The Flying Tigers spirit is a symbol of U.S.-China cooperation, said Mel McMullen, a Flying Tigers veteran, adding that he hopes more young people from the two countries could get to know this period of history and pass on the spirit from generation to generation.
McMullen, 98, made the remarks during an interview with People’s Daily after visiting the Museum of the War of Chinese People’s Resistance Against Japanese Aggression. He was in China to attend an event commemorating the 80th anniversary of the U.S. 14th Air Force’s participation in China’s war of resistance against Japanese aggression in Beijing.
The suits, helmets and photos of the Flying Tigers exhibited at the museum brought the Flying Tigers veteran back to the old days when he fought side by side with the Chinese people.
During China’s war of resistance against Japanese aggression, a large number of young American pilots, led by U.S. general Claire Lee Chennault, formed the American Volunteer Group (AVG), also known as the Flying Tigers. They fearlessly fought alongside the Chinese people against the Japanese fascists. McMullen was one of them.
In 1944, McMullen was assigned to the 308th bombardment group of the 425th Bombardment Squadron of the 14th Air Force, serving as a B-24 “Liberator” bomber’s gunner and assistant flight mechanic. His bombardment group was initially stationed at the Chenggong Airport near Kunming, southwest China’s Yunnan province, and later moved to Chengdu in Sichuan province after a few months.
McMullen told People’s Daily that he was only 18 back then, and he felt that people of all countries shared the same aspiration that they and their families could enjoy peace.
He told the story of how Chinese people saved the lives of endangered American pilots. During that time, many American pilots were protected during the day and escorted to safe zones at night by the Chinese people.
He said the Flying Tigers respect and admire the Chinese people, and he would never forget that during the war, local residents went all out to rescue American pilots, despite the brutal retaliation from the Japanese army, and this saved the lives of many American pilots.
Lately, Jeffrey Greene, chairman of the Sino-American Aviation Heritage Foundation, Flying Tigers veterans Harry 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 in helping promote China-U.S. friendly exchanges, and expressed their willingness to inherit and carry forward the precious spirit of China-U.S. cooperation.
On Sept. 12, Xi replied to the letter. Recalling the moment he received Xi’s reply, McMullen couldn’t hide his excitement, saying such care is truly precious.
The Flying Tigers spirit represents trust and friendship, McMullen said. During the war, the Flying Tigers trusted the Chinese people and believed that what they were doing would have a positive impact and be something to be proud of.
He said the Flying Tigers believed that if their planes encountered mechanical failures or were hit by the enemy and they had to parachute, the Chinese people would surely find and rescue them. The Flying Tigers and the Chinese people fought side by side in wartime, and in peacetime, they should also be eternal partners, he noted.
Xi said in his reply that 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. McMullen said he totally agrees with Xi, hoping that the younger generations from the two countries could pass on the Flying Tigers spirit so that the friendly ties can be passed down from generation to generation.
In 2015, McMullen visited China and participated in commemoration activities to mark the 70th anniversary of the victory of the Chinese People’s War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression and the World Anti-Fascist War.
According to him, he and his wife have visited China multiple times, and they sincerely admire the tremendous development China has achieved. This time, he came to China accompanied by his wife, son, daughter-in-law, and other relatives. He hopes to promote a better understanding of the Flying Tigers’ story among more young people, and to continue promoting the spirit of the Flying Tigers and fostering the friendship between the American and Chinese people.
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