By Bai Ziwei, Liu Ge, and Liu Lingling, “Should Old Acquaintance be forgotten, and Auld lang syne…”
Accompanied by melodious accordion music, a delegation of the U.S. Flying Tigers veterans and their descendants joined teachers and students from the Kunming Foreign Language School, a “Sino-U.S. Hump Airlift Memorial School”, in Kunming, southwest China’s Yunnan province, in singing the song “Auld Lang Syne” during a visit to the school.
The song reminded Flying Tigers veteran Harry Moyer of the days when the Flying Tigers fought alongside the Chinese people against Japanese aggression and forged a deep friendship.
Reliving that history and seeing the smiles on students, Moyer was moved to tears by the performance of the song in the auditorium of the Kunming Foreign Language School.
The friendship did not come easily, said Moyer.
Their visit to the Kunming Foreign Language School was part of a recent China tour organized by the Sino-American Aviation Heritage Foundation for members of the American Volunteer Group of the Chinese Air Force, known as the “Flying Tigers,” and their descendants.
The delegation visited Chinese cities including Beijing, southwest China’s Chongqing municipality, Kunming, and Liuzhou city of south China’s Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region, renewing friendship between the Chinese and American people.
Moyer told People’s Daily that Kunming was the place he looked forward to visiting the most in this tour of China.
The city was where the Flying Tigers first took off to combat in China, and also the starting point and logistics hub of the famous “Hump” air route, a vital airlift route over the Himalayas and the primary way the Allies supplied China between 1942 and 1945 in World War II.
In 1942, after Japan occupied Myanmar and cut off China’s last international connection, the Flying Tigers blazed a new air route – the “Hump” route over the Himalayas. The route was extremely difficult to fly, but the fearless and selfless members of the Flying Tigers braved all challenges and built an “air bridge” over Kunming.
Back then, people in Yunnan also overcame tremendous difficulties to provide supplies for the Flying Tigers and did their utmost to rescue downed members of the Flying Tigers, making the legendary American Volunteer Group a symbol of mutual assistance between the Chinese and American people.
During the visit to the Kunming Foreign Language School, members of the delegation watched the musical “Green Path and Rainbow: the Story of the Flying Tigers and the Hump”, which showed the Flying Tigers’ adventure to open the “Hump” air route. The musical was voluntarily created by locals of Kunming.
As actors playing locals gave a thumbs-up gesture and praised the bravery of members of the Flying Tigers as “ding hao” (“top-notch”) in the local dialect, Moyer, sitting in the audience, also raised his hands and gave a thumbs-up to the actors on stage.
The American people speak a different language from the Chinese people, but the friendship and emotions between the two peoples are connected, said Moyer’s granddaughter Sarah Moyer.
Deeply touched by the performance, she said she will definitely pass on this sincere friendship.
At the Kunming Flying Tigers Museum, exhibits including pilot goggles, military oil stoves, and group photos of members of the Flying Tigers and Chinese soldiers and civilians evoked memories of the Flying Tigers.
Jane Bonner Scott, daughter of Flying Tigers pilot Steve Bonner, couldn’t help but shed tears as she saw her father’s photos in the museum.
Her father loved China very much, according to Jane Bonner Scott, who recalled that her father, who passed away two years ago, often talked to her about China and the Chinese people.
Coming to China to visit the place where her father had fought made her think of him a lot, Jane Bonner Scott said.
The history and memories of the Flying Tigers belong not only to her and her family but also to the people of both countries, noted Jane Bonner Scott, who added that she hopes more young people will learn about the Flying Tigers’ story and cherish peace and friendship.
The name “Flying Tigers” can be frequently seen along the streets of Kunming, where there are buildings, avenues, and theme restaurants, among other facilities named after the Flying Tigers, which have become a vivid demonstration of the profound friendship between the Flying Tigers and the Chinese people.
Nell Calloway, the granddaughter of U.S. General Claire Lee Chennault, who led the wartime Flying Tigers pilots to fight Japanese invaders in China during World War II, has visited Kunming more than once.
All the members of the Flying Tigers she knows have told her that they received warm welcome and support from the Chinese people, said Calloway, who disclosed that she was present at the opening of the Kunming Flying Tigers Museum.
During her recent visit to Kunming, Calloway expressed her heartfelt wish for the deep friendship between the Flying Tigers and the Chinese people to continue to be passed down from generation to generation, and for a continuation of the beautiful story of friendship between the American and Chinese people.
Members of a delegation of Flying Tigers veterans and their descendants listen to a docent telling the story behind a stone roller at the site of Chenggong Airport in Kunming, the capital of southwest China’s Yunnan province. Chenggong Airport was one of the main bases of the Flying Tigers in Kunming. During the construction of the airport, local people made tremendous efforts to level the runway with the stone roller.