FLYING TIGERS – THE STUFF OF LEGEND
by Robert Taylor
Overall Print Size: 33" x 24"
Edition Size: 275
Burma, 10 December 1941, and a thousand miles to the south Japanese aircraft were sinking the British battleships Prince of Wales and Renown in an overwhelming display of air power, much as they had done in their unprovoked attack on Pearl Harbor three days earlier. The tropical day was already heating up as Erik Shilling climbed into the cockpit of his modified Curtiss P-40 Tomahawk, parked on an airstrip north of Rangoon. With a huge 20-inch camera bolted into the fuselage behind him, Shilling taxied out and, with two wingmen flying escort, took off on a photo reconnaissance mission to Bangkok which was overrun by the advancing Japanese. Shilling's flight was not only one of America's first missions of World War II, but also the first combat operation carried out by the special unit he'd just joined, the 'AVG.' Although officially known as the 1st American Volunteer Group of the Chinese Air Force, the unit quickly became known as the legendary 'Flying Tigers.'
Secretly formed months before the war began, this small band of intrepid American fighter pilots had volunteered to resign their military commissions and commit themselves to the fight against the Japanese invaders in China. Led by the indomitable General Claire Chennault, for the next six months the AVG would blaze a trail of destruction across the skies of Burma and China, their shark-nosed P-40s quickly becoming one of the most recognizable and formidable fighter units of World War II. Although heavily outnumbered and with no more than 50 or 60 serviceable aircraft at any one time, in the space of just 197 days of combat the AVG destroyed nearly 300 Japanese aircraft in the air, and more than half that number on the ground. This was the stuff of legend, yet their magnificent existence came to an end when, without ceremony on July 4, 1942, the AVG were absorbed into the USAAF to become the 23rd Fighter Group. But although the AVG had passed into history, the 23rd Fighter Group, still under the command of Claire Chennault, would retain the illustrious title 'Flying Tigers' and create their own place in history. By the end of the war the 23rd Fighter Group 'Flying Tigers' had amassed over 620 aerial victories.
A masterpiece to honor all 'Flying Tigers,' Robert Taylor's outstanding painting "FLYING TIGERS – THE STUFF OF LEGEND" portrays a typical scene in this distant war fought by that small band of warriors. With their Allison engines screaming at full throttle, P-40s of the AVG's 3rd Pursuit Squadron - 'Hell's Angels' - surprise the enemy with a deadly strafing attack on a forward Japanese airbase. In the foreground R.T. Smith leads the charge as the 'Hell's Angels' leave a trail of havoc and destruction behind them.
In addition to the artist this print is individually signed by FOUR legendary AVG 'Flying Tigers':
- Flight Leader JOHN R. ‘DICK’ ROSSI
- Flight Leader ERIKSEN ‘ERIK’ SHILLING
- Brigadier General DAVID L. ‘TEX’ HILL
- Colonel CHARLES H. ‘CHUCK’ OLDER
Comes with a Certificate of Authenticity.