Interview with General Stilwell’s Great-Granddaughters, Susan and Nancy
Returning to Chongqing to Witness the Lasting Friendship of Chinese and American People After 20 Years
Bt Yang Yan and Tang Anbing/The World and Chongqing
On August 8, the media interviewed Susan Cole and Nancy Millward, great-granddaughters of General Stilwell, who came to Chongqing for the Commemorating Events of the 140th Birth Anniversary of General Stilwell. After 20 years, Susan and Nancy returned with their families to the mountain city of Chongqing, where General Stilwell once worked and fought for peace, to witness the lasting friendship between the Chinese and American people.
On this trip, Susan and Nancy were very much touched when they visited the “A Great Friend – Photo Exhibition on General Stilwell’s Life”. As the guide told Stilwell’s stories, the precious photos brought his extraordinary years in China to life.
Susan believes that many of the stories presented in the photo exhibition show the gentle side of her maternal great-grandfather. “So, when he [Stilwell] was training them, and when he went to the front line and he was really with the Chinese Soldier.” To Nancy, that’s the most touching. “I really appreciate that he thought of the wounded soldiers and vocations they would need when they returned home after the war and made sure they could be taken care of as well.”
Looking Forward to Growing Friendship with the Chinese People
General Stilwell’s family has carried on the friendship between the people of China and the United States and has been committed to friendly exchanges. General Stilwell’s daughter started the Stilwell Scholarship in the 1980s, a program that has funded more than 50 Chinese students to study in the United States.
Nancy said her family helped prepare the “National Memories” photo exhibition. The exhibition was staged in China and the United States to give the public a deeper understanding of the national memory of China and the United States, which crossed the ocean and fought side by side in the China-Burma-India Theater during World War II. “…we are at the ready to continue to do what we can in order to foster the relationship. I think, especially these days, it’s extra important to have good relations between the U.S. and China. We are absolutely delighted to be here to be the stewards of the legacy of General Stilwell and grow these friendships.”
People-to-people exchanges can promote mutual understanding. Susan and Nancy believe, “…being able to introduce our children to the city and to the people has been very meaningful for us. When you’re in America and you teach them about your family, history and legacy, it’s very different because you’re in America and you’re very far away, but being here, where General Stilwell worked and lived, it just brings a whole new perspective to it for our children.”
At the Stilwell Museum in Chongqing, the offspring of General Stilwell and Comrade Zhu De planted a “friendship tree” that represents the lasting friendship between the Chinese and American peoples. “I think I can speak for my sister and myself that we have a lot of pride in our family, especially our great-grandfather General Stilwell. Being back here in Chongqing, where he spent time during the war, to see where he lived and where his headquarters was, as many times as we’ve been here, it is always very emotional for us to come here and to continue the legacy that he started all those years ago to continue to build a friendship with the Chinese people.” Nancy said, “we feel a lot of gratitude and appreciation for being able to be here and continue the friendship with the Chinese people.”
One Thing Unchanged: The Warmth of the Chongqing People
Susan and Nancy have been to China many times before. Their first visit to Chongqing in 1987 with their grandmother and a group of 15 members of the Stilwell family opened a door for them to understand the people of China and the United States and recognized the importance of maintaining good relations between these two countries.
In 2003, Susan and Nancy came to Chongqing to attend the 120th birth anniversary of General Stilwell. Twenty years later, they were in Chongqing again, visiting the traditional scenery area of “18 Steps”, seeing the giant pandas at the Chongqing Zoo, and experiencing the Yangtze-Jialing rivers tour... “The city has changed a lot. I feel like there are more treasures to discover in the city. And we’ve enjoyed it very much.”
They were amazed by how much Chongqing had changed and used the word “incredible”. In Susan’s eyes, although Chongqing has undergone great changes, many high-rise buildings have been built, and transportation is also developing rapidly, one thing has not changed, that is, the warmth of the people of Chongqing is still the same. “It’s so coherent in the upkeep of the Museum. It’s been very emotional for us. The warmth of the Chinese people remains. It has been amazing to be greeted and welcomed.”