Allied Artists Pictures Presents

Based on the true story of General Claire Lee Chennault and his Flying Tigers



  • Screenplay Written By: Jonathan Bloch
  • Executive Producer: Kim Richards
  • Language: English, Chinese
  • Review Ratings: Click here


By Jonathan Bloch

1937; Due to Japan’s efforts in expanding its influence to nearby territories, China begins a full-scale resistance against the Japanese. Conflict breaks out between the two countries, resulting in the Second Sino-Japanese War. While China endures attacks, struggling to fight the Japanese, the rest of the world and Allied Forces, stand by without taking any action.

Meanwhile in the U.S., Captain Claire Lee Chennault, a grizzled and experienced member of the Army Air Corps, faces a court hearing by his superiors. Despite being an innovative strategist and fearless aerial leader, Chennault is being forced out of service because of declining health (chronic bronchitis) and constant defiance of military orders. Having been passed over for promotion, time and time again, his frustration and stubborn behavior force him to retire and sever ties with the Air Corps; the life he has always known.

Waiting around at home, enduring retirement and waiting to die, the world outside continues on, and the war between Japan and China begins to escalate.
Chennault is presented an offer to be a consultant to the Chinese Government for their Air Force. Seeing this as his final opportunity to do what he loves, Chennault agrees and goes to China.

Upon arriving, he is met with open arms by the Generalissimo and Madame Chiang, but is looked at by the locals, media, and Chinese military personnel as nothing more than a Mercenary. Included is an opinionated Chinese War correspondent, Anna Chan, who more than makes her feelings known upon meeting Chennault, mirroring Chinese sentiment. Chennault, enamored by her beauty, turns on the charm, but is shot down by her relentlessness and professional integrity.

Chennault then meets with the U.S. Commander of the China Burma India Theater, General Joseph Stilwell, whose reputation precedes him as the hard-headed U.S. Deputy Allied Commander for China. Stilwell is aware of Chennault and has nothing but contempt for his inferior, who’s consistently known to defy orders.
Being driven through the streets of China, Chennault sees the destruction and its effects on the men, women, and children. He may be a long way from home, but the pain he witnesses is all too familiar.

As Chennault makes it to the Chinese base at Nanchang Airfield, he finds it second rate; a mud-covered airplane boneyard, and its pilots and ground crew, are not much better. He meets General Mao, and his men, who collectively don’t think much of the old, ‘washed up’ pilot.

Chennault takes inventory and sees that the planes, manpower, fuel and facilities are in shambles. General Mao and his men, take it as an insult. But when Chennault reports to the Generalissimo and Madame Chiang, they reprimand General Mao, and ask him to do the honorable thing for the dishonor he has brought his position. Chennault asks them to spare General Mao, and in turn Mao agrees to help Chennault.

The Chinese pilots still view Chennault as a washed-up outsider. It isn’t until Chennault accepts a challenge from the best pilot to a race and aerial maneuver contest, which Chennault easily wins – showing off in the process – the attitudes of Mao and his crew change, realizing he is the real deal.
When Nanchang Airfield is attacked by the Japanese, it is the teachings of Chennault that give the Chinese Air Force their first victory in quite a while.
As the Chinese relish in their minor victory, China becomes more ravaged. Their need of assistance from the Allied Forces is something that Stilwell is adamantly against, and refuses to recommend.

For fear of letting an entire country down, Chennault decides to be diplomatic for a change, going through the proper channels to make an impassioned plea to the U.S. brass for assistance. But the plea is of no use, since the U.S. was not at war.

Chennault decides to directly lobby President Roosevelt, who appreciates Chennault’s passion, and decides it’s in the best interest of the U.S. to offer assistance to China and Chennault. This clandestine operation includes a hundred P-40 Fighter Planes, 87 pilots and some 300 ground support personnel for China.

In San Francisco, Chennault and his trusted staff begin the interview process, recruiting a diverse band of misfits up for the challenge. These ‘Recruits’ come from all diverse backgrounds, and are all aware of Chennault’s reputation. All in, the recruits are discharged from the U.S. Military and agree to volunteer for CAMCO, the private military contractor for the operation, for a monthly fee. Given manufactured immigration papers, with phony careers listed, the men arrive in China ready to fight.
When the men arrive, it is a culture shock. Seeing this opportunity as merely a job, the friction arises between the American Volunteers and the Chinese Pilots fighting for their country. Every bit of training is a competition between the two, that even extends to the barracks. The Americans view the Chinese as inadequate and desperate for help, as the Chinese view the Americans as arrogant mercenaries, only there for a paycheck.

Desperate to unite the American and Chinese pilots under his command, things progress as respect for one another begins to grow. However, it’s all undone when over Japanese broadcast radio, Tokyo Rose, announces that the Japanese have bombed Pearl Harbor. Wrongly holding contempt for China for dragging the U.S. into their war, the American Pilots segregate again from the Chinese pilots.

When word gets out that the Japanese are on the way to attack China, Chennault’s Pilots assemble and defeat the assault on their base. However, during the battle, one of the Chinese American Volunteer’s planes is shot down, and the pilot goes missing.

A few days later, a crate is dropped from the sky by a Japanese plane. It is the severed head of the missing Chinese-American Pilot. The American Volunteers and the Chinese Pilots come together over the loss of their brother, and view themselves as one group. They unite under a symbol; a tiger on the nose of the plane, and they become known as THE FLYING TIGERS.

Stilwell and the Generalissimo meet to discuss strategy against Japan. Although Chennault has been a success, Stilwell adamantly urges the Generalissimo that the best plan of attack against the Japanese is by foot in Burma. The Generalissimo reluctantly goes along, giving Stilwell control of his best ground soldiers to join him.
As reports come in that the Japanese are closing in on Burma from Chennault’s men, Stilwell ignores the warning and continues on. Stilwell marches right into a trap, leading most of the Chinese regiment into their own slaughter.

Trying to save face after a disastrous loss of manpower, Stilwell takes control of the Flying Tigers by inducting them all into the U.S. Army Air Corps. With the stress from constant battles between Japan, internal politics with Stilwell, and unable to see Anna, Chennault’s health deteriorates quicker than usual. His chronic bronchitis becomes more noticeable to his men.

Chennault falls ill and is rushed to the hospital. He is forced to take leave, and can only communicate with his soldiers by radio. Feeling that all hope is lost, and wanting to give in to the battle with Stilwell, it is his men, both American and Chinese, who convince him that the fight for China is not yet finished, and that they need him. It is Chennault who brought these different groups of people together, and gave hope to the people.
With Japan planning another attack on China, and Stilwell redirecting fuel from the Flying Tigers to ground troops, Chennault devises a plan to steal the fuel back, in order to raid Japan, before they have a chance to strike. Fighting for his life, Chennault can only hope the lessons he taught his men are enough for the Flying Tigers to defeat the Japanese Air Force, from his hospital bed.

The planes are fueled up and Chennault’s Flying Tigers launch into the largest head-to-head aerial attack on Japan to date. Their fight rages on, with minimal casualties, until the Flying Tigers are victorious.

Chennault is thrilled at the news and proud of what they accomplished – American and Chinese warriors – fighting together side by side. Stilwell appeals to the military to Court Marshall Chennault, but the Generalissimo stands up for Chennault and the Flying Tigers, treating them as his own countrymen. Stilwell is then reassigned, allowing Chennault to stay in China, an unparalleled hero.