Recently, I led a delegation of the Flying Tigers to China to attend an event to commemorate the 80th anniversary of the U.S. 14th Air Force’s participation in China’s war of resistance against Japanese aggression. We visited Beijing, Chongqing, Kunming, Liuzhou, and other cities. Among the members of our delegation were Flying Tigers veterans Harry Moyer and Melvin McMullen, as well as relatives and descendants of Flying Tigers veterans.
Together, we reviewed the history of the American and Chinese people fighting shoulder by shoulder during the war and encouraged the younger generation to inherit and carry forward the spirit of the Flying Tigers.
The spirit of the Flying Tigers is a shared legacy of the American and Chinese people, and we believe that this visit to China will promote greater understanding of the Flying Tigers story and better inheritance of their spirit among the people of both countries, particularly the younger generation, so that the friendship between the two nations will be passed down from generation to generation.
The story of the Flying Tigers is well-known in China. In 1941, General Claire Lee Chennault established the American Volunteer Group, also known as the Flying Tigers, to assist China in its fight against Japanese aggression. My first visit to China in 1995 was related to the Flying Tigers.
At that time, a group of Flying Tigers veterans were invited to China to participate in an activity commemorating the 50th anniversary of the victory of Chinese People’s War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression and the World Anti-Fascist War. I was producing a documentary about the Flying Tigers and had the privilege of accompanying them. During that time, we were considering how to ensure that more people would remember this history and promote the spirit of the Flying Tigers.
Eventually, we decided to establish the Sino-American Aviation Heritage Foundation, with the aim of deepening Americans’ understanding of this history and encouraging more young people to carry on the spirit of the Flying Tigers.
Since its establishment in 1998, the Sino-American Aviation Heritage Foundation has financed nearly 500 Flying Tigers veterans and hundreds of their relatives to visit China. Over the years, the foundation and the Flying Tigers veterans have been telling the story of the Flying Tigers in the U.S. and China, promoting the understanding of the history and deepening friendship between the young generation of the two countries. Last year, the Sino-American Aviation Heritage Foundation launched the Flying Tigers Friendship Schools and Youth Leadership Program, and facilitated the establishment of a “Flying Tigers Friendship School” relationship between Jack Lund Scofield Middle School in Nevada, U.S. and two middle schools in China. This has created a new platform for passing on the Flying Tigers spirit and enhancing friendship among young people from both countries.
The Flying Tigers symbolizes the mutual assistance between the people of the U.S. and China, and the spirit of the Flying Tigers represents friendship and cooperation. During their operations in China, over 2,000 Flying Tigers members sacrificed their lives, and thousands of Chinese people gave their precious lives when rescuing endangered Flying Tigers pilots.
During this trip to China, we saw many monuments and museums in different cities that tell the stories of how our two countries’ military and civilians fought side by side. We were deeply moved. As time goes by, there are now only around 20 surviving Flying Tigers veterans. Therefore, we have invited many veterans’ families and descendants to participate in our programs, allowing them to share the stories of the Flying Tigers and promote the Flying Tigers spirit with the younger generation. They will return to the U.S. with fascinating stories and share their experiences in China with their friends, ensuring the continuous inheritance of friendly exchanges.
Earlier this year, Moyer, McMullen and I wrote a letter to President Xi Jinping, introducing the efforts of the foundation and Flying Tigers veterans in helping promote U.S.-China friendly exchanges, and expressing our willingness to inherit and carry forward the precious spirit of U.S.-China cooperation. We were honored to receive a reply from President Xi Jinping.
His reply conveyed to the American people and the people of the world at large that China will never forget old friends. In his reply, President Xi Jinping said that to grow China-U.S. relations, the hope and foundation lie in the people, and its future lies in the youths. I fully agree with this. The youth are of utmost importance in cultural exchanges between the two countries and are the hope for the healthy and stable development of U.S.-China relations.
By letting more young people understand the story of the Flying Tigers, the spirit of the Flying Tigers will be passed down, and the younger generations of the U.S. and China will become closer with each other and be envoys of friendship between the two countries.
The U.S.-China relationship holds significant importance for world peace, stability, and development.
While facing some challenges at present, both countries can draw inspiration from history. Just as the Flying Tigers went all out to assist the Chinese people during World War II, and the Chinese people fearlessly rescued endangered Flying Tigers members, the American and Chinese people should join hands with mutual trust. We will work together with Flying Tigers veterans, their families, and like-minded partners to tell the story of the Flying Tigers to more young people in both the U.S. and China.
We will encourage them to become a new generation of Flying Tigers dedicated to fostering friendly relations between the two peoples, ensuring that the spirit of the Flying Tigers is passed down from generation to generation, and making contributions to the friendship between the two countries.
(Jeffrey Greene is the chairman of the Sino-American Aviation Heritage Foundation.)