When you think about New York mobs or gangs, people typically think of Italian Mobsters or gangsters from Brooklyn or the Bronx. The main stream has always considered this to be the typical gang life of New York City. What a lot of people don’t know is that the Chinese and other asian gangs wrecked havoc for New York residence for a few decades as early as the 1600s.
One of the gangs the caused bloody turf wars in New York, was the Flying Dragons Gang (FDS).
Unlike other street gangs, the Gangs in Chinatown kept it low key and didn’t have markings or jackets that showed off who they were. They do not brandish their weapons, but a lot of them are packing knives and guns.
The Flying Dragons were no different. If you took a walk into China Town, you wouldn’t know who was a gang member and who wasn’t. This was all part of their plan.
The question is why? Why do you need gangs like this watching and lurking on the streets of China Town? Its because this was their business, their lively hood. Every shop, restaurant or merchant that resided in China Town paid a fee to stay “protected” by the Flying Dragons or better yet the Tongs of China Town.
How did it get this way, and why did the residence stay? Let’s travel back in time a bit to find out.
History of Chinatown Wars
In the 1800s, more and more Chinese immigrants were coming to America. The Chinese faced a lot of racism and discrimination and sometimes violence from the White Americans as well as the United States Government.
The Chinese people needed support, and protection, Tongs would fill these needed void for the thousands of Chinese people.
Modelled after the clans in China, Tongs were home bases away from hame, usually organized around hometown, family names, or native dialect.
At first Tongs were a source of help for housing, work employment, and community disputes, but due to the lack of funding from community ventures the Tongs needed to find another source of income.
This led the Tongs to sourcing funding through illegal ventures like, prostitution, gambling and opium dens. Like all money making ventures, it became the source of blood feuds between the different tongs in China Town, which resulted in the “Tong Wars”.
Tongs Hit Men
Due to the social stature of the Tong Societies, the Tongs could not be seen doing the dirty work, so what they did to was hire “hatchet men” or “boo how doy” to carry out targeted hits against their rivals.
In New York City the Hip Sing Tong and the On Leung Tong were the most powerful Tongs of their time.
The Flying Dragons would be hired guns of the Hip Sing Tong, which were arch rivals of the On Leung Tong, which used the Ghost Shadows Gang. These 2 groups would start a war that lasted decades and caused bloody murders along the streets of China Town.
Some of the Notorious Tongs in the United States:
- Hip Sing Tong – New York and 13 other states
- On Leong Tong – New York
- Bing Kong Tong – California, Washington
- Suey Sing Tong – California, Oregon, Washington, British Columbia
- Hop Sing Tong – San Francisco
The Flying Dragons Vs Ghost Shadows
The Tong Wars resulted in the Flying Dragons vs Ghost Shadows bloody feud. Historically there have been 4 different wars between the 2 factions.
The first war was due to the control of the gambling dens, the second was due to the murder of a woman, the third was the opium distribution and the forth was due to a member switching sides.
The wars were bloody, in the earlier days the gangs used meat cleavers and knives to fight each other, but as time and new weapon technology hit the streets it moved to guns and explosives.
Flying Dragons Dragon Head
Dragon Head is the term members would call the leaders of the gang. The Dragon Head has changed multiple times since the birth of the Flying Dragons.
One of the more notorious leaders of the gang was a member that was known as Machine-gun Johnny and Onion Head, or Johnny Eng.
Johnny was born in Hong Kong and moved to the United States in the early 1970s. In 1983 Johnny would gain the Dragon Head status of the Flying Dragons.
During Engs reign as the leader of the Flying Dragons, is when the gang really stepped into the spotlight.
Johnny Eng was a flashy mobster that moved into the Heroin drug trade in a major way. By the time of his arrest, the Flying dragons were in the top 5 biggest players of the Heroin trade.
Eng would be indicted on narcotic chargers that would lock him up for 20 years in prison and fined a total of $2 million.
With Johnny at the reigns they would move 400 pounds of heroin into the United States from 1987 to 1988. They did this by using tea and stuffed animals to smuggle the drugs in the country.
Prior to this trial Johnny did try escaping back to Hong Kong but was later extradited back to the United States on charges above.
In 2010 Eng was given early parole but has not been active. In 2011 his wife was killed by another Flying Dragon member David Chea. Chea would later be found dead by suicide.
The leader of the Flying Dragons before Onion Boy was Michael Chen.
Chen would become the leader around the 1970s, his most notable crimes were an arrest for a homicide in 1976 and another incident in 1977 for 2 killings of rival Ghost Shadow members in a shootout in a crowded theatre.
Michael was known as “The Scientist” because he had a real cool and calm demeanour. He was known for loving women, and didn’t drink, smoke, or gamble which was uncommon.
Chen would later die in 1983, he would be found dead in a coffee shop across the street from his home. He was shot 14 times.
It is speculated that Machine Gun Johnny ordered a hit on him to take control over the Flying Dragons.