TAIPEI — A B-26 Invader, a type of aircraft once in service in Taiwan’s Air Force, went on display Thursday in Kaohsiung, southern Taiwan in memory of those who died in the planes during high-risk secret missions over China.
The U.S.-made aircraft is part of an exchange program between the air force and a U.S. aviation museum.
Gen. Yen Ming, chief of the Air Force, said at the unveiling ceremony at the ROC Air Force Academy in Gangshan, Kaohsiung that the display of the B-26 represents an opportunity to recognize and memorialize the courageous military personnel who sacrificed their lives to protect the country.
Yen also expressed gratitude to Roger Kelsay, president of the Portland-based Classic Aircraft Aviation Museum, who initiated the project.
The B-26 arrived in Kaohsiung last month, where it was reassembled and repainted black like the ones used by the air force’s Black Bat Squadron, which was formed in 1958 and disbanded in 1974. It flew hundreds of missions, during which more than 100 airmen died.
During the Cold War, the aircraft were used for high-risk, nighttime, low-altitude sorties that included patrols over the Taiwan Strait, electronic countermeasures, reconnaissance and air-drops.
Asked why he proposed the exchange project, Kelsay — himself a former pilot — said that the “Black Bat guys did a wonderful job,” but noted that the museum in Taiwan did not have a B-26.
“We thought it would be a fitting memorial and tribute to these heroic guys,” Kelsay told CNA.
Members of the former Black Bat squadron also attended the unveiling ceremony.
“The B-26 was a useful aircraft for operating low-altitude missions,” said one of the ex-fliers, now in his early 80s.
“During those years, a lot of us died,” he added, teary-eyed.
“For many years, we were not allowed to talk about what we did and were unwilling to talk about the past,” he said.
As part of the exchange program, Taiwan will give two decommissioned warplanes — an F-5E and an F-5F — to the American museum in return.
For the next project with the U.S. museum, the Air Force will seek to make a swap for a P2V aircraft, which was also used by the squadron.