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China celebrates the memory of the Flying Tigers

Updated: 2014-10-28 07:56
By Lian Zi in San Francisco (China Daily)

The legacy of the American Volunteers Group, better know as the "Flying Tigers", is still strong almost 70 years after the legendary squadron fought alongside Chinese pilots in the battle against Japan during World War II.

On Oct 24, the Chinese consulate in San Francisco held a reception to salute the US airmen who flew with the Chinese air force in the 1940s. The Flying Tigers, whose planes bore distinctive shark faces on the engine cowlings, are credited with destroying almost 300 enemy aircraft.

"As an important part of the global war against fascism, the American Volunteer Group fought shoulder to shoulder with the Chinese military, and made a brilliant achievement," Yuan Nansheng, China's consul general, said. The story of the squadron "forms an important and brilliant chapter in the history of Sino-US relations", he said.

This year marks the 35th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the People's Republic of China and the United States, and the two countries can continue the legacy of the Flying Tigers as a model for relationships between major powers, according to Yuan.

"History can be a guide for the future," he said, adding that many organizations, such as the Flying Tiger Historical Organization in Groveland, California, are collecting relics related to the aircrews to strengthen the Sino-US relationship.

Florence Fang, curator of the WWII Pacific War Memorial Hall in San Mateo, California, donated $175,000 to the American Flying Tiger Historical Organization to purchase an aircraft that once flew the infamous "Hump Route". The plan will be permanently displayed at the Guilin Flying Tiger Heritage Park at Yangtang airport in the Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region, which will open in March next year.

Fang said one of her brothers was a US-trained pilot who served in the Chinese air force during the war and received an award from the Flying Tigers Association.

The Chinese-born Fang said she "really cherished" the good relations between the two countries.

As a leader of the overseas Chinese community, she committed herself to the construction of the WWII Pacific War Memorial Hall in the San Francisco Bay area, and has invited James T. Whitehead Jr., chairman of the Flying Tiger Historical Organization, to become director of the museum.

"It is my pleasure to be here to honor the legacy of the true American heroes of the Flying Tigers who played a critical role in fostering collaboration between the US and China," said Christopher Nixon Cox, a grandson of former US president Richard M. Nixon. He related how as a teenager he would discuss China with his grandfather, who helped open the dialogue between China and the US on his 1972 visit.

Cox said he was impressed when Nixon talked about the cooperation between the Chinese air force and the Flying Tigers and the heroes it produced on both sides.

"We should educate the world about the special friendship that the Flying Tigers started during the war. That could be the basis for today's relations," Whitehead said, adding that it's difficult for the eight remaining Flying Tigers veterans to get together because they are 90 or older.

During the reception, Tracy Thompson shared the story of her father David Thompson, a Flying Tigers veteran. "After America officially entered the war, my father was based in Xi'an, China, and was shot down in July 1945," she said. "Then he was rescued by Chinese people who took care of him until the end of the war."

The experience left her father with strong feelings of friendship and gratitude toward the Chinese people, she said.


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