It was a foregone conclusion of credible American military minds cognizant of activities in the Middle East and Far East during World War II that the Axis powers (Germany, Italy, and Japan) showed repeated intentions of expanding their territorial conquests in a converging direction from Germany to Japan, from the Mediterranean Sea and North Africa across Saudi Arabia, India, Burma, and coastal China. Such control of vital land and waterways rich in raw materials . . . would have led to the prolongation of World War II and even possibly altered its final result.
The tenacity, resourcefulness, and tactical genius displayed in China by Claire Lee Chennault as expressed first, through his adventuresome American Volunteer Group (AVG) and later, through his leadership of America’s smallest Air Force (the fourteenth), helped immeasurably to thwart the Axis powers’ ambitious plan. With a minimum of supplies and manpower, this relative handful of Americans remained steadfast in their remote mountain bastion in Kunming, China, as an offensive deterrent to Japanese aggression.
This book is written about that struggle, about a near-forgotten band of gallant American airmen who found themselves, like visitors from another planet, in the midst of a strange land at a time of great turmoil. They came not as conquerors . . . but as co-defenders. They were appreciated by the most humble and grateful Chinese. . . . These people would smile to them in recognition, nod approval, and in many cases utter the only mutually recognizable words of communication: “Ding Hao,” meaning “It is good.”—from the Prologue