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The Flying Tigers of World War II. Hired to defend China against Japanese forces, the 1st American Volunteer Group of the Chinese Air Force, known as the “Flying Tigers,” were recruited under presidential authority and led by Colonel Claire Chennault. The Flying Tigers were composed of pilots from the United States Army Air Corps, Navy, and Marine Corps, and were under contract to the Chinese Air Force from 1941 to 1942. Learn about the invasion of China and the American pilots who helped defend it, from one of Glazier’s own students!