China begins salvaging ‘Flying Tiger’ wreckage

  • AseanPlus News
  • Saturday, 09 Aug 2003

CHINESE explorers began to salvage on Thursday a wrecked fighter plane used by the “Flying Tigers” during World War II from Dianchi Lake in south-west Yunnan Province. 

China Expedition Association chairman Yan Jiangzheng, who is in charge of the operation, said efforts would be made in the next five days to detect the site of the wreckage and the geological structure at the bottom of the lake, which covers over 300sq km. 

Yan's association started to search for the wrecked fighter plane debris in 1998. Their methods included magnetic prospecting of the site, interviews with crash witnesses and villagers who helped recover the body of the pilot, John Blackburn III. 

Yan said they found the plane buried under 3m of silt more than 60 years after it plunged into the lake in a training accident on April 28, 1942. It would take another 30 days to clear the silt, he said, adding the plane was expected to be recovered at the end of October. 

The “Flying Tigers” were formed over 60 years ago by General Claire Lee Chennault, commander of the US 14th Air Fleet during World War II, to transport arms and other materials, and to support China's fight against Japanese invaders. 

Some of the Tiger pilots were killed during the war and people have been searching for their remains in China's south-western mountainous regions. Yan's association has concluded the wreckage is a P-40 fighter. 

The salvage operation, being carried out by the China Expedition Association, has attracted the attention of many American veterans of World War II. The Sino-American Aviation Heritage Foundation has consulted 14 pilots and ground crew of the Flying Tiger Fleet about the crashed plane and the fate of its pilot. – People's Daily  

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