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Archives at The Museum of Flight

Neale, Robert H., 1914-1994


Biographical Note: Robert H. Neale

Robert H. Neale was a pilot and ace with the American Volunteer Group (AVG) "Flying Tigers" from 1941-1942.

Robert Hawthorne Neale was born on May 3, 1914 in British Columbia, Canada to Joseph T. Neale and Margaret Osborne Meta Hawthorne. In 1916, his family relocated to Washington state. Neale married Frances Cole in 1935 and the couple had a son, Robert, Jr. in 1943. Neale attended the University of Washington but left to enlist in the United States Navy in 1938, earning his aviator wings in 1939. He then served as a pilot on the U.S.S. Saratoga.

In June 1941, Neale resigned from the Navy to join the American Volunteer Group (AVG), nicknamed "The Flying Tigers," of the Chinese Air Force. He arrived in Rangoon, Burma in August 1941 and earned his first air-to-air victory flying a Curtiss P-40 on January 23, 1942. Neale attained ace status with his fifth confirmed victory on February 6, 1942. During his service, Neale earned a total of 13 confirmed aerial combat victories and six probables. He is considered the top-scoring ace of the AVG Flying Tigers. Neale also earned several awards, including the Distinguished Service Order, Chinese Cloud Banner 3rd Class, and Chinese Air Force Medal.

When the Flying Tigers disbanded on July 4, 1942, Neale served with the AVG for an additional two weeks, as a civilian commander of the United States Army 23rd Fighter group while waiting for the arrival of its designated commander, Colonel Robert Scott. He then left military service, refusing a major's commission.

Post-war, Neale worked for American Overseas Airlines and American Airlines as a pilot. Later in life, he ran a resort on Camano Island, Washington state. Robert H. Neale died on November 29, 1994.


Biography derived from multiple sources, including donor information, collection material, and assorted online and published resources.

Found in 2 Collections and/or Records:

Flying Tigers Association Collection

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: 2001-04-27-A
Contents of the Collection The collection contains materials related to the 1st American Volunteer Group (AVG), also known as the "Flying Tigers." Materials from various members include logs, correspondence, identity cards, and photographic prints. Most of the material is from dates of active service, 1941-1942, but some items are commemorative, primarily lithographs and reunion materials, circa 1990s.

Robert H. Neale Flying Tigers Collection

Identifier: 2008-08-29
Contents of the Collection The Robert H. Neale Flying Tigers Collection primarily relates to Robert H. Neale's 1941-1942 service as an ace fighter pilot with the American Volunteer Group (AVG), also known as the Flying Tigers, in Burma during World War II. The collection is comprised of visual and textual materials, including approximately 470 photographic prints and 61 negatives, military orders and documents, personal documents, and assorted clippings and ephemera. It also includes a significant amount of post-war...

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