Portrait of Maj. Gen. Claire L. Chennault, 1943 Chinese ink painting, 19" x 14" U.S. Army Center for Military History, Washington, D.C. © James D. Lea

Portrait of Maj. Gen. Claire L. Chennault, 1943 Chinese ink painting, 19" x 14" U.S. Army Center for Military History, Washington, D.C. © James D. Lea



Days later then I got a ride down to air force headquarters at Kunming and I did the portrait of [Maj. Gen. Claire L.] Chennault….He was a very formidable gentleman. He treated me with curt, decent respect. But his officers that came in to report to him were, I think, intimidated by him. He was a tough, tough commander. I think they sort of worshiped him. I sat on the floor because you had to look up at the man to do the drawing because he was just performing business at this desk. And these young lieutenants would come in, "Yes, sir," and they were almost trembling.


Tom Lea talking to Adair Margo in Tom Lea, An Oral History, El Paso: Texas Western Press, 1995, p. 83.


Major General Claire Lee Chennault had the greatest face I saw in the war. It was a tanned Valhalla face scar-pocked and criss-crossed with mazed furrows creased by hard use, not age; the lean flesh was tough like leather til it came to the jaw where it was more like a jut of eroded but imperishable Archean rock. His wiry black hair was tousled on top, like Mars' must have been. The line of his thin-lipped mouth looked, without trying, like a closed steel trap. His hole-boring eyes were a very dark brown, with the glint of a hawk's, hunting. I made two sketches of him at his office in Kunming, one in profile looking down, one less profiled looking up…


From A Picture Gallery by Tom Lea, Boston: Little Brown and Company, 1968, p. 84.