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Air America Vets Fighting for Benefits
May 5, 2016 - During the Vietnam War, a group of pilots flew scores of dangerous missions over enemy territory. Decades later, they’re still fighting. In the years leading up to the United States entering WWII there were a group of Americans already fighting in the far East. The American Volunteer Group, better known as the Flying Tigers, led by Claire Lee Chennault, were flying their P-40 Warhawks to defend China.
After WWII, Chennault stayed in China and formed Civil Air Transport, an airline that was focused on flying aid missions for the Nationalist Chinese, and that would eventually become Air America.
Air America, the CIA’s secret airline, began their operations in 1959 and continued through the mid-1970s. Flying in direct support of the U.S. government, their motto was “Anything, Anywhere, Anytime, Professionally.” The helicopter in the famous photo of the last flight out of Saigon is an Air America Huey, earning them the title “First in, last out.” Their mission was accomplished, but not without loss: 242 crews lost their lives during their service with Air America.
Today, the surviving Air America veterans are fighting once again, this time petitioning the government to consider them legitimate veterans of the war in Southeast Asia.
Visit the Air America website for more information.