Nicknamed the “Flying Tigers,” the first American Volunteer Group in the Republic of China was active from 1941-1942. Formed under the direction of retired Army Air Corps captain Claire Lee Chennault, the group was authorized by Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt authorized the secret American Volunteer Group prior to the United States entering World War II to help China defend themselves against Japan. Thanks to museum volunteer and donor Tom Pandolfi, the New England Air Museum is host to one of the largest collections of Flying Tigers memorabilia. Pandolfi, a retired FedEx employee, has been collecting Flying Tiger memorabilia for many years. FedEx acquired Flying Tiger Airlines in 1987, and many of the original members would fly in and see Pandolfi's collection on display at FedEx. According to Pandolfi, "The pilots used to come in and look at my memorabilia and browse, and they would bring me stuff going back years when they were with the Flying Tigers." Pandolfi came to know many of the original members and their families personally, and he was even invited to China twice courtesy of the Chinese government. After Pandolfi began volunteering at the museum in 2002, he loaned a portion of his collection to the museum for exhibition. A new exhibit featuring the Pandolfi collection is currently in development
NEAM donor and volunteer Tom Pandolfi reflects on the Flying Tigers collection.