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Ding Hao / Ding How as used by US WW2 pilots in China


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(copying and pasting the below from an email)

Your web site was recommended by pleco.com when we were trying to find the English translation for a Chinese phrase 'Ding Hao' or 'Ding How'. We are

trying to find out what the expression "Ding How" means in English.

We have been told it means 'Thumbs Up', is this correct? Your help

would be greatly appreciated.

The context it was used in was a saying by fellow WWII pilots in the China-Burma-India Theater of Operations before they took off on a mission over the Himalaya Mountains. My

father was one of these pilots who flew C-46 transports from India to Kunming, China (Yunnan Province) and back. We are writing a book of essays of which his story will be included. We think it was a good luck phrase meaning "Thumbs Up" to ensure their safety and success on their mission.

Our web site: www.americanvetpowerof1.com

Thank you in advance for any help you can give us.

American Veteran Project

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Kenny同志
The context it was used in was a saying by fellow WWII pilots in the China-Burma-India Theater of Operations before they took off on a mission over the Himalaya Mountains.

"Ding hao", if it was 顶好, puzzle me placed in the above context. Literally it means best. Could you give some details, Roddy?

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buzhongren

I think you might be thinking of something said by John Wayne in Flying Tigers. I could never make it out. Plug 'ding hao' hump route into Google for other translation links. I think Skylee is right.

xiele,

Jim

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I googled the words 昆明 c46 “頂好” and found these -

對於來華的官兵,美國軍部會特別下了些教育工夫,我見過許多本軍部印行的專門介紹中國事物的小册子,一本是Pocket Guide to China,篇首寫着「入境問禁,入國問俗」的兩句中國成語,那上面涉及的範圍很廣,從中國的政府、軍隊、都市、鄉村、家庭、婦女、錢幣、食物、商業、娛樂、度量衡,直講到中國人和日本人在體態上的差異之點。

另外一本Chinese Phrase Book,供學習華語用的,方法是用英語拼字來註釋中國學的單音,簡使而易於學習,頗切實用。(據說我國語言學家趙元任博士在美主持計劃中國語言訓練的工作)美軍官兵,人手一册,不過,在陸良基地上,我所交談過的美軍官兵,除了美籍華僑以外,能說流利的中國話的人,還是很少見到,一般大都祇會說像「頂好」「乾杯」「美國飛機」,類的簡單成語。 (source)

顶好小伙子”

谈到双报,至今犹感兴奋。缅北战场一幕幕艰险生动的战斗情景都在电讯中显现出来。有以中国远征军(驻印军和滇西军)为主力,先后攻克敌占孟拱、密芝那、八莫等城镇的战役纪实,也有战士们壮烈牺牲可歌可泣的感人事迹。中国远征军为支援友邦,御敌歼敌于国门之外,英勇征战,打出了中华民族的气节。缅甸人、印度人固然感激不尽,英国人、美国人也万分钦佩。远征军不但仗打得好,军风纪也好,无论走到哪里都受到鼓掌欢迎。孩子们都习惯伸出大姆指不断叫“顶好”。“顶好”这两个字在印度传遍了。美军的战报也多用“顶好小伙子”(Ding hao Boys)来代表中国军队,表现出亲切和尊敬。(source)

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ChinaWWIIPilot

Thanks Skylee- is there any way you can translate the quotes you googled. I do not speak or understand what is written in your post. And yes buzhongren, John Wayne did use the term in the movie Flying Tigers; this was taken by the movie's writers directly from WW2 pilots in the CBI theater. The phrase 'Ding Hao or Ding How' was not some made up Hollywood idea..

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buzhongren

The last time I looked John Woo was remaking Flying Tigers with Tom Cruise. The Ding Hao thumb up sign used till this day by US forces was learned from the Chinese. It has various non literal meanings now and then as suggested here and on the Internet. I think the Nasa 'go throttle up' can be traced back to its use.

xiele,

Jim

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buzhongren

What is forgotten the Japanese wanted to invade China from Burma on the West and Manchuria on the East. Japan was suppose to take China and Germany Russia. If Japan controlled China especially on their East Coast there would never have been a War In The Pacific. Within a year of Pearl Harbor we would have sued for Peace with Japan. WWII was won and lost in China and Russia.

xiele,

Jim

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ChinaWWIIPilot

You are right indeed Buzhongren. That is why it was so important to F.D.R. to send needed supplies to China to help Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek via the Hump as Japan was constantly attacking the Burma Road. As an aside note: the Hump was the first great airlift in history and was the predecessor for the Berlin Airlift. As the daughter of one of those Hump pilots who flew supplies & troops over the Hump; I will never understand why History has so ignored this theater of operations. It has the unkind distinction as "the Forgotten Theater of WWII'.

I did a google search as you suggested on Ding Hoa hump route and was able to find the term literally means "well done or good indeed" used in conjunction with the thumbs up sign. I found it in a ceramony honoring the surviving Chinese workers who handbuilt the runways in the CBI. I can't thank you enough and all the others who posted their thoughts and ideas to help us! We are now able to complete the essay honoring my father for inclusion in the book of essays about American soldiers & veterans.

BTW, I would be very interested to know more about when John Woo's movie regarding remake of the Flying Tigers might be released. I was not aware of it.

Again, thank you all for your help!

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Kenny同志
孩子们都习惯伸出大姆指不断叫“顶好”。“顶好”这两个字在印度传遍了。美军的战报也多用“顶好小伙子”(Ding hao Boys)来代表中国军队,表现出亲切和尊敬。(

My attempted translation:

Boys all stuck out their thumbs, crying, "you're the best"(ding hao), an expression which was spread throughout India. The American war reports also called the Chinese army "the best boys" to show their intimacy and homage.

Hope it helps. :wink:

Edited by kenny2006woo
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ChinaWWIIPilot
:clap- This translation makes perfect sense because the CBI WWII pilots used 'Ding Hao' as a term of salutation. I truly appreciate your translation of the phrase and thank you Kenny2006woo!
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  • 7 months later...
  • New Members
robert from maine

The expression "ding how" is a Chinese military expression similar to the Seals' HOOYA!, or the Marines' OOHRA!,...showing pride and espirit de cour. A "gung ho expression difficult to explain in translation!

Steven Hunter used it in chapter 18 of his latest book "I Sniper". He does due diligence in his research.

I used the expression "Airborne All The Way, after threeweeks of "jump school", ...back in the day, ...ha,ha!

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  • 8 years later...
TheBigZaboon

I don't want to hijack this thread from others for whom it obviously means so much, but there's a similar origin story for the phrase "gung ho" used originally by US Marines from early in World War II.

 

In the origin story I learned just after the end of the war, the phrase was introduced by Col. Evans S. Carlson, one of the founders of the Marine Raiders unit, which was first used to make attacks on isolated Japanese-held islands in the Pacific. Carlson had supposedly spent time with anti-Japanese guerrillas in China, and learned the phrase from them. That story is told by the actor Randolph Scott in the movie Gung Ho (corrected) about the raid on Makin Island, made probably in 1943, when things were not going well for the Allied side before the battle of Midway Island.

 

I don't know whether the story is apocryphal or not, but I've aways assumed that "gung ho" was a dialect-based pronunciation (or just a mispronunciation) of 更好。It may also be based on a phrase like 工好, if there is such a phrase, as the movie seems to imply it means "working together." (A subsequent post after this one gives a pretty good alternative explanation for the origin of the phrase, but I'll stick with mine. I like the Hollywood flavor of it.)

 

I'll do a little digging around, but I'm pretty sure my memory is serving me well on this one. (Seems I spoke too soon.)

 

TBZ

 

(Edited because my memory of films I saw repeatedly when I was a kid is beginning to show signs of wear and tear.)

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TheBigZaboon

As I mentioned previously, I don't know if the origin story I quoted above is apocryphal or not.

 

But Wikipedia notwithstanding, I gotta say that introducing the phrase gung ho, and then popularizing it to the extent that it's universally recognized in the English-speaking world being based on an its usage by an industrial co-op group seems a bit of a stretch. You (and Wikipedia) may certainly be correct about the linguistically correct origins of the phrase, but Carslon's use of it (linguistically or grammatically correct or not), and the spread of the phrase,  is probably due more to Hollywood's wartime efforts than any other plausible explanation.

 

In digging around, however, I found out that Carlson was a language officer in China. Something I didn't know. I knew about his reputation as a sort of trendy lefty guy, but he died several years before the scandals that ruined the careers of guys like Service and Paton Davies, although his reputation as a decorated war veteran probably gave him some cover. And his time with the Communists probably gave him ample opportunities to meet Rewi Alley and Agnes Smedley. But I think I'll stick with the Hollywood version of the story for now.

 

As I said before, I don't want to hijack an important thread for other people, so I'll just leave my comments as they are, and drop out of the discussion.

 

TBZ

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  • 9 months later...
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Late in responding in respect to when this thread first began. Regardless, find I need to comment on the meaning of “Ding Hao.”

My father was ArmyAirCorp WWII(pre Air Force). He participated in the China-Burma-India Theater. During this time, a portion of United States servicemen were housed in a number of monasteries within China. I have photos of my father and AirCorp servicemen taken with local Chinese citizens. There was ample opportunity for communication between these two groups. 

Growing up post WWII, it was not unusual to hear the phrase “Ding Hao” within our home(NY Metro Area). When questioned as to the meaning of this phrase, my father responded that its’ origins were in Mandarin Chinese, which he learned during WWII stationed in China. His interpretation from Chinese to English was: “something which is good or highly desirable.” 

A few years ago(before reading this forum),I asked a friend who is a native Chinese speaker. As to the origins of this phrase, it closely matches “good or very desirable.”

The “thumbs up” of American Airmen in China during WWII is easily a combination of a Western expression of “positive things going on,” with the local Chinese expression of “Ding Hoa.” Beyond this,  some American Airmen may have expanded the Chinese expression to simply mean “good luck” prior to an air misson.

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