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Mission accomplished

By Zhao Xu | China Daily | Updated: 2019-03-19 07:20
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Ernest Wampler (middle), holding his son Eugene, poses with his Chinese friends in the 1930s. [Photo provided to China Daily]

The nonstop bombing forced the family to move from town to town. For some time, they lived in caves that had been chiseled out of the mountainsides by locals. Many years later, the brothers would return there repeatedly to try and unlock childhood memories etched deep in their minds.

The family left China again in 1941, right before Japan attacked the Pearl Harbor. This was largely due to the Japanese killing of 13 Chinese members of the mission, whom they believed to have secretly aided the resistance forces. The Wamplers were spared because the US was not yet officially at war with Japan.

Although Ernest Wampler shuttled between the US and China during the rest of World War II, helping refugees in unoccupied areas, the family didn't return as a whole until 1947. In September 1949, the boys boarded a ship to San Francisco from Shanghai, the city where they had spent what Eugene Wampler describes as "a coming-of-age time for a teenager". The parents left later that year.

Looking back, Eugene Wampler says during the family's stay in China, his father was often away for work and didn't know whether the rest of the family was alive or not. The uncertainty ate away at him.

On one occasion, Elizabeth Wampler took a flight with her two sons from Shanghai to Beijing to join her husband, who was waiting anxiously for them at the airport.

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