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Commemoration on Doolittle Raid Rescue renews friendship between Chinese, Americans in new era

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Chinese And Americans Committed To China U S Friendship Plant A Tree Of Friendship
Chinese and Americans committed to China-U.S. friendship plant a tree of friendship at Jiangshan Middle School in Quzhou, east China's Zhejiang province. (Photo by Bai Ziwei/People's Daily)

By Bai Ziwe, Liu He, Liu Junguo,

A significant Sino-American cultural exchange event commemorating the 82nd Anniversary of the Great Rescue of Doolittle Raid was hosted recently in Quzhou, east China’s Zhejiang province.

During the event, people committed to China-U.S. friendship watched a new exhibition at the Memorial Hall to the Doolittle Raid, visited the site where the Doolittle Raiders were rescued and joined relevant discussions, in hope of renewing the story of friendship between the Chinese and Americans in the new era.

During the World War II, both China and the United States fought for peace and justice. In the wake of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the U.S. Air Force sent 16 B-25 bombers to execute a daring assault on Japan. Pilots led by Lieutenant Colonel James Doolittle were forced to parachute over China on their way back due to low fuel. Local Chinese launched a massive rescue operation, helping the U.S. pilots escape to safety. However, over 250,000 Chinese civilians were killed by Japanese aggressors in retaliation.

The Theme Exhibition on Quzhou Rescue of the Doolittle Raiders hosted as a part of the event presented a panoramic view of this touching story of friendship between the Chinese and American peoples.

At the Memorial Hall to the Doolittle Raid, Chinese and foreign visitors revisited the time when the two peoples fought shoulder-to-shoulder 82 years ago, through aircraft components, precious historical photographs, immersive and interactive projections, and lifelike sculptures of the Doolittle Raiders.

The friendship between the two peoples has transcended history and endured to this day. Across the Pacific Ocean, the Doolittle Raiders that are still alive, along with their descendants, established organizations such as the Doolittle Raiders Association and the Children of the Doolittle Raiders.

Some of them have visited China multiple times, retracing the footsteps of the Doolittle Raiders and expressing gratitude to the Chinese people who aided in the rescue effort.

Susann Ozuk, William Kantenberger, and his brother Jonathan Kantenberger, who participated in this visit this time to China, are representatives of this enduring bond.

Susann Ozuk’s father, Charles Ozuk, was the navigator of the No. 3 bomber in the Doolittle Raid. After parachuting, he was left hanging on a cliff for an entire night before being discovered by a Chinese villager named Liao Shiyuan, who took him to his home to recover.

This is Susann’s third visit to China, and she is grateful to China and its people. Every time she comes to China, it feels like coming home, she said, adding that the Chinese people have a special place in her heart. She expressed her gratitude to the Chinese people who risked their lives to rescue the Doolittle Raiders.

William Kantenberger and George Kantenberger are grandsons of Ross Wilder, who co-piloted the No. 5 bomber. After parachuting, Wilder was evacuated to Quzhou with the help of villagers including Mao Guangxiao. On April 16, the two brothers met with Mao Honggen, the son of Mao Guangxiao, at the parachute landing site of Wilder in Zhupaigang, Fangyuan Village, Jiangshan, Quzhou.

According to George Kantenberger, Wilder drank all the whiskey he had with him to keep warm after the forced landing. And this time, George brought a bottle of whiskey and toasted at the site to commemorate that bond of friendship.

On the morning of April 17, a car carried Susann Ozuk and a delegation towards the Liao’s old residence in Longtoudian village, Zhangcun township, Jiangshan.

Susann Ozuk said this old house holds the story of her father, and it will forever remain in her memory. In 2021, she donated funds to renovate the Liao’s old residence.

In front of a newly renovated rammed earth house, Susann Ozuk reunited with her old friend Liao Mingfa, the son of Liao Shiyuan. As soon as they saw each other, the two hugged, then pressed their foreheads together and held each other’s shoulders. Their eyes welled up with tears.

Through a translator, the nearly 90-year-old Liao Mingfa told Susann Ozuk that he was too excited to sleep the night before, knowing he would see her again.

“I am your family in Chicago, and I have missed you, too,” Susann Ozuk responded.

The warm and hospitable Liao Mingfa family served steaming egg noodle to Susann Ozuk and the other members of the Children of the Doolittle Raiders. They all sat around a table, eating and conversing.

“After my father rescued Charles Ozuk, he applied herbal medicine to Charles Ozuk’s wounds every day, and my mother cooked egg noodle to help him regain his strength,” Liao Mingfa shared the story behind the egg noodle.

“Resources were scarce back then, but for the rescued pilots, we were willing to provide our best food,” he added.

At a donation ceremony held on April 18, Liao Mingfa presented a key to the old residence to Susann Ozuk, saying, “My home is your home, and you are always welcomed here.”

From the students of Muscatine High School joining exchange activities in Beijing, Hebei and Shanghai, to some 20 students from Lincoln High School and Steilacoom High School of the U.S. state of Washington visiting Beijing, Shiyan, Guangzhou and Shenzhen, and to the  representatives of U.S. business, strategic and academic communities paying a visit to China this spring, there have been various exchanges and visits taking place between the Chinese and American people, helping implement the San Francisco Vision reached by the two countries’ heads of state, bringing the two peoples closer together, building more bridges of understanding, and penning new stories for the future between the two nations.

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