General Chennault Finds Inspiration

Earlier, I blogged about the Civil War ties to Claire Lee Chennault and the Flying Tigers. On 4 July 1942, the Flying Tigers ceased to exist, and the men became the cadre for the China Air Task Force, part of U.S. Tenth Air Force. (In 1943, China Air Task Force became the separate Fourteenth Air Force).

Chennault, now a general, received command of the China Air Task Force. It numbered at most 40 fighters and 7 bombers against 350+ Japanese planes in a battlespace approximating the East Coast of the United States inland to the Mississippi River.

Undaunted by the odds, Chennault reached back into history for inspiration and ideas on how to fight. 

“Our tactics,” he recalled in 1949, “were to use every advantage of interior lines of communication . . . to retain the initiative, jab the Japanese off balance with surprise thrusts at widely separated targets, and keep their numerically superior forces on the defensive. It was the principle of the Confederate cavalry leaders in the War between the States [sic] applied to modern air war.”

In short, it worked – between 4 July 1942 and 19 March 1943, Chennault’s flyers downed 149 Japanese aircraft (confirmed) against just 16 losses.

Image: Claire Lee Chennault as a U.S. Major General, 1944.

1 Response to General Chennault Finds Inspiration

Please leave a comment and join the discussion!