by Feng Xinran, Shao Yibo and Zheng Keyi
To the accompaniment of solemn music, two Flying Tigers veterans presented flower baskets to the statues of heroes who fought against Japanese aggression, then bowed deeply to express their reverence.
Former military airmen Harry Moyer and Melvin McMullen, aged 103 and 98, respectively, attended an event to commemorate the 80th anniversary of the U.S. 14th Air Force’s participation in China’s war of resistance against Japanese aggression. In so doing, they were honoring an important chapter in history, when Americans like them fought side by side with the Chinese people during wartime.
Keen to relive history and pass on the spirit of the Flying Tigers, Moyer, McMullen and Jeffrey Greene, chairman of the Sino-American Aviation Heritage Foundation, started a 10-day visit to China on Oct. 28, together with nearly 30 descendants of the veterans of the well-known combat team.
“The soul of the Flying Tigers will never disappear, just as the friendship between the Chinese and American people will always exist,” said Moyer, who celebrated his 103rd birthday in Beijing on Oct. 30, accompanied by friends from both China and the United States.
Eight decades ago, Chinese and American people forged a deep friendship that withstood the test of blood and fire when fighting the Japanese fascists together.
Recalling their period of service in China, McMullen said they admired and respected the Chinese people for many reasons, and have never forgotten their bravery.
“When we unfortunately encountered mechanical failure or were hit by the enemy and had to bail out, we knew that the Chinese people would definitely find and help us,” McMullen said.
Data shows that more than 2,000 Flying Tigers airmen gave their precious lives during the war. The Chinese people also provided American pilots with assistance at all costs. More than 200 pilots in distress were rescued, with thousands of Chinese people giving their lives during the rescue operations.
“We have been partners in war, now let us always be partners in peace,” said McMullen.
In late August, Greene, Moyer and McMullen jointly wrote a letter to Chinese President Xi Jinping, in which they introduced the efforts of the foundation and Flying Tigers veterans to help promote friendly China-U.S. exchanges, and expressed their willingness to inherit and carry forward the spirit of China-U.S. cooperation.
They received a swift reply from President Xi.
In his reply, Xi said the sound and steady development of the China-U.S. relationship in the new era requires the input and support of a new generation of Flying Tigers. He expressed the hope that the spirit of the Flying Tigers will be carried on from generation to generation among the Chinese and American people.
Devoted to promoting the study and commemoration of China-U.S. historical aviation events for nearly 30 years, Greene was deeply touched to learn that the story of the Flying Tigers is known to almost every family in China.
“President Xi’s reply once again shows to the United States and the world that the Chinese people will never forget their old friends, which is also an important message we want to convey to the American people,” said Greene.
As President Xi stressed in his reply, in growing China-U.S. relations, the hope lies in the people, the foundation lies among the people, and the future lies with the youth.
The Sino-American Aviation Heritage Foundation and Flying Tigers veterans have worked tirelessly to spread the story of the Flying Tigers in both China and the United States.
The foundation launched the Flying Tigers Friendship Schools and Youth Leadership Program last year and successfully facilitated the establishment this year of the “Flying Tigers Friendship School” between a middle school in Nevada and two middle schools in China.
Jackson Long is the great-grandson of the Flying Tigers veteran Clifford Long. His high school is also working on building a friendship with Chinese schools.
As the youngest member of the delegation, the 15-year-old had his own unique understanding of the Flying Tigers story, saying, “To me, the spirit of the Flying Tigers is about friendship.”
Jackson said he can’t wait to tell all his friends about what he learned in China, so that more people will understand the history linking China and the United States.
“Because of the common memories we had 80 years ago, now we can bring more people together, especially the youth,” said Greene. “I believe this is exactly what President Xi says in his letter.”