Last week on Facebook, I posted up a image that my colleague found for Shark Week. It wasn’t a biological shark, but a mechanical one. The caption provided some basic information: “A Chinese soldier guards a line of American P-40 fighter planes, painted with the shark-face emblem of the ‘Flying Tigers,’ at a flying field somewhere in China. The American pursuit planes have a 12-to-1 victory ratio over the Japanese., ca. 1942.”
The comments in the post, however, provided far more information! Facebook users launched into a knowledgeable discussion of dates, forces, and plane types.
But if anyone used our Online Public Access search engine (OPA) to search the online holdings of the National Archives using the words that came up in the discussion (“23rd Fighter Group” or “Kunming” or “Zhongzheng Type-24,”) this photograph would not appear. A possibly useful record would not make its way to a researcher.
This is why the Archivist has invited “citizens archivists” to join him in crowdsourcing our vast holdings by tagging images and photographs. Users who have knowledge about our holdings can assign tags that make records more findeable for fellow users.
Already, users have contributed hundred of tags. Are you interested in joining the fun? We’d like your help! To learn more about the project, sign up, and start tagging, go here.
Interested in learning more about those strange shark planes? Here’s a few comments from the Facebook post:
Paul: The markings are those of US Army aircraft between May 1942 and June 1943. The enlarged fin shows these to be early production P-40Ks. They are in the 23rd Fighter Group, successor to the American Volunteer Group. I’m guessing 75th Squadron, Kunming, China. late 1942.
Michael: Well, I will chime in here. The AVG pre-dates the 7 Dec 1941 Imperial Japanese attack on US forces. The AVG was, in effect, a mercenary air force operated by Nationalist China and thus were painted with Nationalist Chinese stars. The aircraft shown clearly post 1941 USAAC stars on the wings. These markings deleted the earlier wing markings that had a red circle in the middle of the white star. So, I would date this photo to be at earliest the Spring of 1942 and shows USAAC P40s assigned to the China Burma India theater of operations.
James: i was going to chime in as Micahael & Paul had, wrong insignia for AVG…it’s P-40’s of the 23 army air group, what the 3 ” squadrons” of the AVG flying tigers rolled into. Given the P-40’s do not have the high and round air intake on the top of the cowling, but the low NACA style intake right behind the prop they are later production (but not too late due to the above mentioned large tail) P-40’s rather than the first batch that went over with the AVG. I guess early, but maybe not early ’nuff to be original Avg airframes turned over to the 23rd… great pic thanks!
And Michael (on the rifle): Brett, the rifle is a Zhongzheng Type-24 also known as the Chiang Kai Shek rifle. This is basically a copy of the German Gew 98 but without much of the improvements of the K98k