(August 23, 1923 - October 6, 1944)
Lieutenant Robert Hoyle Upchurch was born in the rural community of High Falls, North Carolina on August 23, 1923, where he grew up in a large, close family. The second youngest of eleven children, he was known by his family as "Hoyle". After graduating school he joined some siblings in California where he worked in the aircraft industry. He acquired in interest in flying and joined the Army Air Corps. After rigorous training he was selected as a fighter pilot in the famous Flying Tigers under the command of General Claire L. Chennault, who were fighting Japanese Facist aggression in China. Hoyle was an accomplished pilot who successfully "flew the hump" over dangerous mountains between Burma and China. On his first mission in China, at age 21, he was tragically killed in a crash on October 6, 1944. Officially missing in action, his whereabouts remained unknown to his family for over 60 years. His family expresses eternal gratitude to the Chinese people who recovered his remains from the crash site, and maintained his grave for over six decades. He now rests between his parents in a small cemetery in his beloved High Falls, North Carolina, where the head stone reads, "Home at Last, April 9, 2006".
When the Pacific War broke out, the Sino-American allied forces shared
a bitter hatred of the Japanese and fought side by side against the invaders. Among them were the Flying Tigers - the 14th Brigade of the American Air Forces, who flew across the Pacific Ocean in support of the Chinese Anti-Japanese War. On October 6th, 1944, a troop of Japanese battle planes flew into the south of Hunan. In response the Flying Tigers took off with high speed and fought against them. Unfortunately, one of the P-30N Warhawk fighter planes was shot and fell down at Dagang. Taloinao of Xijing, which has now been renamed Sida. The instant the county government learned the news, the authorities organized a rescue team to rush to the spot. They found, however, the battle plane had been torn into pieces and the pilot was dead. Some local people were then sent to cover the dead body with a red cloth and carry it to the county township. After the mourning ceremony to commemorate the hero, his body was buried, and a gravestone was erected for the locals to pay respect to the hero on Tomb-Sweeping Days.
It never fails to sadden us tremendously to think of the U.S. soldiers fighting in the sky and sacrificing their lives to be buried in a foreign country. The locals tried hard to find out the hero's name and address to comfort his relatives in a distant land. Contacts with the American military and his family were finally made in 2005. On May 25th, 2005, the
American workgroup in search for missing pilots lost in China in WWII was warmly welcomed and helped by the local people. After three days work, the remains of the hero and the plane were recovered and carried to Hawaii on May 20. The remains were later identified by DNA to be those of Mr. Robert Hoyle Upchurch, Second Lieutenant of North Carolina, U.S.A.
The remains of the hero were transported to the town of High Falls, Moore County, North Carolina, where a grand burial ceremony was held to present his family and relations a national flag and a state flag to show due respect to them. Hence the soul of the hero can finally rest in peace and his spirit will always be a great influence to all.
In the middle of the 20th Century, the Chinese and American peoples fought shoulder to shoulder against fascism and for world justice. In the course of it, profound friendship was developed. Robert Hoyle Upchurch gave his life for the cause of the liberation of the Chinese people, and died for the Ou River and the high mountains of Guidong. His loyalty and noble spirit will remain in the world forever. The locals have been admiring the martyr. They buried part of his body in Santaishan Mountain for people to remember the historical moment and develop further friendship with the American people. Herewith the cemetery was established. May the hero live in peace.
by the Guidong County Government, Hunan - Supported by China Everbright International, Inc.
Text is from a monument in China honoring Lt. Upchurch.