Flying Tigers Aircraft Makes Final Flight Over The ‘Hump’ Into China

Reuters GN/ELD/ME

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Ryan Pickrell China/Asia Pacific Reporter
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An American aircraft from World War II has arrived in China, where it will stay to celebrate the wartime alliance between the U.S. and China, reports the China Daily.

An ageing C-47, the “Buzz Buggie,” landed in Kunming, Yunnan Province on Saturday after completing a final commemorative flight over the Himalayas, a route commonly known as the “Hump.”

The plane was flown by a team of five crew members. Their average age is 70.

While the U.S. and China are often presented as rivals, there was a time when the two countries were on the same side.

During WWII, the American Volunteer Group, also known as the Flying Tigers, flew about 850,000 metric tons of much needed supplies, such as fuel and ammunition, over the mountains into China to support China’s fight against the Japanese forces operating in the India-Burma-China theater. The Flying Tigers also engaged the Japanese in combat.

The “Hump,” which was also called the “death route,” was considered one of the most dangerous air routes in that particular theater of operations. Around 1,500 U.S. aircraft crashed along this deadly route during the war.

The Flying Tigers, a group formed in 1941, consisted of American pilots from various branches of the armed forces who flew with the Chinese Air Force. They harassed the Japanese forces from the skies from August 1941 to July 1942. This unit shot down 272 Japanese aircraft and eliminated another 225 on the ground during more than 100 battles.

They first saw combat shortly after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, and their successes helped to inspire the American fighting spirit. The Flying Tigers were famous for their shark-snout paint job on their P-40 fighters. The design was continued even after the group disbanded.

The group left China in 1944.

The C-47 transport aircraft which recently landed in Kunming was donated by the Flying Tigers Historical Organization. The plane is on its way to Guilin, Guangxi Province, where it will be put on display at the Flying Tigers Heritage Park.

Larry Jobe, president of the Flying Tigers Historical Organization and the captain for the recent flight, said that he wants to honor the sacrifices made by the Flying Tigers and preserve the memory of all that China and the U.S. accomplished during the war.

At the moment, the plane is undergoing repairs. The C-47 started its journey in Australia and flew to Indonesia, where one of the engines blew out. After several weeks of repair, the plane made the flight to Kunming, where it lost another engine. Once repairs are complete, the aircraft will finish its trip to Guilin.

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