Many of the posts here are so filled with diatribes and inaccuracies that I had to laugh! One poster complained that the Flying Tigers actually were only flight trainers for the Chinese Air Force, and only lost three pilots in combat. At least two complained that John Wayne was a draft dodger. One stated that the Tigers were in combat two years before Pearl Harbor. One stated that the Japanese were unfairly treated as bad guys in the film. One declared that the Flying Tigers were up against a superior plane in the Japanese Zero....
First off, the Flying Tigers started training in September of '41 and were disbanded in July of '42. In that roughly ten month period they shot down 286 CONFIRMED kills for the loss of 12 Flying Tigers. They were not "Chinese Air Force flight instructors!" Their kill-to-loss ratio remains one of the finest in aviation combat history. Secondly, the Tigers never encountered the Zero in Combat. Their foes were primarily J.A.A.F. pilots, and the Zero was a Navy plane. Third, the Japanese indeed DID SHOOT AT PILOTS in parachutes and in life rafts, whenever possible, because they were taught that the enemy must be killed at all costs, lest he survive to fight you another day. Fourth, the Japanese committed the most UNSPEAKABLE horrors against the Chinese people during WW II, as the book, "The Rape of Nanking" can testify to. Fifth, John Wayne was NOT a draft dodger. He had a bum ear due to an infection which rendered him physically 4-F. Sixth, the outdoor sequences of "The Flying Tigers" were not filmed in Northridge, California, but rather in the high desert area around Santa Fe, New Mexico, in the (successful) attempt to give the foliage a more "foreign" look.
As to the film itself, I would suggest you go to the Fighter Museum in Phoenix, AZ, or the Air Force Museum in Dayton, OH, and find out just how close the film was to reality. The Tigers WERE usually outnumbered about 8 to 1 in combat. The 3 squadrons of the Tigers DID USE outdoor facilities as shown in the film. The Tigers were indeed mercenaries, paid by the kill, as well as by the month. The Tigers WERE frequently short of spares and fuel. The Tigers DID have nicknames, like "Tex" (David Lee Hill) and "Pappy" (Gregory Boyington). The Tigers DID have a few beautiful nurses on station. (In fact one of them, Jane Foster, ended up marrying a Tiger, who was subsequently shot down and killed a week before they were to leave for the States.) Truthfully, the only real overt fiction in the film is the pre-Pearl Harbor combat, as in fact, the Tigers did not start combat operation until after Pearl Harbor, (being in training prior to that.) Why is the film so accurate? Because two guys who weren't able to cut it as Tigers decided to take the story of the Tigers to Hollywood to sell it. They were the "technical advisers" for Republic, which was able to glean much about the unit from them.
Leave your politics at home and take a second look. This is actually an excellent depiction of the organization and the men, backed up with a superior special effects unit and a great score. (Both nominated for Oscars.)