He Jermin served with 32nd Fighter Squadron in August 1938. The squadron was at this time equipped with Gloster Gladiator Mk.Is.
At 07:40 on 3 August 1938, 18 G3Ms were seen flying over Guangde. Later at 09:00, more than 70 Japanese fighters were reported heading for Hankou. In response to this treat, the Chinese Air Force scrambled 52 fighters consisting of 20 I-15bis, 13 I-16s, 11 Gladiators and 7 Hawk IIIs in four groups from Hankou to intercept the Japanese intruders. The 11 Gladiators were assigned to the 4th PG, which was divided into two subgroups. Subgroup A was led by Captain Wu Yu-Liu, Commander of the 3rd PG, who was flying an I-15bis and with four Gladiators under his leadership. Subgroup B was led by 28th PS leader Chin Shui-Tin, who was flying Gladiator no. 2809 and with six Gladiators under his leadership.
Subgroup A took off from Hankou at 09:55. Because Wu Yu-Liu's I-15bis not could match the speed of the Gladiators, he was forced to fly astern of the Gladiators and he therefore passed the command to Zhu Jia-Xun, Squadron Leader of 32nd Squadron. As Zhu led the Gladiators to move into the forward position, Wu's I-15bis was attacked by A5Ms. Since the I-15bis was obsolete in comparison to the more nimble Japanese fighters, Wu's situation was most critical but luckily Zhu and his Gladiators returned and attacked the A5Ms. Zhu and He Jermin took charge of the attack while the other Gladiators provided them with cover at a higher altitude. Zhu attacked the two A5Ms chasing Wu's I-15 and one of them abruptly turned and fled while the other was hit by Zhu, who punctured the A5Ms wing tank causing it to lose altitude rapidly. Zhu's wingman, He Jermin, shot down another A5M, which ditched into Lake Chaoping. Totally, Subgroup A was in combat with the A5Ms for more than 10 minutes and they landed at Hankou airbase at 11:30.
Subgroup B was airborne just a few minutes after Subgroup A departed. Chin led the seven Gladiators in a wide orbit in the south-west corner of Hankou climbing to 12000 feet. The height made the Chinese pilots groggy from hypoxia when they suddenly became aware that the sky to their left was speckled with A5Ms. Chin signalled the Gladiators to climb to 21000 feet but the Japanese fighters detected them. Over 30 A5Ms diving from 2000 feet above engaged the seven Gladiators. There were three I-16s from the 1st Air Group (probably from the 26th PS) attached to Subgroup B and these were lagging behind the Gladiators. The attacking A5Ms immediately cut these off. Squadron vice-commander Louie Yim-Qun in Gladiator no. 5732 was flying in the tail end Charlie position and he was attacked simultaneously from different directions but he was relieved by Chin and Shen Mushiu in Gladiator no. 2804. Louie Yim-Qun claimed a shared enemy aircraft destroyed in this combat.
An I-16 under attack from several A5Ms was helped by Chinís wingman, Fan Hsin-Min in Gladiator no. 2805, who dived to his rescue but he was soon himself under attack from other A5Ms. Chin went to his wingman's aid and managed to shoot the A5M off his tail. Before Chin could deliver the coup de grace to his victim, he came under attack himself. The first indication he got of the attack was bullets bouncing off the newly installed armour plate, which probably saved his life. Chin turned tightly to evade the attack but his Gladiator was already damaged. Three A5M's lined up to making firing passes, diving from above, firing and then zooming back up for altitude, taking full advantage of the A5M's better performance in the vertical plane. After a few passes, Chinís aircraft was badly shot up, with a number of wing-bracing wires shot away. His aircraft was almost uncontrollable and he decided to take one of the A5M's with him. As one of them completed his firing pass and began his zoom climb, Chin reversed his turn and rammed the A5M. His right wings and nose hit the tail of the A5M and tore it off. Chinís head was slapped against the side of the canopy of the wildly spinning Gladiator before he was able to bail out. Landing in a field, Chin was presented with a machine gun salvaged from his crashed Gladiator. Hitching a ride back to Hankou in a Douglas O-2MC, Chin was sent to the infirmary when Chennault came to visit him. Chin joked about the machine gun by asking Chennault if he could swap it for a new plane to fight the Japanese. Chennault later embellished the story in "The Way of a Fighter" saying that Chin found the gun, carried it back to the airfield and asked to swap it for a plane. More dramatic but not quite the truth!
A fourth A5M was claimed by Liu Ling-Yang of 28th PS. His own aircraft was however damaged and he bailed out into the Yangtze River and swam to safety.
Subgroup B lost another Gladiator in this combat. This loss was attributed to an engine failure when the engine on Gladiator no. 5723 stopped in the middle of the combat. The Gladiator started to spin and with many difficulties was the pilot, Chou Ling-Hsu, able to get out of the cockpit in time since when he was hanging in his parachute, the Gladiator exploded in mid-air, sending debris flying several thousand feet in all directions.
In this combat claimed the commander of the 26th PS, Captain Wang Han-Hsun, an enemy aircraft before his I-16 was badly hit; in his cabin were more than 60 bullet hits. Liu Ling-Chi (no. 5922) also shot down a Japanese aircraft. When his I-16 was set afire the pilot baled out. I-16 no.5921 was shot down and no. 5920 made a forced landing.
The Japanese escort seems to have been 21 A5Ms, which returned claiming 27 enemy aircraft and 5 probables for the loss of three fighters from the 15th Kokutai (Lieutenant (junior grade) Naohisa Shinjo (Class 62) and PO2c Hitoshi Fukusawa (Pilot 27) were killed while PO3c Namitaro Matsushima (Pilot 30) was taken prisoner but later returned) after having been intercepted by a reported 50 Chinese aircraft.
He Jermin ended the war with 1 biplane victory, this one being claimed while flying Gloster Gladiator Mk.I.
Biplane victories: 1 destroyed.
TOTAL: 1 destroyed.
Chinese Air Force Gladiators in Action - D. Y. Louie, 1998 Small Air Forces Observer vol. 22 no. 4 (88) December 1998 kindly provided by Santiago Flores.
Soviet Fighters in the sky of China, Part III - Anatolii Demin, 2000 Aviatsiia Kosmonavtika 11 (translated by George M. Mellinger)
Much additional information kindly provided by Raymond Cheung and Tom Chan.