I don’t know if he was the last Flying Tiger, but if he isn’t, there can’t be many left:
In September 1941, he left the Army Air Forces to volunteer for service in China as part of a secret program, the American Volunteer Group, nicknamed the Flying Tigers, under Gen. Claire Chenault. Made up of about 400 pilots and ground personnel and based in Burma, the Flying Tigers protected military supply routes between China and Burma and helped to get supplies to Chinese forces fighting the Japanese.
The group’s exploits became legend. Flying the P-40 aircraft, their fuselages painted with a toothsome tiger, the Flying Tigers were credited with shooting down 299 enemy planes and destroying 200 on the ground, even though the Japanese at times outnumbered Chenault’s group 15 to 1. On one day in late February 1942, the Flying Tigers downed 28 Japanese planes while losing none.
During one of the 1942 engagements, Gen. Bond destroyed three Japanese I-97 planes while piloting his P-40B. He was credited with nine kills in all.
Gen . Bond was shot down twice himself. On May 4, 1942, three Japanese fighters zeroed in on his plane over Pao-shan, China, and his plane and his clothing caught fire. Parachuting into a cemetery, he ran to a creek and was able to douse the flames. After spending a few weeks in a hospital, he returned to combat and was shot down again June 12, 1942. Despite head injuries — and shrapnel that he carried in his head the rest of his life — he was back in action a week later.
They probably still make them like that, but the opportunities to show it may be fewer. When I was a kid, I read Robert Scott’s God Is My Co-Pilot, and built models of Curtiss P-40s, and wanted to be an Air Force pilot, something precluded by my vision. Most kids today wouldn’t know what it was.
Also, I’ve never been in a serious physical altercation in my life, and don’t know if I would have the physical courage to march into a battle. When I read accounts of warfare (particularly the Civil War or WW I) I recoil, and can’t imagine how they did it. I’m glad that we have people who do, though.
But I could always imagine strapping myself into an airplane and shooting down other airplanes. Getting shot down myself…not so much.