Flying Tigers pilot dies in Beijing

10:52, August 24, 2010      

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Peng Jiaheng, a 90-year-old former pilot who flew with the American Volunteer Group (AVG), known as the Flying Tigers, died from acute myelogenous leukemia Sunday afternoon in Beijing, family members said Monday.

Peng is the only pilot from the Chinese mainland who was awarded the "Distinguished Flying Cross" by the U.S. government in 1945.

The Distinguished Flying Cross, authorized by an Act of Congress in 1926, is a medal awarded to officers or enlisted members of the U.S. armed forces who distinguish themselves in operations through their heroism or extraordinary achievement while participating in aerial combat.

Peng Jiaheng donated his Distinguished Flying Cross to the Beijing-based the Memorial Hall of the Chinese People's War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression in March 2005.

Peng suffered from acute myelogenous leukemia in 2009 and received bone marrow transplants from Peng Zhuonan, his youngest son, last December. He was reportedly in good health before his relapse on July 20, said Peng's wife, Fu Rumei.

"My father was very concerned about his AVG companion, Wang Yanzhou's health, when he was at the end of his life," said Peng Zhuonan.

With the death of Peng, Wang Yanzhou and Wu Qiyao are the only surviving AVG's pilots in the Chinese mainland. Wang and Wu live in the eastern provinces of Shandong and Zhejiang, respectively.

Peng himself requested an end to his medical treatment and money donations for his care, said his wife Fu Rumei.

"I am only an ordinary old person. Incurable diseases are common for my age and medicine can hardly sustain my life," said Peng Jiaheng several days before he passed away.

He made a will, giving the remaining 160,000 yuan (23,570 U.S. dollars) in donations to his surviving comrade-in -arms and to public welfare work.

A memorial meeting for Peng Jiaheng will be held on Saturday Aug. 28 at Babaoshan Cemetery in Beijing.

Peng Jiaheng, born in Indonesia in 1921, was enrolled in the Whampoa Military Academy in 1937 and later went to the United States to learn to fly in the 1940s.

Peng joined the AVG in 1944, an air unit organized by the United States to help China during the Second World War. He survived one air battle, sustaining more than 20 bullet holes in his plane.

Further, he fought in 64 air battles against the Japanese air force.

Xue Gang, nicknamed "old ant", who created www.ilaobing.com, a forum which means "We love Second World War's veterans", said many volunteers had paid visits to Peng and looked after him around the clock.

"Peng Jiaheng faced death unflinchingly when confronting national adversity. He is a national hero, so we are responsible for taking care of him," said Xue.

Xue, in his fifties, resigned from his job with an annual income of 200,000 yuan (about 29,460 U.S. dollars) in 2008, focusing instead on researching and visiting Second World War veterans throughout the country.

Since 2006, Xue has organized nearly 20,000 volunteers on the Internet to help Second World War veterans. He and his volunteers created profiles of more than 300 soldiers and each has got financially and mentally support.

Li Laigen, whose grandfather is Peng Jiaheng's schoolmate from Whampoa Military Academy, said he visited Peng every other day after his relapse.

"The veterans are real heroes in my heart," said Li, in his twenties, "I looked after him all these days as I wanted to be closer to the hero."

Source: Xinhua

(Editor:赵晨雁)

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