100 year old ‘Flying Tiger’ Harry Moyer Still Flies Every Week

Credit: Xinhua Gao Shan

If you are a healthy, vibrant World War II veteran pilot, how would you choose to spend your 100th Birthday? Harry Moyer is just such a veteran, and he decided to spend it amongst the clouds and make a solo flight in his Mooney Mk-21 airplane.

The birthday celebration to mark his centennial was hosted by the Sino-American Aviation Heritage Foundation at San Luis Obispo County Regional Airport. Here he, his family, and friends enjoyed the auspicious occasion.

Harry took off promptly at noon and circled the airfield twice, dipping his wings playfully at the crowd of well wishers on the ground. He landed safely, and with the video recording of his flight in the bag, his family is waiting for confirmation from Guinness World Records that he is the oldest licensed pilot to undertake a solo flight.

Moyer was not fazed by his flight and said, “I think it would probably be a little bit more for my family rather than for me. Maybe they want to say, ‘Grandpa did this’ or something like that.”

Moyer celebrates after his flight in a Mooney MK 21. Image by Xinhua Gao Shan.
Moyer celebrates after his flight in a Mooney MK 21. Image by Xinhua Gao Shan.

In 1942, Moyer joined the U.S. Army Air Corps and appeared in dispatches for meritorious service in North Africa, then during the liberation of Italy and Sicily, and finally in China.

With the liberation of Italy, Moyer was due to return home, but he had heard that General Claire Lee Chennault was looking for pilots to join him flying in China. Harry had always felt a connection to China and did not hesitate to join Chennault. Moyer had a great deal of respect for Chennault and thought that he was a visionary leader.

While growing up, Harry’s father has Chinese friends that owned a restaurant, and he and the restaurant owner’s son became friends. This friendship, coupled with him reading “The Good Earth,” written by the Nobel and Pulitzer Prize-winning author, Pearl S Buck, gave him a deep passion for visiting China. Flying with Chennault was to give him that chance.

In 1944, the squadron that Moyer was flying with joined the 23rd Fighter Group of the 14th Air Force in China. This new grouping was known as the Flying Tigers, and their primary task was to protect the airfields that housed B-29 bombers that flew attack missions to Japan.

Moyer said of his time flying in China, “I really respected the man and his farsighted fighter tactics. I was so happy to be able to work with him and the Chinese. That was the highlight of my flying career. It was wartime, so we had a hard time over there, but nothing compared to the suffering the Chinese had to bear from the indiscriminate bombing raids of the Japanese.”

His birthday party was attended by several dignitaries. He received messages of goodwill from all corners of the globe.  The chairman of the Sino-American Aviation Heritage Foundation, who hosted the event, Jeffrey Greene, said that Moyer was a hero to the American people and a hero to the Chinese.

Harry Moyer sits with photos of himself and WWII aircraft. Photo by Zeng Hui Xinhua
Harry Moyer sits with photos of himself and WWII aircraft. Photo by Zeng Hui Xinhua

This was supported by a message from the Chinese Consul general in Los Angeles, Zhang Ping, who emphasized the Flying Tigers’ contribution to the victory enjoyed by the Chinese people, and that the Chinese would always remember and cherish the bravery and sacrifices made by the Tigers.

The Chinese consul general in San Francisco, Wang Donghua, said Moyer was a living witness to China and the United States’ friendship. He went on to say that the history of the Flying Tigers was an essential chapter in US-China relations.

Moyer agreed with this sentiment and believes that the bond forged by the Flying Tigers must be maintained as it was developed in honor and blood.

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Moyer ended by asking the public to donate to charities that support veterans.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE