Airfix 1/48 P-40B/C Tomahawk, by Tom Cleaver

After reading this most interesting post about the Flying Tigers and Airfix P-40 B, I was just one click away to order it online…


“In fact,” Shilling told me in February 2002, a month before he passed on, “we were an official undercover operation of the American government. We were not mercenaries, though that cover story was so good everyone has believed it for the past sixty years.” Shilling buttressed his statement by pointing out that when the American Volunteer Group traveled to China aboard the Dutch passenger ship S.S. Jagersfontein, “we were escorted by two U.S. Navy heavy cruisers   the USS Salt Lake City and the USS Northampton   because there was a real fear that the Japanese had heard about the operation and would attempt to intercept us.” The cruisers stayed with them all the way across the Pacific, until the Jagersfontein entered the Java Sea and headed for Singapore.

In later years, many would believe that the American Volunteer Group (they received their popular name of “Flying Tigers” in news reports of their combat over Rangoon on Christmas Day, 1941) had fought in China against the Japanese for years before the attack on Pearl Harbor. In truth, the AVG did not arrive in Burma until late July 1941, and did not reach their first base at Tongou, in central Burma, until early August. Their first operational mission was not flown until December 10, 1941, after Pearl Harbor; the 3rd Squadron’s first combat mission   intercepting the first raid by the Japanese Army Air Force against Rangoon   came on December 23, 1941, four days after the 1st Squadron saw combat when they intercepted a Japanese bomber mission against Chungking in which they shot down all ten of the bombers, a great surprise to the Japanese.

Curtiss P-40B Warhawk

I always learn a lot from Plane Dave, not only with his informative posts, but also with what I read in the comment section…

December 7, 1941 I’ll assume we all know that date! Despite all the should’ves and could’ves, the Japanese achieved complete surprise against the US Navy base at Pearl Harbor and the surrounding military installations on Oahu, Hawaii. Most American air power, 188 aircraft across all service branches, was destroyed on the ground.  Another 159 planes […]

Curtiss P-40B Warhawk

Intermission – Feux du ciel

Happy 4th of July to all my American friends, old and new!

Happy 4th of July

My Forgotten Hobby III will be pausing for this summer unless I decide otherwise.


I have started reading Feux du ciel a second time around. The last time I had read it was in 1965. The Bataan chapter was the chapter that had always captivated me especially with the image of two P-40s etched in my mind.

This is an excerpt from the book (page 52)…

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C’est la fin du 24th Interceptor Command. Les quatre derniers Curtiss P-40 de Bataan sont restés dans cette mission.

Le 9 avril, les rares survivants des forces armées américaines de la péninsule capitulaient. Auparavant, Mac Arthur (sic) avait fait évacuer à Mindoro, dans le vieux Bellanca, le capitaine Dyess qui devait survivre aux blessures des cinq balles de 7 mm qui I’avaient atteint, pour recevoir des mains mêmes du Président Roosevelt, la Médaille d’honneur du Congrès.


This is the end of the 24th Interceptor Command. The last four Curtiss P-40s from Bataan were lost on this mission.

On April 9th, the few survivors of the peninsula’s U.S. Armed Forces surrendered. Earlier, MacArthur had evacuated Captain Dyess to Mindoro, in an old Bellanca. He had survived wounds from the five 7 mm bullets that had strucked him. He received the Congressional Medal of Honor from the very hands of President Roosevelt.

In 1965 that’s what I had read and there was no Internet to know more. Now I was more curious than ever to learn more about what had happened to Captain Dyess after he was evacuated in an old Bellanca.



When the Bataan Peninsula fell to the Japanese, Dyess, as commanding officer, refused to abandon those of his squadron who could not be evacuated. He gave his airplane (“Kibosh”) to another fighter pilot, Lieutenant I.B. “Jack” Donaldson, for last bombing run on April 9, after which Jack was ordered to fly it to Cebu, where he crash landed. Dyess also supervised the evacuation of Philippine Army Colonel Carlos Romulo, a close friend of General Douglas MacArthur, who would survive the war and would later serve as President of the United Nations General Assembly.

Captain Dyess refused to abandon those of his squadron who could not be evacuated. I guess this makes him more than just a hero.

On the 4th of July, 2020 My Forgotten Hobby III wishes to remember Captain William E. Dyess.


The Dyess Story, first published in 1944, is the moving World War II account of William Dyess (1916-1943), a US Army Air Force pilot who was captured by the Japanese in the fall of the Philippines. Dyess then took part in the infamous Bataan Death March, and was a POW at Camps Cabanatuan and O’Donnell before his transfer and eventual escape from the Davao Penal Colony on Mindanao. His horrific story, one of the first to be published in the U.S. during the war, shocked and angered the nation. Illustrated with maps and photographs. Sadly, on December 22, 1943, Dyess was killed in a training accident in California while testing a P-38 fighter; he was only 27 at the time.

More reading about him here:

More here:


Eventually, Dyess was transferred to a prison in Davao, 650 miles south on Mindanao. From there, he led the escape of nine other American and Filipino POWs, the largest such escape in the Pacific Theater during World War II. For months he evaded captured, finally returned to safety in July 1943.

When Dyess returned to the United States, his story was kept secret. No one wanted to risk offending the Japanese, the calculation being they would treat American prisoners even worse.

It was only after Dyess was killed that his story was released. On Dec. 22, 1943, the P-38 he was flying over Burbank, Calif. lost power to an engine. While he could have abandoned his aircraft and parachuted to safety, it would have meant the airplane crashing into a home, possibly killing those on the ground.

Instead, he flew the plane into a vacant lot where he died on impact.