December 1941

US and World Events plus Additional Resources


On December 20, 1941, senior Chinese officials in Chungking reported Claire Lee Chennault’s name to United Press International reporters to commemorate the first aerial attack made by the international air force called the American Volunteer Group on Japanese ships. Claire Lee Chennault was the commanding general of the Fourteenth Army Air Force in China during World War II and the leader of the Flying Tigers.

Chennault grew up in Louisiana and was a member of the U.S. Air Service during World War I. After a career as an instructor at the Army Corps Tactical School, Chennault retired in 1937 and left the U.S. for China where he became an advisor to Chiang Kai-shek.

Chennault was sent to the United States during the beginning of World War II to recruit for an American-supported air force in China. He convinced FDR to authorize the purchase of fighter jets for China as well as to allow American military pilots to leave active duty to fight with China. This group of pilots became known as the Flying Tigers, and by December 1941 they were able to make strides against the Japanese. Chennault spent most of the war advocating to FDR for more air power in China. He retired in July 1945 and returned to China.