A salvage team on Thursday started to retrieve an airplane sunk under a lake in southwest China’s Yunnan Province that was flown by the Flying Tigers during World War II.
The Flying Tigers, officially known as the American Volunteer Group (AVG) of the Chinese Air Force, was a group composed of ex-pilots from the U.S. military.
Commanded by Claire Chennault, the Flying Tigers flew over China to battle Japanese invaders during World War II, as China’s air force was destroyed not long after the war began.
“I hope the salvage can revive the glorious memory of China and the U.S. working hand in hand,” said Wang Leilei, CEO of Kongzhong Web and funder of the salvage efforts.
The wrecked plane crashed into Dianchi Lake in April 1942 during a training session. Only the pilot’s body was retrieved from the water at the time.
To narrow down the location of the plane, the salvage team spent several months talking to local residents and examining documents.
“The wreck has been underwater for a long time. It might have disintegrated,” said Zhang Liang, who heads a measurement team at the Shanghai Maritime Safety Administration.
Zhang, who is also in charge of the salvage efforts, said the team will use advanced equipment to locate the plane, although their efforts will take several weeks.
The Flying Tigers are highly recognized in China and the U.S. AVG members were invited to the Chinese mainland in 2005, when they met with former President Hu Jintao.
The Flying Tigers were also awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, a prestigious U.S. military honor.