The connection comes through ten members of the American Volunteer Group (AVG), the real Flying Tigers, who joined CNAC after the AVG disbanded in July, 1942. (front man Bob Prescott, William “Bill” Bartling, Cliff Groh, Tommy Haywood, Robert “Duke” Hedman, C.H. “Link” Laughlin, Ernest “Bus” Loane, Robert “Catfish” Raine, Joe Rosbert, and Dick Rossi.)
1942-1945, they flew freight over the Himalayas for the China National Aviation Corporation, carrying many thousands of tons of war material from India to China.
Toward the end of the war, those ten ex-AVG, ex-CNAC pilots banded together, pooled their money, and formed an airline. Based in Los Angeles, they dedicated it to flying freight — a skill they’d learned flying the Hump for CNAC — but they leveraged their ex-fighter pilot cache by calling their airline The Flying Tiger Line.
Their endeavor was successful, and the Flying Tiger Line operated independently until the late 1980s, when the surviving founders sold their airline to Federal Express.
Which is why, whenever you send a package via fedex, you’ve touched the American Volunteer Group, the China National Aviation Corporation, and the Hump Airlift.
I’ve had the good fortune to meet and interview Rosbert, Raine, and Rossi. Sadly, in the last decade, all of them have passed on.
Joe Rosbert’s epic 47-day crawl and hobble to safety after crashing in the snowy Himalayas is one of the best survival stories I’ve ever heard — and one of the great episodes in China’s Wings.