Fleeing Shanghai, August 1937: Moon Chin’s wife cheats death

China's WingsBack to the Battle of Shanghai, another China’s Wings outtake, and the story of how Moon Chin’s wife very nearly didn’t escape the city… This one picks up from the end of “One DC-2 gets wrecked & Moon Chin saves another” I posted on Tuesday:

Considering the rudimentary communications of China and the colossal battle breaking loose in Shanghai’s northern districts, Moon Chin hadn’t been able to communicate with his wife, Elsie, who was still trapped in Shanghai. On her own initiative, Elsie Chin decided to flee the city. She shoved her way to the Shanghai-Nanking railway at a station west of Chapei. It was jammed with terrified civilians. A train began pushing out from the platform. Somebody said it’d be the last one, and it was absolutely crammed full. Its rooftops were just as packed as the carriage interiors. Elsie dropped her bag and rushed it, grabbing at the door of one of the last cars, but even the stairs into the carriage were full.  She clung on outside the door. Only her toes held the edge of the bottom step, and the train picked up speed. Time and again the crowd in the carriage above Elsie surged and shoved and recoiled down the stairs. Each time the crush of people pushed against her and she fought to hold on, but her grip weakened. She’d be injured or killed if she fell. The crowd pressed her again, and her grip failed.

Just as she lost her grip on the speeding train, an anonymous arm reached through an open window and hauled her inside to safety.

Moon and Elsie Chin
Moon and Elsie Chin

Elsie looked for Moon Chin at the Nanking airport. He wasn’t there. The last that CNAC’s Nanking staff had heard, Moon Chin was in Hankow. CNAC flew her upriver, but Moon wasn’t in Hankow, either. He’d already gone to Chungking and Chengtu, even further westward. The operations staff passed radio messages between them. They finally met in Chengtu, the city they’d left only a month before, and enjoyed a composed airfield reunion, Chinese fashion, without emotional display. Moon Chin went back to maintaining his old route, Chengtu to Chungking in a Stinson Detroiter, just as he’d done before the outbreak of war.

Stinson Detroiter
One of CNAC’s Stinson Detroiters

The families of the airline’s other Chinese and Chinese-American staff members suffered similar adventures escaping Shanghai. Behind them, the fighting continued to escalate.

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Elsie Chin’s escape from Shanghai: Author’s interviews with Moon Chin, April 19, 2006.



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