Is the Sino-American alliance during World War II a basis for friendship and good feelings among superpowers today?
On May 6, 1944, U.S. army pilot Glen Beneda of the Flying Tigers was shot at by Japanese fighters while flying a combat mission over China. His plane caught fire, he ejected, and minutes later he landed in a rice paddy, frightening a group of Chinese workers doing manual labor. Injured and fearing for his life, Beneda managed to communicate using a pamphlet of simple translated phrases, persuaded the farmers that he was an American fighting the Japanese invasion, and was thereafter hidden in local homes. The farmers fed him, carried him many miles on a stretcher, and turned him over to anti-Japanese guerrillas, who undertook an even more dangerous journey: braving Japanese lines and an intense firefight, they got him to a Chinese army headquarters. He met military commander Li Zongren, who later became president of China, and was sent back to America with a Japanese pistol and a photograph as a parting gift.
This is, no doubt, an interesting story of Sino-American cooperation during World War II. Even more interesting is that the Chinese government, via the Chinese People's Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries, wants very much for us to know Beneda's story. They want us to know that he returned home to lead a full life, that he never forgot the deeds of the Chinese people, that he traveled back to that country twice to pay them his respects, and that he charged his children with making Sino-American friendship an inter-generational thing in the Beneda family. That's why they made a documentary about Beneda's story, "Touching the Tigers."
It was engrossing.
It screened Tuesday at the Aspen Ideas Festival, just as it did during its April 2011 premier. "All along he had been treated like a family member by his Chinese rescuers," the narrator stated. And as the film's closing credits rolled Whitney Houston's "I Will Always Love You" played through.