Responsible for creating the American "Flying Tigers" volunteer military service that aided the Chinese Air Force during World War II, this military pilot earned two Distinguished Flying Crosses for his service in the U.S. Army Air Corps and the U.S. Army Air Forces.
After studying at Louisiana State University, he entered a United States Army officer training program at Fort Benjamin Harrison in Indiana. He went on to serve during World War I in the Army Air Service.
Suffering from hearing loss and lung problems, he ended his American military career in 1937 and became a civilian trainer of Chinese military pilots.
His first marriage, to Nell Thompson, resulted in eight children. He and Thompson divorced in 1946, and he remarried Chinese reporter (and future politician) Chen Xiangmei, with whom he had another two children.
He convinced Chinese leader Chiang Kai Shek to demand that United States President Franklin D. Roosevelt remove United States Army commander Joseph Stillwell (who was then serving in China) from his military post.