By Stuart Leavenworth
McClatchy Washington Bureau (TNS)
An undated portrait of pilot Long Qiming’s early family sits in the apartment of Long Wenjun, his eldest son, in Chongqing, China, on Aug. 13, 2015. Qiming helped defend China, his adopted homeland, endure World War II by flying cargo planes over the Himalayas to resupply the Chinese resistance to Japan. Pictured in this portait are Long Qiming, right, his wife, Peng Tianming, and Long Wenjun. (Yue Wu/McClatchy/TNS)
CHONGQING, China – By all accounts, Long Qiming was a Chinese hero during World War II. He piloted cargo planes over the Himalayas, helping to resupply China after Japan’s military had cut off land routes into the country’s interior.
Yet after WWII and the founding of the People’s Republic of China, Long paid a harsh price for his decision to stay in his adopted homeland, mainland China. Long was born in Hong Kong, so he held a British passport. He also had flown planes for the 14th Air Force Chinese-American Composite Wing, an arm of China’s nationalist government.
When Mao Zedong and his Communist Party seized power in China, both of these connections _ Long’s British passport and his collaboration with U.S. and nationalist forces _ came into question. At the start of China’s Cultural Revolution, the government stopped treating him like a war hero. Instead, according to his son, Long Wenjun, “they thought he was a spy.”
In a recent interview at his Chongqing apartment, Long Wenjun recounted the ups and downs of his father’s roller coaster life. From an early age, his father was a refugee, then a war hero, then an outcast and finally a hero again.