By Tao Peng, contributor
The formal sister city relationship between Red Wing and Quzhou, China, has a history that dates back to 1994.
Why Red Wing, Minnesota? Actually, the story goes all the way back to WWII and the Dolittle Raiders -- an April 1942 U.S. mission that bombed Tokyo with B-25s launched off an aircraft carrier in the Pacific. After the bombing, the Dolittle Raiders - a select group of airmen under mission commander Lieutenant Colonel James H. Doolittle - were supposed to fly on to Chinese airfields to refuel.
However, the U.S. aircraft carrier encountered Japanese picket boats further east than expected, thereby forcing the B-25s to fly an additional 200 miles to complete the bombing mission. The Raiders crash-landed on the coast of China in Zhejiang province. Some landed near what is now Quzhou city, where the local Chinese villagers took in the surviving American pilots and hid them in a cave, eventually helping them get back to their U.S. posts.
A group of Red Wing history buffs went to Quzhou to learn more about the Dolittle Raiders and to see if they can salvage any left over artifacts. They were able to meet several villagers who had helped shelter the American airmen from the Japanese. They invited them to Red Wing. In 1994, the two cities came together in Sheldon Theater in Red Wing where the mayors from the two communities signed the agreement to allow the freedom for both communities to work together and grow together as sister cities.
On Oct. 13, 2014, the former Mayor of Red Wing, Romeo Cyr, will lead a seven-member delegation consisting of former exchange teachers, artists as well as representatives from the Sister City Commission, to travel to Quzhou. They will take part in the 20th sister-city anniversary celebration. The delegation will spend one week in Quzhou participating in different activities such as unveiling of a friendship garden, roundtable discussion of sister city relationship past, present and future, and kick off a joint art exhibit by exchange artists from both cities.
In past 20 years, both cities participated in the following initiatives:
Education, health, business, and friendship delegations to from each city
Student art contests
Student pen pals
Higher education exchange
In the words of former Mayor Cyr and leader of the 2014 delegation: “These exchanges have resulted in positive encounters with thousands of students and citizens from each city, and in many cases, individual relationships have been established.”
This delegation, the fourth since 1994, will be entrusted with renewing commitments between the two cities and establish goals for the next 20 years and beyond.
Tao Peng resides and works in Red Wing. He is also the vice chair of the Red Wing Sister Cities Commission. Born in China, Peng is fluent in Mandarin and English and will act as interpreter for the Red Wing delegation during the October visit to Quzhou.