Two former WWII airmen now in their 80s met for the first time in Chongqing Municipality on Saturday. Long Qiming and Edward Komyati, both of whom had been in the Flying Tigers, shared a hug delayed for more than 60 years.
"The Flying Tigers have become history, but we take every opportunity to call for a peaceful world," said 82-year-old Long, the only Chinese squadron member still alive in the country. "The war killed too many people and destroyed lots of families, including those of our enemies. It was so horrible that we don't want to see it again."
Komyati is now deputy head of a mission of veterans getting together for the 60th anniversary of victory in the Anti-Fascist War, which will be held in Kunming, capital of Yunnan Province, in August.
"Komyati joined the Hump flight in late 1944 when I had been assigned to fly bombers. We had heard of each other but never met," Long said.
Long was beside himself with excitement when he learned early this month that 84-year-old Komyati, who served with the Flying Tigers between 1944 and 1945, was to land in China on a visit with 16 other US veterans.
"My last reunion with my American comrades-in-arms was seven years ago when I paid a visit to the United States," Long said. "There are only 14 Flying Tigers still alive."
The Flying Tigers, the nickname of the American Volunteer Group, was formed by US Army Colonel Claire L Chennault during World War II.
Consisting of around 200 pilots, they lent significant support to the Chinese air force, shooting down 2,600 Japanese planes and ferrying more than 800,000 tons of military cargo.
The visit is Komyati's 17th to China after returning to the US 60 years ago, but he had never previously included a stop in Chongqing as he was not aware that Long lived there.
Komyati said it was a big surprise to find another member of his former squadron this time around.
"The former Flying Tigers are now spread in different countries. We are getting old. Any news about a surviving member is exciting," Komyati was quoted as saying by the Chongqing Morning News.
During the emotionally charged meeting, the two revisited the old days and promised to meet again in August.
(China Daily May 16, 2005)