ABOUT American Volunteer Group in China
The famous American Volunteer Group, better known as Claire Lee Chennault’s Flying Tigers, is honored in this scene, in which pilots of the AVG’s First and Second Squadron are shown gathered around a jeep with Chennault, reviewing an upcoming mission on the flight line of shark-mouthed Curtiss P-40 Tomahawks. The AVG was comprised of approximately 300 American service personnel, about 100 of whom were combat pilots and the rest technical and support personnel, very few of whom had actual combat experience prior to their experience in the Flying Tigers. With the covert permission of President Roosevelt, these young mercenaries were permitted to resign their American military commissions and “volunteer” to fight for China, earning not only a higher paycheck, but an extra bonus for each enemy aircraft destroyed. Always outnumbered and undersupplied, these resourceful warriors saw their first combat just a few weeks after Pearl Harbor, and in just a few months’ time, established themselves as one of the most legendary Fighter units in history.
The painting American Volunteer Group in China was completed in 1995, and was the first of a series of Flying Tigers scenes by John Shaw. Incidentally, this was Shaw’s very first aviation painting done in oils. Prior to using this medium, Shaw worked primarily in mixed media, utilizing gouache (opaque watercolor) as his paint of choice. The original painting was actually signed as well, not only by many surviving Flying Tigers, but also the surviving children of Claire Chennault, in honor of their father. An edition of lithographs was signed in Portland, Oregon in 1994 by members of the original AVG Flying Tigers.