I came across a couple of passages on the Flying Tigers, mercenary armies and famous volunteers

I saw how one pilot became an ace in Europe and another became a General in the 10th Air Force after they were disbanded. It seemed to me that as they are were very successful against Japanese pilots, by all accounts, the best use should have been with the US Navy as instructors or maybe front-line pilots. I haven't run across anything showing they ever served in the Navy. I think of the Thach Weave that made a huge difference against Zero pilots and wondered what tricks the Tigers must have used that would have also been helpful against the Japanese. Did the Navy ever incorporate any of the Tiger pilots? If so, did they ever distinguish themselves in the Pacific like they did in China?

It's my first question here so hopefully you will be gentle.

  • 3
    Congratulations on your first post. I’m mostly a passive reader in this community, but I imagine you’re likely to get two important comments from experienced users. First, the relevant passages of the sources you linked to should be included in the post, to make it easier to read as well as to future-proof the post in case the links die out. Second, these particular sources are not considered very reliable. You might want to search for other references online or offline if possible. Best of luck.
    – Boaz
    Aug 28, 2020 at 5:58
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    Look up Pappy Boyington. He was a USMC pilot flying the corsair, he was the leader of the Black Sheep Squadron, an ace, and a POW. They even made a TV show about the unit (not super accurate by any stretch) in the 70s.
    – ed.hank
    Aug 28, 2020 at 11:13
  • @ed.hank, thanks, I saw a quote and story about him and didn't make the connection.
    – Seamus
    Aug 28, 2020 at 15:28
  • @Boaz that's good advice. I will try to keep it in mind.
    – Seamus
    Aug 28, 2020 at 15:29

2 Answers 2


Short answer, Yes. A quick perusal of AVG pilot listings compared to USN or USMC postings after the AVG was disbanded shows some . . .

Noel R Bacon – Served in NAOTC at NAAS Green Cove Spring, LCDR USNR (post war he was a CDR and commanded VC-62) Bronze Star

Percy R Bartelt – served in NAOTC at NAS Pensacola, LT USNR, promoted to LCDR 5 November 1945

Lewis S Bishop – was a POW captured in 1942 while in the AVG. Escaped in May 1945, repatriated, July 1945. After a period of hospitalization was recommissioned LCDR USNR on 30 Oct 1945, released to inactive service 1 Jun 1946.

Gregory R Boyington – returned to USMCR served in several squadron eventually commanding VMF-214 as a MAJ USMCR. Captured POW, repatriated at end of war. Medal of Honor, Navy Cross

Herbert R Cavanah – a prewar NAP was commissioned ENS USNR in May 1943, ended the war a LTJG USNR, a patrol plane operational training instructor VPB-2 OTU-2 NAS Jacksonville

Edwin S Conant – ended the war as LCDR USNR, commanding VBF-17; real name was John Francis Perry, Conant was a name he assumed to enter USN flight training after washing out from AAF pilot training. Flew helicopters in the Korean War as XO of HU-1 under the Conant identity. Distinguished Flying Cross (4 awards)

Donald R Knapp – ended the war LT USNR, executive officer VF-60. Distinguished Flying Cross (2 awards)

Frank L Lawlor – ended the war LCDR USNR, commanding VBF-9. Distinguished Flying Cross (3 awards)

Edmund F Overend – Ended the war MAJ USMCR, commanding VMF-221. Distinguished Flying Cross

Curtis E Smith – ended the war MAJ USMCR MAG-14 Operations Officer. Returned to USMCR in October 1942 assigned to NAOTC; Observer RAF operations, September 1943; Empire Central Flying School, December 1943; MAG-14 October 1944.

Fritz E Wolf – ended the war LCDR USNR commanding VBF-3, prior the VBF-3 briefly served in VF-11. Distinguished Flying Cross.

Interesting to note that naval aviators, USN & USMC, made up a slim majority of pilots in the AVG.

As an aside, my father was an Ensign and a pilot in VF-42 on USS Ranger when the AVG recruiters came around. He, a USN regular, had no interest, but some USNR reservists, having served to near the end of their commitment with only rumors of prospects in sight, were interested. I know for certain that among those to go from the Ranger Air Group were Noel Bacon and John G Bright (VF-41); John Armstrong (VF-42); Allan B Christman, David Hill, and Edward Rector (VS-41); John Petach and Peter Wright (VS-42). Armstrong was killed, Bacon went back to the Navy, Bright went to the AAF, Christman was killed, Hill went to the AAF, Petach was killed, Rector went to the AAF, and Wright went to civil aviation.

USN USMC information drawn from my listing of some 50,000 US naval aviators and known duty assignments.

  • When I was looking through the WP linked names, it looked like most ended up in the Army (pre-USAF) after the AVG was disbanded. That despite the fact that apparently very few stayed on with the AVG's Army Air Corp successor (due apparently to the recruiting officer they sent over being epically bad at his job).
    – T.E.D.
    Aug 28, 2020 at 18:46
  • True, most who returned to US service ended up in the USAAF. In terms of from whence they were recruited in the first place, of 106 AVG pilots, 44 were recruited from the USAAF; 5 were civilians (all instructors at the CAF flight school); and 57 were naval aviators, 6 from the USMC and 51 from the USN.
    – R Leonard
    Aug 30, 2020 at 14:23

John Francis Perry (alias "Edwin Stanley Conant") was referred to as having the potential to be a Japanese Ace if he damaged a couple more Flying Tigers aircraft. I'm not sure of the story specifically, ie whether he wasn't good at takeoff/landing/avoiding being shot etc or how the aircraft were damaged/level of damage.

I've been researching John Francis Perry. Not only did he assume his friend's name, but also his friend's DOB and parents names, completing the government census as Edwin S Conant while stationed at NAS bases. There are copies of letters digitised online of fellow naval men letters written to the AZTECS magazine mentioning John Perry (Edwin Conant). A couple of letters also written by John F Perry and also his father (William Radcliffe Perry) to the magazine.

His initial enlistment as written in one newspaper article who appeared to get the 'scoop' (as compared to other paper articles basic info) refers to a stunt performed over his ex-girlfriends house with a training plane, this is where the "washed out due to difference of opinion with instructor" statement comes from.

A Secret navy record (now available publicly) is written by Edwin S Conant, listed as Acting Commanding Officer. https://catalog.archives.gov/id/77649462?objectPage=47

John F Perry's military records are not published online and at his court martial for using a false name, he suggests possibly continuing to use the name for further engagement with the military. Besides his father, much of his personal life is obscure, died in 1965 from a heart attack.

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