China's Only Normandy Survivor Awarded Legion d'Honneur
The only survivor of 24 Chinese naval officers, who participated in the Normandy D-Day landings 62 years ago, Huang Tingxin, received France's highest honor yesterday in recognition of his valor during World War II.
Jean-Marin Schuh, French consul general in Shanghai, traveled to the veteran's home in Hangzhou, capital of east China's ZhejiangProvince, to present the award. Huang, 88, suffers from a heart complaint and Parkinson's disease.
A native of AnhuiProvince he graduated from a naval school in Qingdao, Shandong Province, in the late 1930s. In 1942, during the War of Resistance against Japanese Aggression (1937-45), Huang and 23 other naval officers, were chosen by the then Nationalist government to study at the BritanniaRoyalNavalCollege in Greenwich, Britain. They were then posted to fleets operating in different war theaters for internship in March 1944.
Huang served on aircraft carrier "Searcher" and part of his duties included keeping watch over the angle of the vessel on the sea and its position in the fleet formation. "It was no small task as the smooth landing and take-off of aircraft depended on the tilt of the carrier," Huang recalled in earlier interviews.
At on June 5, 1944 the eve of D-Day his warship slipped her moorings in Belfast, Northern Ireland, and sailed south. It wasn't until the next morning that Huang and fellow seamen heard on the BBC that the allied forces had landed at Normandy.
"Only then did we know what our mission was that night," Huang said. "All of us were overjoyed at the news but we couldn't feel completely relieved until our escort mission ended." Huang also took part in the Toulon landing with French troops on August 15 the same year.
"We will never forget that you and other Chinese people stood with us shoulder-to-shoulder when France was facing the most difficult situation during the war," Schuh said in Chinese at the ceremony. "It is our responsibility to remember this forever," he added.
Huang's face lit up as Schuh presented him with the medal of the Legion d'Honneur which has been awarded to fewer than 200 Chinese. His family captured the moment on video cameras. The father of three made a short speech from his wheelchair while his nurse held an oxygen mask beside him.
"It was a great honor to join the anti-Nazi war," he said. "After more than 60 years I am still very proud about it."
"It (today's occasion) reminds me of other Chinese naval officers who took part in the operation," Huang added. "The honor is not only for me it belongs to all of them." The other 23 Chinese officers have died over the years.
Huang joined the Navy of the People's Liberation Army in 1949. He moved to Zhejiang in 1958 and taught English at Zhejiang Science and TechnologyUniversity for seven years before retiring in 1971.