The famed American Volunteer Group (AVG) created in August 1941, under the command of Claire Lee Chennault set an example of heroism for the American public opinion at the onset of the Second World War. This band of volunteer aviators serving under the Chinese Government tried to stem the tide of the Japanese onslaught throughout Southeast Asia. Amid chaos and resounding defeats of the Western powers in the area, the AVG fought tenaciously against the Japanese. Highly publicized in the US as the Flying Tigers, the AVG set up the origin and legacy of further United States clandestine air wars in Asia, and elsewhere in the world in the coming decades. From that point on, the name of Claire Lee Chennault was associated with paramilitary and secret air operations on behalf of the United States Government in Asia. However, if his involvement in China in late 1930s is well documented, his involvement in various clandestine air operations after the Second World War is far less well known.
Far from the image of a lonesome maverick often portrayed, Chennault was right from the start closely in contact with the US intelligence services and, with the support of the US presidency, developed plans to wage a secret air war against Japan. After the Second World War, he returned to China to create the Civil Air Transport (CAT), an airline originally involved in refugee relief missions but that was soon caught in the Chinese civil war where CAT was quickly involving in paramilitary operations, flying troops and supplies to supplement the Chinese Nationalist Air Force. Despite the dedication of the CAT personnel, the Nationalists suffered a series of disastrous defeats and the remnants of their forces withdrew into Taiwan. The near-bankrupt CAT found a last-minute investor, the newly-created US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), which purchased CAT for its clandestine operations in Asia in this nascent Cold War period. Officially a Taiwanese airline that ran regular commercial operations, the CIA was also running a discrete paramilitary department which was engaged in numerous clandestine air operations until the early 1960s when it was rechristened as Air America.
This first volume covers the birth of CAT and its involvement in the Chinese Civil War up to the Nationalist withdrawal to Taiwan.