In an effort to aid the Nationalist government of China and to put pressure on Japan, President Franklin Roosevelt in 1941 authorized the creation of three clandestine aviation units to be equipped with American aircraft and staffed by aviators and technicians who would resign from the U.S. Army, Navy, and Marine Corps for service in China.
The 1st American Volunteer Group was organized, deployed and trained before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, 7 December 1941. It would become famous as the Flying Tigers under the command of Claire Lee Chennault. Meanwhile, in the fall of 1941, the 2nd AVG was equipped with 33 Lockheed Hudson (A-28) and 33 Douglas DB-7 (A-20) bombers originally built for Britain but acquired by the U.S. Army as part of the Lend-Lease program passed earlier in the year. The Central Aircraft Manufacturing Company, fronting for the Chinese and American governments, recruited 82 pilots and 359 ground crewmen from the U.S. Army in fall 1941, and an undetermined number (including one pilot) actually sailed for Asia aboard Noordam and Bloemfontein of the Java-Pacific line. Other pilots reported to San Francisco, and were scheduled to depart aboard the Lockheed Hudsons on 10 December. The Douglas DB-7s, meanwhile, were to have gone by freighter to Africa, where they would be assembled and ferried to China. However, the events of 7 December caused the program to be aborted. The vessels at sea were diverted to Australia, the aircraft were taken back into U.S. service, and most or all of the personnel likewise rejoined the army, either in Australia or in the U.S.
The 3rd AVG was to have been a fighter group like the 1st. Because the 2nd AVG had been recruited from the U.S. Army, recruiting for the 3rd was to have been limited to the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps, starting in the early months of 1942. These plans too were abandoned as a result of the U.S. entry into World War II.
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