Among those honored at Thursday’s military parade in Beijing was a delegation of American World War II veterans from the California-based Flying Tigers Historical Organization.
The U.S. veterans attending included Robert Lee, 87, of 14th Army Air Force; plus a number of retired servicemen in their nineties: David Thompson, P-51 pilot who flew out of Xi’an; Paul Crawford, another P-51 pilot; Jay Vinyard, a pilot who made 87 round trips across the infamous "Hump" bringing supplies; and Frank Losonsky, who was a member of the original Flying Tigers founded prior to Japan's bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941.
Also in the group were David Hayward, a B-25 pilot; another veteran, Leroy Parramore; and 101-year-old Maude Pettus, whose late husband, Dr. William Winston Pettus, was a surgeon in China for a decade during wartime. Maude Pettus, who worked as a nurse in China, recently had abook published about her experiences — "Ten Good Years," written by Linda Bordner.
"Everybody in our delegation was proud to be there and happy to be there." said Flying Tigers Historical Organization President Larry Jobe, 74, a retired pilot for United Airlines who lives in Groveland, Calif., near Yosemite.
Jobe and his group have been working with local Chinese government officials in the southern city of Guilin for the last decade on a Flying Tigers museum and park. The museum was dedicated in March. The U.S. nonprofit group is currently raising $400,000 to help restore the cave used by Gen. Clare Chennault as his command and operations center.
"There’s an anti-China paranoia in the U.S., much of it generated by the news media," Jobe said after the parade. "People will feed on that and will grasp this as a provocative act. This was a ceremony to mark the end of a terrible war, and a military parade is entirely appropriate."
The Chinese People’s Assn. for Friendship with Foreign Countries helped underwrite the delegation's stay in China.
Jobe said he regarded China as a powerful nation and predicted it would soon be not only on par with the United States but overtake the United States in the not too distant future.
"I don’t look as a strong Chinese military as a threat, but I see it as something that would prevent the kind of conflict in we had in World War II. It’s weakness that can lead to wars like that," he said. "I don’t sense a tendency among the Chinese to be territorial or expansionary."
Jobe said he regarded anti-China sentiment in the U.S. as akin to McCarthyism.
"There are people that want to make you afraid of communism and China, but the rest of the people will look at it for it what it was — a ceremony to mark the end of a miserable time."