When memories can take people back to where a timeless piece of history took place, people can come to believe that the glorious history of our forefathers will never die.
On Thursday under a fine autumn mist, passers-by paused in front of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington to see an unusual collection of historic photographs, some up to 15 feet tall, all from the War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression (1937-1945).
What’s special about the photos is that they vividly show young American soldiers shoulder-to-shoulder with Chinese people, fighting, smiling, frowning and laughing – enduring together one of the darkest periods of their nations’ shared history.
The exhibit is entitled National Memories: US-China Collaboration during WWII.
In the spring of 2010, a team led by Zhang Dongpan spent several months scanning 23,000 historic photographs from the China-Burma-India Theater on the fifth floor of the US National Archives and brought took them back to China for display.
Back in China – in Shenzhen, Tengchong, Chongqing, Taipei, Hangzhou and Beijing – hundreds of photographs were selected for a show to commemorate the assistance the US gave China and the friendship that developed between the two peoples during the war years.
The images recorded a wartime story that was burned into China’s collective memory.
Now, the exhibit, co-hosted by the Wilson Center, the Overseas China Affairs Office, the US Department of Defense, the Asian Culture and Media Group, the National Committee on US-China Relations, and the Committee of 100, has returned to Washington “as a small token of appreciation for the assistance given to China during the dark days of World War II”, said Col John Easterbrook, grandson of Gen Joseph Stilwell, a United States Army four-star general who served in the China-Burma-India Theater during WWII.
Jane Harman, director, president and CEO of the Wilson Center, said the common sense of common cause between the US and China during WWII bound peoples together.
“The photographs testify to the friendship made and hardships borne together during those years,” said Harman.
Among the photographs, viewers see: an aged Chinese civilian getting a light for his cigarette from a US Army sergeant; a smiling young American soldier, who raised pigeons at home, tending pigeons with a Chinese boy; Chinese Col Yeng Yu-tsung, commander of the Chinese Fifth Route Air Force, pinning Chinese pilot’s wings on two dashing young US soldiers; Lt Gen Stilwell speaking to youthful Chinese wounded in a rehabilitation camp, who, despite the crutches holding them up, still glow with admiration for the general; Maj Gen Chennault being presented with a bundle of Christmas greetings from Chinese children; and young US soldiers giving Chinese children piggyback rides.
Wu Xi, minister of the Chinese Embassy, said that WWII was the largest catastrophe in the human history and has become a memory too bitter to recall for some of those people who suffered tremendously.
“These precious documents and photos bring that part of history to both our eyes and hearts,” Wu said. “They are also a good reminder that world peace and prosperity do not come easy. The cooperation between the US and China not only benefits our two countries, but also promotes peace, stability, and prosperity in the Asia-Pacific Region and beyond.”
Peng Fengqi, who served as a 1st Lieutenant in the Chinese army during WWII, came from New York to attend the event.
“The US corps was very helpful to us. They provided us with many indispensable resources, clothes, food, and even vitamin supplements,” said 88-year old Peng.
By LIU CHANG October 16, 2014 in China Daily