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COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) -

It's been 70 years since volunteers from the U.S. military were called on to defend China from the advancing Japanese army.

Airplane crew chief Ed Stiles was there, but finds that almost hard to believe. "Seventy years?" he said, "it seems like 170 years."

The group became known as the Flying Tigers, and surviving members were honored recently at the National Infantry Museum in Columbus, Ga.

Three hundred men began the adventure in 1941, before Pearl Harbor, but only a handful are still living.

"I think there are six of us left now", said Ed Losonsky, who now makes his home in Columbus. "Yeah, and two of them are in bad shape."

The Detroit native also served as a crew chief for the P-40s used in missions over Burma and southern China. He remembers the period fondly. "It was the best year of my life, because I was making good money."

You may ask what good money was in 1941. "The pilots were getting 600" (dollars), said Losonsky, "and the crew chiefs were getting 350. It just was a good time for me, really."

Losonsky just turned 92, but he's not the oldest member of the group. That honor belongs to 97-year old Joe Poshefko, an airplane armaments

Chief, who is quick to tell you what an important role the Flying Tigers played.

"We kept two Japanese divisions from crossing the Salween River or they would have conquered southern China and shut off all Allied help" said Poshefko.

"And we stopped two divisions by bombing them and strafing them." He even emphasized the date of that action, stating confidently, "May 1942."

By the way, the next generation is carrying on the tradition.

Frank Losonsky's son Chris makes sure artwork highlighting the Flying Tigers is prominently displayed in his Columbus restaurant.

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