Vets remember helping China

World news World War II veterans remember bringing aid to China, mark 80th anniversary of 'Flying Tigers' White House press secretary

The Pentagon and the White House marked today the 80th anniversary of the first shipment of US paratroopers to China after it was ruled that Hong Kong belonged to China by Admiral Beechey’s fleet in 1918.

The United States marked the occasion with an event in the shadow of the White House. Generals Malcolm Fraser and Norman Schwarzkopf took part in a ceremony honouring the men who sailed over four days with three US-owned, six-plane airplanes supplied by Nebraska congressman Alden McLaughlin to the Chinese in June 1937, when they also dropped more than 40 bombs on the Japanese mainland from crates laid out across the Yangtze river.

“The sacrifice of our men during World War II was nothing short of heroic,” said US secretary of state, Henry Kissinger. “Their service will never be forgotten and it is important that all Americans, in this occasion as in every one, remember them. We are only a small circle of heroes who not only exist in the annals of history but who can touch the world with their deeds and their love of country.”

One of the descendents of the boy who walked through the gates of the US embassy in Beijing as a nine-year-old to plead with the US ambassador, S.C. Sproul, to help China, says he would like to visit China. Lee B. Bartlett, 62, said he hoped to meet the 5,300 US airmen who received medals today at the White House for their services in China.

“I know for sure that I can do the same,” said Mr Bartlett, speaking in Chicago, where he now lives. “Just a few years ago, I was walking along the beach in San Diego and I passed the World War II memorial. I heard a song and I said to myself, ‘One day I’m going to walk through that’.

“I started going down to the White House [to gather signatures for his petition] and this one day I saw these paratroopers through the Oval Office window. I told them that I wanted to be the paratroopers and gave them my name and address.”

Although Mr Bartlett’s three children told him he might not get to visit China because of the ongoing Beijing crackdown on civil rights, Mr Bartlett is “optimistic”. “To show my courage of getting to China, I want to be able to travel there. One of my children said he might arrange for me to accompany my wife to Beijing,” he said.

Other survivors could not be traced, despite the Chinese embassy in Washington arranging to help to locate and honour the men. “I was just about seven, maybe eight, and I came out here to meet my sister who is going to be 16 this year. He said to me that ‘everything goes back, things they told us 30 years ago still stay with us,” Mr Bartlett said.

Many of the paratroopers met their family members in the Chinese Embassy. Senator John McCain said he had waited for decades for them to return and received a medal today that he said summed up their lives in terms of political, but also poetic justice.

“He said to me in that moment, ‘I dedicate my deeds and deeds of soldiers and husbands, to the witness to the action of their lives.'”

Mr McCain, who spent seven years as a prisoner of war in North Vietnam, also left the audience in tears, as he praised them for their dedication, which will never be forgotten and “will light the way for all our sons and daughters in the world”.

“We honour and mourn the passing of this group of young men, for they may well have ignited the fire that would lead to our participation in World War II,” he said.

“We will remember these men whose lives were devoted to a cause that always seemed distant and unreal to those Americans, men who had the privilege of waking up to the truth of their true origins,” he said.

– Guardian News & Media

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