This is sad news. If Hollywood ever wishes to celebrate real life American heroes they have to look no farther than the men of the American Volunteer Group who flew for China from November 1941-July 4, 1942. Always vastly outnumbered, and flying planes in many respects inferior to most of the Japanese fighters they fought, the men of the Flying Tigers shot down 229 Japanese planes, achieving a stunning ten to one kill to loss ratio. Their victories sustained American morale in the dark early days of the War. On July 4, 1942, the Flying Tigers were transformed into the 23rd Fight Group, United States Army Air Forces, with their commander being Brigadier General Claire Chennault, commander of the Flying Tigers, the man whose brilliant tactical innovations and skilled leadership helped his men achieve their incredible against the odds victories. The 14th American Air Force stationed in China would later take up the proud title of Flying Tigers. If ever a band of brothers, in Shakespeare’s phrase, existed in a war, it was the Flying Tigers:
– A Columbus, Georgia, man considered to be the last surviving Flying Tiger, died Feb. 6.
Frank Losonsky, who joined the First American Volunteer Group in May 1941, passed away from natural causes at the age of 99.
“Individuals like Frank Losonsky exemplify our core values,” said Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein. “Frank was one of the youngest of this group of 311 young Americans who journeyed to Burma in 1941 to help defend freedom. His efforts, along with all of those who flew with the Flying Tigers, will continue to inspire future generations of American Airmen. What a grand life he led – he will be truly missed. ”
Originally from Detroit, Losonsky, served as a crew chief maintaining the legendary P-40 Tomahawk stylized with an intimidating shark mouth livery made famous by the AVG.
The AVG, nicknamed the Flying Tigers, initially consisted of 311 members who were tasked with protecting China from the Japanese forces. Structured similarly to the Eagle Squadrons in the Royal Air Force who fought during the Battle of Britain, the Flying Tigers were organized within the Chinese air force and flew under the Republic of China flag.
Originally deploying to Burma in the summer of 1941, the Flying Tigers didn’t officially begin combat operations until December of 1941.
In an effort to expedite China’s surrender, the Japanese air force conducted massive area bombings against cities throughout China. Arriving shortly after a Japanese bombing mission on December 19, the Flying Tigers were taken to the city to witness the devastation. Vowing to protect the citizens of Kunming, the Flying Tigers responded to the following day’s bombing run in full force as nine of 10 attacking Japanese bombers failed to return to their base.
“The Japanese referred to them as ‘gangsters’ because they said they didn’t fight fair,” said Tripp Alyn, chair of the Historical & Museums Committee AVG Flying Tigers Association. “The Flying Tigers, though they were characterized by some as mercenaries or soldiers of fortune, were largely patriotic American officers who joined a covert operation to help keep China in the war.”
Although existing for only a year, the Flying Tigers produced 20 aces, and destroyed 297 enemy aircraft at a ratio of 20-to-1, with 92 Japanese airmen killed for every Flying Tiger lost.
Go here to read the rest. May he even now be flying patrol in the skies of the Kingdom of Love Eternal, with angels as his wingmen.