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Families of Flying Tigers urge Sino-US cooperation

By LIU YINMENG in Los Angeles | | Updated: 2022-09-04 22:00
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A photo shows US Lt Donald Kerr (left), a 14th Air Force "Flying Tiger" pilot, with his rescuers at the East River Coloumn headquarter in Tuyang, Guangdong province. [Photo provided to]

Descendants of the Flying Tigers recalled the cooperation of China and the United States during World War II and urged the two nations to work together for the benefit of humanity.

In letters shared recently with China's Embassy in the US, families of the Flying Tiger veterans who passed away in the last two years, along with former US military leaders, called for enhanced efforts by China and the US to transcend their differences and work together, according to a statement by the embassy released on Friday.

The letters were written in response to a letter by China's Ambassador to the US Qin Gang in remembrance of the veterans' contributions to Chinese People's War of Resistance against Japanese Aggression (1931-1945), and in honor of the spirit of the Flying Tigers and China-US cooperation.

Sept 3 marks the 77th anniversary of China's victory in the Chinese People's War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression and the World Anti-Fascist War.

Former US Air Force Chief of Staff General Ronald Fogleman, former Commander of the US Pacific Command Admiral Richard Macke, former NASA Administrator Charles F. Bolden and former US Air Force Major General William A. Cohen conveyed their gratitude through letters forwarded by the Sino-American Aviation Heritage Foundation. 

Macke told the ambassador that he visited China several times and met with some Flying Tiger veterans as well as Anna Chennault, the wife of General Claire Lee Chennault, who led Flying Tigers pilots in the fight against Japanese invaders in China during the conflict.

Those were all memorable visits and proved that China and the United States can be friends, Macke said.

Cohen noted that his father, Lieutenant Colonel Sidney Cohen, was a member of the 7th Air Force in the Pacific Theater of operations. As a child, he was well aware of the Flying Tigers' work in China and their background in the American Volunteer Group.

As one of the two generals invited to accompany the veterans on a trip to China in 2015, he got a real appreciation for the heroism of the Chinese people and their gratitude for the contribution of the Flying Tigers during the war, he told the ambassador.

James E. Bryant Jr, son of 14th Air Force Flying Tiger fighter pilot James E. Bryant, is among the six descendants of the Flying Tigers who wrote to the embassy.

The younger Bryant recalled seeing the ambassador in his father's jacket during the opening ceremony of a photo exhibition hosted by the Sino-American Aviation Heritage Foundation at the Smithsonian earlier this year. The sight "still brings tears of appreciation to my eyes", he told the ambassador.

His family was deeply honored by the speech delivered by Qin during the event. After his father's death several years ago, Bryant's mother received a recognition poster signed by dozens of surviving Chinese veterans and their family members, he said. The poster and the story behind its creation continues to provide great comfort to his mother and his family, Bryant said.

"Great friendships are never accidental. They are the consequence of shared dreams and common experiences. Eighty years ago, Americans and Chinese dreamed and fought together. Your words reinforce that inseparable bond," he wrote in his letter, a copy of which was posted on the embassy's website.

Paul Friday, son of Air Transport Command "Hump Pilot" Captain Joe Friday, said the most common sentiment he heard from veterans of both countries is the closeness they felt for one another as they struggled against the Japanese.

The Chinese he met were enthusiastic in their memory of the Americans and the sacrifices they made so far from home, and the Americans told him time and again of their fondness and respect for the Chinese, Friday said. It seems people from both nations have an affinity for one another, he added.

Friday hopes that people might remember their fathers and grandfathers so closely supporting each other and fighting side-by-side in the greatest of all struggles of the 20th century, he said.

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