was born in 1914 and was a native of the Hsin Min County in the Liaoning
His father died in his early childhood, and his widowed mother brought him up.
He graduated from the second class of the Central Flying School. The chief
instructor Major Kao Chi-Hang recommended him to stay in school as an
people in honour of Generalisimo Chiang Kai-Shek’s birthday, donated a
squadron of aircraft, Captain Lee was made commander of this unit.
In August 1937, Lee served as Squadron Leader of the 21st PS of the 4th PG.
This unit was at the time equipped with Curtiss Hawk IIIs. On 14 August 1937
the IJNAF Kanoya Kokutai despatched nine Mitsubishi G3M2 Model 21 long-range
bombers under the command of Lieutenant Commander Nitta to attack the
Schien-Chiao Airfield near Hangchou and nine under the command of Lieutenant
Commander Asano to attack the Kwangteh Airfield. The Japanese planes took off
from Matsuyama Airfield in Taipei at 14:50 (local Japanese time), each
carrying two 250kg bombs.
The raid was soon spotted by the Chinese and the Chinese intelligence reported
that a number of Japanese bombers had taken-off from an airfield Taiwan,
crossed the Formosa Strait and were heading north over Chekiang in the
direction of Hangchou. At this time Hangchou was only defended by a handful of
Hawk IIIs flown by instructors from the Central Chinese Aviation Academy since
reinforcements from Chou Chia-Kou hadn't been able to fly in due to bad
weather. Colonel Kao Chi-Hang had previously flown from Nanchang to
Schien-Chiao to await the 4th PG's Hawk III's which were flying in from Chou
Chia-Kou in the Honan Province and which was under his command. The three
squadrons of the 4th PG encountered heavy weather en route, with heavy rain
and low visibility.
However barely had the warning been received when a number of Hawk IIIs from
the 21st and 23rd Squadrons of the 4th PG landed. The newly arrived fighters
were hurriedly re-fuelled but this was far from complete when the air alarm
started due to the arrival of Lieutenant Commander Nitta's bombers. Colonel
Kao rushed to his aircraft No. IV-1, which had just been landed by Captain Mao
Ying-Chu. Ordering Mao to go get another aircraft, Kao jumped into IV-1 and,
without waiting to be refuelled, took off immediately. He joined up with
Lieutenant Tan Won who had just spotted Nitta's flight (No.1 Shotai) of 3
The Japanese came in at the low "attack" altitude of 500m, which made it
easier for the Chinese to intercept them right after the take-off. The
Japanese dropped their bombs on the airfield doing little damage. Tan opened
fire on the No.3 G3M in Nitta's Shotai. However, the much more experienced Kao
noted that Tan had opened fire from out of effective range. Kao then bore in
himself and closed in also on the No.3 Japanese aircraft. He first silenced
the two Japanese gunners and then closed in to 20m(!) firing steadily at the
left engine. The wing tanks on the left wing caught fire and the G3M crashed
burning near the town of Banshan near the airfield.
Kao then spotted the No. 3 Shotai and attacked the No. 2 aircraft. Again, Kao
bore in to close range riddling the G3M with 70 hits and crippling the left
engine. Kao then ran out of fuel and had to make a dead stick landing at
Schien-Chiao. The Japanese G3M managed to limp back to Matsuyama on one
engine. But as it touched down, the left landing gear collapsed and the
aircraft suffered "moderate damage". The Japanese later took this plane out of
service to be displayed in Japan and, to all intents and purposes, it was
While Kao was attacking the No.2 plane in No. 3 Shotai, 21st PS Squadron
Leader Captain Lee Kuei-Tan and his wingmen Lieutenant Wang Wen-Hua and
Lieutenant Liu Chi-Sheng caught up with the No. 3 plane of the Shotai.
Shooting at the hapless G3M repeatedly, the three brought it down near Banshan.
The two flights led by Lieutenant Commander Asano ran into a single Hawk III
flown by Captain Chow Ting-Fong (Squadron Leader of the 34th Provisional
Pursuit Squadron made up of cadets flying Hawk II's). Chow was a flight
instructor from the Air Force Academy and his guns were empty from an earlier
action over Shanghai. He, nevertheless, dived into the attack, putting the
Japanese off their aim as they dropped their bombs on Kwangteh.
When the 22nd PS reached Schien-Chiao, the Japanese bombers had already
dropped their bombs. They took off trying to catch the Japanese bombers that
were flying east. They flew to the mouth of the Chien Tang Chiang (river) amid
low cloud and bad weather where they lost sight of the Japanese aircraft and
returned to base. Pilots included in this chase were flight leader Lieutenant
Le Yi-Chin and 2nd Lieutenant Chang Kuang-Ming. However, Lieutenant Cheng
Hsiao-Yu of the 22nd PS managed to intercepted them. Cheng had taken off too
late to intercept Nitta's flights and flew on to Chien Tang Chiang on a hunch.
Spotting the G3M's, Cheng gave chase and caught up with No. 2 aircraft of the
No. 2 Shotai over Chao-Er. Cheng shot up the right engine and the wing tanks
of this G3M and sent him away streaming fuel. This G3M eventually ran out of
fuel just short of the Taiwan coast and ditched just off the lighthouse at the
mouth of Keelung Harbour.
The Chinese lost one Hawk III which ran out of fuel when it tried to take off
as Nitta's G3M's arrived overhead. This unfortunate Hawk No. 2105 crashed into
a tree, mortally injuring its pilot Lieutenant Liu Shu-Fan. Another pilot from
the same flight, Lieutenant Chin An-Yi, was slightly injured when his Hawk No.
2106 also ran out of fuel and ended up force landing next to an AA gun
So, the final tally for the day was 3 G3M's destroyed and one written off on
landing. Actually, Chinese pilots made only 3 claims but AA gun crews also
made 3 additional claims. As a result, 6 claims were submitted in total (and
publicised for propaganda purposes).
During the night of 14 and 15 August the pilots of the 4th PG at Schien-Chiao
airbase had to prepare their fighters themselves since the ground personnel
had left the field to take shelter during the air raid on 14 August and had
not returned. The pilots carried cans of fuel on their backs from the storage
building to the field, punched holes on the cans and fuelled the aircraft
themselves. They had not eaten since noon, and were not able to go to bed
until 1:30 a.m. They did not sleep long because alarm sounded less than two
In the early morning on 15 August Colonel Kao Chi-Hang led 21 Hawk III's from
the 4th PG to intercept a dawn attack on Hangchow by twelve Type 89 torpedo
bombers from the Japanese carrier Kaga. In the confused action in and out of
clouds, the 4th PG made 17 claims, more than the total number of Japanese
planes in the action. The actual losses were six shot down and two ditched in
Kao quickly shot down one of the Type 89's on the edge of the formation and
then attacked another setting it alight. A lucky shot from the starboard
quarter hit Kao in the right arm before passing through the instrument panel
and damaging the engine in his Hawk No. IV-1. He was forced to land at
Schien-Chiao and was out of action for 2 months.
21st PS's Squadron Leader Captain Lee Kuei-Tan in No. 2101 attacked the No. 2
Shotai, shooting down the No. 2 plane over Chao-Er. Two out of the crew of
three were seen to bail out but they were over the Chao-er River and probably
did not survive. Lee then teamed up with Lieutenant Cheng Hsiao-Yu of 22nd PS
in No. 2202 to claim another Type 89. Return fire from the tightly packed
Japanese formation was heavy and Lee's No. 2101 received slight damage to its
upper wings while Cheng’s No. 2202 took a shot in one of its landing wheels.
Cheng’s wingman, 2nd Lieutenant Chang Kuang-Ming also claimed a victory in
this combat when he attacked the leader of a group of Japanese bombers. He
opened fire with his two machine guns. Tracers and bullets truck his target,
and the enemy plane turned into a fireball and plunged out of the sky. He
broke off immediately and turned around for another strike.
Lieutenant Huang Yan-Po in No. 2107 attacked the first Shotai, claiming to
have shot down the No. 3 aircraft in flames. He too took a shot in the landing
wheel. Lieutenant Tan Won in No. 2104 also attacked the same Shotai and
claimed another Type 89. This may have been the aircraft of the Kaga's
Commander, Air Group (CAG) Commander Iwai who was killed in this action along
with his deputy. Lieutenant Wang Wen-Hua caught two Type 89's trying to attack
Schien-chiao from the south and shot one down in flames. One of the crew, a
young ensign, bailed out and was captured. (This unnamed ensign later defected
to the Chinese side and helped translate decoded Japanese radio messages).
Lieutenant Yuan Chin-Han in No. 2108 went after the No.1 Shotai in a formation
and claimed to have shot down the leader in flames (this may also have been
Iwai's plane, it is almost certain that many Chinese pilots shot at the same
planes). Lieutenant Liu Chi-Sheng in No. 2102 also claimed one Type 89 over
Woong-Chia-Fu but was hit in the fuel tank and force landed at Chaio-shi
Airfield where his plane was further damaged by bombing.
Lieutenant Le Yi-Chin from the 22nd PS made no less than 4 claims but these
are almost certainly duplicates of other claims or overoptimistic.
Deputy Squadron C.O. Lai Ming-Tang landed to refuel and took off again to
claim a shared kill with his wingman Lieutenant Liang Tian-Cheng.
Of the 23rd PS, Captain Mao Ying-Chu, Lieutenant Yang Yu-Ching and Lieutenant
Wang Yin-Hua each claimed one Type 89.
Later on the same day at 13:30 the Nanking Air Defence Command received a
report that 16 Japanese aircraft had flown past Soochow towards Nanking. The
alarm was sounded, and Chinese Air Force fighters took off to meet them. The
Japanese aircraft were 20 G3Ms from the Kisarazu Ku. The Japanese aircraft had
flown in directly from Ohmura in Japan and landed back at Cheju-do.
From Chu Yung, squadrons of the 3rd PG scrambled their aircraft. Wong Pan-Yang
led eight Boeing 281s from the 17th PS. Chen Yau-Wei, Commander of the 8th PS,
led five Fiat CR.32 fighters. Scrambled were also seven Hawk IIs from the 28th
PS, 5th PG, and one Hawk III and five Hawk II from the 34th Provisional PS.
In the ensuing melee, four G3Ms were shot down and six damaged. Claims were
confused but it is generally acknowledged that Captain Wong Sun-Shui (in
#1703) downed the first G3M to fall in the Battle of Nanking when the eight
Boeings from the 17th PS attacked a flight of six Mitsubishi G3M bombers over
Nanking and claimed to have shot them all down without losses. This was the
No.4 aircraft in a Shotai that bombed the Ta Hsiao-chang Airfield, most likely
the No. 5 Shotai led by Lieutenant Yoshida. 17th PS’ Wong Pan-Yang and Su
Ying-Hsien shared one victory at Chu-Yung while Chun Chia-Chu claimed another,
which crashed south-east of Nanking. Chin Shui-Tin also took part in this
interception but didn't claim any aircraft.
The Japanese aircraft fled and the 8th PS went after them. Chen Yau-Wei and
Huang Chu-Ku shared a victory near Chu-Yung while Shen Tse-Liu and Liu Chi-Wei
together shot down an enemy plane west of Lui Shui.
Captain Chow Ting-Fong, commander of the 34th PS led six Hawks from Chia
Hsiang and followed eight Japanese aircraft to Nanking. Captain Chow attacked
one of these and shot it down over Fang Shan.
4th PG’s Captain Lee Kuei-Tan led three Hawk IIIs of the 21st PS and Captain
Huang Kuang-Han, C.O. of the 22nd PS, led eight Hawk IIIs from Hangchow to
Nanking to help in this interception and they also attacked the bombers. Lee
Kuei-Tan claimed a shared bomber together with three other pilots. Tan Won and
Yuan Chin-Han shared a victory. Cheng Hsiao-Yu, Pa Ching-Cheng and Wu
Ting-Chun each claimed one shot down. Wu Ting-Chun’s aircraft was damaged in
this combat and he was forced to make an emergency landing. Liang Tian-Cheng
claimed two victories. Huang Kuang-Han claimed a Japanese G3M halfway between
Nanking and Lui Shui.
Because of low clouds, each group fought on it’s own with little
co-ordination. A total of 14 Japanese aircraft were claimed shot down. Five
Chinese aircraft were damaged.
At noon on 23 August the Japanese and Chinese clashed in the Shanghai area
when five Hawk IIIs led by Captain Lee of the 21st PS met an estimated nine
Japanese aircraft. The Chinese aircraft was flying in the Wan Chao Bin area in
Shanghai in support of ground forces.
During the combat Lee was hit by a bullet and crash-landed at Su-Zhou.
Lieutenant Yuan Chin-Han claimed an enemy aircraft while trying to rescue Lee
before being attacked by two other enemy aircraft. He was hit eight times by
the fighters (according to other sources he was hit by AA fire) and a bullet
hit his right cheek and severed his right ear. He passed out and didn’t become
conscious before he was down to 1000 feet. He crash-landed his plane on a rice
field in enemy territory. The plane overturned and Yuan dug himself out with
his hands on the soft mud in the rice field. He collapsed next to his plane
with mud and blood all over his body. He was captured by a group of five
Japanese soldiers. They found him soaked with blood and hardly breathing and
they thought he could not live. They abandoned him and left for a farm house
two hundred meters away. When Yuan found himself alone, he got up and dashed
over 1000 meters to the west towards Chinese-held territory in a single
stretch. Yuan was a former 400-meter and 800-meter runner and represented his
province in regional athletic meets in North China. His track experience and
athletic stamina made his daring escape possible even though he was severely
Lee was promoted to command the 4th PG after Colonel Kao Chi-Hang’s death in
A group of nine I-16s flew out from Alma-Ata at the beginning of December
1937, led by Kombrig P. I. Pumpur. The group flew to Lanzhou without any
incidents. There they turned the I-16s over to the Chinese and returned to
Alma-Ata in a transport aircraft for a new group of machines.
The Chinese pilots Tun, Lo and Li (flying Hawk IIIs) led the group on to
Shanghai. Unfortunately the Soviet volunteers remembered at best distorted
names of the Chinese, more like nicknames; and in Chinese sources the family
names of Soviet are not understood either, and are written in ideographs, and
therefore it is practically impossible to establish for certain the
interaction between Soviet and Chinese pilots in the vast majority of cases.
But in the given situation, it is known that the leaders were the new
commander of the 4th PG Lee Kuei-Tan, the commander of the 21st PS, Teng Ming-Teh,
and his deputy Le Yi-Chin. From the moment of arrival of this group at
Shanghai were busy with the Japanese, and by the beginning of December the
entire group had been deployed together with Chinese fighter units at Nanking.
As Japanese troop advanced on Wuhan, the temporary capital of the Chinese
government, the 4th PG was made responsible for the air defence of the city
and was based at Fencheng.
On 18 February 1938 the Japanese attacked the town with a reported 16 bombers,
escorted by 26 fighters. In fact the actual composition of the Japanese force
was 15 G3M bombers escorted by 11 A5M carrier fighters. The G3Ms were from the
Kanoya Kokutai and led by Lieutenant Commander Sugahisa Tuneru. The escorts
were from the 12th and 13th Kokutais and led by Lieutenant Takashi Kaneko of
the 12th Kokutai.
According to Japanese accounts, there were low clouds over Wuhan, which caused
a lot of confusion. Following warning from the air raid warning net, the
Chinese interceptors began taking off at 12:45. First came eight I-15bis from
the 23rd PS based at Hsiao-Kan led by Captain Lu Ji-Chun. Then came eleven
I-15bis from the 22nd PS led by Captain Lee Kuei-Tan, commander of the 4th PG,
which took off from Hankou Airfield at 13:00. Finally, ten I-16s of the 21st
PS led by the commander Captain Teng Ming-Teh took off from Hankou Airfield at
The first Chinese interceptors to encounter the Japanese were the I-15bis from
the 22nd PS led by Lee’s flight, which included Lieutenant Cheng Hsiao-Yu in
the no. 2 position, Lieutenant Chang Kuang-Ming as no. 3 and Lieutenant Pa
Ching-Cheng as no. 4, were climbing steeply at about 1500 meters south west of
the airfield three minutes after take-off. Japanese planes from the upper rear
intercepted them from an altitude thought to be at 4000 meters. Other Chinese
accounts indicate that six A5Ms attacked the first six aircraft in the Chinese
formation and another 6 (sic) attacked the two flights of five bringing up the
rear. It would appear that it was the 12th Kokutai A5Ms led by Lieutenant
Kaneko that attacked Captain Lee and the first two flights of the 22nd PS.
Other A5Ms, including those from the 13th Kokutai, attacked the two rear
flights of the 22nd PS. Caught by surprise, the 22nd PS was hard hit and the
Chinese planes were badly scattered. Badly shot up in the initial attack, Lee
managed to regain control and headed back to Hankou Airfield. Witnesses on the
ground saw him attempting to land his stricken I-15bis.
Unfortunately, it would appear that Lee’s fuel tanks had been hit and were
leaking because, while on final approach, the I-15bis suddenly burst into
flames and crashed. Lee, the youngest Commanding Officer of the 4th PG at the
time, was killed. Cheng and Pa were hit at the same time and spiralled down.
Chang was attacked by three Japanese aircraft more than a dozen times. He
damaged one of the enemy aircraft, and landed without injury to himself but
counted over 210 bullet holes on his aircraft, including three rounds lodged
in his parachute pack seat. Pa was killed when his aircraft crashed but Cheng
spiralled down and landed safely. After landing he found his rudder cable
severed by a Japanese bullet.
At the rear of the 22nd PS formation, things were just as desperate when they
engaged the Japanese at 3000 meters south-west of Hankou. Lieutenant Wang Yi
was shot down and killed. Captain Liu Chi-Han, 22nd PS leader, claimed to have
shot down the A5M attacking him in a turning fight. However, Liu’s own engine
was also hit in the fight and it exploded shortly afterwards, forcing Liu to
bail out. While descending in his parachute, two A5Ms came in to strafe Liu.
Liu recalled that the Japanese bullets zipped by "like hailstones". After
dodging couple of passes, Liu allowed his body to go limp and "played dead".
Thinking that the Chinese pilot had been killed, the Japanese broke away
allowing Liu to land safely. Lieutenant Li Peng-Hsiang, also in the rear of
the formation, came under attack by a 13th Kokutai A5M flown by shotai leader
PO1c Mitsuga Mori. Lieutenant Wu Ting-Chun tried to intervene by attacking
from above and behind Mori. However, Mori turned sharply away from the attack,
causing Wu to collide with Li. Wu managed to bail out and survive but Li was
killed. According to other sources Wu claimed to have downed a Japanese
fighter, and then crashed into another one. On returning Mori claimed to have
downed two other I-15bis (his first 4 victories of a total of 9 – 4 in China).
Feng Yu-Ho claimed two Japanese aircraft and Chang Ming-Sheng claimed a
Japanese light bomber.
Arriving from Hsiao-Kan, the 23rd PS I-15bis led by Captain Lu Ji-Chun saw the
surviving 22nd PS planes being chased all over the skies by the Japanese A5Ms.
Joining the melee, the eight I-15bis of the 23rd PS took the heat off the 22nd
PS, allowing the badly mauled survivors to escape. The Japanese A5Ms, having
come off their success against the 22nd PS, were fighting well with their
flights largely intact. The 23rd PS soon found themselves at a disadvantage.
It would appear that the Chinese fighters were not able to effectively support
each other in the fight. Once again, individual Chinese fighters found
themselves under attack by flights of three A5Ms. Somewhere in the melee,
Captain Lu was isolated, shot down and killed. Lieutenant Wang Yu-Kun, after
claiming to have downed two A5Ms, came under attack by three others. Wang’s
controls were shot away and the I-15bis went into a long glide towards fields
north east of Wuhan. The Japanese planes continued to fire on Wang’s plane
but, fortunately, the Chinese pilot was not hit. The I-15bis eventually
crash-landed in a field, Wang was knocked unconscious but he survived with
only a bruised right leg. Liu Chung-Wu and Hsin Sau-Chuan each claimed a
victory. Hsin was so close to the Japanese aircraft he shot down that
lubricants of the Japanese aircraft splashed on his windshield and totally
obstructed his vision and he had to break off action.
Just as it appeared that the 23rd PS was going to suffer the fate of its
sister squadron, the tables were turned with the arrival of ten I-16s from the
21st PS. Having climbed to 3500 meters north-west of the airfield, the 21st PS
led by Captain Teng, saw the A5Ms dive from approximately 4000 meters altitude
and attack the 22nd PS south west of Wuhan. Arriving on the scene with an
advantage in altitude, the I-16s were able to surprise the Japanese, which
were tangled in a dogfight with the 23rd PS. This time, it was the turn of
individual Japanese fighters to be attacked by the Chinese in flights of
three. Lieutenant Liu Chi-Sheng scored a solo kill and then joined Captain
Teng and Lieutenant Yang Ku-Fan to attack another A5M which was engaged in a
turning fight with Lieutenant Liu Chung-Wu of the 23rd PS. Together, the four
Chinese fighters shot down this hapless A5M. Lieutenant Yang Ku-Fan then
joined with Lieutenant Li Wen-Hsiang, Lieutenant Wang Teh-Lian and Lieutenant
Han Sen to down another A5M. Finally, Lieutenant Huang Yuan-Po, Lieutenant
Wang Teh-Lian and Lieutenant Kung Yeh-Ti combined to down a fourth A5M.
Soviet volunteers also took part in this combat and according to the
recollections of the volunteer Aleksey Dushin, about 10 o’clock in the morning
they took of on an alert and at an altitude of 4500 m found themselves under
cumulus clouds. An arrow on the ground pointed out the direction from which
the Japanese would appear. After a ten-minute flight along this course they
turned and flew back, and straightaway they discovered about 1500-2000 m
beneath them, three flights, each of nine Japanese bombers flying in a tight
formation. Moments later Japanese fighters appeared flying above the clouds.
to dive on the Soviet volunteers on a meeting course, with the initiative
remaining with them. Three Japanese attacked Dushin, and consequently he shot
at all three. A cone of bullets, in his words, found one aircraft, but it did
not burn. Two A5Ms began to fire at him, but he was rescued by the
manoeuvrability of the I-15bis. Dushin was able to escape from them by diving,
but on the way out the third Japanese caught him. But an I-16 came to his
rescue, which later turned out to have been flown by Blagoveshchenskii (or I.
Puntus according to other sources). Dushin then chased after “his” Japanese
and opened fire at a distance of 25 meters. But the guns suddenly ceased, out
of ammunition. Nonetheless the A5M made an unnatural climb upward and vanished
from the pilot’s field of vision. Several days later a Japanese fighter was
found in this region, in Dushin’s opinion, the very same one.
In this combat was the commander of the I-15bis squadron N. A. Smirnov killed
together with a second volunteer. After the death of Smirnov the commander
officially became A. S. Zingaev, though the “chief” of the group remained
Four Japanese pilots were lost in this combat. They were Lieutenant Takashi
Kaneko (Class no. 57), leader of the escorting fighters, PO1c Shigeo Miyamoto
(Otsu 1), Sea1c Hiroji Hayakgawa (Pilot 29), all from the 12th Kokutai and
PO1c Inao Hamada (Pilot 34) of the 13th Kokutai. In addition, one A5M from the
13th Kokutai was damaged and the pilot, NAP3c Airora Sao, badly injured by two
bullets. For their part, Japanese pilots claimed a total of 15 I-15bis
(including one probable), two I-16s and one SB. The Chinese pilots totally
claimed fourteen Japanese aircraft in this combat. Captain Lee Kuei-Tan,
Captain Lu Ji-Chun, Lieutenant Pa Ching-Cheng, Lieutenant Wang Yi and
Lieutenant Li Peng-Hsiang were killed during the battle.
He was promoted to major posthumously.
His name can also be spelled as Li Kwei-Tan.
Curtiss Hawk III
Type 89 (b)
Curtiss Hawk III
Type 89 (b)
Curtiss Hawk III
Curtiss Hawk III
(a) Mitsubishi G3M2 Model 21 from No. 3
Shotai of Kanoya Kokutai, JNAF, which crashed burning near the town of Banshan.
(b) Claimed in combat with Type 89 torpedo bombers from the Japanese carrier
Kaga. The Chinese pilots claimed 17 destroyed enemy aircraft but the actual
losses were six shot down and two ditched in Hangchow Bay.
(c) Probably claimed in combat with the Kisarazu Ku.