Flying Tiger Line Pilots Association
James Lee Bledsoe
James Lee Bledsoe, 86, passed away on November 10, 1999, of congestive heart failure at Scripps Memorial Hospital, Encinitas, California.
Jim was born in Oklahoma in 1913. The family moved to California in 1920, settling in the Pasadena area. After completing local schools, he attended the University of Oklahoma for two years. In 1934 he entered the Army Air Corps as a Cadet, graduating with the class of 1936. In 1937 Jim responded to a recruitments call by Claire L. Chennault, to go to Kunming, China as an instructor of Chinese Cadets at the flight school newly formed by Madame Chiang Kai-Shek. Upon completion of an 18-month contract, Jim became a test pilot for Lockheed Aircraft. A few months later Jim availed himself of the opportunity to deliver aircraft to the British, under the "lend-lease" program. The aircraft were delivered via the North Atlantic to England and later via the South Atlantic to Africa and the Middle East. He returned to active duty in the Army Air Corp in December of 1941. Jim, assigned to Flight Test at Mobile, Alabama, later transferred to the 14th Air Force under the command of now General Claire L. Chennault. Jim was appointed Squadron Commander of the 449th Fighter Squadron, 51st Fighter Group, with the rank of Major. While serving in China until the end of WWII, he was awarded a Distinguished Flying Cross, with two Oak Leaf Clusters and the Air Medal.
Miamian Wins Flying Cross For Bravery
Flying on a reconnaissance mission deep into Japanese territory, Maj. James L. Bledsoe, Coral Gables, noticed some unusual construction underway on a seldom-used airdrome.
He dived down on a strafing pass and found that the shack had exploded revealing the hiding place of an enemy bomber.
Diving down time and again through heavy ground fire, he destroyed five Japanese bombers and three trainer-type planes, saving many American bases in the area from damaging night raids.
For this "keenness of observation" he was given two awards in one week by Maj. Gen. C.L. Chennault ~ the Distinguished Flying Cross for that mission and the Air Medal for outstanding aggressiveness displayed in 25 combat trips.
Maj. Bledsoe has served more than seven months in the area, five of which have been as commanding officer of the Lightning Tiger Squadron. His group was activated in North Africa and went to China in July, 1943, as part of the Flying Horse group.
Flying over China's rugged terrain is nothing new for the former Pan American Airways pilot. In 1938 and 1939 he served as a flying instructor for the Chinese ministry of civil aeronautics under his present commanding officer, then American chief advisor for the Chinese air force.
Jim returned to China in 1947 to fly for Civil Air Transport, an airline formed by General Chennault. The airline had a contract with the United nations to fly supplies in and refugees out of areas being taken over by the Chinese Communists. Jim returned to the U.S. when China fell to the Communists. In 1950 Jim joined the Flying Tiger Airline and flew during the Korean Air Lift, carrying troops and supplies to the Korean war zone. After the Korean war Jim continued with the Flying Tiger Airline, carrying freight all over the world and refugees from all the world conflicts to safer havens. During the Vietnam War he flew troops and supplies to that war-torn country.
In 1973, Jim retired from the Flying Tiger Airline. He is survived by his wife of 48 years, Anna (Afflick) Bledsoe and a brother, Carroll H. Bledsoe, Lt. Col. USAF (Ret)
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