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Blood Chit

Reference Notes

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.

Blood Chit
silk AVG / Flying Tigers version

silk AVG / Flying Tigers
blood chit

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 rewarded.
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.

Blood Chit
US / ChiNat / CBI version

US / ChiNat / CBI blood chit

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 versions.

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.

Blood Chit
5 language version

5 language blood chit

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.

Blood Chit
Indochina / Southeast Asia version

Southeast Asia blood chit