With U.S.-China relations at dangerous World War III-threatening loggerheads, could a pair of World War II veterans provide invaluable common ground? Incredibly, Mel McMullen, now in his late 90s and Harry Moyer, who turned 103 on Monday (October 30) traveled to Beijing this week to be honored by China for their service with the American Volunteer Group (AVG) – better known as the “Flying Tigers” – more than eight decades ago.
McMullin and Moyer, among the few surviving members of the legendary volunteer brigade, were honored by China Monday. Back in 1941, the AVG, led by rogue Louisianan General Claire Chennault, flew castoff U.S.-built Curtiss P-40 fighters – painted with signature shark-mouth noses – against the theretofore overwhelming Japanese air armada that had laid waste, virtually unopposed, to China. Beginning shortly after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the Flying Tigers exacted crippling damage on the Japanese effort to overrun China, while providing the U.S. war effort with invaluable moral boost after the devastation of the Pearl Harbor catastrophe.
This week’s Chinese news reports showed the American heroes meeting with Vice President Han Zheng, who told them Chinese-American cooperation is vital to addressing today’s major global challenges and that his hope is that the spirit of the Flying Tigers may be passed through the generations to bring about mutual cooperation in the 21st century.
As reported by AP, McMullin told the Chinese press how downed American pilots were sheltered by farmers who hid them from Japanese soldiers, knowing they and their families were at risk for their lives. “I think that’s something we should all understand,” he said at a ceremony hosted by the U.S. Embassy in Beijing. “People are the same. Their governments may be different, but the people actually always have one desire, and that is to live and to raise their families in peace, and in the customs of their predecessors. And I needed to day that and I’m sorry it took so much time.”
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