Courier Staff Writer
A full-scale replica of a Curtis P-40B Tomahawk fighter is now part of the Iowa Gold Star Military Museum in Johnston, and an Ottumwa man has a direct connection to the famed aircraft.
The former Sgt. Max Chrisman, 90, of Ottumwa, knows about the museum and the plane. During his service in World War II, Chrisman was assigned to the Flying Tigers as part of the ground support unit.
Chrisman said he spent a year in China, Burma and India.
“I was there more than a year,” he said.
His wife, Christina, said she didn’t even know where her husband was. The military had “blacked out the area.”
Chrisman said he was drafted back then and was part of the 21st Reconnaissance Squadron of the Flying Tigers.
“The Tigers are the fighter planes with the tiger shark markings,” he said.
Chrisman worked as a mess sergeant and also knew how to handle a 50-caliber machine gun that was mounted on a truck.
Chrisman recalled scenes of his trips to China, Australia, Bombay and the Himalayan Mountains.
“Those mountains were the highest ones, and we made it over them, but a lot of soldiers didn’t make it over ‘the hump,’” he said.
Chrisman said he wasn’t a pilot but was a leading member of the ground support unit.
“I worked with food and anything else needed,” he added.
Chrisman also recalled a Japanese pilot whose plane went down into the ocean.
“The Japs were running around and trying to shoot the Americans,” Chrisman said. “But some of them could only duck under the water.”
After the service, he joined John Deere Ottumwa Works and worked 37 1/2 years, retiring in 1983.
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