So far it’s been a very eventful two days. We landed in Beijing at about 5:30am yesterday and went directly from the airplane to a bus that took us to a fancy room at the airport where we served drinks and posed for press photos while our passports were verified. I wish customs was always that friendly! I really wasn’t expecting it though, I still had bed hair from sleeping on the plane when we walked into this room full of photographers.
They also passed around a blank page book & marker so each veteran could write an entry – apparently this book will be on display at the airport in Beijing sometime in the near future.
After that it was off to the Grand Hyatt hotel in the center of Beijing. It’s a very nice place, definitely one of the fancier hotels I’ve been in. Security is very tight here, with police and military all over the place (not surprising considering that there are dozens of leaders of various countries in town right now). Just about everyone in the hotel is either hotel staff, government staff, WW2 vets & their family members, or photographers & reporters.
Shortly after we arrived at the hotel, we were whisked away to the CCTV building (CCTVC produces most of the television in China) where my grandfather and 2 other veterans were interviewed for a show called “Crossover”. The interview went quite well, especially since each of the veterans being interviewed played a different role in the CBI theater – Hump Pilots like my grandfather J.V. Vinyard (center) flew over the so-called “death route” to get supplies such as gas & munitions into China, transport pilots like Leroy Parramore (left) distributed the supplies, and members of the 14th Air Force like David Hayward (right) used those supplies to carry out combat missions.
The CCTV buidling is architecturally unique, I had already snapped several pictures of it on the way to the hotel and was quite surprised to find myself inside the place a few hours later.
I did manage to get a brief nap in before lunch which helped a bit with the jet lag, but I was still kind of out of it yesterday. Aside from the interview with CCTV, there are also numerous other interviews taking place within the hotel. I’ve already lost count of how many times my grandfather has been interviewed in the last 36 hours or so. I had intended to write more about yesterdays events last night while my memory was still (kind of) fresh, but at the end I was too exhausted to do anything but sleep.
Today I woke up early to accompany my grandfather to a medal awarding ceremony at the Great Hall of the People. Of all the American veterans in our group, my grandfather was selected to be awarded a medal directly from President Xi Jinping on behalf of the American veterans, which is quite an honor. I got to witness my grandfather receive the medal along with about 30 other veterans from China and other countries including Russia and India. It was an impressive ceremony, and the Great Hall certainly lives up to it’s name. All of the veterans in our group later recieved the same medal in a separate ceremony.
Unfortunately I was not able to take my camera along for this event, but there was an army of photographers present so I’m sure I can come up with some photos sooner or later.
Upon our return, more photo sessions & interviews including one with CBS that should actually air in the U.S. (most of these interviews are being conducted by Chinese media and won’t be seen state side). After that we got a bit of time to relax and rest which is good, because we’re going to need to be well rested. Tomorrow is the BIG DAY – the actual anniversary with a huge military parade, banquets and more. We’ll be going all day from early morning until around 10pm.
So far this has been an amazing experience – and it’s far from over.
On a side note, the Chinese government has gone to great lengths to ensure good air quality in Beijing for this event (including factory closures and restricting auto traffic) and it shows. You can see the mountains from central Beijing. It’s awesome.