Monday, February 21, 2011

A Flying Tiger's inscription mystery

Here is a 1991 reprint of the 1949 Flying Tiger history, Way of a Fighter: The Memoirs of Claire Lee Chennault, by Claire Lee Chennault, Major General, U.S. Army (Ret.); James Thorvardson & Sons, Tucson.

Chennault was commander of the 1st American Volunteer Group (AVG) of the Chinese Air Force in 1941-42, otherwise known as The Flying Tigers. Hired by the Chinese government to defend China against the Japanese, their training actually began before America's entry into the war, and just days after the the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, the Flying Tigers were flying combat missions.

I found this book at a library sale and was thrilled at what I discovered inside. The blank page preceding the title page (verso of the frontispiece) has a wonderful inscription from famed World War II ace fighter pilot for the Flying Tigers, "Tex" Hill, who flew for Chennault:
To my dear friend and fellow Fighter Pilot, a man I admire most. Thank you for the sacrifice you made for our country. All the best. "Tex" Hill

My first thought, after getting over the excitement of finding this inscription, was whose book was this? As Chennault died in 1958, he's quickly ruled out, but would have been the top contender otherwise. So who, or which fellow fighter pilot, did "Tex" Hill admire most? Perhaps some biographies of Hill would shed some light on the provenance of the Chennault book.

A few years ago on Archaeolibris, I blogged about another Flying Tigers fighter pilot named Joe Rosbert, who died in 2007 in the Houston area, where I found his signed autobiography and later Chennault's book. So I entertained the idea that the Chennault book signed by Hill could have belonged to Rosbert, but I can't find anything to connect the two in such a way that would lead to Tex Hill's inscription.

However, Tex Hill's fighter pilot experience was not limited to the Flying Tigers, so the fighter pilot in his inscription is not necessarily a Flying Tiger and maybe not even a fighter pilot he served with.

At any rate, I now have a companion book to for the Rosbert book and what looks like the beginnings of a Flying Tigers collection.


  1. You should check the Flying Tiger AVG forums, maybe someone there could help you out. They aren't the friendliest bunch so be patient.

    There is another forum but I am blanking on the URL. I believe writer Daniel Ford posts there, as he isn't very welcome at the aforementioned forums.

    Also, letting us know what library or geographical area you bought the book in might help narrow down a list of suspects.

  2. Thanks for the comments. I'm just now seeing this or would have responded sooner. I'll try to follow up on your suggestions. The Chennault book was purchased at a library sale in Houston a few years back. Rosbert lived outside of Houston (Katy) in his last years, which is why I thought of the connection, tenuous though it is

    1. Dear Chuck,
      Did you sell this book recently?
      If you still have it... I'm interested.