As an eight-month exhibit on Sino-US ties forged during their joint fight against Japanese aggressors during World War II came to an end in Dayton, Ohio State, the United States on Friday, a senior curator said the retrospect really gave more reasons for the two countries to promote friendship.
"It is very nice to have an exhibit that reflects on the time we stood together and looked forward to the future," said Terry Aitken of the American Air Force Museum, which hosted the exhibit.
The exhibit, jointly sponsored by the museum and the Press Office of China's State Council in cooperation with five Chinese provinces and autonomous regions, gave a glimpse of the tremendous support provided by the Chinese people to the American volunteer group and air force in their fight against the Japanese air force.
Aitken noted that Americans are not well aware of many aspects of World War II in China. When the exhibit comes to the Flying Tigers and General Chennault, they may know something, but they have little idea about the level of Chinese involvement in, support for and contribution to the war efforts.
That was why when the exhibit came, the Air Force Museum asked that airfield construction in China for the Allied flying missions and China's participation in the war be made part of the exhibition, he said.
"It is very nice that China remembers the American pilots, but we want to be sure that our American audience remember what the Chinese have done," he said.
He noted that Chinese villagers rescued a well-documented total of 848 Allied pilots during World War II from being captured by the Japanese. For most of those people flying in China, if they bailed out and if they could be with a Chinese villager, they would be saved.
"You could figure that the villager was putting the whole village at risk by helping the pilot. That was an extremely brave thing to do," he said.
The exhibition was originally planned for six months, but the museum extended it to eight after museum authorities has seen how the audience reacted to the exhibits. The museum had also added new exhibits and new topics by responding to questions frequently asked by the audience. The stone roller, for instance, has become a permanent part of the exhibits as a result of that interaction.
In a few months, said the senior curator, the museum would have new exhibits about China National Aviation Company on prominent display beside the stone roller. As a pioneer in China's air cargo transport, the group performed hundreds of missions and carried thousands of tons of materials, along with US air force in the Hump airlift. Many of its pilots gave their lives during the operation.
The museum would also bring to public attention episodes that are not very well known. For instance, many Chinese Americans fought alongside with American pilots when they volunteered their service in China, said Aitken. Some 32 Chinese Americans received training in civilian private flying schools in the United States and went to China to fly various missions.
He noted that part of the museum's exhibits showed Americans who went to England and flew the Eagle Squadron of the Royal Air Force, fighting German aggressors. Here exactly the same thing happened in China: Chinese Americans went to defend China against fascists.
He said these Chinese Americans, however, were very quiet about what they did because they were very afraid of losing their citizenship. Under a US law, US citizens are forbidden to swear allegiance to another country, as required sometimes if one is fighting in a foreign army. But it was interesting that none of these people were ever asked to swear allegiance to China, but they fought and served in China.
"This story is a very interesting part of Chinese-American history," he said.
He said there were sometimes tensions between the United States and China, but when looking back at the history of their relations, the two countries have more in common than otherwise.
He noted that Chinese have been in America for centuries and they have become part of the American society, and to some extent, Americans appreciate Chinese culture. "I think there are really more reasons for friendship," he said.
Unlike many of his colleagues in the museum, Aitken's past record of service was with the US Army, but he made up for it by marrying a woman who flies with the United Airline.
A man with great interest in China, he celebrated his wife's birthday in Beijing on Oct. 1, 2003, during a specially arranged stopover of her routine flight. On the same day China celebrated the 54th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China.
(Xinhua News Agency June 27, 2004)