Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph, Texas --
Members of the 435th Fighter Training Squadron honored
the life and service of the famed Flying Tigers’ leader from World War II during
a library dedication at JBSA-Randolph Aug. 28.
The library was dedicated to Maj. Gen. Claire Lee
Chennault during a ribbon cutting ceremony, with 435th FTS Deadly
Black Eagles and 39th Flying Training Squadron Flying Cobras in
Chennault is still remembered today as a great strategic
thinker and fighter pilot.
Chennault joined the U.S. Army Reserve in 1917 and got his
wings in 1919 at Kelly Field in San
In 1941, after he retired from the military, he organized
a group of American civilian volunteer pilots, an American Volunteer Group known
as the Flying Tigers, to fight against
Japan in the Sino-Japanese War from
As a civilian he had been recruited by the Chinese as an
instructor and advisor. He went to China to train pursuit units of the Chinese
Air Force and became a brigadier general in the Chinese air force.
“Claire Chennault was known for thinking outside the
box,” Lt. Col. Jason Earley, 435th FTS director of operations, said. “He was a
huge proponent for close air support.”
Chennault believed the same advances in technology that
enabled a high altitude long range bomber would also enable high altitude
fighter defenders. He stressed the need for not only fighter escorts, but for
fighter aviation in general.
Once the United States entered World War II after Pearl
Harbor, the group was merged with the Army Air Corps as the China Air Task
force, later becoming the 14th Air Force.
Chennault was recalled to active duty in 1942, and because
of the success of the Flying Tigers
he was promoted to major general.
“At the 435th, fighter wingmen are born,” Lt. Col. Mark Schmidt, 435th Fighter Training Squadron commander, said.
“Their first exposure to being fighter pilots will be here, and there is no
better place for new fighter pilot wingmen to see how it all starts. This gives
us the unique opportunity to learn how to be leaders.”
Maj. Fete Carrillo and Capt. Fiat Hummers came up with
idea to honor Chennault by creating a library.
“Major Carillo and
Captain Hummers said if we wanted trainees to get to the next level of
leadership we should do something to inspire them,” Schmidt said. “We
need a library dedicated to a strategic thinker, who was a fighter pilot;
placed where our wingmen will see it every day and be inspired to not just turn
Cynthia Chennault, Chennault’s youngest daughter, was in
attendance to witness the event and dedicated a copy of her father’s book, “Way
of a Fighter." Chennault died in 1958,
shortly after being promoted to lieutenant general.
“This is the first
time I have heard of a library named after my father on an Air Force base,”
Cynthia said. "My father told me repeatedly that the most honorable profession
was to be a teacher, and if he could be here today he would be so proud that
you are passing on to others what you have learned.”
One of the most important things that Chennault fought
for was the importance of fighter planes when a lot of people thought bombers were
the way of the future, his daughter said.
“I would say, part of the reason why we named it after General
Chennault is because he did what we want our guys to do,” said Earley. “We want
our guys to not just follow the status quo but instead to be critical and
creative, diverse thinkers who don't just accept things that are spoon fed to
“They need to go above and beyond, and think about things
critically and look for new solutions to problems and anticipate additional
“The title is
appropriate given the goal of honoring Air Force heritage and bold, visionary
leaders," Maj. Timothy Manning, 435th FTS instructor, said. “Members of the 435th FTS feel that General
Chennault embodied the type of revolutionary leader that we aim to encourage.”