Claire Chennault was born on September 6, 1890, in Commerce, Texas. He graduated with a Bachelor's degree from Louisiana State Normal School in 1912, and entered Officer Training School in the U.S. Army in August 1917. Chennault was commissioned a 1st Lt in the Infantry Reserve in November 1917, and transferred to the Aviation Section, U.S. Army Signal Corps, the same month. After World War I ended, Lt Chennault completed flying training and was awarded his pilot wings in 1920, and then studied aeronautical engineering at Kelly Field, Texas. His next assignment was to Gerstner Field, Louisiana, and then to Ellington Field and Fort Bliss, Texas, until September 1923, followed by service as commander of the 19th Pursuit Squadron in Hawaii until 1926. He served as an instructor pilot and then director of flying at Brooks Field, Texas, from 1926 to 1930, and then graduated from the Air Corps Tactical School at Langley Field, Virginia, in June 1931. Capt Chennault then stayed on with the school at Langley, and then later when it moved to Maxwell Field, Alabama, until his retirement from the Army Air Corps in April 1937. Chennault organized the American Volunteer Group, the Flying Tigers, in August 1941, and led them in combat in China until they were absorbed into the U.S. Army Air Forces in July 1942, having himself gone back on active duty with the U.S. Army Air Forces on April 15, 1942. He then commanded the China Air Task Force from July 1942 to March 1943, followed by service as commander of 14th Air Force from March 1943 to August 1945. Gen Chennault then served on a brief assignment to Headquarters U.S. Army Air Forces in the Pentagon before retiring from the Army Air Forces on October 31, 1945. He went back to China in 1946 as president of Civil Air Transports, predecessor of Air America, from 1946 to 1950. Claire Chennault died on July 27, 1958, and was buried at Arlington National Cemetery.
His Army Distinguished Service Medal Citation reads:
As commander of the China Air Task Force since July 4, 1942, he has demonstrated keen knowledge of Japanese air tactics and technique. Although greatly outnumbered in airplanes, personnel, and other essential needs, he has succeeded in protecting a large portion of unoccupied China from hostile air attack and inflicting severe losses upon the enemy. His understanding and appreciation of problems in the China theater has resulted in successful air operations and a high degree of good will between United States Forces and the people of China.