Frequently Asked Questions
The Tigers answer their most often asked questions as well as some new.
Tex, what point about the American Volunteer Group do you most often tell and want people to know?
David Lee “Tex” Hill, Squadron Leader, 2nd Squadron “Panda Bears” :
There are several points about the Flying Tigers AVG that I want people to know. But one of the main points I would like people to remember is that this wasn’t a bunch of mercenaries, mavericks or rogues that made up the AVG but rather a group of very talented, bright and energetic young men who were committed to the American cause of winning the War.
Now, I’m not saying we were always angels, but we were all young adventurous and spirited. But the fellas of the AVG weren’t dummies either. Most went home after the war and started very successful and even dynamic careers.
Well, a great many became captains in the airlines such as Pan Am. One started the Flying Tiger Airline with the help of several of the Tiger group. Others became test pilots developing all kinds of projects. Some went on to very successful military careers including Major General. There was a doctor, a lawyer and one that was both. The presiding judge in the infamous Charles Manson murder trial was a Flying Tiger. Several became successful in agriculture while others found their success in businesses like restaurants and manufacturing.
There were some who pursued successful non-flying careers in aviation as consultants, or one who was a state aviation director. One of the group helped pioneer the development of the jet engine and held many patents for engine components used today.
One group member distinguished himself as a state senator for over 20 years. Another became an Olympic diving coach on top of other successes. We even had one member who wrote television scripts in Hollywood.
There are other examples but the point is these guys weren’t a bunch of dummies, they were some of the best young men this country ever produced.
David Lee “Tex” Hill earned his wings and commission as an ensign at NAS Pensacola. He served on the U.S.S. Ranger when he was recruited to join the AVG. Tex became an ACE with the AVG on January 24, 1942 and later a double ACE before the Flying Tigers were disbanded on July 4, 1942. Tex then accepted an Army commission in order to continue his service to General Chennault in China and eventually commanded the 23rd Fighter group of the 14th Air Force. Col. Hill scored 12.25 AVG victories with a total of 18.25 including his U.S. Air Force Service. Tex Hill’s decorations include: The Distinguished Service Cross, The Silver Star, Distinguished Flying Cross with 3 Oak Leaf Clusters, The Presidential Unit Citations with one Oak Leaf Cluster, The Chinese Victory Medal, Two Stared Wing Decorations and the Chinese Order of the Cloud Banner 4,5,and 6th Orders. Tex lives with his wife, Mazie in San Antonio, Texas.
Of all your memories and experiences with the AVG, which one do you like sharing the most?
Kenneth A. Jernstedt, Flight Leader, 3rd Squadron, “Hells Angels” :
Actually, there are more than one such experiences but one I would like to share here is an event that came after the Flying Tigers disbanded on July 4, 1942.
I was a test pilot for Republic Aircraft on the P-47 in New York in 1944. Madame Chiang Kai-Shek had come to the States to promote China and was scheduled to make a speech at the Madison Square Gardens to a very large audience many of whom were dignitaries. There was a radio audience as well.
Someone working on this event thought it would be fitting that Madame Chiang Kai-Shek’s honor guard should be the Flying Tigers that were in the area. So they brought us in and among us was George Paxton, Bob Neale, John Hennessy, Parker DuPouy, John Croft and several others. We were all test pilots or flying for different projects and companies around New York.
Well, General Hap Arnold was there also and during the event, he walked by and said to us; “Say, when am I going to get you boys back”. Of course, he meant back into the Army. But since I was a Marine, I quipped that he never had me and wasn’t going get me back. General Arnold and I were kind of standing together when he asked me what I was doing then. I told him test piloting the P-47 and he patted me on the shoulder, smiled and told me that I was “doing my part” for the war. By then he was being more open and conversational when he said “You know, you AVG boys have an impressive combat record over there”. For Hap Arnold to say that caught my attention and he added “but you know, more than the planes you destroyed, your main contribution was really the morale boost you gave this country” He continued; “The six or eight months you fellas operated in the beginning of the war, there wasn’t much good news for us. We, nor the British or anyone else were able to beat the Japanese in those early months of the war. You guys were really the glimmer of hope because you were the only ones getting results. That meant an awful lot back here.”