Legacy of Flying Tigers lives on at UWF

By Anna Smith
Staff writer

The University of West Florida’s Confucius Institute presented The Legacy of the Flying Tigers event on Sept. 19 in the Commons Auditorium to commemorate WWII Fighter Pilot James
Reese on his 100th birthday.

Master of Ceremonies, Capt. Linda McCullough, provided an introduction which was followed by a presentation of colors by UWF’s Air Force ROTC and Army ROTC.

The National Anthem was sung by Morgan Seip. Reese stood with his hand over his heart for the entire song.

Other speakers included Kim LeDuff, vice president of academic engagement; George Ellenburg, senior vice president of UWF; Vernon Stewart, public information officer for the city
of Pensacola;, and Consul General Qiangmin Li, the consul general of the People’s Republic of China out of Houston.

The keynote speaker was Capt. Dan Jackson, who has traveled to China with the help of UWF to research America’s missing airmen from WWII.

“The story of cooperation between the United States and China then is important as a touchstone for our relationship now,”  Jackson said. “Regardless of your opinion on China, you
cannot deny the importance of the relationship between the world’s two largest economies. There is enormous potential for the United States and China, working together, to do good in the world. They have proven it through their partnership seventy-five years ago.

“If they could change the world then in history’s most horrible war, they can continue to make it better today.”

The Flying Tigers was the first American Volunteer Group for the Chinese Air Force in 1941. It included Navy, Marines, and Army Air Corps. The mission was to combine forces against the
Japanese. James Reese was a Flying Tiger.

“His normal and happy life was drastically altered on Dec. 7, 1941, the day Japan attacked Pearl Harbor,” Kuiyuan Li wrote in “Pensacola History Illustrated.” “Immediately following the attack, the entire wrestling team left to join the US armed forces.

“He was a gifted fighter plane pilot who successfully executed several impossible combat missions, thought he several times almost lost his life. Chinese always remember those who helped them during WWII. Americans should also remember those who fought for America and world peace. That is the reason we had this event.”

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James Reese shakes the hands of guests at the Flying Tigers event celebrating his 100th birthday. (Photo by Anna smith)

Stewart said that Pensacola is the legal, cultural, educational, and economic center of Northwest Florida.

“It is an honor to be here today and on behalf of the City of Pensacola we want to thank the Confucius Institute for their work and we wish them continued success,” Stewart said.

Qiangmin Li spoke of the importance of a relationship in education between China and America.

The Confucius Institute at UWF offers students an opportunity to travel to China every summer in an effort to build on the relationship that began in WWII between China and America.

Various levels of travel scholarships are available to qualifying students who are interested.

Contact Kuiyuan Li at 474-2287 or at kli@uwf.edu for more information about the 2018 Summer Adventure in China.