Monday, July 10, 2017

Tomahawk and Tiger

== Originally Published March 2011==

Curtis P40E
wearing the colors of the AVG 
There is a story from just before the United States entered the second world war, a story that carries a very, very pertinent moral for our times, our political times. The story comes out of China, a China at war both with itself and with Japanese invaders. It is a story that involves Americans, both sides of America, the conventional and the astute, and the story goes like this.

You might remember the name Flying Tigers... remember the red shark mouth painted around the radiator cowling of the fighters, the shark eyes on the nose. Those fighters, both the aircraft and the men who flew them, were American mercenaries hired by the Chinese government to provide some attempt at defending their skies from the Japanese who in that day thought nothing of bombing their designated target and then shooting up every round of ammunition on the way home strafing civilians in the streets, in open air markets, in the fields. These mercenary defenders were under the command of a renegade American officer by the name of Claire Chenault, a brilliant aerial tactician who was out of favor with higher ranking officers for promoting strategies beyond his superior's comprehension. The American government and army alike were quite willing to let the renegade officer attempt to prove his theories of aerial combat in someone else's war and so it was with the tacit approval of the American government he was allowed to form the AVG, American Volunteer Group, the Flying Tigers to help defend our paper allies the Chinese. As a matter of pragmatic combat testing, since the aircraft would be under the control of American mercenary pilots, the Chinese were allowed to buy America's front line fighter of the day, the Curtis built P-40 upon which the famous shark mouth fit so well.

Claire Chenault was fully vindicated: his tactics scored the highest kill to loss ratio ever achieved, and did so so facing literally hundred to one odds. Likewise, the steed that carried his warriors into battle was equally proven superior. The sturdy P-40 could endure nearly thirty seconds within an enemy's cone of fire, because of massively superior firepower the lifespan of its' enemy within the P-40's cone of fire measured as only three or four seconds. So effective was the combination of Chenault's tactics and the P-40 that many came to doubt his reports. Within the military establishment his reports were squelched and hidden, likely costing many hundreds of lives later, but the Curtis corporation who built the fighter had no such politically based limitations… they wanted to see just how their product was holding up in what was obviously heavy, heavy combat. To this end they dispatched a senior engineer to visit China to personally validate the reports they were receiving.

The engineer made his way to China, arrived safely at a forward airfield home to an active squadron of the AVG. He was led out onto the field to where one of the P-40's was resting, a tired and battered machine awaiting the mechanics to heal it's wounds before returning to the fray. Leaning against the trailing edge of a wing was the twenty two year old hot-shot mercenary pilot whose mount it was. The engineer circled the aircraft, wide eyed astounded at the degree of damage it had sustained, pointing at the multitude of bullet holes and instructing his assistant to take notes: "put more armor there, and there, and there," he said, pointing out each place where the aircraft had been riddled by enemy fire. When this had gone on for several minutes the pilot, who was chewing himself a wad of tobacco, shook his head and spit on the engineers shoes.

"You goddamn fool," he exclaimed. "Put the fricken' armor where the bullet holes ain't! This one brought me home! "

The young pilot's wisdom was sound, so sound. In these days we are finding out just how battered, just how shot up the United States of America really is, just how much damage the magnificent work of our founding father's sustained turning back an assault on our freedoms, an assault on the peace of the world, an assault on the dignity and integrity of the United States.

We would be fools indeed to do as the amazed and befuddled engineer almost did: add more armor to what has already proven equal to turn back the enemies worst. The truly evil men who mounted this assault on the country they claim to love, these men are evil but they are not fools, and they will be back. We need to put more armor where the bullet holes are not, understand and analyze their motives and goals so we can strengthen those parts of our nation they'll attack next time. And doubt it not, there will be a next time in this conflict, just as there was a next time for the AVG when they were drafted as a unit into the United States Army after the attack on Pearl Harbor.

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And... they are back with a horn section fanfare, no mistaking it.

The bird pictured might be a bit of a later variant than an "E" model, but memory serves it is wearing the colors of "Old Exterminator" (a rather celebrated hero of the Flying Tigers) and so I'll leave the caption as is to portray the character. You have to be a true student of military history to appreciate this one: as soon as the parts arrive to fix the water machine the "Tardation of:" series will continue.

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