Birthplace of Maj. Gen. Claire L. Chennault

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(1890-1958)

Organizer-commander of the famous "Flying Tigers" of the China-Burma-India theater in World War II. An outstanding air strategist, Chennault had retired from a pioneer flying career when, in 1937, he was asked by Gen. Chaing Kai-Shek to help China develop an air force to combat threatening raids by Japan.

Four years later, with World War II spreading, he received permission from the U. S. to seek a corps of American airmen to help train the Chinese. A total of 252 men -- 87 pilots and 165 ground personnel -- joined the "American volunteer group." Its popular name resulted from a misunderstanding of the sharks' teeth painted on the noses of the aircraft.

The Tigers formed three squadrons -- "Adam and Eve," "Panda Bears," and "Hell's Angels" -- supported by the expert pilots of the China National Aviation Corps, a daring supply transport group. So effectively had Chennault studied Japanese air tactics that his tiny band officially destroyed 539 enemy aircraft while losing only 90 itself. During 1941-1942, they checked Japan's invasion of China, then joined regular units.

Jack Cornelius, also a native of Commerce and a close friend of Chennault's, was a member of the first pursuit squadron of the Tigers.
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