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Heritage park honoring U.S. "Flying Tigers" opens in China

2015-03-29 10:44 Xinhua Web Editor: Si Huan

In addition to enjoying its natural beauty, visitors to south China's Guilin now have the opportunity to learn more about an important chapter of China-U.S. cooperation in the Flying Tiger Heritage Park that opened on Saturday.

This year marks the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II. The heritage park honors the U.S. "Flying Tigers" air squadron, who helped the Chinese fight the Japanese aggression during the war.

President of the Flying Tiger Historical Organization Major General James Whitehead Jr. and Cynthia Chennault, daughter of late U.S. General Claire Lee Chennault, were present at the opening ceremony.

The park is built on the site of Yangtang Airfield, which served as the command base from which the Flying Tigers launched missions throughout southern China.

The park includes a museum, aircraft shelters and relics of a command post located in a cave.

The U.S-based Flying Tiger Historical Organization, which includes the squadron's pilots, their families and supporters, has donated more than 600 historical items to the park.

The Flying Tigers, officially known as the American Volunteer Group of the Chinese Air Force, were formed in 1941 led by U.S. General Claire Lee Chennault to help China drive out invading Japanese troops.

After a brief period of intensive training, Gen. Chennault led the Flying Tigers to China. In their first air combat in December 1941, the Flying Tigers downed six enemy bombers and damaged four.

In the ensuing six months, the Flying Tigers fought more than 100 combats, shooting down 272 enemy aircraft and destroying another 225 on the ground, which earned them great appreciation and praises.

"History is the best textbook. The park will remind people of the joint contribution and sacrifices made by both Chinese and Americans 70 years ago," said Peng Qinghua, party chief of Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region.

"It's very disturbing that you ask anybody on the street, and they don't know a thing about this part of the history," said 92-year-old Maj. Gen. James Whitehead Jr., a Flying Tiger veteran who flew the "Hump" back and forth during the war.

The Hump, or the "death route" over the Himalayan mountains was operated jointly by China and the United States from 1942 to 1945 to transport military supplies from India to Southwest China.

More than 500 planes crashed along the Hump, claiming the lives of over 1,500 Chinese and American pilots. The route was clearly seen from above as the aluminum trails for the wreckage of crashed planes glittered in the sunlight.

"I certainly hope that the heritage park can raise the awareness of the youth and promote the friendship between the two countries," Whitehead said in Saturday's ceremony.

"As we honor their memory, let us look to the Flying Tigers for inspiration, as a shining example of the great things that can be accomplished when Americans and Chinese join together in a spirit of mutual friendship and support," U.S. Consul General Jennifer Zimdahl Galt said in a speech.

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