“Flying Tigers”, Defenders of Rangoon
In December 1941, the "Flying Tigers" arrive at Mingaladon to defend Rangoon from the Japanese. The 'Flying Tigers', though outnumbered, managed to down 50 enemy planes over Rangoon (whilst losing 10). The 1st American Volunteer Group also known as the "Flying Tigers" were US airmen authorized by President Roosevelt to support China and protect the Burma Road. As the US was not yet at war with Tokyo, this was a clandestine operation. The Flying Tigers were under the command of retired General Claire Chennault and ultimately at least in theory Generalissimo Chiang Kai Shek. There were three squadrons of the Flying Tigers. The squadron at Mingaladon was the 3rd Squadron - the "Hell's Angels". Its airmen were drawn from the US army, navy, and marines. In the evenings, many - including their senior officer "Scarsdale Jack" Newkirk could be found at their favourite watering hole, the 'Silver Grill" on Barr Street. The British were not really prepared for the Japanese bombing of Rangoon in December 1941 (when over 2,000 civilians were killed in downtown Rangoon) or for the land invasion that followed. Much of what limited air defense that was was provided by the "Flying Tigers". This was at the height of Axis power, with the 2 million men of Germany's Army Group Centre approaching Moscow and a mighty Japanese fleet of 33 warships including 6 aircraft carriers heading to Pearl Harbor. Few expected Burma to be drawn into the fighting. But the war would soon destroy the country. Burma/Myanmar has not known a single year of peace (with the possible exception of 1946) since November 1941.