Hainan — the Prequel

U.S. Air Force.

A U.S. Navy amphibian heads towards a dinghy carrying survivors of the Chinese attack.

In the summer of 1954, air-crew briefing rooms at Hong Kong's Kai Tak Airport were abuzz with reports of construction at an air base near Sanya, a town at the southern tip of China's Hainan island. To date, the runway had been all bitumen, a surface suited to propeller aircraft but given to melting if hit by jet exhausts. Suddenly, concrete sections appeared at each end. Pilots flying along aviation routes past Hainan could see new, jet-fighter-sized dispersal bays under construction. One Cathay Pacific Airways pilot suggested to a Hong Kong official that, in view of the apparent defense buildup, flight...

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