Blood chits originated during WWII with the
Flying Tigers, and were later issued to other aircrews
flying over occupied Axis territory. Special operations forces
sometimes carried blood chits, along with silk
scarf escape maps and gold coins, to persuade civilians to assist
their missions. These practices were later followed during each
subsequent war, representing the languages of the affected
region, and have since persisted as a positive morale device,
despite their marginal results.
It has been reported that British Royal Flying Corps pilots
carried a so-called goolie chit during the Great
War when operating in the area of India and Mesopotamia, because
the tribal peoples in that region had a tradition of castrating
and enslaving any outsiders or enemies. The goolie
chit was printed in four of the local languages, and
promised a reward for the safe return of any unharmed United
Kingdom pilots. This slang expression is still used by Royal Air
Force crew when referring to blood chits.
This foreign person has come to China to help in the war effort.
Soldiers and civilians, one and all, should rescue, protect, and
provide him with medical care.
silk AVG / Flying Tigers version
During the Second Sino-Japanese War, prior to World War II,
airmen of the American Volunteer Group, known as Flying
Tigers, carried notices printed in Chinese that informed the
native peoples that this foreign pilot was serving China and that
they should help in every way. These blood chits
may have originated by imitation of the earlier British usage
when AVG pilots encountered RAF pilots on the subcontinent. The
wording of this notice changed from time to time throughout the
period of the war, from a simple directive to a promise of
reward. This notice was originally carried with the pilot's
survival gear, then sewn to the back of his flight jacket, then
moved inside the jacket. If an illiterate native saw the Chinese
characters, he might assume them to be Japanese, and if a Chinese
communist saw the Nationalist flag, then he might not cooperate;
so displaying the blood chit was not a guarantee
of safe passage. The 48-star flag of the United States
was added to the blood chit because it was a
widely recognized symbol of good will, and provided the
aircrew with more protection.
I am an American airman. My plane is destroyed. I cannot speak
your language. I am an enemy of the Japanese. Please give me food
and take me to the nearest Allied military post. You will be
Dear friend, I am an Allied fighter. I did not come here to do
any harm to you who are my friends. I only want to do harm to the
Japanese and chase them away from this country as quickly as
possible. If you will assist me, my government will sufficiently
reward you when the Japanese are driven away.
US / ChiNat / CBI version
The promise of a reward (and the threat of punishment) was a
later adaptation based upon an interpretation of the phrase
blood chit, which implied a payment for the
life of the airman ... and the power to give entails the
power to take, so anyone who disobeys will be made to suffer.
Rewards varied, from food and tools to trinkets and money,
depending upon the superintending government and the intended
recipient, with some consideration for the extent of effort or
the amount of difficulty involved. The concept of the
blood chit was spread throughout remote areas by
military authorities, becoming a symbol of friendship and
cooperation. As the war progressed, the China-Burma-India Theater
patch was added as another symbol of assurance.
The blood chit remains one of the most highly
recognized symbols of the China-Burma-India Theater from World
War II. A supply of early blood chits was
reserved, complete with serial numbers and authentication seals,
and were later sold for fund-raising to benefit the 14th Air
Force Association. Thousands were produced and distributed by the
War Department from Washington D.C. after the United States
entered the war. Others were locally produced by artisans, in
various sizes without serial numbers, on cotton or rayon, paper
or leather, in a broad range of accuracy and widely varying
quality. The basic problem of illiteracy was ignored as more
languages were added until there were seventeen, and this simple
recognition device became unwieldy. The blood
chit message was also added in the several languages of
the Pointie Talkie phrase book that joined the aircrew's
survival kit. It was eventually produced in fifty different
This foreigner is an American flier. He and his fellows fly
thousands of airplanes to China to help us to fight the Japanese.
Already the Americans have killed many Japanese. Therefore, he is
one of our best friends. In case this good friend of ours has to
bail out because his machine fails, we must help him. People must
guard him and immediately escort him and his things to the
nearest Magistracy to take care of him, or to take him directly
to General Chiang in Sichang, who will in turn give the helpers
silver, salt, cloth, and a flag of honor in the way of rewards.
If the natives neither take these men to report to the Magistrate
nor to Gen. Chiang, the natives will be bombed by airplanes and
punished by strong troops of the National Army. Hurting or
insulting the fliers will be punished in the same way.
5 language version
The blood chit utilized during the Vietnam War
translated the following English phrase into the thirteen (ie:
Burmese, Thai, Laotian, Cambodian, Vietnamese, Malayan,
Indonesian, Chinese, Chinese (modern), Tagalog, Visayan, French,
Dutch) most common regional languages. A simplified
pictograph would probably have been a useful addition, since many
indigenous peoples were illiterate due to their oral tradition.
This blood chit also prominently depicted the
50-star American flag.
I am a citizen of the United States of America. I do not speak
your language. Misfortune forces me to seek your assistance in
obtaining food, shelter and protection. Please take me to someone
who will provide for my safety and see that I am returned to my
people. My government will reward you.
Indochina / Southeast Asia version