China's Wings: War, Intrigue, Romance, and Adventure in the Middle Kingdom During the Golden Age of Flight

China's Wings: War, Intrigue, Romance, and Adventure in the Middle Kingdom During the Golden Age of Flight

Gregory Crouch

Language: English

Pages: 528

ISBN: 0553804278

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

From the acclaimed author of Enduring Patagonia comes a dazzling tale of aerial adventure set against the roiling backdrop of war in Asia. The incredible real-life saga of the flying band of brothers who opened the skies over China in the years leading up to World War II—and boldly safeguarded them during that conflict—China’s Wings is one of the most exhilarating untold chapters in the annals of flight.
At the center of the maelstrom is the book’s courtly, laconic protagonist, American aviation executive William Langhorne Bond. In search of adventure, he arrives in Nationalist China in 1931, charged with turning around the turbulent nation’s flagging airline business, the China National Aviation Corporation (CNAC). The mission will take him to the wild and lawless frontiers of commercial aviation: into cockpits with daredevil pilots flying—sometimes literally—on a wing and a prayer; into the dangerous maze of Chinese politics, where scheming warlords and volatile military officers jockey for advantage; and into the boardrooms, backrooms, and corridors of power inhabited by such outsized figures as Generalissimo and Madame Chiang Kai-shek; President Franklin Delano Roosevelt; foreign minister T. V. Soong; Generals Arnold, Stilwell, and Marshall; and legendary Pan American Airways founder Juan Trippe.
With the outbreak of full-scale war in 1941, Bond and CNAC are transformed from uneasy spectators to active participants in the struggle against Axis imperialism. Drawing on meticulous research, primary sources, and extensive personal interviews with participants, Gregory Crouch offers harrowing accounts of brutal bombing runs and heroic evacuations, as the fight to keep one airline flying becomes part of the larger struggle for China’s survival. He plunges us into a world of perilous night flights, emergency water landings, and the constant threat of predatory Japanese warplanes. When Japanese forces capture Burma and blockade China’s only overland supply route, Bond and his pilots must battle shortages of airplanes, personnel, and spare parts to airlift supplies over an untried five-hundred-mile-long aerial gauntlet high above the Himalayas—the infamous “Hump”—pioneering one of the most celebrated endeavors in aviation history.
A hero’s-eye view of history in the grand tradition of Lynne Olson’s Citizens of London, China’s Wings takes readers on a mesmerizing journey to a time and place that reshaped the modern world.











and the airline was already off the canvas. Every man had a job and was doing it beautifully. Bond left Sharp and Soldinski to sweat the details. He needed to see Madame Kung, who had a suite at the Gloucester Hotel on Hong Kong Island, above the CNAC office he’d rushed through early that morning. There didn’t seem to be any Japanese planes aloft, and a mechanic agreed to ferry Bond across the harbor in a motor launch Pan Am maintained to service the flying boats, but the launch’s water pump

goods and businesses, which did immense damage to Japanese financial interests. Chiang Kai-shek didn’t feel strong enough to provoke full-scale confrontation, but the quasi-independent Nineteenth Route Army marched into Shanghai in the last week of January to give teeth to the boycott.* At midnight on January 29, 1932, Japanese marines attacked Chinese positions under an intense barrage fired from warships in the Whangpoo. CNAC made one last round-trip flight from Shanghai to Nanking and

London: Bison Books, 1982. Boyington, Gregory. Baa Baa Black Sheep. New York: Putnam, 1958, reissued by Bantam, 1977. ———. Tonya. New York: Bobbs-Merrill, 1960. Boyle, John Hunter. China and Japan at War, 1937–1945: The Politics of Collaboration. Palo Alto, CA: Stanford University Press, 1972. Bradley, James. Flyboys: A True Story of Courage. New York: Little, Brown, 2003. Brereton, Lieutenant General Lewis H. The Brereton Diaries: 3 October 1941–8 May 1945. New York: William Morrow, 1946.

spring morning. Rain and mist swirled through narrow, twisting alleys, wetting the raw sewage that putrefied in garbage-choked gutters. Chickens and squealing pigs dashed past open storefronts. The tangy smells of spicy Szechwan cuisine sizzling in alley-side cookeries mingled with the cloying scent of opium wafted by local addicts. Mr. Chapelain went off to conduct post office business. Four squads of sedan-chair coolies toted Bond, Bixby, Allison, and P. Y. Wong up and down dank, smooth-worn

Chen would never fly for him again. Bond balanced his ire with thoughts of Moon Chin’s splendid courage. As usual after weathering a storm, Bond’s mind turned to Kitsi. She’d be reading the newspapers. He cabled to let her know the fact that everyone in the company was alive and well, and that afternoon, while Hugh Chen waited outside his office door, Bond wrote her an exquisitely detailed letter describing the events of the preceding days. Finished, long after Hugh Chen had abandoned his wait

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