|C.B.I. Blood Chit of Ralph O. Horne|
(Courtesy of Richard Horne, Sr.)
The basic concept of a blood chit is as old as the notion of paying a reward for the return of an unfortunate stranger cast upon a foreign shore. It was common for Western diplomatic representatives to do this with shipwrecked sailors in North Africa. The British were first to do this with aviators during the First World War in India and Mesopotamia.
Blood Chits (Rescue Patches)were first used by Americans serving in the 14th Volunteer Bomb Group and later in the American Volunteer Group or Flying Tigers. These men flew as volunteers with the Chinese Air Force against the Japanese. The effort was led by Claire Chennault, a retired American officer and air advisor to Chiang Kai-shek's government. In the fall of 1940 Chennault returned to the U.S. in an effort to acquire men and machines for China. The military did not wish to see its limited resources sent to the Chinese. However, President Roosevelt saw the need and on April 15, 1941 issued a secret executive order allowing military personnel to resign and join the American Volunteer Group. The first pilots left the U.S. on July 10, 1941, but did not go into action until after Pearl Harbor. Many of the Chinese peasants in the hinterland had never seen a westerner and the Blood Chit established that the foreigner was in the service of the Chinese Air Force and should be aided.
The A.V.G. was finally disbanded on July 4, 1942 and some of the Flying Tigers were reorganized as a United States Army Air Force unit called the China Air Task Force. On March 10, 1943 this unit became the 14th Air Force. Each of these units used Blood Chits in turn.
The Blood Chits come in multiple varieties. They generally have some visual representation of the Chinese flag and sometimes the American flag as well. There is a text in Chinese requesting assistance and stating that the airman is an ally. The typical wording was, "By Order of the Chinese Air Force Committee; this foreign American man has come to China to help fight. Soldiers and civilians, as one body, should rescue, and protect him." The text did vary in different examples. Many also carry a stamp of the Chinese issuing authority, called a "chop" and a serial number. They were printed on cloth and either carried separately or they were sewn on the inside, the front or the back of a flight jacket. This example was worked in leather for wear on back of a flight jacket and lacks a serial number or chop. In 1944 the MIS-X section of the War Department produced a blood chit with a multilanguage text and the American flag. In part this was because people in Burma assumed that the Chinese characters indicated the airman was Japanese. Blood Chits continued in use in America's future wars and were credited with helping many downed aviators return to friendly hands.
Reference: The Last Hope: The Blood Chit Story by R. E. Baldwin and Thomas William McGarry (Atglen, PA: Schiffer Publishing, 1997)