, Ca. 1938

Part of the text accompanying this image is as follows. Click on the link above for additional text.

Manufacturer: Aero Leather Clothing Co.

http://collections.nasm.si.edu/images/px.gif

Country of Origin: United States of America

http://collections.nasm.si.edu/images/px.gif

Dimensions:
Clothing Size: 42

Materials:
Overall: Horsehide
Cuffs and Waist Band: Knit Wool

Physical Description:
Gen. Claire Chennault's United States Army Air Forces Type A-2 Flying Jacket; waist length seal brown horsehide jacket with brown knit wool cuffs and waist band; brass zipper down front; two front flap pockets with hidden snaps; stand and fall collar with snaps; brown rayon lining; shoulder straps; dark brown sewn in manufacturer's tag with embroidered gold text on inside collar (see inscriptions for full text); Blood Cit sewn on inside right side; 2 silver stars each epaulet; leather name tag over 14th Air Force insignia on left breast; China-Burma-India insignia on right shoulder.

This jacket is not the same one Chennault is wearing in the news photo at the top of the page. Please see Register pilot Lee Willey for additional images of insignia from the China-Burma-India Theater.

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Dossier 2.2.54

UPLOADED: 12/23/05 REVISED: 03/20/09

 
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