China's last 'Flying Tiger' dies at 91

Updated: 2014-10-01 20:54


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CHONGQING - The last Flying Tiger pilot in China died of lung failure at 91 at a hospital in southwest China early Wednesday.

Long Qiming, who was being kept alive by a respirator at a hospital in Chongqing Municipality, passed away at 12:35 a.m.

The Flying Tigers, officially known as the American Volunteer Group of the Chinese Air Force, were a group composed of ex-pilots from the U.S. military.

Commanded by Claire Chennault, the Flying Tigers flew over China to combat Japanese invaders during World War II, as China's air force was destroyed not long after the war began.

Long's daughter, Long Yulan, said that the last wish of her father was to go to Beijing next year to attend the assembly marking the 70th anniversary of China's victory in the war against the Japanese invasion.

She said her father had also wished to go back to his hometown of Shunde in south China's Guangdong Province, which borders Hong Kong.

Long, born into a well-off Hong Kong family, joined the American Volunteer Group in the 1940s, which fought the Japanese during World War II as the Flying Tigers.

He flew the famous Camel Peak Aviation Route across the Himalayas, the so-called "death route," delivering urgently needed military supplies to support China's War of Resistance against Japanese Aggression, and carried out bombing missions against the Japanese in Myanmar.

After being demobilized in 1952, Long worked as a technician, porter and English teacher in Chongqing, China's wartime capital during WWII.

Long, who spoke English and loved Mozart, was hospitalized in July with a serious lung infection.

Between December 1941 and September 1945, the Flying Tigers shot down 2,600 Japanese military planes, destroyed 44 warships and killed 66,700 Japanese soldiers.