The first time I met Gerhard Neumann was in Kunming, China, during World War II. Ever since I have been fascinated by the kaleidoscopic adventures crowding his life. After meeting my late husband, General Claire Lee Chennault, Gerhard joined the famous Flying Tigers, where he was known as “Herman the German.” Paradoxically, although an enemy alien, Herman the German became a master sergeant in the U.S. Army Air Corps.
Gerhard’s engineering talents, his zest, his sense of humor, and his magnificent rapport with people at all levels won him the respect and affection of everyone who met him. General Bruce Holloway, former head of the Strategic Air Command and vice-chief of our Air Force, once said: “He was a gigantic asset to the operations over there in China. Having Gerhard as a line chief was like having Charles Kettering [General Motors’ famous engineer and inventor] run the local Chevrolet maintenance shop.”
Neumann’s phenomenal sense in assembling a Japanese Zero fighter plane and his work with the OSS in the Orient earned him his U.S. citizenship by act of Congress. After the war, a 10,000-mile Jeep trip across Asia with his American wife and dog, and an astonishing career as a maverick-type manager—he rose to head up General Electric’s multibillion-dollar jet engine business—added more adventure and achievement to his amazing life.
Gerhard Neumann represents that extraordinary blend of varied heritages, cultures and talents that has made America a country not only of the past but definitely of the future.
by Anna Chennault