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Nurse of Flying Tigers honored

Updated: 2015-01-19 11:44
By May Zhou in Houston (China Daily USA)

Nurse of Flying Tigers honored

Deborah Chung (right), co-author of Piloted to Serve, speaks with Cecil Fong, president of OCA Houston Chapter, on Jan 17 in Houston. May Zhou / China Daily

Lots of times, recognition is better late than never. Take the case of Rebecca Chan.

Back in the early days of World War II, Chan, a trained nurse in Hong Kong, escaped to Chong Qing after the Japanese invaded in 1941.

When she heard about the Flying Tigers, she applied to work for them as a nurse and was lucky enough to become one the first four Chinese nurses taking care of their sick and wounded.

The Flying Tigers - formally known as the 1st American Volunteer Group (AVG) of the Chinese Air Force - was a group of volunteer American fighter pilots from the US Army, Navy and Marine Corps led by Capt Claire Lee Chennault fighting alongside the Chinese against the Japanese.

Chan, like so many other members of the Flying Tigers, is no longer with us. But her daughter, Deborah Chung, a professor at New York State University, has carried on her legacy. She shared her story with an audience in Houston on Jan 17.

Through slides of old documents and photos, Chung told about her mother's life, focusing on her service as a nurse with the Flying Tigers. The story has been documented in the book Piloted to Serve, which Chung co-authored with her mother.

In the book, Chan describes in detail the hospital, what a nice environment it was, the good food, the care she offered to the injured soldiers, and how she and other nurses helped the wounded and recovering soldiers evade Japanese air raids. She particularly remembered one injured pilot who said he had shot down 10 Japanese planes.

Chung's slides included a letter signed in 1943 by Dr Magnet, the executive officer of US Army's Kunming station hospital, stating that Rebecca Chau (Chan's maiden name) had served as a nurse from 1942 to 1943, a document Chan had kept all these years.

According to Chung, her mother was very humble about her role in serving with the Flying Tigers and downplayed her contribution. It was Chung who applied on her mother's behalf to the US Army for recognition of Chan's contribution in WWII, using this letter as primary proof.

As a result, Chan was awarded various military medals, honors and recognition.

"It was shortly before she passed away in 2011," said Chung. "She was so sick I had to accept the medals on her behalf."

Chung's presentation was organized by the Organization of Chinese Americans (OCA) Houston Chapter, Chinese American Citizens Alliance and Chinese Professional Club.

Cecil Fong, OCA Houston president and nephew of Anna Chan Chennault, wife of the Flying Tigers commander Chennault, said he was extremely moved by hearing Chung's account of her mother's history from a personal point of view.

"These are very interesting stories," Fong said. "The Flying Tigers did a lot to help the Chinese in WWII. They did it on a volunteer basis, out of the goodness of their heart, and what they believed in.

"This is part of history that a lot of Chinese don't know about anymore because that generation is getting old and it can easily be forgotten. I think this is a good opportunity to talk a bit about Chinese history, and what it means to us Chinese Americans," Fong said.

mayzhou@chinadailyusa.com

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