Written and Directed by Frank Christopher

Copyright (C) 1998 Fei Hu Films

Fei Hu: The Script Part Three

P.Y. SHU

CHINESE AIR FORCE INTERPRETER

I was in Kunming and with my wife. Bombing everywhere. No aim, just reckless bombing. Not good, because no target. Just over there, there’s a city, just bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb.

JOE ROSBERT

PILOT

We were sort of angry that we had missed by one day encountering the Japanese. We all said "We're going to get those S.O.B.'s."

Film footage of Jingbao alert. Film footage from USAF Story of the operation of the warning net and large photo of warning net from John Williams.

ED RECTOR

PILOT

The next morning, when we got the first Jingbao alert, there came into being the full appreciation of what Chennault had briefed us on before, the effectiveness of the ground warning net that he had organized on his own when he came to China and it was all over China.

HENRY LEE

CAF PILOT

Those days we have very little equipment. We had very few radio stations and then we had very good crank telephone. And when the people in the village and the city see the aircraft and heard the sound of the aircraft, they used a crank telephone and called in to the radio station to report.

TEX HILL

PILOT

So immediately that village would send that report in, we'd put a flag right on that village. And pretty soon those flags would line up and you knew the guys were coming in. It was very accurate. And when they hit that 300 kilometer mark, why then we'd launch and that'd give us time to get to about 20,000 feet, which was our best altitude to fight and man they'd be there.

Film footage of Kunming and aerial battle.

JOE ROSBERT

PILOT

We got up to altitude, we knew that we were above the Japanese bombers, and pretty soon there's a formation of 10 Japanese planes. We'd never seen a Japanese plane in the air and here they came. We knew we had them because they were not very close to Kunming.

GOUICHI SUZUKI

JAPANESE AIR FORCE PILOT

There were 10 against 24. So I thought we would be totally destroyed. We were flying in formation. A plane went like this. I realized right away that even though the markings were Chinese, I knew the pilots were Americans.

CHARLIE BOND

PILOT

When I pressed the trigger, no guns. I thought, oh! I used a lot of four letter words, but I pulled off immediately. I was so excited that I had turned it off and on so many times that I had left it off. Then I immediately turned it back of course and got back in combat. And we just hit 'em from all directions.

ED RECTOR

PILOT

I shoved the stick forward went underneath the plane, I don't know how close I came. In my mind's eye today I can see the absolute finite detail of the riveting, the camouflage paint, the insignia and the dust pin gunner who had been firing at me as I came up the slot. And as I ducked underneath, he was slumped over his gun and I shot his lower jaw away.

GOUICHI SUZUKI

JAF PILOT

We fought for about 30 minutes. The gunner who sat behind me was killed in the plane. Another gunner sitting to my left was also killed. Even though I hadn't had much battle experience, it seemed a very harsh battle.

Film footage of Japanese bombers crashing or crashed on the ground.

NARRATION

The AVG had passed their first test in combat. In the brief encounter, they shot down three of the ten Japanese bombers, while suffering no losses themselves. But the significance of the AVG victory surpassed the number of planes shot down. From this day forward, the Japanese Air Force would never again completely control the skies over China.

GOUICHI SUZUKI

JAF PILOT

The Tiger Squadron was very brave. They dived into our formation. Usually when someone attacks, we avoid them like this. But they came right at us. They flew so close to us that we could see their faces. I thought they were very brave in doing that. So I had a talk with my commander that we needed more training.

CHARLIE BOND

PILOT

Just the excitement and glory of it all, and when we landed, I tell you, nobody would stop talking and the Old Man was just delirious, all of us were so happy about it. And no bombing of Kunming after that for a long, long time.

Footage of downed Japanese planes and Kunming residents cheering and celebrating with firecrackers.

HENRY LEE

CAF PILOT

The people saw with their own eyes the Japanese aircraft was shot down. The Chinese people were so excited, so happy, they almost do every crazy thing to celebrate when they saw a Japanese aircraft shot down.

KONSIN SHAH

CAF PILOT

Then the whole country, the morale was lifted. And they saw hopes that if we are determined, we could win the war.

Film footage of normal life returning to Kunming.

NARRATION

After years of relentless bombing, life in Kunming returned to normal. For now the AVG would not see much combat in the China skies. The Japanese had turned their attention to the conquest of Burma.

Film footage of AVG and RAF activity at Mingladon.

NARRATION

News of the AVG victory was transmitted to Mingladon Aerodrome outside of Rangoon, where the AVG shared the airbase with the British Royal Air Force. With the RAF under attack all across Asia, the young New Zealand pilots of the 67th Squadron now knew they would not have to face the coming Japanese offensive alone.

Film footage or photos of RAF activity in Burma.

VIC BARGH

RAF PILOT

We all felt that that was terrific in the respect that we were going to get somebody to give us a hand. As far as the RAF was concerned, we were the only squadron there.

GEOFF SHARP

RAF PILOT

Yes, we looked at them as somebody who would contribute a great deal to the war effort in Rangoon.

Film footage of AVG/RAF alert.

CHUCK OLDER

PILOT

Well, the first alert we got at Rangoon, everybody was scrambled off and it was a maylay.

GORDON WILLIAMS

RAF PILOT

The AVG were on the shorter runway which intercepted our runway about half way down and they were just getting their wheels up, barely just, scraping over the top of us as we were just getting our tails up on the ground still. It was mighty nerve-wracking.

CHUCK OLDER

PILOT

It turned out that it was a false alert. We ended up scaring each other I think more than the enemy would have scared us, by near misses, mid air collisions and everything else. We had a good session afterwards, debriefing on the ground about how not to kill each other. So when the first real alert came, we were much more prepared for it.

Film footage of Japanese bombers and fighters taking off and flying in formation.

NARRATION

On the morning of December 23rd 1941, the Japanese Air Force launched the first bombing raid in the Battle of Burma. They sent fighters and bombers in two separate waves to assure that the planes would reach their targets and bomb the docks of Rangoon and the airbase at Mingladon.

Film Footage of AVG taking off.

NARRATION

After receiving word from the British that a large squadron of Japanese planes was heading toward Mingladon, the AVG and RAF scrambled 24 fighters to face more than 120 enemy planes.

Film footage of P-40s and RAF in flight and in combat.

CHUCK OLDER

PILOT

We got up to about 8,000 feet, I could see this huge formation of twin engines bombers and up behind that looked like about 20 to 30 fighters. And it was hard to believe at first, that here they are, this is the enemy.

R.T. SMITH

PILOT

Each of our flights went after one of the bomber formations and started pecking away at them, and I gotta tell you, that was on-the-job training to the utmost because we had never, most of us had never fired at an aerial target until we were actually shooting at the Japanese. And I picked up on a bomber that was off to one side a little bit from the main formation, and opened up at about maybe 200 yards and bored in directly astern and saw flashes all over the place and the next thing I know the damn thing blew up in front of me and I was blown up like a leaf. And I remember the greatest feeling of glee that I guess I've ever felt at knowing that I had blown this guy out of the sky.

NARRATION

Throughout most of the combat that day, the AVG and RAF fought separately, with little knowledge of how well the other was doing. But after evading enemy fighters, one of the New Zealand pilots witnessed a deadly exchange between two P-40s and a Japanese bomber formation.

GORDON WILLIAMS

RAF PILOT

I saw these two AVG Tomahawks and immediately when they got somewhere near range, all the Japanese tailgunners opened up on them and there were streams and streams of tracer bullets pouring into them both, and the one rolled over to port and looked as though he'd been done for, and the other one was having a pretty torrid time too.

KEN JERNSTEDT

PILOT

On the first pass, Neal Martin was killed and then it was my turn to go down and of course the heartbeat was a little faster in situations like that. I came back down and got fairly close and unloaded into one of those Mitsubishi bombers and it just blew up and I soon landed.

Film footage of returning AVG and RAF planes. Film footage and photos of AVG funeral. Film footage or photos of Gilbert and Martin.

NARRATION

Despite being outnumbered by more than five to one, the pilots of the AVG and RAF managed to shoot down ten Japanese bombers while protecting the Mingladon airbase and the docks of Rangoon from serious bomb damage.

KEN JERNSTEDT

PILOT

That first flight, we lost two pilots, Neal Martin and Hank Gilbert and of course what enthusiasm we had for the victories were dimmed considerably by the fact that we'd lost two good men.

R.T. SMITH

PILOT

There was definitely a feeling of, "Wait till next time, we'll get the bastards," you know. So, I think all of our guys were gung ho, including the pilots, and said, "Next shot, we'll do better."

Film footage of AVG in Mingladon.

CHUCK OLDER

PILOT

December 23rd, after our first combat, the Tokyo radio came on, Tokyo Rose, and said that outlaw Americans had been engaged by the Imperial Japanese Air Force over Rangoon that day and that she just wanted to inform the Americans that the Japanese would be back to drop them some Christmas presents two days later on Christmas Day.

Film footage of Japanese formations and aerial combat.

NARRATION

True their word, the Japanese returned to bomb Rangoon on Christmas day with even more bombers and fighters than on December 23rd. Only this time, the Japanese also sent a squadron of fast new Hayabusa fighters to protect their bombers from American and British attack. With only 48 hours to rest their pilots and repair the damaged planes, the AVG managed to send up 12 P-40s to meet the incoming Japanese aerial armada.

R.T. SMITH

PILOT

The guys that had gone back up on Christmas day were guys that had been bloodied a little bit in the 23rd fight. We knew a little more what to expect. We had had a little experience. We'd gotten over some of the buck fever. So we sailed into them pretty good on the 25th.

CHUCK OLDER

PILOT

Each of us got a couple of bombers. They were dropping like flies. They were rolling out of the formation, wings coming off, blowing up. It was a scene of like something out of hell. It was a big day. We got 25 fighters and bombers that day.

CHUCK BAISDEN

ARMORER

We started making a tally and they had just creamed those Japanese bomber formations. They were using Chennault's tactics of get above 'em, dive, hit 'em and dive away and crawl back up and do it again because they could not fight those zero pilots in a dog fight. There was no way they could do it. The Japanese would jump 'em and turn and be on their tail. They were just too maneuverable.

Film of Japanese and British planes in combat.

NARRATION

Not one AVG pilot was lost during combat on Christmas day. The RAF was not so fortunate. The New Zealand pilots, flying Brewster Buffalos, found that they had not been properly trained to defeat the more maneuverable Japanese fighters.

VIC BARGH

RAF PILOT

What I couldn't understand later was that General Chennault came down from China to our high command and told them that he didn't think that the Brewster Buffalo would turn with the Japanese fighter. This was never related to us, and that's what hurts me, because those blokes needn't have been shot down.

GORDON WILLIAMS

RAF PILOT

We found we'd lost four of our fellows after an hour or so, and instead the highly elated 67th squadron, there was a very, very miserable, dejected 67th squadron, especially on Christmas Day.

Montage of Banzais, Japanese military attacks, newspaper headlines and American movie audiences.

NARRATION

At a time when the Japanese military seemed unbeatable, America desperately needed to believe in itself again.

Sherman Grinberg newsreel

PARAMOUNT NEWSREEL NARRATION

First pictures from Rangoon, anchor port of the Burma Road. Like Hong Kong, like Singapore, Rangoon is bomb-scarred under Japan's relentless pounding. The brightest spot in Rangoon's defense is the American Volunteer Group of flyers. Using British Tomahawk planes, they're the American Curtis P-40's, these Yanks have made amazing records. 40 Japs shot down in two afternoon is one mark. But there are too few U.S. planes.

NARRATION

The American pilots had proven themselves in combat, defending the cities of Kunming and Rangoon. From their base at Mingladon, the AVG now went on the offensive. Flying three or four P-40s at a time, the AVG pilots inflicted heavy damage against Japanese air bases in Thailand.

Radio broadcast of AVG raid into Thailand. Film footage of P-40's taking off from Mingladon, in flight and strafing Japanese ground targets.

CBS RADIO NARRATION

In Burma, the American Volunteer fliers, who have been defending Rangoon with outstanding success against the Japanese Air Force, shifted to the attack today. They raided a Japanese air base in the Moulmein region. One American was lost but that's only the second casualty in seven days of fighting during which the Americans have downed fifty Japanese planes.

Film of Japanese bombing of Rangoon and Mingladon.

NARRATION

Each AVG raid into Thailand provoked counterattacks against Rangoon and increased Japanese determination to wipe out British and American resistance to their advance into Burma.

Film footage of Japanese bombers seen from the ground. Bombs hitting area around Rangoon and seen from the air and ground.

CHUCK BAISDEN

ARMORER

One of the fellows looked up and there's this formation flying real high. You could just see them way up in the sky and one of the fellows was counting, 3, 6, 9, 12, 15, 21, 24, they're not ours we haven't got that many. And we all dove down in the slit trenches and about that time the bombs started coming down, and you could hear 'em and that's when I got personally acquainted with the war. And it wasn't all it was supposed to be. I was scared, my God, I was scared.

Film of bombed out scenes of Rangoon.

NARRATION

The Japanese bombed Rangoon continually for more than two months. As the situation deteriorated, British authorities were no longer able to maintain law and order in the city.

JOSEPH ROSBERT

PILOT

Things were a mess. The natives were breaking into shops and busting crates down on the docks and they had some cosmetics they had broken into and they were putting this cold cream on their faces and dancing around, everybody was going crazy because that was just about the end of Rangoon.

Film of AVG pilots landing their planes.

ED FOBES

CLERK

The pilots were on alert practically all the time. They’d get back from one mission or one interception and get on the ground have a chance to maybe get a cup of coffee or a drink and another alarm would come up and I think that they got pretty well burned out.

Film footage of crew chiefs working on P-40s. P-40 grave yard.

Fei Hu - The Story of the Flying Tigers
(continued)


NARRATION

Machines as well as men were beginning to break down. The chronic shortage of supplies meant that the mechanics were forced to find unorthodox methods of keeping the P-40s flying.

J.J. HARRINGTON

MECHANIC

If you’ve got a can do attitude and by gosh if you work hard enough and long enough, I mean you’ll get something done. The first thing we found out that, by gosh, ingenuity wasn’t a lost art.

Film Footage of P-40s landing in Mingladon.

JOSEPH ROSBERT

PILOT

When I got back from this one mission, when I pulled up to the line the crew chief said, "What's wrong with your rudder?" and I said, "I didn't feel anything wrong with it" and he said, "Well take a look" and I got out of the cockpit and looked back and half of the rudder was shot off. That didn't phase him a bit, he just went and got some masking tape, taped up that rudder and within about a half an hour the plane was ready to go on another mission.

Film of aerial combat.

JOSEPH ROSBERT

PILOT

First they came with bombers. When we shot down bombers, they came with bombers and fighter escort. We shot down bombers and fighter escort and pretty soon, for some reason, they were only sending fighters over Rangoon. They figured there must be some way to defeat whatever is happening to us. But it didn't work. The only thing that they accomplished was not in the air but was on the ground, and we had to move out of Rangoon when the ground forces approached.

Film footage of Japanese military advance into Burma.

NARRATION

In late February 1942, the Japanese army launched a three-pronged attack into Burma from the jungles of Thailand. They encountered little resistance from the British forces.

GORDON WILLIAMS

RAF PILOT

They just weren't really prepared at that time for the Japanese army attack. They didn't have the equipment or the manpower or anything.

Film footage of British evacuation. Film footage of British destroying fuel tanks.

VIC BARGH

RAF PILOT

We were sitting there on readiness and we got instructions, the 67th squadron did, to get up to Magwe, and we just decamped, and that's all there was to it. We started to burn everything, burned our fuel, all the fuel, great huge tanks, they were all set alight. Apparently they never even bothered to tell the American Volunteer Group. They were sitting over there and — hullo! The RAF's cleared out! Never told them! Sounded quite incredible doesn't it?

Paramount Newsreel - Japan Builds Road of Agony

NEWSREEL NARRATION

This is deserted Rangoon. Today, a dead city. Four hundred thousand Burmese and Indians disappeared here in three days, while Japanese culture fell from the sky. This is the beginning of the new Burma Road. The road of homeless, of bewildered and death-weary refugees.

Film AVG in the road to Magwe.

NARRATION

On February 28th 1942, the AVG evacuated Rangoon and joined the flood of humanity, desperately fleeing before the steady advance of the Japanese Army.

Film and photos of AVG in Magwe.

NARRATION

The remnants of the AVG and RAF squadrons chose the desolate Burmese town of Magwe, two hundred and fifty miles north of Rangoon, to make a stand against the Japanese.

Film footage of advancing Japanese army and formations of fighters and bombers. Footage and photos of Japanese attack against Magwe. Footage of aerial combat against bombers.

NARRATION

On March 8th, 1942, the Japanese Army marched into Rangoon and seized control of the city. To conquer all of Burma, the Japanese needed to protect their Army from air attack by the AVG. The Allied air base at Magwe became the next Japanese target.

MOOSE MOSS

PILOT

A wave of fighters came in first and strafed several British planes that were on the field and loaded with bombs. It wasn't long 'til those that were on fire started to have extra explosions from the bombs exploding.

CHUCK BAISDEN

ARMORER

Now the fighters were strafing us. I emptied a whole clip at one of them that came by. I should have hit him but I didn't. I made a lot of noise. This fellow that was with me said, "You shouldn't shoot at him, he's liable to shoot back." I said, "That's what I'm here for."

Film footage of AVG putting out fires in Magwe.

NARRATION

The surprise attack against Magwe had been a devastating blow against the AVG, causing extensive damage to their aircraft and runway and the deaths of two of the Tigers.

Film footage of AVG in Magwe.

CHARLIE BOND

PILOT

Bob Neal came in one day and said, "Well, we're gonna go hit 'em. The Old Man is tired of this. We’re gonna take revenge against the Japs on Magwe." And he figured out a way we could hit the headquarters of the southeastern Japanese air force at Chiang Mai, Thailand.

Film footage of P-40s flying and a strafing Japanese airbase.

ED RECTOR

PILOT

Visibility was just terrible and with the sun coming up and with all that haze, it wasn't possible to identify anything. And Bob Neal is weaving back and forth. I think Bob was just about to turn around and go back, and with that, Charlie Bond flew by him, rocked his wings and in effect said "follow me".

CHARLIE BOND

PILOT

As I came across my first pass, they were caught completely flat-footed, and three more P-40's right behind me and I ended up making four passes before I saw return fire.

Film footage of AVG attack in Thailand and the Japanese ground forces in Burma.

NARRATION

The raid on Chiang Mai would become the AVG’s most successful raid against Japanese airbases, but despite their victory in Thailand they could not halt the steady advance of the Japanese ground forces toward their base at Magwe.

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