"Almost half the population of San Francisco turned out for Rice Bowl Party Night in Chinatown June 17, in hopes of raising $25,000 for relief of hungry and homeless Chinese civilian refugees. Generous, gay guests filled the bowl to heaping… more than $44,000."
This was the caption beneath a photo published in the San Francisco Chronicle on June 26, 1938. At the time, China was in the throes of fighting a war of resistance against Japanese Fascist aggression. The civilian refugees referred to were struggling on a double-edged front, against not only the Japanese invaders but also devastating floods.
The event recorded above of San Francisco residents showing sympathy and support for the displaced and hungry in China, as well as China's war of resistance, was just one in a series of the "One Bowl of Rice" campaign, which promoted international assistance for China and swept through several major cities in the United States.
Also in 1938, Claire Chennault from the U.S. Army Air Corps who later on was a general, began training the Chinese air force. He went on to lead the American Aviation Volunteer Group (AVG), also known as the "Flying Tigers", to help the Chinese air war against the Japanese invasion.
From December 1941 to July 1942 when it disbanded, the AVG participated in more than 100 battles, destroying nearly 300 Japanese aircraft. Later, more American pilots, with Chennault still as their commander, joined in more battles alongside the Chinese against the Japanese. Some flew bombing missions against Japanese targets in China and other Asian countries, and some flew "the Hump", an extremely dangerous air route over the Himalayas, helping to ship strategic materials from India to China to avoid the Japanese line of defense.
A few days ago, I visited Bill Behrns, Roy Dillion and Wes Ament, three former Flying Tiger pilots, who live in California, to thank them for their service to the Chinese people and salute them for their heroism.
All three in their 90s, they still have clear memories of their experiences during the war. What impressed me most was the way these modest heroes played down their valor and accomplishments.
I remember one said, "My part was minimal. If I did anything, I consider it a privilege, not an honor, to be able to do what I did." The daring deeds they did were so great, yet their narratives were so humble.
Soldiers from China and the U.S. were also side-by-side in the crucial China-Burma-India Theater, fighting life-and-death battles against the Japanese military. There in the jungles, a deep camaraderie was forged. Their joint efforts prevented the fall of India, a strategic base for the Allies, and also thwarted the Axis powers' attempt to link Japanese and German forces in the Middle East.
To rescue downed American pilots who parachuted into Japanese-occupied territory in China was also a very dangerous business. Yet Chinese locals still took great risks by hiding their American friends and seeing they got to safety.
The enormous sympathy and generous support for China from the U.S. government and American people and the brave men and women who risked their lives to help China's war against Japanese Fascism will always be remembered by the Chinese people.
Likewise, the friendship between the rescuers and the rescued, and the friendship of fighting shoulder-to-shoulder in that war, will never be forgotten.
This chapter of history is not just the story of the Chinese people's resistance and victory; it's also the shared legacy of fighting together against the dark forces of Fascism and the profound friendship forged between China and the US in sharing a life-or-death struggle.
Seventy years have passed. The war remains in the memories of those who survived it, but for many, especially those born after the war, I doubt they have heard much about the Flying Tigers, not to mention the history of our two countries fighting together against Fascism and the mutual support we proffered in a time of great need.
Our younger generations should know more about that war from an objective perspective, so as to truly make history a mirror and a lesson to prevent the same mistakes from ever happening again.
Yes, 70 years have passed. The smoke of war has dispersed, but the door on the war is still not completely shut. Attempts to deny the atrocities and crimes committed by the Japanese aggressors still exist. Attempts to distort history and whitewash militarism still exist.
China and the United States, allies in World WarⅡ, have a common stake in safeguarding peace in the world today, since we both shed blood and made huge sacrifices to achieve it.
History has laid the foundation for our continued friendship and cooperation. Let us forge ahead, and put forth a joint, sustained push for world peace and prosperity.
The author is Luo Linquan.