Eagle Files #4:Tigers Over China

The Aircraft of the A.V.G. by Thomas A. Tullis

reviewed by Paul Mahoney


The remarkable story of the American Volunteer Group in China, and their impressive victory tally in a very short amount of time, is fairly well known by most avid modelers and WW2 historians. This book's primary purpose is not to further describe that history, but instead to give what may be the definitive explanation of the camouflage markings this group's aircraft carried into combat against the Japanese.

Thomas Tullis' art has been seen in many reference books over the years, including several volumes in the Osprey 'Aces' series and his own 2-volume set of books published by Eagle Editions. This book is the result of research he has done over the years for various projects, culminating in a year-long process of interviewing surviving A.V.G. pilots for a series of limited-edition prints produced for the National Aviation Hall of Fame.

Every one of the book's 88 pages are filled with photos or artwork, including 7 pages worth of color photos and at least 8 pages of outstanding color profiles by Tullis. Most photos are 1/4 or 1/2 a page in size, and the pages are produced on very high-quality gloss stock. I believe the majority of these photos have not been seen in print before.

While minimal, the text that is present is an in-depth discussion of the method in which A.V.G. aircraft were camouflaged and marked. Tullis walks the reader through his process, in very simple and understandable terms, for determining the actual colors used. He not only points out various errors that have been made through the years in describing the camouflage and markings, but explains how those erroneous conclusions were reached. As an example, Tullis notes that mats were used while spraying the upper surface camouflage for these aircraft. These mats included a circular section to mark out the location for the RAF roundel on the wings (these airplanes were originally headed for the RAF when diverted for use in China). The RAF roundels were never applied, but the circular marks remained. Most earlier references incorrectly describe this as being where the roundels had been painted out. Having said this, Tullis also documents a single case where RAF roundels were applied, and left in place on the upper wings.

Tullis explains very clearly his logic for determining what colors were used to camouflage these aircraft, and why. Briefly, these aircraft were originally destined for RAF use, and as such were camouflaged accordingly (as interpreted by a U.S. manufacturer). Dupont paints were used that very closely matched the RAF uppersurface colors of Dark Brown (Dark Earth) and Dark Green. Dupont paint numbers are provided. The main subject of dispute over the years regarding A.V.G. coloring has been the undersurface coloring. Tullis once again walks the reader through his thought process, and determines that the undersides were most likely F.S. 16473 Aircraft Grey. A full explanation of the reasons for this can be had by reading the text.

In addition to the camouflage discussion, a very concise explanation of the various markings used by the A.V.G. is given. Squadron markings, colors, and even variants of the Shark Mouth marking are discussed, and then well-illustrated. The evolution of individual aircraft markings during the short lifespan of the A.V.G. is covered. Tullis draws on photos from personal collections, as well as in-depth interviews with the pilots.

Bottom line: packed with rare photos, excellent artwork, and detailed descriptions. Probably the definitive work on the markings and camouflage of the A.V.G. A true labor of love, and it shows. Highly recommended.


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