When I was a kid I loved the movie “The Flying Tigers.” You know, the one with John Wayne about the intrepid American volunteers sent to China to fight the Japanese before the United States really could fight the Japanese. I recall building a model of one of their P-40 Warhawks with their distinctive “shark’s mouth” nose art. And though I knew a lot about The Flying Tigers, I didn’t really know much about the Big Picture in which they operated.
Thanks to Gregory Crouch‘s fine China’s Wings: War, Intrigue, Romance, and Adventure in the Middle Kingdom during the Golden Age of Flight (Bantam Books, 2012), I do. Greg does not tell the story of The Tigers; he tells the story of the aviation pioneers who made The Tigers possible. These were the man of the China National Aviation Corporation. They brought commercial aviation to China, which is an excellent tale in itself. But they also volunteered to fight the Japanese even before The Tigers entered the picture. Importantly, they also blazed “the Hump,” the dangerious trans-Himalayan air route between India and China that kept the Nationalist Chinese in the game and generally provided aid and comfort to anti-Japanese forces.
This is a wonderful book full of remarkable characters and unbelievable adventures. There’s a bit of romance as well. I asked Greg during the interview whether he’d sold the film rights. I imagine he will soon.