Remembering The Flying Tigers

CA7B63C0-6950-44A6-85DC-0A4AAD9E7452The Flying Tigers are remembered today for their contribution to both U.S. and Chinese war efforts in the Pacific during World War II. There are museums and displays throughout the United States dedicated to them as well as in China. One famous museum in China is the Kunming Flying Tigers Museum; opened on December 20, 2012, the museum was built in memory of the services of Chennault and the Flying Tigers from 1941 to 1942. The museum is open year long and within only two years of opening, the museum has over two thousand artifacts, photos, and items connected to Chennault and the Flying Tigers. However, the significance of the Kunming Flying Tigers is due not just to the vast quantity of photos and artifacts that are on display in remembrance of the flying tigers; Kunming, China was the headquarters of the Flying Tigers during their time of duty. The city of Kunming holds a special connection with Chennault and the Flying Tigers, having the museum located in Kunming, China makes the Kunming Flying Tigers Museum ever more special in their dedication to honor and remembering the Flying Tigers.

The Kunming Fkying Tigers Museum has a variety of artifacts that remember the Flying Tigers. One exhibit in the museum that is located at the base of the staircase to the entrance of the museum’s Flying Tigers wing displays a model of a Curtiss P-40 Warhawk hanging from the ceiling, backed by giant black and white photos of the Flying Tigers in action. The exhibit’s English title is “Tigers in the Sky” and the history of the squadron’s origins begins immediately inside the door. Photos of key political and military figures line the walls, along with  placards in both Chinese and English thoroughly explaining the history of the Flying Tigers — officially named the First American Volunteer Group (AVG). Although the English descriptions are not all grammatically correctly, they are some of the best that can be found in Yunnan. The museum is not particularly large, but the exhibits within the museum do an excellent job of summing up the extremely complex dynamics that were at play in this theater of World War II. The museum displays provide explanations the significance of the Burma Road as well as the exploits of the AVG and the role the China National Aviation Corporation played in the Pacific Theater in World War II.

B431AF9D-FB44-4F17-ABB7-6A1BA9BF9749Another well known museum, the Guilin Flying Tigers Heritage Park Museum, is dedicated to not just honor and remember the Flying Tigers, but to also educate tourists and the public on who the Flying Tigers and to prevent the history of the group from being twisted or forgotten. History is often rewritten and twisted with lies and exaggerations added in that are eventually accepted as facts. The lies start off simple, and believable and from those simple lies, mores lies are born, some are new lies while others build off of old lies. The the story becomes twisted as time passes and the lie is passed on from person to person, until eventually, that piece of history has become a lie. As Adolf Hitler once said “ Make the lie big, make it simple, keep saying it, and eventually they will believe it.” Hitler’s quote can be applied to the actions of the Japanese government in the 1990s when they published a highschool textbook that depicted the Japanese army in WWII as an “ Army of Liberation”.  The Japanese had produce these books in the past as well in the 1950s and the 1970s. The textbook created a false image of the Japanese army as a group that was helping the Chinese rather than a group invading and attempting to imperialise China. These textbooks left out many of the atrocities committed by the japanese government and Japanese army, among the many atrocities not mentioned in the textbook were the Rape of Nanking, the chemical and biological experimentations performed on Chinese civilians and prisoners of wars by the group of Japanese chemists and biologists known as Unit 731, the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Bataan Death March, and the exploitation of Korean comfort women. The Japanese government attempted to whitewash their role in World War II and even tried to educate Japanese students with the lie that the Japanese were not even part of World War II. When a pair of Japanese tourists at Guilin Flying Tigers Heritage Park Museum were asked if they experienced any hostility from Chinese tourists over the actions of the Japanese in World War II, the Japanese tourists claimed that the Japanese were never involved in World War II. These tourists were uneducated on the role of their own country in World War II, because the Japanese government was too embarrassed to teach this piece of history and chose to twist the history that they taught to their students. The lie was repeated over and over throughout the years the biased textbooks were produced and eventually the Japanese started to believe it. The Guilin Flying Tigers Heritage Park Museum was built to prevent such lies from being made specifically about the history of the Flying Tigers. In addition to preserving the  history of the Flying Tigers, the park also honors the long lasting friendship between the United States and the Chinese since World War II.

The Flying Tiger Historical Organization had requested that the main rotunda house at the Flying Tigers Heritage Park Museum have a sculpture depicting a Flying Tiger pilot being carried on a stretcher by Chinese villagers and protected by Chinese soldiers. The inscription on the sculpture would read “Safe in the Hands of Friends”. This sculpture would honor the actions of the Chinese that helped the Flying Tigers who were wounded during their time of service. With the help of the Chinese, ninety-five percent of the wounded flying tigers were able to return to their base alive. The Japanese offered the Chinese large monetary rewards, tortured them, killed their babies, buried them alive and committed many other atrocities in order to get the Chinese to reveal the locations of wounded Tiger pilots. However, the Chinese endured through these atrocities and many died to protect the wounded the Flying Tigers. The Guilin Flying Tigers Heritage Park Museum is honoring not just the Flying Tigers but the friendship and bond between the U.S. and China that the Flying Tigers helped to form.

The Flying Tigers are also commemorated in museums throughout the U.S., one of many museums that has a large quantity of memorabilia and artifacts that tell the story of the Flying Tigers and their fame in the U.S. during their time of service. Among the many artifacts are newspaper clippings telling of the successes of the group in their fight against the Japanese Flying Aces, letters of complaint from Chennault about the misrepresentation of the role of the Flying Tigers in the pacific, as well as many letters written by the members of the Flying Tigers about their experiences in the Pacific. The museum also includes a handwritten diary consisting of the air operations that the Flying Tigers participated in. In addition, the museum contains photographs which include the Flying Tigers  during their 1990 reunion, an original photo of a member of the Flying Tigers taken during the 1940s, and photos on book covers of the Flying Tigers. 

Bibliography

Chen, Cindy. “Descriptive Finding Guide for Flying Tigers Collection.” San Diego Air and Space Museum 2001. http://sandiegoairandspace.org/files/Flying_Tigers-FG-SC.10008_.pdf

“Kunming Flying Tigers Museum.” Kunming Flying Tigers Museum Is Open–KUNMING Flying Tigers Musenm. Accessed June 09, 2018. http://en.kmflyingtiger.com/info.asp?47.html.

Mesojednik, Karl, and Digital Archiving USA. “The Flying Tiger Heritage Park, Guilin, China — The Flying Tiger Historical Organization.” The Flying Tiger Heritage Park, Guilin, China — The Flying Tiger Historical Organization. Accessed June 09, 2018. http://flyingtigerhistoricalorg.homestead.com/.

“Museum Dedication.” Flying Tiger Historical Organization. Accessed June 09, 2018. https://www.flyingtigershistoricalorganization.com/museum-dedication.html.

Scally, Patrick. “Around Town: Flying Tigers Museum.” GoKunming. September 13, 2013. Accessed June 18, 2018. https://www.gokunming.com/en/blog/item/3054/around_town_flying_tigers_museum.