LAS VEGAS, the United States, May 12 (Xinhua) -- 93-year-old Melvin McMullen from San Bernardino, the U.S. state of California, has a lifelong wish that is far more than just ordinary.
"My expectations are always that we continue to be friends," the former pilot gunner, who joined the Flying Tigers in 1944, told Xinhua on the sidelines of the 4th Sino-American Second World War Friendship and Flying Tiger History Conference held here on Friday and Saturday.
The Flying Tigers veteran, who drove all the way to attend the event, emphasized the urgency to continue U.S.-China friendship which secured a joint victory more than seven decades ago.
"We should remember that we had shared experiences that helped both of us in the past and there's no reason that we shouldn't continue doing that," he added.
The Flying Tigers, a U.S. air squadron composed of pilots from the United States Army Air Corps, Navy, and Marine Corps, helped the Chinese fight Japanese invaders in World War II (WWII).
The devastating war almost got everyone involved across the world, said McMullen, calling on people to cherish the hard-won peace.
Throughout WWII, China was a major battlefield in the fight against Japanese fascist invasion and a major Asian battlefield in the war against fascists worldwide. China fought shoulder by shoulder with other allied forces against fascism.
The shared U.S.-China experience during that period has been widely recognized as a great success story of mutual friendship, respect and collaboration.
"Remembering the times that we were very close friends and helping each other, those are the things that we should always keep in mind, because the world changes but friendship stays," the veteran noted.
McMullen was echoed by others on the significance of valuing the bilateral relationship.
"China and the United States, we have the capability of having world peace if we can just work together and agree on what should they do and never fight each other," said Jay Vinyard, 95, one of the eight Flying Tigers veterans who attended the event.
In early 1944, the then-20-year-old pilot was assigned to fly "the Hump," a vital and dangerous airlift route over the Himalayas and the primary way the Allies supplied China between 1942 and 1945.
With their heroic efforts and huge sacrifice, these American Flying Tigers fought for years with the Chinese people side by side in life-and-death battles.
Vinyard underscored the deep friendship and cooperation the two peoples forged during the Chinese People's War of Resistance against Japanese Aggression and the World Anti-Fascist War.
"It is to the credit of Chinese people that they made a warning system and it was very effective, and they kept a close watch out to help any American pilot that was shot down," said Vinyard, recounting remarkable examples of the bilateral collaboration during the period.
"History shows that if two peoples are willing to work together, they can accomplish great things," he noted.
Prior to the 2015 V-Day parade in Beijing, China awarded Vinyard a medal for his services. The veteran said it was one of his most precious items which he would bring with on occasions he viewed as special.
Wearing a blue baseball cap emblazoned with the words "Flying Tigers," David Hayward told Xinhua "the Americans and the Chinese represent the two most significant nations of the world, and it is up to us to be friends continuously and to do all we can to make civilization a success on the earth."
The retiree, who lives in Los Angeles, flew more than 50 combat missions in a B-25 bomber between 1943 and 1944.
Describing himself as a "humble man," Hayward said he was fortunate to survive the war and felt honored to be part of the mission.
Hayward attended the conference in the company of his son and had a surprise 97th birthday Saturday, featuring a chorus of birthday songs in English and Chinese by more than 100 attendees at the event.
The two-day conference was co-organized by the Sino-American Aviation Heritage Foundation and the Chinese People's Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries (CPAFFC).
Xie Yuan, vice president of the CPAFFC, noted the importance of reviewing the history created and shared by the two peoples and passing on the friendship to create a shared future, especially on the occasion of the four-decade milestone in China-U.S. diplomatic ties.
"I believe it will be a good source of inspiration for us, guide us to a better path of the China-U.S. relationship and move it forward for the benefit of our peoples and of the entire international community," Xie said.