Flying Tiger Ace by Carl Moleswort
Flying Tiger Ace by Carl Molesworth

Bay View author Carl Molesworth has been fascinated with the life of famed Flying Tiger pilot Bill Reed for over four decades. 

But he was only recently able to get around to writing about the highly decorated though ill-fated World War II aviator. 

Molesworth is now practicing the same patience he showed in researching and developing the book when it comes to rolling it out to local readers. 

He was scheduled to launch “Flying Tiger Ace: The Story of Bill Reed, China’s Shining Mark” at a spring reception at the Skagit County Historical Museum in La Conner. 

The COVID-19 pandemic, however, forced postponement of the event, which was to have been held just a few weeks after release of “Flying Tiger Ace” by Osprey Publications. 

Molesworth, himself a U.S. Air Force veteran, became interested in Reed while working on his first book some 40 years ago. He was already established in a long award-winning run in print journalism. 

“The more I learned about his outstanding combat career and interesting life story,” Molesworth said of Reed, “the more I wanted to write his biography. It took quite a few years before I had sufficient time and material to do it justice. 

“This is my 15th book,” he told the Weekly News. “and I think it’s my best so far.” 

Molesworth offers a vivid account, from Reed’s upbringing in the Depression-era Midwest to his emergence as an internationally recognized war hero. 

The bright and athletic Reed was a natural leader who parlayed a stint in the U.S. Army Air Corps into a prominent role with the legendary Flying Tigers once World War II broke out in the China-Burma-India theater. 

Molesworth’s account traces Reed’s 75 successful Flying Tiger missions and subsequent return home to sell War Bonds. 

He did not stay on the sidelines long, Molesworth notes. 

Reed went back to China and resumed the fight against Imperial Japan with the Chinese-American Composite Wing, which Molesworth describes as yet another extraordinary airborne unit. 

He saw another 10 months of intense combat before losing his life in a night parachute jump shortly before Christmas 1944. 

By then, Reed had downed nine Japanese planes and received numerous awards for valor. 

It was only natural that Molesworth would select Reed as the subject of his latest book. 

“I’ve been interested in military aviation since I was a boy,” Molesworth said. “When I was ready to start writing about it in the 1970s, there were plenty of World War II pilots still around. These guys were in their early 60s, so their memories were intact and their documents – logbooks, diaries, orders, photographs, and the like – were close at hand. 

“It just made sense for me to concentrate my efforts on meeting and interviewing as many of them as I could,” he said. 

Molesworth has a special connection to the Second World War’s  China-Burma-India (CBI) chapter. 

“My interest in the CBI, and particularly in China, stems from the fact that my mother was born in China of American parents,” Molesworth explained, “and she spent her first 11 years there. I heard a lot about China from her and my grandmother while I was growing up.”

Molesworth has already garnered strong reviews for “Flying Tiger Ace” and was slated for a series of book signings, including one in Reed’s home state of Iowa, prior to the coronavirus outbreak. 

But Molesworth was especially looking forward to his appearance at the Skagit County Historical Museum. It is his home court, so to speak. 

Molesworth serves on the Skagit County Historical Society’s publication committee and last year was a guide on summer Sunday afternoon channel cruises from La Conner to Padilla Bay held in conjunction with the museum. 

“I hope we can reschedule those (book signings),” Molesworth said, “but in the meantime the book is readily available for purchase on-line.”