Flying Tiger Ace: The Story of Bill Reed, China’s Shining Mark, by Carl Molesworth, Osprey Publishing, 2020, $35.
On the night of December 19, 1944, Lt. Col. William N. Reed, commander of the 3rd Fighter Group, Chinese-American Composite Wing (CACW), was forced to bail out of his Curtiss P-40N somewhere in China’s Szechwan Province. He had been leading two other P-40s on a flight from one base to another when they got caught in extremely bad weather and could not land at their destination field. But their field of origin was also weathered-in, and they were forced to fly on, hoping for a break, until they eventually ran out of fuel. Reed was killed in the jump. Earlier that day he had flown his 141st combat mission in China. The leading ace of the CACW, he was three weeks short of his 28th birthday when he died.
Flying Tiger Ace, by noted aviation historian Carl Molesworth, is one of the few books written about the CACW. Jointly manned by Americans and Chinese, it was a unique organization of two fighter groups and a B-25 bomber group. Officially part of the Chinese air force, it was attached operationally to Maj. Gen. Claire Chennault’s Fourteenth Air Force. The CACW’s P-40s were painted with the traditional Flying Tigers shark mouth, but with the Chinese 12-point star rondels and 12 alternating blue and white stripes on the tail.
Reed was an important figure in the history of the Flying Tigers. He was one of only seven pilots from the original American Volunteer Group who returned to China for a second tour of duty. Flying Tiger Ace is a must read for anyone interested in the air war in China.
This article appeared in the September 2020 issue of Aviation History. To subscribe, click here!