WWII Fly­ing Tigers want to see his­tory re­spected

China Daily (Canada) - - ACROSSAMERICA - By CHINA DAILY

As the ten­sion be­tween China and Ja­pan deep­ens since Ja­pan Prime Min­is­ter Shinzo Abe’s visit to the Ya­sukuni Shrine, US sol­diers who fought in the World War II who were mem­bers of the Fly­ing Tigers, shared their sto­ries and called for re­spect for his­tory and peace.

“I was very an­gry over the news,” said Marty Ox­en­burg, 91. Ox­en­burg served about a year in op­er­a­tions sup­port­ing the pi­lots in the 1st Amer­i­can Vol­un­teer Group (AVG), nick­named the Fly­ing Tigers, to back the Chi­nese air force in the fi­nal bat­tles against Ja­pan dur­ing WWII.

Last De­cem­ber, Abe vis­ited the Ya­sukuni Shrine, where 14 class-A war crim­i­nals are housed. The visit in­vited a se­ries of crit­i­cism from coun­tries, in­clud­ing China, Korea and the US. Abe de­fended his visit at the World Eco­nomic Fo­rum last week, which fur­ther ig­nited ten­sion be­tween China and Ja­pan.

“They (the Ja­panese) never apol­o­gize which means they carry on the cul­ture that ex­isted in the war,” said Ox­en­burg, who also said that Ja­pan should learn from Ger­many re­gard­ing at­ti­tudes to­ward WWII.

Lucky enough to sur­vive the war, Ox­en­burg said that he wit­nessed the tragedies that hap­pened to his col­leagues and lo­cal peo­ple in­volved in a war they did not have a choice to avoid.

“One day a plane crashed at our air­base in Yankai, 30 miles north of Kun­ming. Three Amer­i­cans were on­board. They had third-de­gree burns. We got them to a hos­pi­tal and two of them died,” he said. “They were only about 24 or 25. In 1995, I found the fam­i­lies of the two men. I spoke to them and gave them the in­for­ma­tion they never had.”

Hav­ing to leave home for the WWII bat­tle­field, Ox­en­burg never had the chance to wit­ness the birth of his first daugh­ter. His wife, Shirley Ox­en­burg, wrote to him ev­ery day dur­ing his ser­vice in China, in­clud­ing telling him that his baby was born right af­ter he ar­rived in Asia.

“I have got over 300 let­ters. And I named the truck I drove from In­dia to China ‘Su­gar’, the nick­name I gave to my wife,” said Ox­en­burg, who with his wife cel­e­brated their 71st wed­ding an­niver­sary on Jan 31 and the Chi­nese New Year, a tra­di­tion the Ox­en­burgs started af­ter the war.

“I re­mem­ber that the mo­ment I got home af­ter the war, I was so ex­cited. Shirley’s mother and Shirley jumped on me and I just couldn’t get rid of them,” he joked. “And for the first time I saw my daugh­ter. She was al­ready 1-year-old.”

Nell Cal­loway, grand­daugh­ter of Lieu­tenant Gen­eral Claire Chen­nault who led the Fly­ing Tigers and died in 1958 at the age of 64, said that peo­ple should not for­get that chap­ter of his­tory.

“Yes I hate war, but the thing about war is that we need to re­mem­ber what’s hap­pened so that we won’t re­peat that his­tory. We need to learn how to set­tle things in a dif­fer­ent way,” said Cal­loway, now the di­rec­tor of the Chen­nault Avi­a­tion and Mil­i­tary Mu­seum in Louisiana.

Cal­loway said that her grand­mother, whom she was named af­ter, used to tell sto­ries about hav­ing a hus­band and four sons serve in the war, never know­ing if they were go­ing to make it.

But she said it was not un­til she vis­ited China in 2002 that she started to re­al­ize the cru­elty of war.

“Most peo­ple don’t re­mem­ber that be­tween 1931 when the Ja­panese first in­vaded China and 1945, they killed be­tween 25 and 30 mil­lion Chi­nese peo­ple. It broke my heart,” said Cal­loway, who says her mu­seum will ren­o­vate to show more about how China suf­fered dur­ing the war, in ad­di­tion to telling the le­gends of the Fly­ing Tigers.

Dur­ing the WWII, Cal­loway’s grand­fa­ther, Gen­eral Chen­nault, used to fly P-40 air­craft. One of the mod­els, a re­stored P-40 Cur­tiss Warhawk, is sched­uled to be dis­played at the Na­tional World War II Mu­seum in New Or­leans next year.

“We all fought as one to de­feat the Ja­panese. Be­cause the re­la­tion­ship in our world to­day be­tween China and the United States, I think it’s ex­tremely im­por­tant that we use that to re­mem­ber that time and work for a bet­ter fu­ture,” said Cal­loway. “And of course the P-40 Warhawk is such a good re­minder of that time.”

Ken Mat­tews, another Fly­ing Tiger vet­eran, said he was for­tu­nate enough to be the only one from his fam­ily who fought in WWII.

“I sur­vived. Thank Lord for that,” said Mat­tews, now 89.

Re­call­ing what he saw on the bat­tle­field as well as the civil­ian ar­eas, Mat­tews ex­pressed his dis­gust with war.

“What they (the Ja­panese mil­i­tary) did on Amer­i­can soil, Burma soil and Chi­nese soil would just turn your stom­ach,” he said. “I still haven’t got over the ha­tred I have for the Ja­panese. But maybe ‘ha­tred’ is too strong, ‘dis­like’ would be a more proper word.” Zhang Yang con­trib­uted to this story and can be con­tacted at yangzhang@chi­nadai­lyusa.com


A P-40 Kit­ty­hawk flown by the Amer­i­can Vol­un­teer Group, or Fly­ing Tigers, re­ceives ser­vice dur­ing World War II.


Lieu­tenant Gen­eral Claire Chen­nault (with black hat), the Fly­ing Tigers’ leader, goes over the map with his team in China.

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