Families of Flying Tigers veterans urge China and US cooperation

China Daily
Lin Congyi
2022-09-04 21:40:23
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 chinadaily.com.cn]

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

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

September 3 marked 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 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 Madame Chennault, the wife of General Claire Lee Chennault, who led Flying Tigers pilots to fight against Japanese invaders in China during WWII.

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

Cohen noted that his father, Lt. Col. Sidnry Cohen, was a member of the 7th Air Force in the Pacific Theater of operations. So 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 in his father's jacket photo of an 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 continue 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.

In spite of the great hardships, 14th Air Force "Flying Tiger" Aerial Gunner Sergeant James H. had fond memories of his time spent in China and of the Chinese people, his daughter Margaret told Qin.

The dedication of Qin toward maintaining the spirit of cooperation that prevailed between the Americans and the Chinese during World War II reflects her own, she said.

The world is about far more than politics. People must rise above their differences to focus on maintaining respect and tolerance for one another, said Margaret, who added that she had deep appreciation for Qin's efforts in this respect.

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 a mighty foe.

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.

In the times of geopolitical struggle now, Friday hopes that people might mitigate the situation when they 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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