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'Rommel of the East' honored in Virginia

By LIA ZHU in San Francisco (China Daily USA) Updated: 2016-08-30 11:10

'Rommel of the East' honored in Virginia

California Assemblyman Kansen Chu (second from right) and his wife Daisy (third from left) join Sun Shanwei (left), director of the American Sun Li-Jen Historical Association, and his brother Sun Shanzhi (second from left), as well as Sun Di, chairman of Anhui Hongtian Culture & Media Co, to discuss the details of the upcoming exhibition on "the ever-victorious general". LIA ZHU / CHINA DAILY

Chinese war hero Sun Li-jen, known as "the ever-victorious general" for his feats fighting the Japanese in Burma in World War II, will be honored at Virginia Military Institute, his alma mater.

An exhibition of more than 300 historical photos taken from 1942 to 1945 will be displayed in Marshall Hall-Hall of Valor at VMI from Sept 3 to 10 to commemorate Gen Sun's key achievements in the China-Burma-India Theater (CBI).

The photos, selected from the US National Archives, depict such moments as the victory leading to the openings of the Stilwell and Burma Roads, the Chinese lifeline in the last stages of the war, and Gen Joseph Stilwell, representing President Roosevelt, awarding the Legion of Merit medal to Sun in a simple ceremony in the jungle.

As part of the Spirit of '45 movement, a campaign aiming to preserve and honor the legacy of the World War II generation, the Gen Sun exhibit offers an opportunity to learn more about WWII events, especially the CBI Theater, according to California Assemblyman Kansen Chu, who helped organize the event and is also a descendant of Sun.

It also reminds people of the friendship that existed between the Americans and the Chinese as their countries joined forces during the war, Chu added.

"At a time when the international relationship is strained, this chapter of history can help educate the public as well as governments to better communicate with each other," said Chu.

Born in Anhui Province in 1900, Sun graduated from Purdue University in 1924 with a degree in civil engineering and from VMI in 1927.

After returning to China, he joined the National Revolutionary Army and was later sent to Burma to protect the Burma Road. In one operation, Sun led a Chinese regiment through difficult terrain to relieve 7,000 British forces trapped by the Japanese. For that he received the Commander of the British Empire medal.

In 1943, Sun's division was incorporated in the New First Army under the command of Gen Stilwell, American commander of all American and Chinese troops in the CBI. Sun's troops spearheaded Stilwell's Burma Campaign to re-establish the land route to China. Via the new route, later renamed "Stilwell Road", the Western Allies could supply the Chinese as an alternative to the Burma Road, which had been cut off by the Japanese in 1942.

For his achievements, Sun was considered by Stilwell the most capable Chinese field commander in the entire war. He also got the laudatory nickname "Rommel of the East".

To give the exhibition a traditional touch, all the photos were printed on handmade xun paper and mounted on 50 vertical panels, according to Sun Di, chairman of Anhui Hongtian Culture and Media Co, one of the organizers.

Also on display will be a 12-by-1-meter work of traditional Chinese painting titled The Historical Monument in which artist Hou Zhen depicts scenes of Allied military leaders and soldiers in CBI battles.

All of the photos and a full-scale replica of the painting will be donated to the VMI museum after the show. A traditional Chinese thread-bound book illustrating Gen Sun's experience and a short film documenting the production of the panels, rice paper, and thread-bound book will also be donated.

"For today's younger audiences not as familiar with the 20th Century's Eastern countries and cultures, Gen Sun's life provides a compelling narrative, a life of valor, and glorious military victories countered by great personal tribulations," said Sun Shanwei, director of the American Sun Li-Jen Historical Association and a grandson of the late general's cousin.

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