The American volunteer flyers who fought for China against the Japanese invasion were known as the 'Flying Tigers.' They saw their first combat on December 20th, 1941. They had originally thought this would be earlier, but various delays meant that it happened a few days after the US and Japan were officially at war. In China's most desperate hour, Chiang Kai-Shek turns to the United States for help. The Japanese are bombing Chinese population centers mercilessly. China's decimated air force is powerless to stop them. Chiang dispatches his American consultant - former U.S. Army Air Corps officer Claire L. Chennault - to obtain the airplanes and pilots needed to defend China. Tex Hill resigns his Navy Commission and volunteers. a small group of American aviators fought in their first battle in World War II. Their mission was unusual: They were mercenaries hired by China to fight against Japan. They were called the American Volunteer Group and later became known as the Flying Tigers. Though only in combat for less than seven months, the group became famous at the time for its ability to inflict outsize damage on Japan's better-equipped and larger aircraft fleet. Their victories came when Japan seemed unstoppable. The AVG was a bright spot in history when everything was bleak and black, and they have received a lot of recognition for that. In the West, 1939 is considered the start of World War II. But in Asia, China and Japan had been at war since 1937.