A solemn ceremony was held Wednesday in Kunming to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the first Hump airlift by Allied forces during World War II.
The "Hump" was the tongue-in-cheek nickname pilots gave the eastern section of the Himalayas. Operations along the flight route cost the Allies 594 planes and claimed the lives of more than 1,600 people.
Dignitaries and Chinese veterans gathered at the Hump monument in Jiaoye Park (郊野公园) to remember the contributions of the Americans, Chinese and British involved in the airlifts. The supplies were critical to the survival of Chiang Kai-shek's Nationalist government in Chongqing at a time when Japanese forces were in control of most of Chinese territory.
Flights by China National Aviation Corporation (CNAC) over the Hump provided crucial materiel for Allied forces in southwest China during the war. CNAC is not to be confused with the American Volunteer Group, also known as The Flying Tigers, who flew engagement missions against the Japanese in both China and Burma.
The event was attended by representatives of the American and British governments as well as officials from the Yunnan provincial government and members of several historical associations. Five Chinese veterans of the Hump were undoubtedly the VIPs of the event.
After four wreaths were laid at the foot of the monument, Peter Haymond, the US Consul General, Chengdu, gave a speech in Chinese in remembrance of the first successful Hump airlift to Kunming.
"This miracle could not have happened without American, Chinese and British cooperation," Haymond said.
Yunnan CPPCC Vice-Chairman Zeng Hua (曾华) commended the five Chinese veterans in attendance and praised the Hump missions as great examples of Sino-American collaboration.
"The Chinese people still remember the cooperation between American and Chinese civilians during World War II. Long live friendship between the Chinese and American people!" Zeng said.
Pilots and passengers who flew the Hump route faced immense challenges and dealt with less-than-desirable conditions. Benedict Mann, British Deputy Consul-General in Chongqing, offered an interesting glimpse into a Hump flight when he read from the diary of Tom Fraser, a British mechanic who flew a Hump mission in 1945.
Fraser's account described a flight where weather conditions continually worsened until the plane was so weighed down with ice that it lost altitude, barely staying above the 13,000 foot mountains it was crossing.
All of the plane's armaments and parachutes had been removed to make room for more fuel destined for Kunming. The only weapons the crew had to defend themselves from Japanese fighter planes were revolvers. Upon clearing the mountains and entering Chinese airspace, Fraser and the crew shared tea and sandwiches.
Jeff Greene, honorary chairman of the Yunnan Flying Tigers Association, related stories of some of the Hump's more accomplished airmen, including an American pilot named Dick Rossi, who flew an astonishing 735 Hump flights.
The final speaker was octogenarian Lu Jianhang (陆建航), a Chinese pilot originally from Beijing who received flight training in the US cities of San Antonio and Phoenix before seeing action in Kunming in the 1940s. Lu thanked his brothers-in-arms as well as the American and British soldiers who served in Yunnan.
Lu's speech received the largest round of applause of the afternoon.
Hump image: cnac.org© Copyright 2005-2019 GoKunming.com all rights reserved. This material may not be republished, rewritten or redistributed without permission.