The National WWII Museum in New Orleans, Louisiana took delivery of their freshly restored P-40E Warhawk in early February. A crane lifted it into position, hanging in the museum’s new Campaigns of Courage pavilion, while Claire Chennault’s granddaughter, Nell Calloway, looked on with much appreciation. Claire Chennault’s American Volunteer Group, better known as the “Flying Tigers”, has become synonymous with the P-40.
They’re shark-mouthed Warhawks captured the free world’s imagination during the early, dark days of combat against the Japanese in WWII, and the magnitude of their legend continues to this day. The National WWII Museum chose to paint their P-40 in “Flying Tigers” markings in celebration of that continuing public identity. More specifically, the Warhawk represents a P-40E flown by Colonel Robert L. Scott Jr., who commanded the 23rd Fighter Group which absorbed the “Flying Tigers” into their ranks once the US officially entered WWII.
Flyboys Aeroworks of El Cajon, California carried out the restoration to static condition, spending over 18,000 man hours to return the crumpled wreck they started with to its present state. The restoration is actually based upon the substantial remains of a 343rd FG Warhawk of as yet unproven identity recovered in Alaska some years ago. In some respects, it seems a shame that the little-known history of the Aleutian Campaign has not been highlighted with this genuine example from that theatre. However, it is understandable that the National WWII Museum chose the more commonly recognized story to portray with their P-40, as it does flow more evenly with their exhibition, “The Road to Tokyo”. Also, Claire Chennault grew up in Louisiana, so his local roots play a factor as well. Regardless, it is wonderful to have another P-40 on display, and the National WWII Museum and Flyboys Aeroworks have much to be proud of.