435th Fighter Training Squadron members name new library, honor General Chennault

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  • 502nd Air Base Wing Public Affairs

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 attendance.

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 Antonio, Texas.


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 1937-1945.


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 circle entry.”



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 them.


“They need to go above and beyond, and think about things critically and look for new solutions to problems and anticipate additional problems.”


 “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.”