Friday, July 4, 2008

Defenders of Nanking

I read this online. Interesting bit of history, heretofore relatively obscure to the general public:

Defenders of Nanking

By Raymond Cheung

Chinese-Americans featured prominently in the aerial defense of Nanking. Flight-Leader Capt. “Buffalo” Wong Sin-sui (Wang Xin-rui in Pinyin) of Los Angeles, California flew with the 17th Squadron, 3rd Pursuit Group, Republic of China Air Force. He is believed to have scored the first victory over Nanking on 15-Aug-37.

On that day, 20 G3M1 of the Kisarazu Air Group of the Japanese Naval Air Force took off from Omura in Japan to attack Nanking. The Chinese Air Raid Warning Network provided early warning of the approach of the Japanese planes. (This was a network set up by Claire Lee Chennault of ground observers connected to Chinese air bases by telephone).

With this early warning, the 3rd and 5th Pursuit Group defending Nanking was able to scramble a motley collection of Boeing P-26, Curtiss Hawk II and Italian Fiat CR-32 fighters to intercept the Japanese raiders. So timely was the warning that Hawk III fighters of the 4th Pursuit Group and Hawk II of the 34th Provisional Pursuit Group were also summoned from Shanghai to join the action. As a result, 4 of the Japanese raiders were shot down and another 6 damaged (some returning to Chejudo on one engine).

Buffalo Wong is thought to have downed the first Japanese bomber to fall on the Chinese capitol. Lt. Harry Low (Liu Leng-guang) of Portland, Oregon (flying an Italian CR-32) shared in the destruction of another. Japanese Navy records indicate that they were very surprised at the heavy resistance encountered.

On the following day (16-Aug-1937), Japanese bombers returned, belonging to the Kanoya Air Group flying from Matsuyama (now Sungshan) airbase in Taipei, Taiwan. Again the 3rd Pursuit Group scrambled their interceptors. This time, Capt. John Wong (Huang Pan-yang) of Seattle, Oregon and the leader of 17th Squadron, scored a major success, downing two of the Japanese bombers. First he downed the G3M1 flown by Ensign Yamanouchi before it was able to release its bombs. Then, seeing Lt. Wong Tse-tsim (Wang Ze-zhan) of Los Angeles, California, attacking another G3M1 without success, John joined in the fray. Diving below and then pulling up for a zero-deflection shot, John set the Japanese bomber alight and sent it crashing to the south of Da Xiao-chang Airfield. This turned out to be a major blow to the Japanese Naval Air Force as the pilot of this bomber was the Air Group Leader (Hikko-cho) Lt. Commander Nitta.

Lt. Art Chin (Chen Rui-qian) of Portland, Oregon chased another G3M1 all the way out to the mouth of the Yangtse in his Curtiss Hawk II biplane. Art shot up his victim but was unable to finish it off. He tried to ram the Japanese but his plane was too slow and was shot up himself by return fire for his trouble. Art managed to safely force land his plane. Japanese records show that his victim also had to force land at Chejudo. Apparently, Art had damaged its fuel tanks causing to leak badly. With insufficient fuel to regain Taipei and a wounded crew member, the Japanese pilot chose to divert to Chejudo and crash-landed there.

In a separate action on the same day, the 5th Pursuit Group, led by Col. Ding Ji-xue, shot down yet another G3M1 over Yangzhou. After suffering such heavy losses, the Japanese suspended daylight bombing raids on Nanking.

John, Art and Buffalo all became “aces” with more than 5 kills to their credit.

* Harry was killed defending Nanking on 19-Sep-1937.

* Buffalo also gave his life in the defense of China in March 1941 fighting the vastly superior Zero fighter in a Polikarpov I-153 biplane.

* Art suffered serious burns in an action over the Kunlun Pass in December 1939. He suffered through many reconstructive surgeries but survived to return to Portland after the War.

* John and T.T. Wong also survived the war. After the War, John moved to Thailand and T.T. returned to the U.S. In re-telling these little known feats I hope we will honor the defenders of Nanking and keep their memories alive. If there is interest, there will be more. Sure beats hate slanging, don’t you think!? Cheers, Raymond (Note: All the Chinese-Americans named above were Tai-shan Cantonese and their names were listed first in their home dialect which is the way they were remembered in the history books).

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