Feature: An American school's special bond with China forged through Flying Tigers

(Xinhua) 17:00, February 07, 2024

LAS VEGAS, Nevada, Feb. 6 (Xinhua) -- For Karmin Riff, a seventh-grade student in the United States, tasting Chinese food and studying Chinese history top her to-do list if she is offered a chance to visit China.

Now, her dream of visiting China may come true soon as her school, the Jack Lund Schofield Middle School in Las Vegas, Nevada, will be invited to send students to China on exchange and study programs.

"I'm excited about it," said Riff about her reaction when a visiting Chinese delegation announced that students from her school would be invited to visit China this year.

As a member of the school's yearbook club, Riff accompanied the Chinese delegation during their visit to the school. She hoped to put together a page about Chinese friendship by using photos she took of the Chinese delegation's visit in the school yearbook.

"It's really cool and sweet," said Riff. "I like that we're friends with China."

The delegation, headed by Yang Wanming, president of the Chinese People's Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries, on Friday, visited the school, where they met with the principal and some students, observed an art class, and toured the campus.

The delegation made a special stop at the school because it is named after a late Flying Tigers pilot, Jack Lund Schofield, who served as a bomber pilot for the U.S. Air Force and a member of the 14th Air Force based in Yangkai airfield near Kunming in southwest China's Yunnan province during World War II. Returning home after the war, Schofield dedicated his life to education till his death in 2015 at the age of 91.

"Fascism caused a disaster for people all over the world. The Flying Tigers went to China to help the Chinese people fight the war of resistance against Japan, and many people sacrificed their lives," Yang told students at the school during the visit.

The Flying Tigers, formally known as the American Volunteer Group of the Chinese Air Force, was formed in 1941 by U.S. General Claire Lee Chennault. They came to China to stand shoulder to shoulder with the Chinese people to fight the invading Japanese troops.

According to statistics, more than 200 downed Flying Tigers airmen were rescued by the Chinese people, and thousands of Chinese were killed by Japanese invaders during the rescue missions.

"This is a precious (piece of) history. Many Chinese people established deep friendships with American pilots, and they finally won the war," said Yang.

He told the students there's an initiative to invite 100 students from Nevada to China on exchange and study programs, and his association will invite 20 students from Schofield to China this year. "This is only a start. More students will be invited in the future," he said.

The Flying Tigers' stories and their friendship with the Chinese people are not that well known in the United States, because actions in Europe during World War II overshadowed the Pacific war effort.

But at Schofield, almost all students know about the Flying Tigers, said the school principal, Terri Knepp.

"We have it on our website, and the students have an orientation at the beginning of each year where they know exactly what Dr. Schofield was about," Knepp told Xinhua.

Besides, all of the students belong to squadrons, which are all named after fighter planes in World War II, she added.

Due to their shared history involving the Flying Tigers, Schofield has established friendly ties with a middle school in China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region. The two schools have exchanged gifts crafted by their students.

Jeffrey Greene, chairman of the Sino-American Aviation Heritage Foundation, helped to organize the visit. He fondly recalled the warm welcome received by the Flying Tigers veterans when they returned to China, adding that his foundation will continue to promote mutual understanding and relations between the peoples of China and the United States.

Founded in 1998, the Sino-American Aviation Heritage Foundation is an American civil friendship group aimed at promoting the study and commemoration of China-U.S. historical aviation events.

Harry Moyer, a 103-year-old Flying Tigers veteran, was among the guests on Friday. A few months ago, he visited two Flying Tigers friendship schools in China to honor the legacy of the Flying Tigers and deepen the friendship between the young people of China and the United States.

"Seeing these young children ... and the Chinese students, is very heartwarming to me," said Moyer, calling the exchanges between the U.S. and Chinese Flying Tigers schools "a wonderful start."

"It's a wonderful thing for the new generation to spread the message of the Flying Tigers, which is friendship and cooperation between China and America," he said.

(Web editor: Zhang Kaiwei, Zhong Wenxing)


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