Stephen Bonner, an ace US fighter pilot and one of the last surviving members of the swashbuckling “Flying Tigers” who fought the Japanese for the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) during World War II, has died, friends and colleagues announced on Thursday.
He was 103.
The Flying Tigers, an assembly of US volunteer fighter pilots forming the Aviation Volunteer Group based in Kunming, China, operated out of what was then Burma in the early 1940s in support of Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石) against the Japanese, conducting dangerous missions over Japanese-occupied China and shooting down hundreds of enemy bombers.
They initially operated as mercenaries with the tacit support of the US government, given Washington’s official neutrality toward imperial Japan before the attacks on Pearl Harbor in Hawaii in late 1941.
Serving under US Army lieutenant general Claire Chennault — who led the Republic of China (ROC) Air Force during the war before the KMT’s retreat to Taiwan in the Chinese Civil War — in 1943 and 1944, Bonner flew “five confirmed and five probable aerial victories, and additionally was credited with damaging two more fighters and bombers,” Sino-American Aviation Heritage Foundation chairman Jeff Green said.
“With his remarkable longevity, Steve would become the last living ‘Fighter Ace’ to have flown in China during the Second World War,” Green said, describing him as a “gallant soldier and a Christian gentleman.”
Later in life, Bonner became an advocate for the commemoration of the Flying Tigers’ legacy and US-China dialogue, founding the Sino-American Aviation Heritage Foundation and receiving the Congressional Gold Medal.
He also visited China with fellow veterans in 2005, where they were named honorary citizens of Kunming.
Public Television Service produced a documentary series on the Flying Tigers, which operated in the Chinese-Burma-India region — known as the CBI Theater — during World War II.
“The Flying Tigers squadron forms a very important chapter in Taiwan’s wartime history, where the Republic of China and the US air forces worked together with outstanding camaraderie, spirit and cooperative fellowship,” then-ROC Air Force chief of staff Liu Shou-jen (劉守仁) said when the series was first aired in 2014.
Additional reporting by staff writer
Days after it was banned in China, a Mandarin ballad satirizing nationalistic Chinese Internet users is trending at No. 1 on YouTube in Taiwan and Hong Kong. Fragile (玻璃心), by Taiwan-based Malaysian rapper Namewee (黃明志) and Australian singer Kimberley Chen (陳芳語), offers a tongue-in-cheek apology to “little pink” Internet users, a disparaging term that describes patriotic “keyboard warriors” from China. After racking up more than 9 million views on YouTube, the song reached No. 3 on the site in Malaysia on Thursday, according to Kworb, a Web site that analyzes music data from around the world. It is also the only Chinese-language
NO CHANGE: US officials indicated that the ‘one China’ policy remains in place, while the NATO chief avoided discussing Biden’s comment in an effort to ease tensions US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said on Friday that the Pentagon would continue to support Taiwan’s military, but he declined to say if US troops would defend the island against China, after US President Joe Biden said there was a US “commitment” to do so. “As we’ve done over multiple administrations, we will continue to help Taiwan with the sorts of capabilities that it needs to defend itself,” Austin said at NATO headquarters. “So we’ll stay focused on those things, and I won’t engage in any hypotheticals with respect to Taiwan,” he told reporters. Biden on Thursday sparked a new firestorm
PROTECTION: The Ministry of Health and Welfare is aiming for a full vaccination rate of 30 percent, and allowing mixed first and second doses to boost coverage rates Whether Taiwan reopens its borders would depend on the nation’s vaccination coverage rate and the COVID-19 situation in other countries, Deputy Minister of Health and Welfare Shih Chung-liang (石崇良) said yesterday. The Ministry of Health and Welfare is aiming for a 70 percent first-dose vaccination coverage and 30 percent two-dose coverage as part of its consideration, Shih told a media briefing following the weekly Cabinet meeting. In spite of a relatively stable COVID-19 situation in Taiwan, and calls from foreign missions and businesses in the country to allow more international travelers, the government is maintaining strict border control measures. Since March last year,
SCENIC TRAIN TOURS: TRA Director-General Du Wei said experts on aesthetics and railway culture have worked for 10 months to restore the blue locomotive Breezy Blue, the Taiwan Railways Administration’s (TRA) tourism train, is to be launched on the South Link Line on Saturday. The railway operator spent about 10 months restoring the blue diesel-powered train, which first provided service to students and commuters before being outsourced to Lion Travel, which organizes railway tour packages. TRA Director-General Du Wei (杜微) told reporters on the sidelines of a ceremony in Pingtung County’s Fangliao Township (枋寮) that the agency hopes that the restored Breezy Blue would provide an authentic experience to railway fans as well as those with fond memories of riding the blue trains to work or