(Xinhua) December 13 marks what would have been the 100th birthday of Carl Kice Brown, the last Flying Tiger pilot, who passed away peacefully at his home in Corcoran, California, three months ago.
"He had been doing well and then suddenly took a turn for the worse at the end of August and passed Sept. 8, 2017," said Julia Brown, one of the late pilot's daughters, in an email to Xinhua.
Born in 1917, Brown attended Michigan State University until 1939, when he suspended his studies to join the U.S. Navy.
In 1941, close to 300 young Americans registered to join the American Volunteer Group (AVG) and were deployed to Asia.
Organized and commanded by Claire Lee Chennault, the AVG, which came to be known as the "Flying Tigers," was a volunteer band of about 300 pilots and ground staff whose sole purpose was to help China fight invading Japanese troops before the United States officially entered WWII.
Through the introduction of his friend Tex Hill, who would go on to become an AVG squadron leader, Brown received an honorable discharge from the Navy and signed up for the AVG.
"Most of the pilots were just two to three years out of high school," Brown recalled earlier this year.
Brown participated in the Flying Tigers' first battle on Dec. 20 that year. The fighting took place over Kunming in southwest China and brought down nine Japanese planes.
According to a tribute provided by his family, Brown also took part in a mission over the Nujiang River, during which double ace pilot Bob Little was killed while flying on his wing.
After the AVG disbanded in July 1942, Brown flew as a pilot transporting supplies between India and China on a dangerous but crucial airlift route over the Himalayas.
"My father indicated that he was honored to do his duty and help the Chinese people during the war. My father spoke fondly of the Chinese people," Julia told Xinhua. Brown still drank Tsingtao beer when he was 98 years old.