Flying Tigers Head Quarters Flag, ca. 1941

Value (2004) | $20,000 Auction$40,000 Auction

When you pulled this flag out of the box, I was stunned. It's got to be one of the finest World War II vintage flags I've ever seen. Why don't you tell me a little bit about whose flag it was and how you came to receive it.

The flag was the property of Bill Reed, who was a pilot with the Flying Tigers during World War II. He was with the original American Volunteer Group, better known as the AVG, who went to China in 1941 and their contract was for one year. The contract was up July 4, 1942, and Bill came back to the states for about nine or ten months and after that went back to China with General Chennault with the 14th Air Force.

Tell me a little bit about his history as a pilot.

During his Flying Tiger days of the American Volunteer Group, Bill had ten and a half planes destroyed. There were eight destroyed on the ground and two and a half in the air. And then he went on to score more victories with the 14th Air Force. Then he went on in the 14th Air Force and scored eight kills from about August of '43 until December of '44.

And then you indicated that he was tragically killed in an air mishap in 1944.

Yes, he was on a mission in December of 1944, and returning from the mission, the airfield was under alert. There was no lights for the planes to land and they ran out of gas. And when he bailed out, the rear of the plane struck him.

And he did achieve the rank of Lieutenant Colonel, I think you said.

He did.

Okay. Well, let me tell you about your flag. What this is, is a flag of the headquarters of the First American Volunteer Group, otherwise known as the AVG or the Flying Tigers. It's Chinese made, it's made out of silk, completely hand embroidered and at the bottom, as you can see, it says, "First American Volunteer Group" and then it has the Chinese characters on the side as well. I've never seen one of these in person. I have two friends that are a couple of the biggest collectors in the country in private hands of AVG material items. They keep in contact with the veterans and they've never seen one. I got on the phone before we did the taping here and called these people to ask them about this. And I knew it was a valuable flag, but I was myself surprised at what the consensus was-- my thoughts and these two other gentlemen's thoughts. You've never had this appraised, or had any idea what it's worth, have you?

Well, this flag would probably bring between $20,000 and $40,000 if it was put up for sale. It's a very unique item, it's a very colorful unit, it's highly collected. World War II American aviation is one of the most sought-after areas of World War II collectibles, and especially the AVG. What I would suggest you do with this flag, though, is have it professionally conserved, because you are getting some foxing spots on it and some stains. Silk flags are very brittle. They deteriorate quite rapidly, although this one's in beautiful condition. But I would talk to somebody about having it properly conserved because this is a true treasure and it should be preserved for, you know, generations to come. And it was a pleasure seeing it-- thank you.

Thank you very much.

Appraisal Details

Grenadier Military Antiques Auctions
Santa Monica, CA
Appraised value (2004)
$20,000 Auction$40,000 Auction
Omaha, NE (July 10, 2004)

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