During World War II, America’s air forces in China reported at least 634 aircraft and 1,780 airmen as missing on combat missions. Fighting a savage guerrilla air war against the Japanese, the prospect of crash-landing or bailing out in a remote and dangerous land loomed ominously in the mind of every individual. Of the airmen reported missing, more than half perished. Remarkably, ninety percent of those who survived returned to friendly territory—more than three times the percentage of those rescued in occupied Europe. Their rescuers included Nationalists, Communists, warlords, and even alleged collaborators. Despite deep divisions throughout wartime China, helping downed Americans, including those of the famed “Flying Tigers”, transcended politics.
The author scoured thousands of pages of official reports to build a comprehensive database of every China-based American airman reported missing on combat missions during the war. Memoirs, wartime diaries, and dozens of interviews with veterans—both American and Chinese—overlay this core of thorough historical research with compelling personal narratives. The fate of these men is an incredible story of survival in the midst of a brutal war; it is a touching story of cooperation between the United States and China—including with Mao Zedong’s Communists. Fallen Tigers is not just a thrilling historical drama, it is of pressing importance for our time and the United States’ relationship with the rising Chinese superpower.