While at Oshkosh, many vets came up to the TFLM aircraft and told the pilots and cadre stories. This past year again, Kathy & Ed Lange Jr came with their father’s/grandfather’s very special story that is reflected by the TFLM P-40k “Aleutian Tiger.” You see, Kathy’s father, Ed’s grandfather, designed the art that the P-40k adorns. Here’s the story in Kathy’s words.
Staff Sergeant Edward Lange and the Aleutian Tiger
- Enlisted 17 Oct 40
- Departed to ATO (Alaska Theater of Operations) 24 Dec 41
- Served as “Airplane Maintenance Technician” for the 11th Fighter Squadron until 15 Feb 44
- Stationed at Ft. Glenn Airbase on Umnak Island and Adak Island
- He was with the 11th Fighter Squadron from its formation in 1940 until its inactivation in 1944
- He then served for nine months in India-Burma
Intrigued after discovering a leather patch depicting a Bengal Tiger along with the motto “We’ll Be There” among Sgt. Edward Lange’s mementos, his daughter Kathy and her son Edward Lange-Novak, (pictured), researched the origin of the patch only to find that Sgt. Lange designed the image on the patch, which is better known as the nose art on the P-40 Warhawks that flew as “Aleutian Tigers” in the Alaska Theater of Operations in WWII.
According to John Haile Cloe in “The Aleutian Warriors: A History of the 11th Air Force & Fleet Air Wing 4, Part I,” Sgt. Lange designed the Aleutian Tiger emblem after the 11th Fighter Squadron engaged with the Japanese in the Battle of Dutch Harbor in June 1942.
The Squadron fought Japanese Zeros in the skies over their base at Otter Point on Umnak Island and shot down five Zeros. General Simon Buckner, commander of the Alaska Defense Command praised the unit, stating: “The enemy’s next move is unknown, but whatever it is I am sure that each of you will meet it with the same firm resolution and unflinching devotion to duty which you have already displayed.”
After this battle, Sgt. Lange designed the tiger image, the Squadron became known as the “Aleutian Tigers” and the tiger was painted on the P-40s.
At the time the 11th Fighter Squadron was led by Lt. Col. John S. Chennault, whose father was Gen. Claire Chennault, Commander of the famed “Flying Tigers” who fought against the Japanese in China, also flying P-40s. It is thought that the Aleutian Tiger image and name is a nod to the original Flying Tigers.
Some personal notes:
We were very surprised when we learned that my grandfather designed the Aleutian Tiger nose art and emblem a few years ago. My mom and I found the patch when going through some of his photos, his discharge papers and other mementos he had saved from his time in Alaska.
I loved the tiger face and decided to paint it on my motorcycle. I looked online and found out that it was an “Aleutian Tiger” and called my mom right away. She immediately started doing research and discovered a citation in John Haile Cloe’s book that named my grandfather as the designer of the image!
He was an amateur artist his whole life, and his time in Alaska certainly influenced him. He had told my mom and grandmother that he had painted pictures of “pin-up girls” on various planes at the request of the pilots. But he never mentioned that he designed the Aleutian Tiger image. Our family was so moved by seeing the image on the Texas Flying Legends Museum’s restored P-40. It makes us feel connected to him and to a time in his life and our country’s history that was very important.
The Texas Flying Legends Museum is doing such a great job making WWII aviation history accessible to people across the country today. We are very happy that the Aleutian Tiger is part of its fleet of warbirds. Keep ‘em flying!”
It’s these stories and so many more that TFLM flies their aircraft; Honoring Our Past and Inspiring Our Future!