Ageing tiger flies in for reunion
Two former Flying Tigers who are both in their 80s met for the first time on Saturday in Chongqing Municipality on the 60th anniversary of victory in the Anti-Fascist War.
The two airmen, Long Qiming and Edward Komyati, shared a hug delayed for more than 60 years.
"Komyati joined the Hump flight in late 1944 when I had been assigned to fly bombers. We had heard of each other but never met before," said Long, who is the only Chinese Flying Tigers pilot alive in the country.
The 82-year-old Long was beside himself with excitement when he learned early this month that 84-year-old Komyati, who served with the Flying Tigers between 1944 and 1945, was to land in China on a visit with 16 other American veterans of World War II.
"My last reunion with my American comrades-in-arms was seven years ago when I paid a visit to the United States," Long said.
"There are only 14 Flying Tigers still alive."
The Flying Tigers, the nickname of the American Volunteer Group (A.V.G), were formed by legendary US Army Colonel Claire L Chennault during World War II.
Consisting of approximately 200 pilots, the Flying Tigers lent significant support to the Chinese air force in the fight against Japan.
By the end of the War of Resistance against Japan, they had shot down 2,600 Japanese planes and ferried more than 800,000 tons of military cargo.
The visit is Komyati's 17th to China after returning to the United States 60 years ago.
But the American had never included Chongqing in any of his previous visits as he was not aware that Long lived in the city.
Komyati said it was a big surprise to find another member of his former squadron this time around.
"The former Flying Tigers are now spread in different countries. We are getting old. Any news about a surviving member is exciting," Komyati was quoted as saying by the Chongqing Morning News.
During the emotion-charged meeting, the two revisited the old days and promised to meet again in August.
"The Flying Tigers have become history, but we like to take every opportunity to call for a peaceful world," Long said.
"The war killed too many people and destroyed lots of families, including those of our enemies. It was so horrible that we don't want to see it again."
After touring Beijing, Xi'an, Kunming, Chongqing and the Three Gorges, the 17 American veterans will visit Shanghai in the coming days and return to the United States at the end of the week.
The Flying Tigers
Born in Hong Kong in 1923, Long joined the Flying Tigers in 1943 and flew the famous "Hump Course" operated by China and the United States from 1942 to 1945 to transport military goods such as oil from India to Southwest China to aid the war against Japan.
As the youngest of just six Chinese Flying Tigers pilots, Long is one of only two still alive. The other is He Yongdao, who now lives in Singapore.
Long's parents were killed by the Japanese in 1941. The following year, he fled to the mainland and enrolled in a pilot training course.
He was recruited to the Flying Tigers and flew a total of 2,100 hours on the "Hump Course." Long was then moved onto bombers and retired from the air force in 1945.
Edward Komyati was born in 1921 and served with the Flying Tigers in China between 1944 and 1945.
After retiring from the military, he dedicated himself to promoting friendship between Chinese and American people.
(China Daily 05/16/2005 page2)