For all that I’ve written about Moon Chin since I started this China’s Wings website last year, he’s not my main character. That distinction goes to William Langhorne Bond.
Like Moon, Bond was truly a remarkable man, and although I never had the opportunity to meet him (he died on July 17, 1985, when I was just starting my second year at West Point), he left behind a large collection of letters, interviews, and the handwritten manuscript of a book. Bond’s letters are especially good, for he wrote with clarity and elan, often in exquisite detail, recounting stories, jokes, and pithy asides, and his correspondence with Harold Bixby and Stokely Morgan at Pan Am headquarters in the Chrysler Building and with his wife Kitsi, who was often in Washington, DC, provided the lion’s share of the source material from which I reconstructed his incredible story.
A 37-year old former heavy construction foreman from Petersburg, Virginia, William Langhorne Bond arrived in China on March 17, 1931, Saint Patrick’s Day, to take a job as the Operations Manager of the China National Aviation Corporation. He didn’t know it, not then, but CNAC and the Middle Kingdom would dominate the next twenty years of his life.