Randolph of the Orient
Jouett immediately set about the task of turning the CAF flying school at Shien Chiao into an Asian Randolph Field, establishing an immediate program to upgrade the physical plant of the base. He insisted that all instruction be in the English language and used training aids, tech orders, and manuals he had brought with him from the US. The American instructors were pleased to discover that most of their CAF cadets were motivated and intelligent, and Jouett’s flying school soon produced graduates and Instructor Pilots. This was a welcome change from earlier training efforts in which pilot candidates were selected on the basis of family status and connections.
Jouett annually cranked out graduating classes of 100 Chinese cadets until the contract expired in 1935 and he returned to America. The pace of work was nothing if not brisk. The notes kept by one American IP noted that he commonly logged 100 hours a month of flying instruction.
Chinese politicians and military leaders sometimes gave Americans “confidential assignments,” some of which strayed far from military tasks for which the pilots had been hired. Mostly, these did not violate the Neutrality Act and did not, therefore, raise legal dangers in the US. So strong was isolationist sentiment in the US at the time that any pilot caught engaging in an act of war on behalf of the Kuomintang (or any belligerent) would have been stripped of his citizenship. As the military situation in the Far East deteriorated, however, provisions of the Neutrality Act were far less stringently enforced. In April 1941 President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued an executive order permitting military pilots to fly and fight abroad for up to one year.
The First American Volunteer Group (AVG) of the Chinese Air Force in 1941–1942 or the Flying Tigers was created under President Franklin Roosevelt's authority before Pearl Harbor and commanded by Claire Lee Chennault. On 23 July in 1941, FDR approved a Joint Board paper which recommended that the United States equip, man, and maintain the 500-plane Chinese Air Force proposed by Lauchlin Currie, the White House official dealing with China. The paper suggested this force embark on a vigorous program to be climaxed by the bombing of Japan in November 1941, which fascinated President Roosevelt. The group first saw combat on 20 December 1941, 12 days after Pearl Harbor. The flying school at Shien Chiao was run by the Americans, helping Chinese trainee pilots learn to fly. President Roosevelt formally issued an executive order permitting military pilots to fly and fight abroad for up to one year in 1941.
Claire L. Chennault worked in China since August 1937, first as military aviation advisor to Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek in the early months of the Sino-Japanese War, then as director of a Chinese Air Force flight school centered in Kunming. This is similar to President Kennedy's involvement in the Vietnam War. In May 1961, JFK authorized sending an additional 500 Special Forces troops and military advisors to assist the pro-Western government of South Vietnam. By the end of 1962, there were approximately 11,000 military advisors in South Vietnam. America got bogged down in Vietnam because North Vietnam was backed by the Soviets and the Chinese. Imperial Japan had the same fate in Nationalist China that received substantial material and technical support from America.
China Seeks U.S. Aid
War in Europe after September 1939 made it unlikely that European powers friendly to China could spare arms and technical assistance, so the Chinese Government approached the United States, whose sympathy for it was openly manifested by government and people alike, though not on a scale to commit the United States to intervention in the Sino-Japanese conflict. In two loans the American Export-Import Bank lent the Chinese-owned Universal Trading Corporation $45,000,000, its use restricted to purchase of civilian supplies.4
an Army and Air Force overran France and the Low Countries in six weeks.
In June 1940 Mr. T. V. Soong5 visited the United States to ask for arms and more credits. Two factors weighed heavily in favor of a loan to China for arms. U.S. sympathy lay with China's cause and American planners, in appraising the possibility and probable course of a conflict with Japan, recognized the advantages for the United States in having China's manpower and geographic position as an aid. However, the United States was most anxious not to provoke Japan to ally herself with Germany since that alliance would further jeopardize England's already desperate position. Moreover, since Germany had just overrun western Europe to the English Channel, the United States itself seemed in danger, and the American munitions stock was not great enough to provide for China after American needs were met and after the United States supported Great Britain, whose plight seemed most directly to affect the United States. Furthermore, it was not feasible to diminish the U.S. stockpile in order to send supplies to China since matériel previously sent was not reaching the fronts because lines of communications were inadequate for forwarding it.6
Putting Air Power in China: The AVG and Currie's Lend-Lease Program
Two air programs were clearly emerging from the original Chinese 500-plane proposal by the early spring of 1941. The availability of 100 Curtiss P-40B's in January and February 1941 afforded an opportunity that Chennault and Soong had exploited, with powerful and essential aid from the services. Soong's aim was to rush the organization of a fighter group for earliest possible service in China. Currie, on the other hand, was eager to secure lend-lease funds to fill a larger long-range air program, which, if successful, would have created a potent Chinese Air Force. While both programs developed concurrently, the P-40 project outdistanced its lend-lease counterpart in the period before Pearl Harbor.
On 15 February 1941, General Marshall told the Acting Secretary of State, Mr. Sumner Welles, that a man had been found who was willing to take a chance on recruiting pilots for the P-40B's in spite of existing neutrality legislation.43 This was the same Mr. Pawley who had been conferring with Secretary Knox since December 1940 on a volunteer scheme. Two months later Pawley signed a nonprofit contract with Soong to equip, supply, and operate the American Volunteer Group (AVG), as it was to be known. Under the contract, Colonel Chennault bore the unmartial title of supervisor. To insure co-ordination between the different branches of the organization setting up the AVG, the contract required Chennault to maintain close liaison with Pawley's organization in the Far East and in New York.44
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