|Birth: ||Apr. 19, 1915|
El Dorado County
|Death: ||Apr. 17, 2008|
San Diego County
When John Richard "Dick" Rossi joined the Navy in 1939, he hoped to go to an exotic locale in the Orient or Panama.
Instead, he was assigned as a flight instructor in Pensacola, Fla. When the opportunity came, Mr. Rossi jumped at the chance to join a covert team of pilots to help defend China from the Japanese.
The 1st American Volunteer Group came to be known as the Flying Tigers, and Mr. Rossi ended up among the first heroes of World War II when he downed six Japanese Zero fighter planes between January and July 1942.
Mr. Rossi died of pneumonia April 17 at his Fallbrook home. He was 92.
The Flying Tigers are credited with shooting down nearly 300 Japanese planes even though the group was together for less than nine months. Mr. Rossi, who served as president of the Flying Tigers Association for 65 years, often shared his experiences and talked about the Flying Tigers in interviews and air shows throughout the country.
During a 1996 interview with The San Diego Union-Tribune, Mr. Rossi said that very few of them had extensive gunnery training. "I had one practice strafing run, shooting at a stationary target on the ground. The second time I pulled the trigger, I was in combat," he said.
The pilots were recruited from the military and were given special orders releasing them from service because of the covert nature of the assignment. Under the agreement, approved by President Franklin Roosevelt, the men had a one-year contract that allowed them to return to their military ranks with no loss of seniority.
Although many of the pilots were absorbed into the Army Air Forces after the group disbanded, Mr. Rossi was among those who went to work elsewhere in the war effort.
He became a transport pilot, flying supplies from India to China. The dangerous route, known as "the Hump," stretched over the Himalayas, where hundreds of planes were lost because of violent turbulence and weather. By the time the war was over, Mr. Rossi had flown more than 700 trips across "the Hump."
After the war, he returned to California, where he joined Robert Prescott and other former Flying Tigers to start a freight carrier line that came to be known as the Flying Tiger Line.
Mr. Rossi and Prescott also, founded the Hungry Tiger chain of restaurants that were popular from the 1960s to the 1980s.
Mr. Rossi, the fourth of 10 children, was born April 19, 1915, in Placerville to Peter and Angelina Rossi. He
grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area and attended the University of California Berkeley for two years before entering the Navy as a flight cadet in 1939-
Mr. Rossi was a member of the American Fighter Aces Association and the Distinguished Flying Cross Society. The Chinese government also awarded him several honors for his service.
Mr. Rossi is credited with keeping the Flying Tigers veterans in contact and organizing annual reunions.
Longtime friend George Gewehr met Mr. Rossi in the early '60s when Gewehr joined the Flying Tiger Line as a new co-pilot.
"Dick walked in and, out of the blue, just started talking to me.... He was very approachable, down-to-earth," Gewehr said. It wasn't until later that Gewehr learned that the friendly guy was a captain and one of the original Flying Tigers.
Gewehr said the two often attended air shows together. "The man knew everybody, and he was revered in aviation circles," Gewehr said. "It was like being with a rock star; people would come and ask for autographs."
Mr. Rossi is survived by his wife, Lydia of Fallbrook; son, Anthony of San Diego; and sisters, Jo Vaughn of Sacramento, Fran Fisk of Fairfield and Edith Keller of Fair Oaks.
Services will be at 3 p.m. Saturday at Zion Lutheran Church, 1405 E. Fallbrook St., Fallbrook. Ashes will be interred at Riverside National Cemetery.
Published/Written by Blanca Gonzalez, of the Union-Tribune, dated May 1, 2008
***A contributer tried to locate the grave of John Rossi and could find no listing in the cemetery for him.
Peter Henry Rossi (1881 - 1941)
Angelina Mary Bessimo Rossi (1883 - 1963)
John Richard Rossi (1915 - 2008)
Angelina J Rossi Murray (1918 - 1972)*
Riverside National Cemetery
Created by: Bill Corl
Record added: May 05, 2008
Find A Grave Memorial# 26620363
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Ensign J. R. Rossi, USNR, designated Naval Aiator #6702 in 1940.|
Added: Aug. 25, 2012
After over 60 years the exploits of the American Volunteer Group is still told and will remain forever in the history of China & United States in World War II. John you're part of that history, Rest in Peace and God Bless|
Added: Nov. 26, 2011
In honor of our cousin's service, for the Rossi's|
Added: Nov. 19, 2011
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