Tuesday, November 01, 2022

Claire Chennault joins the US Army, 1917

With interruptions, Claire Lee Chennault was an American military officer from 1917 until his death in 1958, and along the way he left a trail of documents that were recently scanned and made available at the National Archives. His "Official Military Personnel File" runs to 838 pages. (Well, they're actually images, but it's easier to cite them as pages.) A tip of the virtual hat to Bill and Richard Chennault, his grandson and great-grandson from his romance with Anna Mae Griffin, and to Corey Stewart at NARA's St Louis office, for leading me to this biographical treasure. I'm also working from a PDF of medical files provided by Anna Mae's great-grandson, some of them not duplicated in the NARA file.

To be sure, record-keeping a century ago was not as meticulous as today's, and the US Army had to take Chennault at his own valuation, including his birth date of September 1890, three years before the fact. (The military would finally correct it in 1958.) With his Army application in front of me, I now wonder if this was when he tweaked the year of his birth: if he seemed three years older, people would be less likely to wonder at his swift ascent from schoolboy to teacher-principal.

For more, see the Annals of the Flying Tigers


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