Fallen Tiger: The Fate of America's Missing Airmen in China



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During World War II, America’s air forces in China reported 605 aircraft and 1,722 airmen as missing on combat missions. Fighting a savage guerrilla air war against the Japanese, the prospect of crash-landing or bailing out in a remote and dangerous land loomed ominously in the consciousness of every individual. Of the airmen reported missing, the Japanese captured less than five percent, while thirty-one percent died and twenty-two percent are still listed as missing in action. More than forty percent returned safely to American airbases. The number of dead and missing (presumed dead) corresponds closely to the statistics of Allied aircraft operating over Europe during the war. Remarkably, however, while less than twenty-five percent of those who survived the crash or bailout in occupied Europe made it back to friendly territory with the help of underground organizations, ninety percent of those who survived in China returned to friendly territory. The rescuers included Nationalists, Communists, warlords, and even alleged collaborators. Despite deep divisions throughout wartime China, helping downed American aircrews transcended politics. The purpose of this study is to go beyond the largely partisan and anecdotal histories of World War II in China to determine its actual military and social dimensions by analyzing and aggregating every available Missing Aircrew Report (MACR) and Evasion Report filed by China-based combat air forces. These contemporary reports provide a ground truth view unfiltered by Cold War-politics or self-glorification. The result is a revealing picture of the unexpected nature of the war in China, as well as a touching story of Chinese-American cooperation that transcended political and social boundaries.



World War II, China, Flying Tigers, 14th Army Air Force, China Air Task Force, American Volunteer Group, 20th Army Air Force, Claire Lee Chennault, Chiang Kai-shek, Mao Zedong