Claire Lee Chennault

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Claire Lee Chennault

Major General Claire Lee Chennault (born September 6, 1890 in Commerce , Texas , † July 27, 1958 in New Orleans ) was an American pilot and general who became famous as the commander of the " Flying Tigers " during World War II .


Chennault was born in Commerce, Texas and grew up in Waterproof , Louisiana. He learned to fly in the Army during World War I and became chief aerial combat instructor in the Army Air Corps in the 1930s. His poor health and conflicts with his superiors led him to quit in 1937. He joined a group of American civilians who trained Chinese pilots and served as air force advisor to the Kuomintang leader Chiang Kai-shek and his wife Song Meiling during the Second Sino-Japanese War (1937–1945).

Chennault's American Volunteer Group (AVG) - better known as the Flying Tigers - began training in August 1941 and continued to fight the Japanese six months after their attack on Pearl Harbor . Chennault's three seasons ( squadrons ) of American volunteer pilots used the tactics of so-called "defensive pursuit" to the Burma Road , Rangoon defense and other strategic points in Southeast Asia and West China against Japanese forces. China itself had few , if any, modern aircraft from the time of the Soviet aid deliveries. (e.g. early versions of Polikarpow I-16 )

Formally, the "Flying Tigers" finally became part of the US Army Air Force in 1942 . Chennault rejoined the armed forces with the rank of Colonel and was promoted twice ( Brigadier , Major General ). He was in command of the 14th Air Force at the time . In the course of the war there was constant conflict between him and General Joseph Stilwell , the American commander of the ground forces. Chennault believed that the 14th Air Force stationed in China could bring Japan to its knees on its own, while Stilwell believed that it was imperative to train Chinese ground forces. Due to the explosive supply situation - the Japanese army had occupied all supply routes overland, so that only the air route from India via the Himalayas remained - there were bitter disputes between the two generals over the distribution of supplies. Since Chennault had good relations with Chiang Kai-shek and President Franklin D. Roosevelt , he had an advantage.

Chennault retired shortly before the Allied victory in the Pacific in the summer of 1945.

Unlike General Stilwell, Chennault always held a high opinion of Chiang Kai-shek and organized international support for the Asian anti-communist movement. After the war he returned to China and organized the “ Civil Air Transport ” there by buying several obsolete military aircraft. Shortly before bankruptcy, the airline was bought by the CIA and was now used for the secret transport of weapons and opium in Southeast Asia. The airmen supported the Kuomintang in their fight against the People's Liberation Army of Mao Zedong in the Chinese civil war . They later supported the US military during the Korean War , the French armed forces in the First Indochina War, and the Kuomintang in Burma . It later became " Air America ".

Chennault was promoted to lieutenant general in 1958, the day before his death . He was buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

A statue commemorates him in Taipei , Taiwan , as well as in the city of Baton Rouge , Louisiana , and at Chennault International Airport in Lake Charles , Louisiana. Chennault is still considered an important figure in China's history today.

Chennault was married twice. He married his second wife, the Chinese reporter Chen Xiangmei , in 1947 while he was in China. After his death, she became one of the most influential lobbyists for Taiwan in the United States.


  • Way of a fighter. The memoirs of Claire Lee Chennault . Putnam, New York 1949 ( autobiography )


  • Martha Byrd: Chennault. Giving wings to the tiger . University of Alabama Press, Tuscaloosa, Ala. 1987, ISBN 0-8173-0322-7 .
  • Daniel Ford: Flying Tigers. Claire Chennault and the American Volunteer Group . Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, DC 1991, ISBN 1-56098-011-7 .
  • Robert L. Scott: Flying Tiger. Chennault of China . Greenwood Pree, Westport, Conn. 1973, ISBN 0-8371-6774-4 .
  • Claire Chennault , in: Internationales Biographisches Archiv 39/1958 from September 15, 1958, in the Munzinger archive ( beginning of article freely accessible)

Web links

Commons : Claire Chennault  - Collection of Images, Videos and Audio Files

Individual evidence

  1. MAJOR GENERAL CLAIRE LEE CHENNAULT> US Air Force> Biography Display. Retrieved February 10, 2018 .