Phase 1: Posing Real Questions
In Phase 0, I brainstormed out a couple topics that I can research during my time in Xizhou. Here in Phase 1, I will be establishing questions to answer in Xizhou and building background knowledge. The topic that I have picked to investigate is the presence of the Flying Tigers in Xizhou. The plan for my project is to find out how the presence of the Flying Tigers impacted the residents of Xizhou, as well as what the residents of Xizhou thought of the Flying Tigers, through the eyes of the people who experienced it.
What I Know So Far:
I know that the Flying Tigers, or the 1st American Volunteers Group (AVG), was a group of American volunteer pilots that were sent to China from the United States. The Flying Tigers defended cities of considerable size such as Kunming and Rangoon from the terror bombing campaigns employed extensively by the Imperial Japanese Army Air Services (IJAAS). The group flew the camouflaged P-40 Warhawks with the famous "shark mouth" and bears the insignia of the Chinese Nationalist air force. These men were led by Lieutenant General Claire Lee Chenault. The pilots and technicians were recruited from the U.S. Army Air Corps, the predecessor of the U.S. Air Force, and the U.S. Navy. They slots for pilots and technicians filled up quickly as it promised higher pay than an average American airman. In fact, the slots filled up much faster than anticipated and the roster even included a chaplain. Lt. Gen. Claire Lee Chennault procured the aircraft from a shipment originally meant for the British in North Africa. The group was trained in British airfield in Burma. The main opponents of the Flying Tigers are the IJAAS Ki-21 Sally medium bombers, Ki-46 Lily light bomber, Ki-27 Nate light fighters, Ki-43 Oscar fighters, and the infamous A6M Zero naval fighters.
I have done some background research and have recorded my findings in Phase 3. This will help me lay out my Big Questions and help me make more sense of the information I gather in Xizhou.
How Do I Know What I Know:
I learned this from the numerous Flying Tigers books both found in the library and on my Kindle. I also learned some of this from the many Flying Tigers documentaries I have watched. I have been interested in the Flying Tigers for a long time already. I have spent time looking into this area of interest of mine for a considerable period of time such as reading books about the group, watching documentaries and videos and I have even been to a Flying Tigers memorial in Taipei honoring the members of the 1st American Volunteers Group and its leader, Lt. Gen. Claire Lee Chennault.
What Would I Like to Find Out:
Because Microcampus alumni have said that Xizhou is the site of a former Flying Tigers radar station, this makes Xizhou crucial for the Tigers. I would like to find out what does local residents thought of the Flying Tigers. The crowds of historians believe that Flying Tigers are the saviors, and the historians see the American troops in World War II in general as "the good guys," however, the fact is they too have committed horrendous acts. I hope by interviewing people that have lived the event themselves, I would be able to get a deeper look and understanding of the historical event of the Flying Tigers. Interviewing the local residents of Xizhou that have memories of the Flying Tigers such as Mr. Zhao can give me a perspective of the Flying Tigers that many other secondary sources cannot. I would also like to find out what were some memorable things the Flying Tigers did for the people and how their lives changed with the presence of the Tigers.
My 10 Big Questions:
The purpose of these questions is to guide and fuel the beginning of my research process in Xizhou. The first two questions definitely related closely with each other as it was about the history of the Flying Tigers. The 3rd through 6th questions were related to each other as they were about how the residents integrated with the Flying Tigers. The last 7th through 10th questions are about what happened after the Flying Tigers left. I ordered the questions this way so it starts with history, residents and after the Flying Tigers. The words in italics are possible answers to the questions.
1. Why were the Flying Tigers deployed in the Southern China, more specifically Xizhou?
Because Kunming was a very populated city and an economic and industrial center, as well as the end of the Burma Road, or China's lifeline, it was subject to terror bombing campaigns by the Japanese. Because the Chinese Air Force had been decimated, the Japanese gained near-absolute air superiority, meaning they can bomb civilians unchallenged in the air by modern fighters. The Flying Tigers, equipped with one of the most advanced, well-armed and durable fighters of the era, definitely changed that. Becuase the Japan has seized Burma, and because of the natural barrier of the Himalayas, a considerable amount of resources had to be flown over the mountains. This was an extremely dangerous method of transportation and Xizhou is a radar station that helped guide the planes flying in and out of the Chinese airspace.
2. What made the Flying Tigers significant, especially in Xizhou?
They protected China and gained air superiority. The Flying Tigers ensured that China would have Burma Road as its lifeline.
3. How did the locals see them, were they welcomed?
From reading Microcampus projects from the past, the residents of Xizhou said the members of the famed Flying Tigers were courteous and kind. They were helpful to the residents.
4. How did the presence of the Flying Tigers affect the daily lives of the local residents?
From past project, especially with the case of Mr. Zhao, some had to yield their home to accommodate the Flying Tigers. The civilians in Xizhou most likely had to make some sacrifices and adjustments for the newcomers to their community.
5. What are some remarkable memories the people have about the Flying Tigers?
There were most likely good memories, giving people a ride on their jeeps, etc.
6. How did the residents assist the Flying Tigers?
They gave the Flying Tigers some of their living space to accommodate the group.
7. After the Flying Tigers left, how did the community change?
I am not very sure. This is something I hope to find out in Xizhou.
8. Did the Flying Tigers leave behind anything with historical significance?
They did leave behind a radar station and it would definitely be reasonable to think there would be something from back then in the Linden Centre.
9. Was there anything controversial that the Flying Tigers did?
This, I really have no idea about. Perhaps some may think they did not make a big splash right then.
10. What is something non-tangible that the Flying Tigers leave in Xizhou?
The Flying Tigers made Xizhou special by adding a special part to their history. I think it is the legacy they made in Xizhou that is significant.
What I Will Need To Know Beforehand:
I will need to know more background information on the Flying Tigers, especially in the area of Xizhou and Southern China, as well as information about Gen. Claire Lee Chennault, Chiang Kai-Shek and the Second Sino-Japanese War. I will need to know these topics in order to put what my interviewee as well as the expert I will reach out to in the next Phase into context. In order to make the most out of the information I gather, I have to be able to understand them thoroughly and understanding the topics I have listed above.
In Phase 2, I will be finding resources that will be helpful to my inquiry project.