China’s Wings and Craig and Harold Chinn

Here’s Craig Chinn holding a portrait of his father, CNAC pilot Harold Chinn, and surrounded by the twelve copies of China’s Wings he has bought as gifts for friends and family. Craig lives close by, and I drove to his house yesterday to sign and dedicate the books, four of which he’s going to give away at a dinner party this Friday.

I spent several happy and fascinating hours interviewing Harold Chinn before he passed away. Even though Harold was having a hard time managing the present during those interviews, he had clear memories of his CNAC adventures and gave me a vivid recollection of what happened in the hallway of the Chuen Yien Bank Building during the air raid on Chungking on the night of May 25, 1939, when a Japanese bomb-shard sliced into Joe Shen’s back (pp. 203 of China’s Wings). Another bit of shrapel hit Harold in the ankle, but the wound was minor, and in the context of that night he described it as, “Minor. Nothing. Hardly worth mentioning,” and went right back to talking about what he, Joy Thom, and several others were doing to help Joe Shen, whose wound was grave.

There weren’t many pilots who stuck with CNAC through the company’s entire war (1937-1945), and of those few that did, many of the Caucasian pilots moved into positions that were mostly management. Not so Harold Chinn. Like Moon Chin, he was in the cockpit the entire time.


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