Flying Tigers confront the first raid on Rangoon

P-40 aircraft of the 'Flying Tigers' are guarded by a Nationalist Chinese soldier.

Colonel Claire L.Chennault of the US Army Air Corps had established the American Volunteer Group in southern China, to assist the Nationalist Chinese against the invading Japanese. This band of gifted airmen soon became known as the Flying Tigers.

One Squadron was sent to Rangoon in Burma to assist the RAF. They were to be amongst the first into action when the Japanese invaded Burma, in what was to become the longest campaign fought by the British during the entire war. It began once again with a surprise air raid, but this time there was a robust response in the air:

Boy and it all came today! We got a report at 10.00 am that large numbers of bombers were on the way. 14 ships from our and 14 Buffaloes from RAF took off. We intercepted them at 12,000 ft. 15 minutes east of Rangoon.

Two waves of bombers, 27 in each wave, and about 40 fighter escorts. We started making runs on them and shooting like hell. After a bit I couldn’t see any of the fellows up there.

Found a bomber away from the formation, made about three passes, and on the last one went in to about 50 yds., firing all guns and he blew up right in front of me + down in flames. Went after another and McMillan and I together put out his right engine and smoke trailed out. He was losing alt. last time I looked, but about that time I was jumped by three Jap fighters.

Shot at one and drove away. Went back up and fired at more bombers till ammo. out. Greene was shot down by fighters, bailed out, + they strafed him going down. Wasn’t hit. Landed OK. Martin and Gilbert both shot down and killed. My ship had a few holes in it. Several killed at the field here and about a 1,000 in Rangoon. Fires all over and smoke very thick. After the raid refuelled and went on patrol. A busy day Let ‘em come. We got about 15 ships to their 3.

See Robert T. Smith : Tale of a Tiger and Flying Tigers.

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