On November 19, Director-General and Mrs. Scott Lai of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Boston were invited to attend a yearly dinner of the Rhode Island Aviation Hall of Fame (RIAHOF) in Cranston, Rhode Island. At the dinner, he paid respects to the heroic Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Charles E. Griffith and his descendants. Lt. Col. Griffith was a member of the “Flying Tigers,” a former American military unit that augmented China’s wartime efforts.
On behalf of the government and people of the Republic of China (Taiwan), Director-General. Lai expressed gratitude to the Flying Tigers, led by Gen. Claire Chennault, for their assistance to the R.O.C. during World War II. While serving, Lt. Col. Griffith flew over 100 aerial combat missions in China, in which he took down several Japanese warplanes and sank an enemy gunboat. Mr. Griffith received many special honors, such as the Air Medals, the Presidential Unit Citation, and the Distinguished Flying Cross. In the end, unfortunately his life was cut short as he did not live to see the Allied victory. On December 18, 1944, he was killed at a landing accident at the Luliang Air Force Base in Yunnan, China.
Director-General Lai praised Lt. Col. Griffith as an elite fighter and a true war hero, affirming that the R.O.C. will never forget the sacrifices he and the other Flying Tigers made. “The R.O.C. and the U.S. share many values, including democracy, freedom, and human rights, and the two counties strive for a more peaceful world,” Director-General Lai said.
According to RIAHOF, on November 10, 1944, Lt. Col Griffith received the outstanding U.S. Air Force Distinguished Flying Cross Award. On it is written, “…for extra ordinary achievement in aerial flight against the enemy. He is credited with inflicting heavy losses on the enemy in material and personnel, although his missions frequently extended into areas where the enemy maintained numerically superior aerial forces. Fire from enemy ground installations and hostile aircraft were encountered on many flights, but he carried out his assigned mission with efficiency and coolness.” After Lt. Col. Griffith passed away, he was buried at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.
The Rhode Island Aviation Hall of Fame, a non-profit organization, was established by retired Navy pilot Frank Lennon in 2003 to honor civil and aviation personnel from Rhode Island. The organization has honored seven members of the Flying Tigers for their service in China during World War II.
In addition to Mr. and Mrs. Lai, Raymond Shih, President of the R.O.C. Veterans’ Association in Boston, and John Chu, the TECO-Boston’s Press Director, also participated. There was a screening of “The Flying Tigers,” a documentary distributed by R.O.C. Public Television Group about the military unit and its history, as well as the friendship between the R.O.C. and the U.S. in WWII.