Remarks by Wang Chenghan, Member of the Duck Mission Team to Liberate the Weihsien Concentration Camp
(August 17th, 2015)
I remember: On Aug. 17, 1945 at 9:30 AM, I parachuted into a sorghum field, a few hundred meters away from the Weihsien Concentration Camp. I was the youngest of the 7 persons. In that year, I was only 20 years old. Among other members of the team, radio operator Peter Orlich was 21 years old while the other five were between 25 and 29 years old.
In those days, I just undertook a little work in the camp, as English-Japanese interpreter Tad Nagaki undertook the task of negotiating and contacting with the Japanese. My task was dealing with the interpretation related to Chinese people.
As with other mission teams named after birds, the “Duck Mission Team” was affiliated with O.S.S. China Headquarters(O.S.S.), i.e., the predecessor of Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). There were four work teams subordinate to it, namely, Special Operation (S.O.), Special Intelligence (S.I.), Morale Operation (M.O.) and School & Training (S&T).
I was graduated after studying in the “Interpreter Training Class of the Bureau of Foreign Affairs” in Chongqing for 25 days. On Apr. 25, 1945, I was sent to the “Interpreters’ Pool” in Kunming, and selected in S.O. by O.S.S. In Aug., shortly after I returned to O.S.S Headquarters in Kunming, Japan surrendered. I was reappointed to S.I. and transferred to a mission team led by Major Stanley Staiger.
To avoid Japan taking deadly revenge against the foreign nationals in the camp after it failed and surrendered, the primary task of the armies was rescuing the imprisoned foreign nationals and prisoners of war. On Aug. 16, 1945, our team flew from Kunming to the Forward Echelon. The next morning when we arrived at the Xi'an Airport, we finally knew that the task of our team was liberating foreign nationals in the Weihsien Concentration Camp. In the meantime, three mission teams respectively went to Shenyang, Beijing and Hainan Island to execute the same task.
Wearing parachutes, we boarded B-24 to Weihsien. We only knew our destination was the Weihsien Concentration Camp but did not know its specific location. So, our aircraft had to hover 2,000ft high in the sky, searching around the urban area of Weihsien. As we could not see the things below, the aircraft had to lower the flight altitude to 1,000ft, then to 500ft. Then, we found the airfield runway aboveground, as well as barrier walls, electrified wire netting and the compound surrounded by blockhouses, and saw a lot of people waving their shirts. We knew we had arrived above the camp. The major arranged the order of parachuting. He was the first one while I was the fifth one. Though the parachute could automatically puff out, I still felt a strong current of air knocking me out as I began parachuting. After my parachute puffed out, I finally realized that I was going to land in a sorghum field.
The 7 of us quickly gathered together, heavily-armed, planning to enter the camp. At that moment, many foreign nationals had rushed out of the gate. Without being stopped by the Japanese guards, they directly carried us through the gate. It was unexpected to us.
There were about 1,500 foreign nationals imprisoned in the camp. They had established an autonomous committee early. That day, our team members and the main members of the autonomous committee negotiated with the Japanese senior management, mainly requesting the Japanese to still take charge of the safety of the camp for the time being and provide material supplies for foreign nationals and requesting them to hand over the internal affairs of the camp to our team and the autonomous committee. Moreover, we required the Japanese to vacate their residence for the use of the team members.
The work schedule of the Duck Mission Team was packed. For the sake of the future take-off and landing of the aircraft, our team checked the airfield runway that afternoon, examined the medical conditions and the conditions of patients in the hospital, and installed communication facilities. The major discussed with the autonomous committee on how to solve the existing problems, etc. of the camp under the new situation.
On Aug. 27, ten B-29 large bombers flying from the U.S. military base in Okinawa airdropped a large quantity of necessities which mainly included foods, medicine, clothing and other articles for the foreign nationals. Then, such necessities were distributed to them. On Aug. 30, a team of over 20 men led by U.S. Colonel Weinberg came to the camp and took over the matter of sending the foreign nationals back to their countries. Then, the team belonged to Service of Supply (S.O.S.). After completing the handover procedures, our Duck Mission Team basically completed our mission.
(Provided by Sui Shude, Weifang Foreign Affairs Office)