Honoring the legacy of the Americans and Chinese who bravely fought together defending freedom, the American Flying Tigers Guilin Heritage Park was opened March 28 in Lingui County, Guilin, Guangxi. U.S. Consul General in Guangzhou Jennifer Zimdahl Galt and U.S. Embassy Air Force Attaché Colonel Mark Swentkofske joined several distinguished guests, including Chinese Vice Premier Madam Liu Yandong, Guangxi Party Secretary Peng Qinghua, and representatives of the American Flying Tigers Historical Organization (FTHO), at the opening.
“The exploits of the Flying Tigers are truly the stuff of legend. When most of the news from the war was bleak, reports of the Flying Tigers’ victories, sacrifices, and courage provided hope to the peoples of both our countries,” CG Galt told those gathered to celebrate the new park. “Throughout the war, American soldiers in China were touched by the kindness and bravery of their Chinese partners. Brave men and women provided assistance and shelter to thousands of American airmen whose planes were shot down for a cause they shared. Bonds like these are lasting. We can’t forget the bravery and sacrifice of men and women on both sides who came together for a common cause.”
The Heritage Park is located at the Yang Tang Airfield, which served as the command base from which the Flying Tigers launched missions throughout southern China. The project is the result of American and Chinese cooperation to remember and honor this important legacy. FTHO approached Chinese officials with a proposal to build the park and restore General Chennault’s Command and Operations cave located in Guilin, and the Chinese quickly agreed to contribute land and funding for the project. The FTHO then raised thousands of dollars and donated hundreds of pieces of memorabilia; the Chinese government matched funds 4:1.
“Ultimately, seventy years after this war ended, we also celebrate the future and how our two countries can work together to create a more peaceful and prosperous world,” CG Galt said. “It reminds us of the importance of our countries’ relationship – and the fact that we have to get it right, for the benefit of our two countries and the global community. The only way to do that is to work together, as we did at critical moments in the past.”
Today the Museum building within the Heritage Park features architecture reflective of the fighter planes used during the Flying Tigers missions, including a “shark’s teeth” entrance, a domed glass ceiling resembling the fighter pilots’ cockpit dome, and windows representative of P40 fighter planes’ exhaust stacks. Inside, the Flying Tigers are brought to life through displays of photographs, paintings, and memorabilia. The Museum is located just outside General Chennault’s cave, which is being painstakingly restored.
The FTHO delegation VIPs included Chairman of the Board Maj. Gen. (Ret) James Whitehead Jr., Honorary Chairman Florence Fang, FTHO’s President Larry Jobe, Flying Tigers Commander General Claire Chennault’s daughter Cynthia Chennault, General Chennault’s granddaughter Nell Calloway, and veteran pilot of the China-Burma-India Theater of Operations “Jay” Vinyard.
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