Max Parnell wanted to be a fighter pilot and he got his wish. After getting his wings in the U.S. Army Air Corps, he put in a stint as instructor at Hillsboro Field, Tampa, FL. Then a fighter pilot's dream, he received orders to go to China to serve with the great Flying Tiger's commander, Gen. Claire Chennault. His good friend Carlton Covey and he were flown by ATC from Miami, via the Azores, Casablanca, Cairo, Abadam and to Karachi, India. After some training time at Langley Field in Karachi, they ferried P-5lCs over the Hump to Chengkung, China. A few days later, with twelve other pilots, he reported to Gen. Chennault in Kunming in October 1944. He discussed with them the different squadrons that needed pilots.
Chennault "suggested" that Mel Scheer, Carl Covey, and Parnell join the 118th Tactical Recon Squadron at Liuchow. He was very impressive and very convincing so they happily agreed to his "suggintion."
The 118th was flying missions every day trying to stop the Japanese drive against the American bases in eastern China. So he got in for some exciting missions, sometimes three and four a day.
His most unforgettable mission was Christmas Eve, 1944. The 118th moved to Suichwan after Liuchow was lost and they ran a fighter strike against shipping in Hong Kong. On that fateful day, he got shot down (MACR 10967) over Hong Kong Harbor and spent the rest of the war as a "guest" of the Japanese.
That’s another story, which he has detailed in The Hell of Ofuna. He was married before he went overseas and his wife, Virginia, didn’t know if he was alive or dead for almost nine long months while he was in the Japanese prison, but she stuck by him. In the late 1990s, they renewed friendships in the Flying Tigers Association of former 118th pilots and crews, some that he had not seen for over fifty years.