Veteran Recollections

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In this section, we share memories of World War II veterans.

  • From Wayne Johnson, the 23rd Fighter Group, 14th Air Force
     “The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor brought on a surge of patriotism throughout America. I signed up for the U.S. Army Air Corps on 8 December, 1941… After completion of the Air Corps pilot training, I was sent to China and assigned to the 118th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron, and for a short time, the 75th Fighter Squadron, both in the 23rd Fighter Group, 14th Air Force. I was very happy about the opportunity to serve in China, since I had great admiration for General Claire Chennault. I really knew very little about the culture in China except what I learned through history classes, which was quit rudimentary, and what I had read in news releases. While serving there I learned a great deal about the Chinese people, which was most favorable. We made many friends among the Chinese pilots and air crews that survived through our meetings in the Flying Tigers-14th Air Force Association until the Association was dissolved in 2009. I served in China for about one and a half years…We loved the local people. Everywhere we went we were impressed by how friendly they were. We had great admiration for the local people and were most impressed by how willing they were to risk their own lives to rescue our downed airmen.”
  • Hank Tursky, 69th Depot Repair Squadron
    “The Chinese fellows I worked with were terrific—they would bend backwards to help you. Most of these fellows were mechanics. I worked with a bunch of sheet metal workers. They did a wonderful job. We had little trouble communicating but after a while we got to know each other. If I saw them now, I’d give them a big bear hug. I’m glad to have met them. There are a lot of people in this world that weren’t nice but they were. They accepted us, and we accepted them. My experience in China was wonderful. I’m glad I got it. Not many people had the opportunity I had.”
  • From Liu Hua, Member of Chinese Expeditionary Force who passed away in June 2014
    “After graduating, I was assigned to the New 11th Army, which later changed into the 8th Army… Two months into my position as platoon leader, I went to the battlefield… In 1943, our troop was dispatched from Hubei to Yunnan and was garrisoned in Maguan. We were responsible for defending the border, focusing on strengthening training and getting ready for counterattacks. That was when we had Americans joining us… The American liaison officers attached great importance to our location and kept asking us about it. Besides, they were very cooperative when it came to certain requirements of the troop, such as supply and air-drops. When we crossed the Nujiang River (the Salween River) and tried to take Longling, we had an extreme shortage of supply. Yet since they were very responsible with their work, we managed to accomplish the mission in spite of the adverse weather…Americans are enthusiastic and sincere. They won’t say something and act otherwise. These are the virtues of the Americans. So I had a really favorable impression of the Americans I met during WWII.”
  • From Lu Jianhang, WWII Pilot for the Chinese Air Force
    “I joined the China Air Force quite early, in 1940. I was in Chengdu and I was only 14 years old. It was at a time when the war against the Japanese was in the toughest phase… When I was in Kunming in 1943, we had the Flying Tigers with us. That was when I saw them. We spent much time together… The war against the Japanese invaders took eight years and China wouldn’t have won without the assistance of America. During WWII, the American pilots came to China and fought for China at the risk of their own lives–not even imaginable in other capitalist countries. So I feel that America is the real helping hand to China… China is a country of honesty and sincerity that is willing to return favors. America’s support and assistance to China ranged from weapons to personnel. Take the air forces for example, President Roosevelt signed the Lend-Lease Act with Chiang Kai-shek; America trained pilots for China when all the Chinese pilots had lost their lives back then. The promise to help China train 1000 pilots was by no means an easy task. When we finally triumphed in the war, America didn’t charge us a single penny for the planes, artillery and training the 1000 pilots. President Truman said that America would not ask for money for what it had provided. Such generosity towards China was only possible with America. Such history sticks in my mind.I would like to say “thank you”. We had really close ties and we fought together in the bloody battles. I still remember that some Flying Tigers and pilots that I had training with came to Kunming and visited me.”
  • From Li Zhengyi, Soldier in Chinese Army
    “I joined the army in Hunan. The Japanese occupied Jiangxi province and the war transferred to Hubei province, a place called Wuxianzhao (pronunciation). Then I went back to Xiangtan and joined the Fifth Army. I went to Guangxi afterwards where my mouth was injured and three of my teeth were gone in an explosion.Then I went to fight in Baoshan, Yunnan province… We didn’t have planes of our own and could only rely on planes from America. These planes were the only available ones in our battles. It was in the year of 1945 when we first came into contact with the new weapons and American instructors. I can still remember one particularly nice instructor and a lieutenant who came from a wealthy family in the United States. We practiced battle exercises together where he taught us only in the mornings in Wujiaba. The American knew someone who had a car which took us to have meals. He was from a very rich family. We sang together, and then he drove us back to our headquarters… We thank those American friends who helped us fight against the Japanese; victory was impossible without the Americans.”
  • From Yang Yuxiang, Member of Expeditionary Force
    “I joined the army mainly because I myself was exposed to the war against the Japanese when I was in Nujiang. They bombed Nujiang and Baoshan several times. The entire Baoshan region was ruined by the bombing from the airplanes. About 300 or 400 people died from the blast… I remember an American Air Force major whose plane was disturbed by a Japanese plane charging towards it. Then his plane was shot down and landed near a gutter in Baoshan where this American major parachuted into and was saved by local farmers… Back when we were in Kunming, we had six or seven Americans in our regiment. We miss them a lot. Later when we went to Ramgarh, we were trained and taught how to drive at an automobile training school for one month. The composition of the staff was like this: three platoons in a company, one American major and a Chinese major as his interpreter. We also chose a company commander, director of special tasks, three platoon leaders, squad leader and deputy squad leader. The process was very democratic, inviting all the soldiers to be involved in decision-making. Now we really miss these American officers. I still remember an American major who is of medium height and a bit chunky. Another American had eyebrows that were in a line and so we called him “yizhimei” (“Unibrow”). It’s a pity that we didn’t learn their names by heart back then.The US has said that China’s contribution in World War II is indelible. We fought hard during the war, and many American soldiers died along the Hump, we will never forget them. Now both President Xi Jinping and President Obama speak highly of the war as well as the Flying Tigers. .. The friendship between us will be unforgettable. We didn’t speak the same language, but we communicated with each other heart and soul. I will always remember them. We all miss them and wish to meet them again someday.”
  • From Wang Quan, member of  Expeditionary Force
    “There were only more than 300 of us from Xikang [who signed up] who were later dispatched to Chengdu. We were called the No.2 Training Regiment of the China Expeditionary Force. We were trained at Xijiaochang (the western drill ground) because some training was what we needed before we go and serve abroad. We then went to Xinjin Airfield, which was for the Flying Tigers. Then we were sent to India across the Himalayas…From a historical perspective, the cooperation between China and America was crucial and changed the situation of the entire world. The cooperation and harmonious development of the two countries will bring good lives to both peoples. This is something truly remarkable. It’s something worth celebrating that we have jointly done something great.”