Flying Tigers: Connecting past and present

Descendants of legendary pilots and Chinese civilians tell stories of courage, sacrifice and friendship

By MINGMEI LI in Dayton, Ohio | China Daily Global | Updated: 2024-04-22 09:22
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Descendants of Doolittle Raiders who were rescued by Chinese people during World War II present a souvenir to villagers of Fangyuan in Quzhou, Zhejiang province, on Tuesday. Huang Zongzhi / Xinhua

Editor's note: As April 18 marked the 82nd anniversary of the Doolittle Shangrao Rescue Operation, China Daily delves into the rich history of China-US friendship forged during World War II, capturing the personal experiences of those who served, their families and the Chinese civilians who risked their lives to help them.

"Just off the coast of California,"Edward Stiles Jr's father told his mother where he was going before their marriage, but the real story was that his father was heading to China to fight against the Japanese invasion.

His father, Edward Stiles, was one of the first 27 men who joined the American Volunteer Group, nicknamed the Flying Tigers, and arrived in Toungoo, Burma, in 1941, serving as crew chief of the third squadron of the group.

"My father told me that being a part of the Flying Tigers was a great part of his life," Stiles told China Daily, saying his father had often talked to him about his going to China, saying it was an adventure because he and the squadron had to fake visas to enter China.

"The more I learned about my dad's time, the more I found out about the importance of what he did because it was important (not only) to Chinese people, but also to the United States at that particular time. It showed Americans were really fighting back."

When people fight in a common cause they can work together and help each other, and today the two countries can still work together on common goals, he said.

Traveling from Florida, he attended the Flying Tigers and Doolittle Raiders photo exhibition in Dayton, Ohio, and the Fifth US-China Second World War Friendship Conference with his family and friends, including the nephew of the Flying Tiger fighter pilot Jack Newkirk.

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