This the title of a new documentary on Taiwan’s U-2 squadron, which flew over and around mainland China from 1962 to 1974. The film was made by a Taipei-based crew for a local audience, although it does have English subtitles. It is 90 minutes long and was shown in cinemas throughout Taiwan last fall.
The ‘lost’ black cats were the two nationalist Chinese pilots, Jack Chang (above center) and Robin Yeh (above right, with his wife Keiko). They were shot down over the mainland in 1963 and 1965 but survived, only to be detained by communist China until 1983. They were both interviewed for the film, along with other pilots and commentators – such as myself.
The director, Jonathan Yang Bu Hsin (left) and his team put a lot of effort into this production, which took many years to complete. I attended the first showing in Taipei (right), along with most of the surviving Taiwanese Black Cat pilots (below).
The film is a worthy tribute to a brave group of flyers who knowingly flew into serious danger in order to bring back imagery of China’s development of nuclear weapons, missiles, aircraft and so on. There were 102 overflights of the mainland; three more U-2s were shot down and their pilots killed. Another seven nationalist pilots were killed in U-2 training accidents.
The overflights ended after China’s air defense missiles proved too good, despite the fitting of sophisticated electronic warfare equipment to the U-2. But then there were 118 more peripheral missions along the mainland coast.
I told the story of this unique squadron in my first U-2 book, DRAGON LADY, published in 1989. I retold it in much more detail in my 2005 book, 50 YEARS OF THE U-2. My first book was adapted and translated into Chinese as THE BLACK CAT SQUADRON, and was published in Taiwan in 1990 (right). I am proud to say that the first two books directly contributed to the rehabilitation of those two ‘lost’ black cats. That is because, when they were first released to Hong Kong in 1983, Taiwan refused to let Chang and Yeh return to the island. They had become pawns in a political game. The CIA arranged instead for them to be admitted to the US, and given homes and jobs. After DRAGON LADY and THE BLACK CAT SQUADRON were published, telling this story, a media campaign was mounted in Taiwan to allow the two pilots home. The government relented, and they returned to the island in acclaim in 1990.
I understand that a DVD will become available at the end of May, and I hope that this film can reach a wider audience outside Taiwan. It will be shown in some US locations in late May and early June. They include Boston, during a Taiwan Film Festival in Boston at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Building 26 on Sunday 26th May at 10am. Before that, it will be shown near Washington DC at the VFW Post, 225 Mill Street, Occoquan, VA 22125 on Wednesday 22nd May at 7pm, This event is courtesy of Chuck Wilson, former U-2 pilot and USAF Black Cat squadron commander, who also appears in the film. See the full schedule, left. There may also be a showing in the Palmdale, CA area.
There is also a book in English that tells the story of Jack Chang and Robin Yeh, including a detailed account of their time in detention on the mainland. It was written by the late Mike Hua, a fellow U-2 pilot, (left) and is also titled “Lost Black Cats”. It is available from the publisher here.
Updated 18 May 2019 to provide more details about the times and locations of showings.
Updated 12 June 2019 to report the death of Jack Chang, aged 91. Robin Yeh died in 2016.