The uniform of US airman Donald Kerr on display in the East River Column Memorial Hall. (Photo/Samuel Hui)
The blood chit issued to US airmen by the Kuomintang. (Photo/Samuel Hui)
Historical relics from the legendary Flying Tigers, officially the Fourteenth Air Force, a combat unit of the US Army Air Force stationed in China during World War II were on show at the Zhuhai Airshow earlier this month, a reminder of the wartime cooperation between the Republic of China — both Nationalist and Communist forces — and the United States.
The East River Column Memorial Hall located in Dongguan in Guangdong province commemorates the eponymous Communist guerrilla band operating in the southern province, then administered by the ruling Kuomintang (Nationalist) army, against Japanese occupation forces
Although clashes took place between the East River Column and Kuomintang units during World War II, they were both considered allies for American forces in the fight against Japan. Occupied by Japanese forces in late 1941, Hong Kong had become an important hub for the Fourteenth Air Force's efforts to disrupt Japanese supply lines between its homeland and Southeast Asia. For this reason, American pilots and crews needed support from the Chinese guerrillas when they were shot down by the enemy.
Donald W Kerr, leader of the Fourteenth Air Force and pilot from the Chinese American Composite Wing, a joint combat unit of the US Army Air Forces and the ROC Air Force under the command of General Claire Lee Chennault, was shot down by the Japanese near Kowloon during a raid on Hong Kong's Kai Tak airfield on Feb. 11, 1944.
Kerr was eventually rescued by the East River Column guerrillas and sent to their headquarters in Shenzhen. Under the order of Zeng Sheng, the legendary guerrilla leader of southern China, Kerr after a period of convalescence was transferred back to his air base in Guilin with help from the Kuomintang. A total of eight American pilots crew were rescued by the East River Column between 1944 and 1945.
To memorialize this friendship, Kerr's uniform was donated to the East River Column Memorial Hall by his son David in 2009. Inside the museum, blood chit — written messages given to foreign airmen urging locals to aid them in the event that they were shot down — issued by the Kuomintang government to American airmen stationed in China are also on display. The flag of the Republic of China — which now governs Taiwan — is also on display in the memorial hall. The story of Kerr's rescue demonstrates the wartime cooperation between the United States, the Kuomintang and Communist forces, sadly lost in the turbulence of history.
Li Shi 李石
Zeng Sheng 曾生
East River Column 東江縱隊