May 3, 2022
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Normally, Hainan Island is thought of as a tourist attraction. But the 24 American military personnel who were held there by the Chinese in early 2001? They probably didn't feel much like tourists. As the Americans reported it, their reconnaissance plane had been disabled by a Chinese jet that had flown too close and crashed into them. The jet pilot was lost and the American crew almost was, except for some extraordinary flying that managed to land their damaged plane on that Chinese island. There were days of tense negotiations, with the Chinese insisting on an apology and the Americans insisting on the release of their crew. The stalemate was finally broken by two words that the President of the United States included in a statement to the Chinese; words that expressed our sorrow over the loss of the Chinese pilot, not over the incident. The words? Yeah, you might have guessed, "I'm sorry." That's all it took. The next day our crew was on their way home.