Beginning tomorrow a semi-permanent memorial to the First American Volunteer Group will be on display at the Kunming Museum (昆明市博物馆), Spring City Evening News is reporting. The group of fighter pilots, better known as the Flying Tigers (飞虎队), have been credited with bringing down 300 Japanese aircraft, many over Yunnan, from 1941-1942.
The memorial was originally slated to have its own home in a museum-owned adjunct building at the intersection of Shengyi Jie and Beijing Lu. Renovation on the building, a Ming Dynasty mansion, began three years ago. The house has been repeatedly damaged by nearby subway construction and was eventually deemed unfit to house the historical collection.
Instead, Flying Tiger displays and memorabilia will be shown at the Kunming Museum for the foreseeable future. GoKunming contacted curators and was informed the exhibition will remain at the museum on Tuodong Lu for the next one or two years depending on how quickly restoration work on the Shengyi Jie site is completed.
Planners initially found it difficult to obtain sufficient artifacts and photographs for the memorial. They then contacted Chen Xiangmei (陈香梅), widow of American Lieutenant General Claire Lee Chennault, who commanded Flying Tiger operations during World War II.
Chen, along with Chinese-American collector Chen Canpei (no relation), have provided curators with more than 2,000 historical artifacts and photos that now make up the majority of the exhibit. The memorial is specifically concerned with the Flying Tigers and does not commemorate either the Hump airlift or the China National Aviation Corporation.
A ceremony at 10am tomorrow will also honor the 71st anniversary of the Flying Tigers' first air combat mission. On December 20, 1941, pilots from the volunteer group repelled a squadron of 10 Japanese planes headed for Kunming. Chennault's granddaughter, Neil Keller Wei, is expected to attend the event.
Beginning tomorrow the exhibit and memorial will be open daily from 10am-4:30pm. Entry is free and tours in English can be arranged in advance by calling 63152359.
Top image: Greg Hume
Bottom image: Wikipedia