Last Name:   
Christman
Picture

First Name: 
Allen Bert
Nickname:  
Bert or Crix
Born/Died  
5-31-1915 to 1-23-1942
Hometown:
Fort Collins, CO
Squadron:
2nd Squadron, Panda Bears
Position: 
Flight Leader
Victories
 
Decorations:
AS-PAAC Campaign, Victory of WWII, Chinese Flying Cross, Distinguished Flying Cross 
Pre AVG:
Allen Bert Christman was born on May 31, 1915 in Fort Collins, CO.  The Christman family are long-time residents of the area and maintain a presence there to this day.  His father was a supervisor for the Burlington Railroad in Casper, WY and was killed in an on-the-job accident when Bert was only 13 years old.  Bert and his sisters all started working at a young age and were very self-sufficient children.  He made use of the lifetime rail passes that the family were given, and traveled across the country extensively.  Christman earned a Bachelor's degree in Mechanical Engineering in 1936 from his hometown college, Colorado A&M (Colorado State University today).
Upon graduation, Bert relocated to New York City and sought work as an artist.  He quickly landed an assignment with the Associated Press Feature Service, and some pre-AVG fame, as the artist of the popular comic strip, Scorchy Smith.  He wrote and drew a distinguished run on the strip from November 1936 until July 1938.  He also was a pioneer in the comic book field, with work appearing in titles like Adventure Comics, Action Comics and Detective Picture Stories.
Christman had started taking flying lessons in 1937, satisfying a lifelong love of aviation.  In order to gain greater background experiences for a new comic strip he was planning, he joined the Navy as an aviation cadet in the summer of 1938.  He completed his training at Pensacola, Naval Air Station and served on the aircraft carrier Ranger, along with fellow AVG members Ed Rector and David Lee "Tex" Hill.  Their close friendship became the basis of a comic book feature he was still doing at this time called Three Aces, which backed up Superman in early issues of Action Comics.
AVG Service:

In March of 1941, the Ranger and her crew returned to their base in Norfolk, VA after a mission escorting British Lend Lease ships in the Atlantic.  Christman, Rector and Hill were met by a man named Rutledge Irvine, who presented them with a very intriguing proposal.  He was recruiting pilots for a covert mission in Burma.  Sensing an opportunity at real adventure, the trio signed up.
By mid-summer the three pilots were discharged from the Navy, sent to San Francisco and then on to Burma, with passage on a ship called the Bloemfontein.  Christman had told his family that he suspected that war with Japan was imminent, and that they should prepare themselves for hostilities in the near future.  He said that volunteering was his opportunity to do something of real meaning for the future.
In a Fort Collins Express-Courier article, his brother-in-law, Al Schroeder, recalled Bert saying that "the people of the United States do not know the meaning of patriotism yet, but they will eventually as it takes a severe shock to tell them."
Upon arrival in Burma, he began to keep an illustrated diary of daily events, that the called "Logan's Log".  He also created caricatures of the pilots in his Second Pursuit Squadron, incorporating the "Panda Bear" theme.  Several of these he managed to paint on the fuselages of the pilot's planes, but his work remained unfinished as the AVG began the defense of Rangoon.
On December 11th, Christman and Rector were chosen to escort a photo plane for a long-range reconnaissance mission over Bangkok, Thailand and its Dong Moung airfield.  The mission was a success, but it revealed a massive buildup of Japanese aircraft--poised to attack Burma.  Bert and the rest of the Panda Bear squadron were initially sent to Kunming while the "Hell's Angels" remained to defend Rangoon, but his squadron was soon called into action.
Christman arrived with the rest of his squadron at the Mingaladon airfield, north of Rangoon, on December 30, 1941.  On January 4th Bert was shot down, his plane riddled with bullets he was forced to parachute to safety.  One of the rounds had traveled through his cockpit and grazed his neck; he was hospitalized briefly before returning to duty.
On January 20th he returned from another mission with a badly damaged aircraft.
On Friday, January 23, 1942, 72 Japanese aircraft attacked Rangoon.  Christman was one of the 18 planes that were launched to intercept them.  He would never return.  Christman's plane had come under fire and been hit in the engine.  He was forced to bail out once more.  This time, however, as he hung in his parachute and decended to the ground, a Japanese pilot strafed him.  Bert was hit in several places and probably died as a bullet passed through the back of his neck.  He was buried the next day at the church of Edward The Martyr in Rangoon.  His remains were returned to Fort Collins after the war, where he was laid to rest on Saturday, February 4, 1950.

Post AVG, WWII:
The cruel manner of Christman's death led to a great deal of media coverage in 1942.  The Associated Press did a feature piece with illustrations that ran in papers around the country, and Paramount pictures did a short newsreel documentary about his life.  Later in the year Christman was featured in war bond advertisements that read, "He gave his life, what will you give?".  In 1943, the Fort Collins airport was renamed "Christman Field."
-Contributed by Andy Glaess, Denver, CO
Post War Career:
 
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