An inconspicuous news story appeared on the Internet yesterday. It was a report of the death of Yeh Chang-di.
Major Yeh Chang-di (1933-2016), a former Republic of China Air Force U-2 pilot, who was shot down by People’s Liberation Army anti-aircraft missile on November 1, 1963 while flying a reconnaissance mission over Jiang-xi province. Bailing out successfully but seriously wounded, Yeh was taken prisoner and held in mainland China for almost 30 years.
In 1982 Yeh and another held pilot were approved to leave China. However, out of propaganda consideration, Taiwan authorities refused to let them come back home.
Fortunately, the CIA intervened and took these two pilots to live in the United States, for it was originally a CIA plan to supply the ROC government in Taiwan with U-2 planes to spy on Communist China during the Cold War era of late 1950s.
It was not until 1990 that Yeh and his compatriot were allowed to return to Taiwan after a series of news coverage on the secret ‘Black Cat Squadron’ of the 60s that caused public attention.
None of the local print media reported his death. Major Yeh was a hero. Even the two sides of the Taiwan Strait were not as belligerent as ever, he still deserved more of our respect. If not for the sacrifice of the major and other brave flyers, we could never enjoy our democracy as we do now.