On Saturday, Harry Moyer is expected to climb into the cockpit of a restored Curtiss P-40N Warhawk and take to the skies over Livermore.
The former U.S. Army Air Forces Captain, who turned 99 last month, flew the same model single-engine fighter plane during WWII. His service during the war included a stint in China with the 14th Air Force under the command of Lt. Gen. Claire Chennault, leader of the famed American Volunteer Group, better known as the Flying Tigers.
“I represent a lot of people that went before me,” said Moyer, of San Luis Obispo. He’s an active pilot who tries to fly his 1963 Mooney a few times every week.
The Tigers were known for their unconventional tactics in combat and flew iconic P-40 fighters with large shark faces painted on the front of their planes. They operated out of Burma (Myanmar) and China from 1941 to 1942 and helped protect the wartime Chinese capital, Chongqing, against the much larger Japanese air force.
The demonstration this weekend is part of a Pearl Harbor Day commemoration and fundraiser that presents the public with an opportunity to meet Moyer and to learn about an important period in history. The flight is scheduled to happen around 1:30 p.m. Saturday, following remarks from Dublin Mayor David Haubert, who is helping to put on the event, and Wang Donghua, Consul General for the Chinese Consulate in San Francisco.
The event also presents an opportunity for people to learn about an enduring source of goodwill between the United States and China, said Jeff Green, executive director of the nonprofit Sino-American Aviation Heritage Foundation. “The Chinese still very much revere the idea of the Flying Tigers, the Americans who came when they were most needed,” he said.
The American Volunteer Group’s success against the Japanese helped boost morale and provided the Chinese people with hope for an Allied victory at a time when Americans were still reeling from the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, and most of China’s ports and transportation system were controlled by Japan.
On Sunday, Dec. 7, 1941, Moyer was headed home after playing football at a park when news of the Japanese sneak attack on Pearl Harbor arrived. He was a college student studying engineering at the University of Akron in Ohio, and had recently begun training to become a pilot with what was then known as the United States Army Air Forces.
During the next few years, he was rated as a fighter pilot and was deployed to combat overseas. He flew P-40s with the 33rd Fighter Group, 59th Fighter Squadron, in North Africa and Italy.
When his group was called to help with the war effort in China, Moyer said he had completed 79 missions. At 80, pilots were sent home. As a flight leader, Moyer had some pull, and used it to avoid an 80th mission in Europe because he wanted to fly in China before returning to the U.S. He got the opportunity he sought. In early 1944 his squadron departed Italy and came under the command of Chennault’s 14th Air Force. The 14th Air Force was a successor to the Flying Tigers and continued combat operations in China until the surrender of Japan.
Moyer put in orders to return stateside in September 1944, and served as a P-40 flight instructor in New Mexico until the war ended.
If rain does not prevent the flight on Saturday, this will be Moyer’s second time flying the plane. Last year, he jumped at the opportunity to check out and fly the P-40N that was restored by Chris Prevost, owner of Sonoma Valley Airport and Vintage Aircraft Co.
While Moyer has flown numerous fighter planes, including a P-51 Mustang, P-47 Thunderbolt and a captured German Messerschmitt Bf 109, he said the P-40 is still his favorite.
“Of all the fighters I flew, that was the one I liked most,” Moyer said.
Flying Tigers Pearl Harbor Tribute
Tickets for the lunch are $50; Dinner tickets, $100.
The ceremony, flight demonstration, symposium and documentary showing are free. Tickets can be purchased at the events or in advance.
More info: (818) 679-5596 or www.flyingtigersevent.eventbrite.com.
11:30 a.m. - VIP veterans lunch at Elevation, LVK, Livermore Municipal Airport Terminal, 680 Terminal Circle.
1:00 p.m. - Opening ceremony, remarks by Dublin Mayor David Haubert and Wang Donghua, Counsel General of the Chinese Consulate in San Francisco.
1:30 p.m. - Flight demonstration with WWII pilot Harry Moyer, and pilot and restored P-40 owner Chris Prevost, of Sonoma. The pair are scheduled to take off and make a number of passes along the length of the runway. Following the flight, an afternoon symposium and showing of a documentary are scheduled.
6:00 p.m. - VIP veterans dinner honoring the Flying Tigers at Koi Palace, 4288 Dublin Blvd. in Dublin.