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60 Years On, Chinese Normandy Hero Recalls D-Day

For 87-year-old Huang Tingxin, June 6 is no ordinary day.

As a Chinese naval officer, Huang participated in the allied forces' Normandy Landing operation 61 years ago.

The veteran, who now lives in Hangzhou, capital of East China's Zhejiang Province, is the only known mainland survivor of 24 Chinese naval officers who took part in the operation that released the Nazi grip on Western Europe.

The old man, now troubled by Parkinson's Syndrome, is now recounting those extraordinary weeks from his younger life to his son.

Huang, who was educated at a Qingdao naval school, Shandong Province in the late 1930s, was selected by the Chinese army along with 23 other Chinese naval officers to study at the Britannia Royal Naval College in Greenwich, Britain, in 1942.

They were then posted to fleets operating in different war theatres for internship in March 1944.

Huang served on an escort carrier named "Searcher." His duty was to keep watch over the angle of the carrier on the sea and its position in the fleet formation.

"It was no small task, as a smooth landing and taking-off of the aircraft depended on correct sailing of the carrier," Huang recalled. At midnight on of June 5, 1944 -- the eve of D-Day -- his warship slipped its moorings in Belfast, Northern Ireland, and sailed south.

"We knew the action would be something special, but none of us knew what that would be," Huang said.

It was not until the next morning that he and his peers heard on the BBC, or the British Broadcasting Corporation, that the allied forces had landed at Normandy, France.

The biggest combined invasion in the history of warfare had begun.

"And only then did we know what our mission was that night," Huang said. "All of us were overjoyed at the news, but we didn't feel completely relieved until our escort mission ended. Then news came a few days later that the allied forces were moving into the continent smoothly."

Huang said that all his Chinese fellows took part in the operation, and some of them were on warships who helped destroy many of German army's defence establishments on the beaches of France.

In October the same year, Huang Tingxin took part in another operation on board the Searcher -- the Toulon Landings.

"The Searcher and three other carriers participated in the battle. Our task was to cover the landing of the main force by attacking the German defence lines with aircraft launched from our carrier," Huang said.

(China Daily June 6, 2005)

World Celebrations for the End of WWII
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