Monday, April 6, 2009

American involvement in China in World War Two (WWII)

Image of a Chinese soldier guards a line of American P-40 fighter planes, painted with the shark-face emblem of the `Flying Tigers,' at a flying field somewhere in China. ca. 1942. Image was sourced from the Wikimedia Commons and is from the public domain because This image is now in the public domain because its term of copyright has expired in China. According to copyright laws of the People's Republic of China (with legal jurisdiction in the mainland only, excluding Hong Kong and Macao) and the Republic of China (currently with jurisdiction in Taiwan, the Pescadores, Quemoy, Matsu, etc.), all photographs enter the public domain fifty years after they were first published, and all non-photographic works enter the public domain fifty years after the death of the creator.
Dear Gentle Reader,

Last week we looked at the my town, Hong Kong, fromt the perspective of the historical development of the the Hang Seng Index in Hong Kong by Mr. Stanley Kwan, MBE.

I mentioned that Mr. Kwan, MBE, had been involved in the WWII, with the Americans, in the war against Japan, in China.

How could this be? Your humble scribe continues this week with Mr. Kwan's family... how could he be working with the USA and China during WWII?

Neither the Communist Chinese nor the Americans wanted to publicize this relationship, much, after World War Two, but...

The USA Lend Lease Act of 1941 allocated 1.6 billion USD (about 20 billion in 2009 USD) to China for the war effort.

This significant sum of money was intended to support equipping 30 Chinese divisions, providing a 500 plane air force, and establishing lines of communication to China within the China-Burma-India Theatre.

Claire Chennault’s 100 'volunteers', the American “Flying Tigers” air force was also set up with a supply of 100 P-40 fighter planes from USA.

This group was officially known as the 1st American Volunteer Group of the Chinese Air Force and the title image shows some of those Flying Tiger P-40s painted with their iconic, grinning shark faces.

All munitions and supplies, including all the fuel--both aviation and automotive gasolines--needed by the Chinese military in their fight against the Japanese occupiers, were flown in over the Hump.

The Hump was the Himalayan mountain range, including such bumps as Mount Everest.

This was a slightly costly operation, and not overly efficient.

Therefore, the Allies proposed retaking North Burma and building the Ledo Road and Pipeline from India, across North Burma, to connect with the Burma Road leading to Yunnan, China.

Why? To remove the logistical strain of supplying China by air over the Hump.

This was to be an American-led initiative.

American assistance to China was through training and advising which required translators.

The US military set up an Interpreter Training School in Kunming, China, to develop a cadre of over 1,000 English/Chinese interpreters, in China, to assist the USA’s advisory war effort.

Many of the interpreters were 3rd and 4th year English or engineering university students from China, and several hundred were from Hong Kong. This band of brothers included Stanley Kwan who came from Hong Kong.

That is where the history and geo-politics of today comes from, it explains the history of the gentleman whose life I profiled a slice of, last week.

It is worth remembering that, during WWII, China was in many ways jointly held by the occupying invaders, the Japanese, and the resisting Chinese.

The resisting Chinese, however, were not monolothic.

They comprised both the Chinese Communist Party (the CCP), under the revolutionary leadership of Chairman Mao Zedong who were engaged in a civil war with the Guomindang (KMT) led by Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek.

The civil war was in abeyance, mostly, during World War Two.

After WWII, the civil war re-commenced and Chairman Mao's revolutionary army ended up being victorious.

General Chiang Kai-shek and the KMT would flee to Taiwan, the Republic of China as they would call it, a renegade province as the People's Republic of China would call it.

But, during WWII, these two sides were at an uneasy peace with each other in order to cobat the Japanese, who had invaded.

So the Americans and British and Canadians and Australians and New Zealanders and South Africans, and the Indians, and other members of the Commonwealth involved in the war effort, were allied, essentially and practically, with the Communist Chinese as well as the Republican Chinese.

That's it for my town this week, next week back to bricks and mortar and trade in my town.



Teresa said...

Love the picture of the Flying Tigers. They look more like sharks.

Heidelweiss said...

Where do you learn your information? Amazing. Really great bit of history there (also really great what we miss out on in school :|). The word verification is anamish. No I'm not.

debra said...

Truth is stranger than fiction, isn't it?

pattinase (abbott) said...

Such a complicated time with the cold war starting up.

lyzzydee said...

Hi Chris, I have been MIA for a bit, History is so much more interesting when you WANT to know about it!!!!

Travis Erwin said...

Great stuff. I'd never heard any of this.

Barrie said...

Your posts are always a fund of information!

Terrie Farley Moran said...

Hi Chris,

This is a really fascinating post. thanks for the information.


Sepiru Chris said...

Egads, the is the problem with being away, so much to do in such a short time. Like getting caught up on comments so that Heidelweiss doesn't get too irate (she wields a mean pair of needles, and just bought a new diameter, still untested on human eyes (I think).


Dear Teresa,

I so agree. But flying sharks seems like an even less probable beast than flying tigers. Mind you, they were flying over parts of the Tibetan plateaus and the animal mashups that populate the Tibetan Buddhist mythical animal kingdom are quite fantastical...

Dear Heidelweiss,

I propitiate your disconcertedness...

These posts have been going up in my absence, whilst I was cavorting in India. I never checked on the internet! (Whee!)

And, as this trip was completely not-work related, there has been a ton of stuff to do on the return. (OK, I am responding to a later complaint of Heidelweiss' here...)

Where do I learn the information? Books. Talks. Journals. Conversations. Memory.

My Dad was a history buff, though he studied geography, academically speaking, but he would come home from the library with 50 books on a particular episode or family or event in history and I would read as many as I could, too, before they went back. So I grew up with a store of basic knowledge of how things fit together. That made the accretion of historical knowledge so much easier, later, as I already had a framework to hang things on.

I have only become interested in dates in the past few I have started to realize that I have forgotten so much that I no longer innately remember who or what matches up chronologically with other people, things, and events.

So there you have it.

Probably much longer than you were interested in.


Dear Debra,

Only in retrospect... remember Manuel Noriega, or Saddam Hussein...

Dear Patti Nase (Abbott),

The last one or the new one?


Dear Lyzzydee,

Not sure how to take that... I hope that means that you enjoy reading it here...

I love history because it puts things into context and explains the connections, and I love to understand the interrelatedness of things.

Travis Erwin,

Not talked about much...

What I don't know is if that money was ever paid back or it the loan was forgiven.



Terrie Farley Moran,

I am pleased that you enjoyed it. Looking at corners of the world we don't often have lights shined on is something that I quite like.