WALLA WALLA -- A group of Chine
se citizens from the city where Gen. Jonathan M. Wainwright was once held prisoner paid their respects to the now-departed warrior Tuesday.
Led by Yang Jing, a professor at Shenyang University in the city of Liaoyuan, the quartet was on the first stop of a research trip to collect information and artifacts connected with Wainwright's life for a project to preserve the prisoner of war camp the general, a Walla Walla native, was held during World War II.
As part of their visit, Jing and his companions, Wei Dong, Cheng Yu and Wang Enxiang, placed a wreath at the general's statue located in the center of the Veterans Affairs medical center that bears Wainwright's name. The group then visited Fort Walla Walla Museum, where they were presented with artifacts connected with Wainwright's service career.
Jing said the preservation project is intended to create both a memorial to the prisoners held captive as well serve as a center for research and education of the role Manchuria, where Liaoyuan is located, played in World War II.
The allied commander in the Philippines at the outset of the war, Wainwright was forced to surrender when his forces were cut off by the invading Japanese army and navy. As the highest-ranking American prisoner of war, he was moved frequently during his captivity to camps in northern Luzon, Formosa and finally Manchuria until his liberation by the Red Army in August 1945.
The camp in Jilan Province, where Liaoyuan is located, was very important to the Japanese because besides Wainwright it held many other high-ranking British, Dutch and Australian officers, Jing said.
After arriving in Seattle, the group was driven to Walla Walla on Monday and had dinner with local officials. On Tuesday morning, Walla Walla Mayor Barbara Clark and her husband, Dan Clark, accompanied the group on a brief tour of the area before going to the medical center for the wreath-laying.
In her remarks to the group, Clark noted that China and America were brought together as allies "at such a terrible time" and fought side by side. "And here, almost 70 years later, that has brought our two peoples together in Walla Walla and Liaoyuan. Who would have thought of that?"
Following their visit to Fort Walla Walla Museum, the group was treated to lunch and then boarded a flight for the next stage of their journey to Phoenix, where they will meet with several of Wainwright's surviving relatives. They will then fly to Golden, Colo., to meet with the officer who parachuted into the country to deliver news of the Japanese surrender to Wainwright's captors, who had not yet learned of the end of the war.
The final stop in the tour, which is being sponsored by the provincial and national government, will be Washington D.C., where the group will visit Wainwright's grave at Arlington National Cemetery and do further research at the National Archives.
Andy Porter can be reached at email@example.com or 526-8318.
The group visiting Tuesday were:
Yang Jing, professor at Shenyang University in the city of Liaoyuan.
Wei Dong, chief of the historical relics administration for the city of Liaoyuan.
Cheng Yu, director of the cultural bureau for the city.
Wang Enxiang, director of the publishing department for the municipal Communist Party Committee.