THE FLYING TIGERS, WITH BOOKPLATE SIGNED BY 16 MEMBERS OF THE CELEBRATED SQUADRON
KLEINER, Sam. The Flying Tigers. (New York): Viking, (2018). Quarto, original half red cloth, original dust jacket. $850.
First edition of this history of the famed volunteer squadron "The Flying Tigers," fighting under Chinese colors before joining the U.S. Army Air Force in 1942, signed by 16 of its members—including eight pilots, six of them aces—and enlisted AVG support personnel.
Prior to the United States entry into World War II, approximately 15,000 Americans joined flying units already engaged in combat. At the request of Madame Chiang Kaishek, General Claire Lee Chennault recruited a squadron of fighter pilots in order to throw a small but well-equipped air force into China to attack Japanese supply lines. With the official designation "American Volunteer Group" (AVG) but popularly known as "The Flying Tigers," this celebrated group of pilots has been described as "the most colorful group of warriors in modern times" and "the world's most illustrious squadron" (History Channel).
Signed on a bookplate by Flying Tigers pilots Paul Greene, Robert T. Smith, J.R. "Dick" Rossi, Ken Jernstedt, Ed Rector, David "Tex" Hill, Charlie Bond, Erik Shilling, and Bob Layher. Of these, Rossi, Rector, Smith, Bond, Hill and Jernstedt were aces (more than five enemy planes shot down). Bond, an ace with 9-1/2 victories, was the first of the Flying Tigers to paint his Curtiss P-40 Warhawk with the shark mouth on the nose of his plane, an iconic decoration that would become characteristic of the Flying Tigers. The bookplate is additionally signed by AVG enlisted support personnel: crew chiefs Edward Gallagher, Frank Losonsky and Carl Quick, communications specialists Rolland Richardson and Robert M. Smith, armorer Keith Christensen, and clerk Al Kaelin.