Sat, Aug 15, 2015 - Page 3 News List

Soviet pilots who fought Japan for ROC remembered

Staff writer, with CNA

Descendants of Soviet pilots Evgeny Opasov, second row, and Andrey Matveev, center, back row, take part in a ceremony yesterday in Taipei.

Photo: CNA

Descendants of two Soviet pilots who died fighting for the Republic of China (ROC) during the Second Sino-Japanese War, which began in 1937, yesterday said that they were happy to attend events marking the 70th anniversary of the end of the war.

Evgeny Opasov, son of pilot Constantin Opasov, and Andrey Matveev, grandson of Nikolai Matveev, are in Taiwan to attend commemorative events marking the 70th anniversary of the victory over Japan, on a five-day visit that is to end on Monday.

The pilots were in a group that participated in air battles against the Japanese and helped train Chinese pilots from 1937 to 1941.

During a news conference yesterday, Opasov said through an interpreter that he was pleased that the ROC government invited him to Taiwan, and that history should not be forgotten.

He also said that he was pleased to receive a commemorative medal from President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) a day earlier.

Opasov said his father went to China in 1937 as a member of a Soviet volunteer group and assisted with setting up an aviation supply station in Lanzhou.

He said that the Soviet Union was the only foreign nation to provide assistance to the ROC in the early years of the war against Japan, and stressed the close cooperation between the two sides at that time.

The volunteer group helped strengthen the ROC’s air combat capabilities and also flew planes to bombard air force bases of the Japanese military in Taiwan, which was considered a frontline of the Japanese forces in their invasion of China, Opasov said.

The volunteer group participated in air battles on behalf of the ROC, he said, pointing to a picture of the planes used by the group.

There were no insignias of the Soviet Union, only white and blue stripes on the tails of the planes, symbolizing the ROC flag, said Opasov, a former naval officer whose grandfather fought in World War I.

Matveev also attended yesterday’s news conference to talk about his grandfather and show several historical photographs of the pilot.

He said his grandfather, who died a young man in China in 1937 during the war, never had a chance to see his newborn son.

The two visitors were scheduled to visit the Martyrs’ Shrine in Taipei later yesterday, which honors ROC soldiers who died during the war against Japan and in the Chinese Civil War against communist forces.

They were also to attend an exhibition on the victory over Japan and the retrocession of Taiwan, which opens today.

The aviation volunteer group from the Soviet Union went to China upon the signing of a military technical assistance agreement between the two countries in August 1937, and between 1937 and 1941, the Soviets provided more than 3,000 air crew and ground staff to support the ROC Air Force in training and in battle, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said.

The group shot down 459 Japanese warplanes and sank more than 100 ships during those four years, the ministry said.

More than 200 Soviet pilots died during the conflict, including Opasov and Matveev.

That chapter of history was buried after the resumption of the Chinese Civil War in the late 1940s and almost forgotten in the following years when the world entered the Cold War.

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