If you have seen the archival footage of the Flying Tigers you have seen the scene we were looking at (pictured). That airfield is about to be built on and that scene will be erased forever. Retired Major General Whitehead commented on our 2006 tour that if something wasn’t done to preserve the command and operations cave, it also would be lost- and along with it the rich history of cooperation and friendship between the Chinese and Americans.
We approached the Chinese authorities with a proposal Major General Whitehead had prepared stating that: if they would come up with a fitting plan for a heritage and memorial site featuring the cave along with an estimate of the cost of construction, we would raise the money. Their plans and ideas were transmitted to us in December 2006. The Chinese had chosen to make it a much grander site than we had hoped for, offering to put 3 million dollars of their own money into the project and asking us to raise $400,000.
Now it is our turn to live up to our pledge to raise our portion of the required funds. We should recognize and remember the deeds of our fathers who rose to the call of duty in a far off land, forging friendships while brining honor and glory to the American people. Certainly the Chinese have demonstrated at every turn that they have not forgotten.
Every year we do a tour to China, always the second half of March for better weather and lower prices. Over the last several years we have been honored to have Flying Tigers with us. Our tour is a one of a kind aviation-oriented tour which includes going to an airfield that the Flying Tigers operated out of in WW II. Located on this airfield is a cave from which General Claire Chennault ran his operations during part of his time in China. It is accessible but not restored, and the only evidence of its importance is a couple of plaques put up by the Chinese and Madame Chennault. In years past we have been able to look out over the old airfield and recognize scenery which we have seen in archival film of the Flying Tigers. Last year the old field was being turned into housing and town sites. We realized that we would be the last Americans to view this historic sight and the thought crossed our minds that if we didn’t do something to preserve the cave, it would be lost too. We asked the Chinese to give us a proposal for turning the cave into an historical, memorial, and tourist site to honor the Flying Tigers, General Chennault, and the Chinese all of whom fought so bravely against the Japanese invaders.
“Honoring past friendships by strengthening
Flying Tiger Delegation Awarded Congressional Recognition
Washington, DC-On Thursday, September 23rd, Congresswoman Jackie Speier (D-San Francisco/San Mateo) presented a Congressional Record certificate to a delegation from the Flying Tiger Historical Organization to honor the heroics of the “former soldiers, under the direction of General Claire Chennault, who formed the First American Volunteer Group of the Chinese Air Force twelve days after Pearl Harbor.”
The delegation included Major General James Whitehead, Chairman; Larry Jobe, President; and Michael Bianco, Director. At the meeting, Congresswoman Speier also expressed her support for the construction of the Flying Tiger Heritage Park.
At the meeting, Major General Whitehead said, “The presentation of this certificate by Congresswoman Speier represents an important moment in the joint effort between the American and Chinese people to build the Flying Tiger Heritage Park in Guilin to pay tribute to the Flying Tigers and American veterans of the China India Burma area of operations during World War ll.”
The Flying Tiger Heritage Park has been in the planning stage since 2006, when retired Major General Whitehead traveling on a tour of China discovered that the former Flying Tiger air base was being converted into an industrial park.
Realizing the potential loss to history he immediately requested the Chinese authorities to consider an American and Chinese joint effort to restore the Command Cave to its appearance when General Chennault and his Flying Tigers operated from there. A memorial plaza and museum were added to the plan in which the Chinese agreed to donate the land and funds for the construction work. The Americans would also contribute funding as well as memorabilia to be displayed in the museum.
When the ground breaking for the Park occurred in March 2010 Larry Jobe remarked “America and China stood together in battle. Today we stand together again in cooperation and friendship to recognize those veterans who fought and died to preserve our freedom”
According to Michael Bianco the interest and support for the Flying Tigers has been steadily expanding in both the USA and China which has resulted in a growing number of books and two feature films being set up in Hollywood. He believes the opening of the Flying Tiger Heritage Park in 2011 will accelerate the interest in China and the USA which will preserve the legacy of these valiant American veterans and the Chinese who served with them nearly 70 years ago.