World War II: China-Burma-India Theater

Barber, Michael. “Everything ventured, everything gained: as a woman, Jane Hanks ’37 Lib wasn’t supposed to major in political science, study in China, or join a covert World War II operation; but she never let society’s restrictions stop her from living an adventurous life.” The Penn Stater March/April 2010.

Article by the author of a forthcoming biography of Emma Jane Foster Hanks. She was the only registered nurse to serve with the American Volunteer Group (AVG), the Flying Tigers, commanded by Claire Chennault during the air war against the Japanese in Burma and China in 1941-42. A political science major at Pennsylvania State University “enduring resentment from male students and faculty for treading on a field they felt was a man’s turf,” her father persuaded PSU to allow her to participate in an exchange program in China previously not open to women. She later studied nursing at Yale and worked in a settlement house as a visiting nurse. From there she was recruited into the AVG.

Known as “Red” because of her red hair she met and married John “Pete” Petach, a Curtiss P-40 fighter pilot in Kunming, China in early 1942, became pregnant, and was widowed when her husband was killed on a combat mission. Active in teaching, public service, politics and amateur athletics, she later remarried, and attended annual Flying Tigers reunions. Members of the original AVG unit were recognized as military veterans in 1995. Jane Hanks also received a Bronze Star for meritorious service.

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