The American Volunteer Groups were volunteer air units organized by the United States government to aid the Nationalist government of China against Japan in the Second Sino-Japanese War. The only unit to actually see combat was the 1st AVG, popularly known as the Flying Tigers.
In an effort to aid the Nationalist government of China and to put pressure on Japan, President Franklin Roosevelt in 1941 authorized the creation of a clandestine "Special Air Unit" consisting of three combat groups equipped with American aircraft and staffed by aviators and technicians to be recruited from the U.S. Army, Navy and Marine Corps for service in China. The program was fleshed out in the winter of 1940–1941 by Claire Lee Chennault, then an air advisor to the Chinese Nationalist leader Chiang Kai-shek, and Lauchlin Currie, a young economist in the Roosevelt White House. They envisioned a small air corps of 500 combat aircraft, although in the end, the number was reduced to 200 fighters and 66 light bombers
The 1st American Volunteer Group were recruited starting on 15 April 1941, when an unpublished executive order was signed by President Roosevelt.A total of 100 P-40Bs were obtained from Curtiss-Wright by convincing the British Government to take a later batch of more advanced P-40s in exchange. The group assembled at a Royal Air Force airfield in Burma by November 1941 for training, where it was organized into three squadrons and established a headquarters. The Flying Tigers did not go into combat until after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941. Under Chennault's command, the Flying Tigers became famous in the defense of Burma and China. It was replaced by the U.S. Army 23rd Fighter Group in July 1942.
This particular aircraft was flown by one of WWII's most famous (some would say infamous) aviators: Gregg "Pappy" Boyington. Boyington flew with the 1st Pursuit Squadron of the AVG, denoted by the green apple with Adam and Eve on the inside. Bpyington scored between 3.5 and 6 kills while with the AVG, as verification was not as reliable. Contrary to popular belief, the AVG did not start the shark's mouth painting on the P-40 nose, that was accomplished by RAF units flying P-40s in the MTO. However, the AVG made the design famous, as they were arguably the most successful unit to operate P-40s.