Chinese Biplane Aces

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ChristopherPerrien
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Post by ChristopherPerrien » 11 Jan 2005 01:18

Goldfish wrote: The AVG members were not in any way paid or compensated (by the USAF) for their time in the service of China and were not even given medals by the USAF for their service until the 1990's. Two former AVG pilots, Gregory "Pappy" Boyington and James Howard, were awarded the Medal of Honor for their service after the AVG.

The AVG was replaced by the 23rd Fighter Group of the China Air Task Force (CATF) and eventually by the 14th US Army Air Force.
????
Of course they were not paid by the USAF , as it did not exist at the time, however the AVG were paid according to their acting rank and the AVG pilots recieved a bounty of $500 per plane, from the Chinese nationalist government, which was reimbursed for these expenses by the US Government. IT was the major incentive for some pilots to join The AVG as mercenaries. ( Boyington -"Baa Baa Black Sheep"),

When this practice was dis-continued I am not certain , I am inclined to believe it was 1 July 1942 when the AVG was absorbed back into the Air Corps. Boyington does not specifically state when though.

Goldfish
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Post by Goldfish » 11 Jan 2005 09:11

The AVG was disbanded on July 4th, 1942, one year after its activation. Also, AVG members were not paid according to their acting rank, as the AVG had no "ranks" as such. They were paid according to their job classification (ie armorer, pilot, flight leader, etc.) in addition to their bounty. Chennault was ranked Colonel by the Chinese Air Force, but how official this was is unknown. Chennault's executive officer, Harvey Greenlaw, also liked to call himself "Major", but there was no basis for this in either the US Army or the Chinese Air Force. AVG members' previous US rank also had no bearing on pay and AVG men were not given back pay or time in grade for their time in the AVG, despite what they had been promised when they were recruited. They were told that they could either accept induction in China at their former ranks and rates of pay or go home and be drafted as buck privates. They were not even given any medals for their service in the AVG by the US until the 1990's. This is why so many AVG men chose private airlines or other jobs after the AVG disbanded rather than rejoining the US military. Also, I am not sure how much the Chinese government was reimbursed directly for the AVG or AVG men's salaries. I think it was just a case where the Chinese were given loans and then paid the AVG out of that money, without the US indicating that any specific amount be set aside for the AVG. After Pearl Harbor, the US did send some planes and spare parts in direct support of the AVG (the British in Burma-India also helped supply the AVG), but it was very little and the 23rd Fighter Group was in such sorry shape on July 4th, 1942, that a few AVG men had to stay on an extra two weeks to give time for replacements to arrive.

ChristopherPerrien
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Post by ChristopherPerrien » 11 Jan 2005 14:22

Lost a post, :(

I used the term "acting rank" to mean such designations and the pay obviously varied according to this and a "unique rank structure",

In your earlier post , it could be infered by some people to mean that the AVG members were paid nothing at all , besides recieving no service credit (time served) or medals.

Goldfish
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Post by Goldfish » 11 Jan 2005 15:20

The AVG were paid nothing by the US. They were paid by the Chinese government and awarded medals for their service by the Chinese government. AVG men were paid in US dollars ("gold" in the slang of the AVG as opposed to "Mex", the term for Chinese currency) but the money came from the Chinese, not the US. When AVG went to Africa to ferry P-40E's back to China, their expenses (food, hotels, spending money, etc.) were paid by the Chinese government, not the US. The US did give money to China, but such money was usually in the form of lump sum loans, not itemized for specific things like "funding the AVG" or anything like that. In that sense you could say that US funds were paying the AVG, but only in the same way that US funds were helping to pay for the Chinese war effort as a whole.

There was no doubt that many men joined the AVG for the money and for the money alone. A lot of these dropped out as soon as they realized that they would not be picking off undefended bombers but would instead be facing Japanese fighters at incredible odds. Others joined for the adventure or the opportunity for action. Others, like Boyington, sought to escape stateside problems. Some genuinely wanted to fight for China. Almost all of them joined for a combination of these reasons. Charles Bond, for instance joined because he could not get a regular Army commission and hoped that combat experience would get it for him, especially as he felt that the US and Japan would soon be at war. However, I don't think any of them saw themselves as mercenaries. Even those that joined for the money did so with the understanding that they would rejoin the US military at some point if war broke out (except for those recruited from outside the US military), as most of them did. That being said, the AVG men generally revelled in being a non-regulation unit without rank or standard uniforms (except when they wanted to wear them). I brought up the issue of rank, by the way, only because the AVG men generally prided themselves on being non-military in that fashion. Some, more traditional, military men among them (like Charlie Bond) criticized the lack of Army discipline, but most of them loved the egalitarian spirit of the AVG and felt it helped make the AVG so successful in combat and formed tight bonds and loyalty to each other that exists among AVG vets to this day. The only people generally disliked by AVG vets were those that broke their contracts and left early or who were kicked out for various reasons. This is why Boyington, who, depending on who is telling the story, either quit or was fired, is such a "black sheep" (sorry, I couldn't resist) in the AVG family. Loyalty, to the unit, each other, to the "Old Man", and even to Chiang Kai-shek and the Nationalists, is the most prized quality of many AVG men I have met or talked to, a very unusual quality to be found among men regarded as "mercenaries".

ChristopherPerrien
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Post by ChristopherPerrien » 12 Jan 2005 15:54

The AVG were paid nothing by the US. They were paid by the Chinese government and awarded medals for their service by the Chinese government. AVG men were paid in US dollars ("gold" in the slang of the AVG as opposed to "Mex", the term for Chinese currency) but the money came from the Chinese, not the US. When AVG went to Africa to ferry P-40E's back to China, their expenses (food, hotels, spending money, etc.) were paid by the Chinese government, not the US. The US did give money to China, but such money was usually in the form of lump sum loans, not itemized for specific things like "funding the AVG" or anything like that. In that sense you could say that US funds were paying the AVG, but only in the same way that US funds were helping to pay for the Chinese war effort as a whole.
Sort of doublespeak in away, for all intents and purposes the Avg was paid by the US government, the charade of the Chinese paying "mercenaries" was a joke , they were all-american and the unit was formed here. True perhaps it was a little dirtier $$$ and more covert than the American Eagle squadron/pilots in England, but the simple fact was we were already fighting the Germans and the Japanese before Pearl Harbor. It is surprising though to me that US funds got through to pay the AVG at all , as Chang and his Government seemed more interested in pocketing any US dollar they got their hands on, than fighting any war. The AVG would never have been flying without US backed $$$$$$$.

Apologies to many, it seems I have digressed the thread over this, Let's leave it at that, I suppose I share Boyington's cynicism of the whole deal.

Goldfish
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Post by Goldfish » 13 Jan 2005 16:06

Actually, the AVG did not see action until Dec. 20th, 1941, but I understand your point that they were intended to fight the Japanese without an official declaration of war. Of course, in China there was the added technicality that an "official" state of war did not exist as Japan did not recognize Chiang's government as the legitimate government of China and regarded their war there as an "incident" rather than a war. Also, Chiang's government was certainly corrupt, but they weren't stupid. The Japanese bombers targeted them where they slept and were the only way that Japan could bring the war to Chiang without an overextension of their ground forces. Besides, the AVG defended the last tenuous links between Chiang's regime and the outside world. Also, the AVG would certainly have never existed without US support, but that can also be said of most of China's military effort after 1941.

Why Boyington was so cynical of the AVG, I have no real idea, except that he probably thought it would have been better had he been running it. In that regard, I think that he had a lot more in common with Chennault than he probably cared to admit. He did, however, lack Chennault's loyalty to China and the Nationalist cause. He was certainly willing to shoot down Japanese planes for Chiang's government, but drew the line at ground support missions which he saw as mere "morale missions" and far too dangerous. He was widely regarded as an excellent combat pilot and natural leader, but was disliked by many AVG men for his lack of loyalty to the unit and Chennault. One of his favorite quotes was "show me a hero and I'll show you a bum" and Boyington was certainly equal parts of both.

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