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Veterans Gather in Beijing

WWII veterans from the US and the former Soviet Union were in Beijing for two separate gatherings yesterday to mark this year's 60th anniversary of the end of the war.

Chen Haosu, president of the Chinese People's Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries, said the government of the former Soviet Union helped Chinese people fight against the Japanese invasion even at the early stage of the war.

Li Xiaolin, the organization's vice-chairwoman, told US veterans that "Chinese people will never forget the great contributions you have made to the peace of this land."

As over 80 Chinese and former Soviet veterans reunited, Chen said the support from the then Soviet Union included "a large quantity of military equipment and materials, military staff training and dispatching experts as well as voluntary pilots to China."

Basil Ivanov, an 84-year-old veteran, said he still vividly remembered an attack on the Japanese troops that he joined on August 9, 1945.

"The Japanese soldiers at the sentries were all asleep. Our troops crossed the Heilongjiang River and promptly took over the sentries," Ivanov said. "We won the battle without firing a shot."

Over 100 American veteran pilots and their relatives also met officials in the capital.

"We feel we have contributed something to the history of China and it's really been a great deal for all of us to come back once more," Alfred J. Gardner, a US Flying Tigers pilot, told Xinhua News Agency.

Li also met Glen Beneda for the first time, a former captain of the 23rd Fighter Group's 76th Squadron whose life he said was saved by her father, former President Li Xiannian.

"I was shot down by Japanese fighters and crashed in the mountains, but fortunately I was found by the Chinese people and well looked after by General Li," Beneda said.

(Xinhua News Agency September 1, 2005)

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