Perry was only 17 years old when he joined the 10th Hertfordshire Battalion. His mother did not like him being out at night, and feared he might catch cold; he partly resembled the character of Private Pike. Another influence was the Lancastrian comedian Robb Wiltonwho portrayed a work-shy husband who joined the Home Guard in numerous comic sketches during WW2.
Would Losonsky be willing to board a ship headed to Asia and join a group of volunteers helping China fight off Japanese invaders? Losonsky said yes. That was May of Now, 75 years later at age 96, Losonsky is one of three known living survivors of what's arguably the most famous fighter plane outfit in history: the Flying Tigers.
If you haven't heard the name Flying Tigers, you might recognize their planes.
They flew US-made Curtiss P Warhawks painted with a menacing looking shark-mouth design that eventually became iconic.
A video posted by Thom Patterson thompatterson on Sep 22, at pm PDT Read More During the outfit's short lifetime in and '42, people were recruited for what was officially called the 1st American Volunteer Group.
Starting with 99 planes, they racked up an amazing combat record in just about seven months, destroying enemy aircraft in Burma, Thailand and China, according to Tripp Alyn of the AVG Flying Tiger Association.
Twenty pilots qualified as "aces" by shooting down five enemy aircraft each. Experts say the Flying Tigers helped the US strategically by keeping Japan focused on China, giving the US economy time to gear itself up for the war by making tanks, planes and other weapons.
Some Flying Tigers fought as pilots. Others -- including mechanics, clerks, doctors, dentists and nurses -- served as ground support. Losonsky was a crew chief in the 3rd Squadron -- maintaining three, sometimes four, airplanes.
He also helped deliver bombs and salvage parts to keep the planes in the air. This weekend at Atlanta's DeKalb-Peachtree Airport, Losonsky climbed into a P for the first time since the war, as part of a historic Flying Tiger reunion sponsored by the Commemorative Air Force, which works to preserve historic warbirds.
Losonsky, 96, flew Thursday in the back of a plane like those he worked on years ago. During his flight, Losonsky remained cool and calm in the back of the two-seat trainer. Risking execution Two women served as nurses in the Flying Tigers, but the group was overwhelmingly comprised of young male officers or enlisted men.
If Japanese forces had captured them in Asia as civilians, they could be executed as spies.
With fascist Germany and Italy taking over Europe, many Americans in early wanted to stay out of the fighting. Not Losonsky. I just thought that I could help a little. When recruits crossed the Pacific on commercial ships, they were forced to assume fake identities. Losonsky traveled under cover with a specially-made passport that said he was a missionary.
Others made the trip posing as plantation managers, cowboys or even circus performers.
He loves his family, cat, and when people like his musicals. Bill Fennelly, Dallas Theater Center and others.
Rugged construction allowed the Ps to withstand steep dives as they swooped down on Japanese fighter planes from high above. A deadly attack After seven decades, memories tend to fade, but the horror of a Japanese air attack on a Flying Tiger base in Magwe, Burma, in March , still haunts Losonsky.
The fighter planes "shot up the airfield and all the equipment," he said, forcing him and his fellow Flying Tigers to take cover. Some surviving members had to find their own way home, said Losonsky's son, Terry Losonsky.
They went to "one of the more posh hotels," where Frank Losonsky and his friend then "sort of broke up some of the furniture. Going from merely famous to legendary After the war, Losonsky hired on as a commercial airline pilot for Trans Asiatic Airlines.
Younger generations came to idolize the Tigers after toymakers Monogram and Revell began selling plastic Flying Tiger model kits. In the s, '60s and '70s, shark-mouth Ps hung from countless ceilings in kids' bedrooms across America.
Over the decades, other aircraft units in the US Army, Navy and the Air Force have adopted similar shark-mouth nose art.
Most recently, the US Air Force Academy football team unveiled "alternate" helmets this season featuring the shark-mouth design , honoring the Tigers. Their legacy was forged by the hundreds of daring volunteers who chose to travel halfway around the world to risk their lives in a secret operation.
Only three of those volunteers are known to be alive today, including Losonsky, armorer Charles Baisden, age 96, and the last living Flying Tiger pilot, year-old Carl Brown. Between them, they're carrying the legacy of one of the most fascinating stories of World War II.