squadron commander, Jack Newkirk, and Tex
Hill for a dawn strafing mission against Tak
Airfield near Rahang, Burma. “Scarsdale Jack”
was another navy-trained fighter pilot, making
the mission a golden-wing trio. Howard recalled,
“I had my eyes glued on a row of airplanes
neatly parked along the far strip. I saw they
were American-built Brewsters and knew that
they were ships which had fallen into Jap hands.
[Note: The Royal Air Force had four squadrons
of Brewster Buffalos in Southeast Asia.] I
determined they’d never get to use those aircraft
against us. I darted over there and let the tracers
flow. Incendiaries blew up tanks and set them
all on fire, but I wasn’t satisfied. I ran back
and forth over those ships, tossing riddling steel
“I was so busy doing that I didn’t see a fast
Jap fighter who was so close to my tail he was
practically getting into the act. But Tex Hill shot
him down. As we flew home he told me about it.
I didn’t believe him. But when I put my hands on
those bullet holes, Tex said reprovingly, ‘Those
didn’t come from moths, you know.’”
Howard found more action that month. On the
19th, he earned a one-third share in an “Army
98 recon” at Mesoht Airdrome—probably a Ki- 51
“Sonia.” He followed up with a Ki- 27 “Nate”
fighter at Rangoon on the 24th.
Jack Newkirk was killed strafing a Thai airfield
in late March, and Tex Hill became skipper.
Howard succeeded him just before the AVG
disbanded in July.
AVG attrition was not limited to combat. In
mid-May, Howard was practicing dive-bombing
in new P-40Es with his friend Tom Jones, who had
flown Northrop BT-1s from USS Yorktown. Jones
went straight in, reason unknown, although he
had confided having had severe headaches to a
On July 4, flying a Kittyhawk, Howard gunned
an “I-97 fighter” (another Nate) at Hengyang,
one of four kills credited on the Tigers’ last day.
From January to July 1942, Howard flew
56 missions, claiming 2.33 aerial victories and
four planes on the ground. He received the $500
bonus for 6. 33 credits—serious money at the
time. When the Tigers were absorbed into the
Army Air Force (AAF), he elected to go along and
received a captain’s commission in January 1943.
“My role was that of a warrior…If there was to be a war, I wanted to be in it.”
Though it never displayed the
name, “Old Exterminator” was
Col. Robert L. Scott’s P-40E
as CO of the 23rd Fighter
Group, which absorbed
some Flying Tiger personnel
when Jim Howard returned
to the United States. (Photo
courtesy of Stan Piet)