People sing to Harry Moyer (third from right), a United States Flying Tigers veteran, on his 103rd birthday in Beijing on Monday. Moyer fought in World War II alongside the Chinese people against Japanese aggression. (Photo by Zou Hong/CHINA DAILY)
Friendship: Flying Tigers' support 'a brilliant chapter'
Harry Moyer, a veteran of the Flying Tigers — United States volunteer pilots who fought alongside Chinese people against Japanese aggression in World War II — turned 103 on Monday in Beijing.
He is visiting China among a delegation composed primarily of Flying Tigers veterans and their family members.
President Xi Jinping wrote a reply letter in September to Moyer, fellow Flying Tigers veteran Mel McMullen and Sino-American Aviation Heritage Foundation Chairman Jeffrey Greene.
In his letter, Xi voiced his hope that the spirit of the Flying Tigers will be passed down to the next generation.
On Monday morning, the U.S. delegation members, including the three with whom Xi corresponded, traveled to the Museum of the War of Chinese People's Resistance Against Japanese Aggression in Beijing's Fengtai district.
They attended a major event marking the 80th anniversary of the U.S. 14th Air Force's participation in the war. That group carried on the work started in 1941 by the American Volunteer Group, widely known as the Flying Tigers, which was disbanded in July 1942.
Before the event, Moyer, who walked rather than sitting in a wheelchair prepared for the event, browsed a picture gallery outside the venue featuring archive images of the Flying Tigers.
Thirty elementary school students from Beijing Chaoyang Experimental Primary School stood on both sides of the path leading toward the venue to salute the veterans' heroic deeds.
"Give me five!" Moyer said in great delight in response to one of the students.
While addressing the commemorative event, He Wei, vice-chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress, China's top legislative body, said to Moyer, "On the very same day two years ago, you flew an airplane to celebrate your birthday … and yesterday you climbed the Great Wall.
"On behalf of the Chinese side, I would like to congratulate you on your birthday and wish you good health," he added.
Moyer was a fighter pilot throughout World War II. After fighting in the Mediterranean theater, he came to the airfields in Chengdu, Sichuan province.
The Flying Tigers' action of coming to support China "is a brilliant chapter in the joint fight against aggression, in which China and the U.S. fought side by side", said He.
"It is an important source of inspiration and guidance for the mutual trust between the two countries and for building a stable and healthy China-U.S. relationship," he added.
At the event, Greene, the Sino-American Aviation Heritage Foundation chairman, recalled Xi's letter and quoted some of Xi's words: "I hope that the spirit of the Flying Tigers will be carried forth from generation to generation among the Chinese and the American people".
Greene added, "In that letter to us, President Xi proved to the American people that … China does not forget its old friends". He added that nothing is more important than "accepting that and understanding that".
Also present at the event on Monday were children, grandchildren and a great-grandchild of Flying Tiger veterans.
"I wish everybody in America can see this. … When we all go home, we will talk to our friends. They will talk to their friends," Greene said.
Yang Wanming, president of the Chinese People's Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries, organizer of the commemorative event, pledged that his organization will invite U.S. students with the Flying Tigers Youth Leadership Program to visit China and send Chinese student delegations to the U.S. for exchanges.
"Let the torch of friendship between the Chinese and American people lit by the Flying Tigers be passed from generation to generation," Yang said.
McMullen, the other Flying Tigers veteran who wrote to President Xi, was also a gunner on a B-24 bomber that attacked Japanese ships during the war.
He and the delegation members toured the museum after the event, and he had a good look at the museum's displays related to the war, such as helmets, newspapers and ammunition samples.
When answering a question about the spirit of the Flying Tigers, McMullen said, "I think they knew they were doing the right thing."
At a meeting with delegation members including Moyer, McMullen and Greene on Monday afternoon at the Great Hall of the People, Vice-President Han Zheng said the Flying Tigers' great deeds were examples of the "profound friendship forged with lives and blood of the two nations".
In today's world, "many major challenges still need to be faced jointly by China and the U.S. in cooperation", Han said.
The two countries should adhere to mutual respect, peaceful coexistence and win-win cooperation and make greater contributions to world peace and development, he added.