11/14/10 “Neto’s Tucson: Chinese-American vet, like others here, joined WWII efforts,”
by Ernesto Portillo Jr.
When Edward Chan was a University of Arizona freshman, his acceptance letter came. The U.S. Army
accepted him to flight-training school. It was 1942, less than a year after the United States had entered
World War II.
A number of young Tucson men and women had gone to war or would go soon. Chan, who had
graduated from Tucson High School earlier that year, was one of a handful of Chinese Americans who
went to war.
9/22/10 Northwest Asian Weekly: “Decades later, Flying Tigers receive a hero’s welcome at home in Seattle,”
by Sarah Yee
At their 24th formal reunion, Wayne Wong and his friends recollected serving as Flying Tigers. They belonged to the 14th Air Force and the 987th Signal Company – the only all-Chinese American units that served the U.S. Army during World War II.
In 1945, they were received by Seattle’s Chinese American community with a hero’s welcome upon returning from duty. Last week, the city of Seattle welcomed them once again during their annual reunion.
6/21/10 NPR: “More Asian-Americans Signing Up For The Army,”
by Lonny Shavelson
In the U.S. Army, Asian-Americans have typically volunteered at the lowest rate of any ethnic group. They make up 4 percent of the population, and only 1 percent of military recruits.
But that seems to be changing. Something is suddenly drawing Asian-Americans in California into the Army at a remarkable rate. And there have been similar increases in other Asian-American population centers, like Seattle and New York.
5/31/10 Los Angeles Times: “A tale of Korean War heroism: U.S. Marine Chew-Een Lee’s bravery at the battle of the Chosin Reservoir is a focus of Smithsonian Channel documentary,”
by Tony Perry
When Chew-Een Lee was growing up in western Sacramento during World War II, he was eager to enlist in the military to fight for his country. He joined the ROTC in high school and enlisted in the Marine Corps as soon as he graduated.
“I wanted to dispel the notion about the Chinese being meek and obsequious,” said Lee, whose father was a farmer and prominent figure in the Chinese community in Northern California.
5/28/10 huffingtonpost.com and VictoriaMoy.net: “You Must Remember This”
by Victoria Moy
Surrounded by an abundance of Cantonese-style roast meats and lomein, as well as the standard American Thanksgiving fare of turkey and cranberry sauce, I stare up at a wall lined with portraits of Chinese men in military uniforms and squadron hats. The room is decorated with award plaques, photos of soldiers, and the American flag.
While Grandpa shoots the breeze with hordes of other Chinese grandpas who wear fedoras and speak Dick Tracy style (like the black-and-white Hollywood movies–in old timer’s slang and accents), Grandma chats gaily with the other wives in sing-song Toishanese (a dialect of Cantonese). Within that one room, there’s a men’s language, and a women’s language; an “English world” and “Chinese world.” I don’t get why grandpas speak English and grandmas speak Chinese, why there’s a linguistic divide along gender lines in my grandparents’
generation. This is my life growing up in New York’s Chinatown in the 1980s.
The Thanksgiving and Christmas parties my grandparents took me to were at the American Legion on Canal Street, which Chinese American vets set up in Chinatown after World War II.
5/28/10 Bergen County, New Jersey Record: “Fallen soldier memorialized at ceremony in River Vale,”
by Brian Aberback
River Vale -Min Soo Choi died in Iraq trying to spread the freedom that allowed him and his family to come here – the same freedom that American soldiers died for in Choi’s native Korea more than 50 years ago.
Army Pfc. Choi’s sacrifice, and that of all veterans, was honored Saturday at a ceremony following the township’s Memorial Day parade at Veterans Memorial Park.
12/16/09 Los Angeles Times: “Asian Americans drive Army recruiting boom in L.A.: Asians have traditionally joined the military at the lowest rate among all races, but — lured by job security, college aid and, for some, citizenship — they are signing up in larger numbers. Their enlistments rose 80% in L.A. County.”
by Teresa Watanabe
On a chilly Saturday morning this month, the future soldiers of the U.S. Army huffed and puffed through push-ups, sit-ups and stretches in Whittier Narrows Regional Park in South El Monte.
There was the gangly white kid with the blond buzz cut and the buffed-out Latino dude, head draped in a black bandanna.
And then there was Jennifer Ren, small, slight and bespectacled, an immigrant from China who gamely kept up with the guys and sees the Army as a ticket to U.S. citizenship and a job in accounting and finance.
11/11/09 Washington Post: “‘She is the face of the new generation: At VA and among vets, Duckworth is trying to reshape perceptions,”
By Ed O’Keefe
Five years ago this week, an insurgent shot down the Army Black Hawk helicopter that Tammy Duckworth was co-piloting in Iraq. Now an assistant secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs, Duckworth lost her legs in the crash and the fire that followed.
On Thursday, her Black Hawk crewmates who pulled her from the wreckage will be in Washington to celebrate her “alive day” — what some veterans call their “second birthday” to mark their brushes with death. She will lead them on a tour of the Capitol and the White House.
11/7/09 Minneapolis Star Tribune: “The death of PFC Kham Xiong — scheduled to deploy to Afghanistan next month — on U.S. soil at the hands of a Fort Hood gunman compounds this family’s grief,”
by Curt Brown
Chor Xiong pulled a worn black wallet from his back pocket Friday night and extracted two photographs. One showed his 18-year-old son, Nelson Xiong, stoic in a dress blue military uniform. The other showed his stern-faced oldest son, 23-year-old Kham Xiong, in camouflage fatigues.
Chor has been worried about Nelson, who is fighting in Afghanistan and due back in Minnesota on Nov. 28. So when the phone rang at his family’s home on St. Paul’s East Side at 3 a.m. Friday, Chor braced himself for bad news about Nelson.
Then, as his daughter explained to him that Kham, not Nelson, had been among 13 people killed in an Army psychiatrist’s rampage at Fort Hood in Texas, the father grew confused and angry.
How could his unarmed son have died on U.S. soil two months before being deployed to Afghanistan? And how will he find the words to explain this to his other son, the one on the battlefield?
2/22/09 San Francisco Examiner: “Filipino veterans see justice in stimulus bill,”
by Katie Worth
Redwood City: The economic stimulus package signed by President Barack Obama on Tuesday included a program to provide every Filipino who fought for the U.S. during World War II with a lump-sum grant, in exchange for those veterans dropping any further pursuit of compensation or benefits.
Many of those still living have mixed feelings about the provision passed into law in the stimulus package. As the law is written, Filipinos living in the U.S. will receive a payoff of $15,000, while veterans in the Philippines will receive $9,000. The families of the soldiers that have already died will receive nothing.
The $15,000 is just over one year’s pension for service in the U.S. Army; and the provision included a stipulation that those that accept the lump sum can no longer pursue further benefits from the government.
12/6/08 Associated Press: “Rumsfeld nemesis Shinseki to be named VA secretary,”
by Hope Yen
Washington: President-elect Barack Obama has chosen retired Gen. Eric K. Shinseki to be the next Veterans Affairs secretary, turning to a former Army chief of staff once vilified by the Bush administration for questioning its Iraq war strategy.
Shinseki is the first Army four-star general of Japanese-American ancestry. He will be the first Asian-American to hold the post of Veterans Affairs secretary.
Shinseki’s tenure as Army chief of staff from 1999 to 2003 was marked by constant tensions with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, which boiled over in 2003 when Shinseki testified to Congress that it might take several hundred thousand U.S. troops to control Iraq after the invasion.
Rumsfeld and his deputy, Paul Wolfowitz, belittled the estimate as “wildly off the mark” and the army general was ousted within months.
Obama said he selected Shinseki for the VA post because he “was right” in predicting that the U.S. will need more troops in Iraq than Rumsfeld believed at the time.
Veterans’ Affairs is the government’s second largest agency.
Shinseki is a recipient of two Purple Hearts for life-threatening injuries in Vietnam.
Upon leaving his post in June 2003, Shinseki in his farewell speech sternly warned against arrogance in leadership.
“You must love those you lead before you can be an effective leader” he said. “You can certainly command without that sense of commitment, but you cannot lead without it. And without leadership, command is a hollow experience, a vacuum often filled with mistrust and arrogance.”
Shinseki also left with the warning: “Beware a 12-division strategy for a 10-division army.”
7/30/08 press release: “House passes resolution honoring the contributions of AAPI soldiers during the U.S. Civil War”
Washington , DC – The U.S. House of Representatives today passed a resolution honoring Asian American and Pacific Islander soldiers who fought in the U.S. Civil War, culminating a five-year battle by Rep. Mike Honda (D-CA) to help correct the historical record.
Historians have recently uncovered evidence that hundreds of soldiers of AAPI heritage fought on both the Union and Confederate sides, continuing a long tradition of significant AAPI contributions to the history of the United States since the Colonial Era.
H. Res. 415 posthumously honors Edward Day Cohota and Joseph L. Pierce, both of Chinese ancestry, as examples of this overlooked group of men.
“The history of America would be totally different without the contributions of Asian Americans.
From hard labor building the transcontinental railroad linking our coasts, to the academic contributions ranging from philosophy to medicine, Asian Americans have been an integral part of making our country great,” said Rep. Mike Honda. “I am pleased that heroes such as Pierce and Cohota will finally take the place they deserve in our nation’s memory.”
The resolution, co-sponsored by more than 50 legislators from both parties, focuses on the actions of Cohota and Pierce, the two most widely documented AAPI Civil War soldiers. Cohota’s comrades gave testimony of the seven bullet holes in his coat during the battle of Drury Bluff.
Pierce fought at the Battle of Gettysburg, volunteering for a dangerous assault on Bliss Farm, a bloody no-man’s land between the Union and Confederate armies. Both men were Union soldiers.
Despite the sacrifice of hundreds of men such as Pierce and Cohota, the bigoted laws of the day denied them the right to naturalize as U.S. Citizens. Honda said this resolution was the least that could be done to honor their memory.
“As a teacher and an educator of more than 30 years, I believe our students should learn about these exploits in their history books; they should learn that from the start our country’s history has been rich in diversity,” Honda said. “Also it is very important for our community to see their ancestors’ contribution acknowledged. I thank groups such as the Chinese American Citizens Alliance and all my colleagues in Congress who made possible this long overdue resolution.”
7/18/08 Dallas Morning News: “For Texans in ‘Lost Battalion,’ real heroes were Japanese-American,”
by David McLemore
After more than 60 years, they remember the cold rain and the ferocity of combat in a fog-shrouded forest straight out of a fairy tale. Most of all, they remember the shared joy of survival.
In October 1944, 270 soldiers of a battalion of the 36th Division of the Texas National Guard were trapped by a much larger German force in the Vosges Mountains of France . Desperately low on food, water and ammunition, the Texans resisted for six days. On the seventh day, help came from an unexpected source.
Members of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, composed of Japanese-Americans, many whose
families remained locked up in relocation camps in California, fought a grinding battle inch by inch up the
mountains to reach the “Lost Battalion.” They did so at a terrible price, suffering as many casualties in the
relief effort as they saved.
Today and Saturday, the Texas Military Forces Museum at Camp Mabry in Austin will exhibit newly
found artifacts and hear talks by veterans of the battle. It is a reminder, said museum director Jeff Hunt,
of how bravery and dedication to duty triumphed over intolerance on a cold, miserable battlefield 64 years
5/24/08 Northwest Asian Weekly: “The Battle for Hearts and Minds goes on for Asian American veterans,”
By Ann-Marie Stillion
Tony Chan’s DVD collection of four related documentaries concentrates on personal stories to tell the
tale of war and the impact of racism.
“Asians in the West” begins with Don Lau, who served as an army journalist, turns to the combat
experiences of Cole Lew, and ends with the story of combat nurse Lily Lee Adams, who returned to the
U.S. to become a veterans advocate.
Although not explicitly stated in the work itself, all three have struggled with post-traumatic stress disorder.
It’s not clear how the interviewees were chosen for the story, but it is clear that each one experienced not
only the battles in war, but the racism of fellow soldiers and the system they found themselves in, along with
a lack of understanding from their peers at home and in everyday life. In the end, whether due to lack of
services or an indifferent society, each was forced to come to terms with the demons left behind.
In training, Lau was used as a stand-in for the enemy, dressed in a coulee hat and pajamas because
he was Asian American. Authorities, attempting to train soldiers unfamiliar with Asians, pointed to him and
said, “This is what the enemy looks like.”
. . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Documentaries are available separately from distributors Video Out, http://www.videoout.ca, and Canadian
Filmmakers Distribution Centre, http://www.cfmdc.org.
2/22/08 Asia Times Online: “Speaking Freely: Asian American soldiers of conscience,”
by Gina Hotta
Speaking Freely is an Asia Times Online feature that allows guest writers to have their say. Please click here if you are interested in contributing.
When Major General Antonio Taguba steps on-stage, his shoulders are pulled back and he stands straight while addressing the audience at the University of California, Berkeley . He smiles at the warm reception he receives at a university known for being at the center of anti-war and left-wing students movements. A man in the audience holds up a sign saying “Mabuhay General”, expressing a warm welcome in Tagalog, a language of the Philippines. It also reflects the pride that Filipinos in America feel when they see this man – the son of immigrants to Hawaii, whose father was a survivor of the Bataan
Death March – talk about his investigation that revealed systematic abuse of prisoners at Abu Ghraib
prison in Iraq.
1/22/08 Asian Week: “Nisei Veterans Postage Stamp Campaign Gains Momentum,”
by Lisa Wong Macabasco
Postal Service committee meets next week to consider proposed stamp honoring World War II Japanese American vets
The U.S. Postal Service Citizens’ Stamp Advisory Committee will meet on Jan. 24 and 25 to formally consider a proposal to honor American World War II servicemen and women of Japanese heritage with a commemorative postage stamp.
“President Truman said it best: Nisei soldiers fought prejudice at home and on the battlefield, and won,” Sen. Daniel K. Akaka said. “A stamp in their honor would be a fitting tribute to these uniquely American heroes.”
9/26/07 Asian Week: “Hmong Labeled Terrorists, Denied Green Cards,”
by: Sandy Cha
Fresno, Calif.: It’s an endless process of waiting, of not knowing why or how, but that’s often the way it is, applying for U.S. citizenship. Many can relate, but in particular, the situation has become tenuous for the 4,000 Hmong with backlogged applications.
During the Vietnam War, the United States recruited more than 40,000 Hmong men in Laos to fight
communism on behalf of the American government in a covert operation known as the Secret War.
9/6/07 Dallas Morning News: “Show profiles Japanese-American war hero,”
by Esther Wu
PBS will present “Most Honorable Son,” a profile on Ben Kuroki , one of the first Japanese-American war heroes. The show will air at 8 p.m. Sept. 17 and can be seen locally on KERA-TV
. . . . . . . . . .
7/5/07 New York Daily News: “Pol honors the ‘forgotten’: Rookie legislator wins fight for state Korean
War Veterans Day,”
by Lynsey Johnson
As the daughter of a Korean War veteran, Queens Assemblywoman Ellen Young knows how important it is to honor veterans of the “forgotten war.”
The rookie legislator, who grew up hearing about the war from her parents, helped pass a resolution last month that made June 25 Korean War Veterans Day in New York.
6/5/07 San Francisco Chronicle: “Ex-general called father of Hmong in U.S.,”
by Matthai Chakko Kuruvila
More than 30 years ago, Vang Pao led a guerrilla army of Hmong tribesmen fighting to keep communist
forces from taking control of his native Laos. When the United States staged its final retreat from Vietnam in
1975, Pao fled to the United States and helped other Hmong to do the same.
The former general is now 77 years old and living in Orange County, but federal authorities said Monday
that he hadn’t given up the fight. They accused him of leading a ring of conspirators that was raising money
and weapons to launch an attack against the communist government in Laos.
April 2007 Asiance Magazine: “In Pursuit of a Dream” by Edmund Moy
On November 10th, 1944, pilot Hazel Ying Lee reported to Bell Aircraft factory at Niagara Falls, New York . She was given orders to pick up a new P-63 fighter and fly it to Great Falls, Montana.
As one of 132 female pilots trained to “fly pursuit,” Lee was qualified to pilot the super-fast and powerful fighters of the era, including the P-51s, P-47s and P-39s.
12/27/06 San Jose Mercury News: “Chung: Victories mark veteran’s life: Paving Way for Those Who Followed”
By L.A. Chung, Mercury News Columnist
In his 103 years of living, he was variously known as Asha Schutz and Peter King, but it didn’t matter
to Peter Chang Sr., whose steady, small victories helped pave the way for others during an era when
the “Orientals” were viewed mostly as house servants.
The retired Navy man’s life will be celebrated Thursday at the Avenidas Senior Day Health Center in
Mountain View, a place that was almost his second home in recent years. He died Nov. 26.
12/13/06 Go For Broke Receives $100,000 From Paul & Hisako Terasaki
(Torrance, Calif.): The Go For Broke National Education Center has received a $100,000 gift from
Paul and Hisako Terasaki to help further its efforts to preserve the story of the World War II Japanese
American veterans, whose decorations and record of service is unparalleled in military history, it was
Dr. Terasaki is a noted researcher who served as Professor of Surgery at UCLA from 1969-99.
In 1964, he developed the micro lympho-cytotoxicity test that was adopted in 1970 as the international
standard method of tissue typing. He and his corporation, One Lambda, have played a central role in the
development of tissue typing and transplantation surgery.
11/3/06 Washington Post: “VFW Passes Over Veteran in Illinois,”
by Don Babwin The Associated Press
Chicago — The Veterans of Foreign Wars’ political action committee Friday endorsed a Republican
congressional candidate with no military experience over a Democrat who lost her legs in combat in Iraq.
The endorsement of GOP state Sen. Peter Roskam over Tammy Duckworth angered some Illinois
veterans, as well as national figures such as former Sen. Bob Kerrey, a veteran who lost a leg in Vietnam.
. . . . . . . . . .
8/30/06 Sacramento Bee: “Filipino vets ask for full WWII honors,”
by Stephen Magagnini
Raymundo V. Seva survived the hellish Bataan Death March at the hands of his Japanese captors. Seva, 85, lived long enough to become a U.S. citizen — a privilege granted to thousands of Filipino World War II veterans ordered to serve under Gen. Douglas MacArthur’s Far East Command.
But Seva, who now resides in downtown Sacramento with his wife, Fe, wonders if he’ll live to see the day he and his fellow Filipino warriors will finally be recognized as U.S. veterans.
. . . . . . . . . .
5/18/06 Dallas Morning News: “Monumental contributions deserve a moment,”
by Esther Wu
I’ve often been asked why there is a need for an Asian Pacific American Heritage Month or, for that matter, Black History Month and Hispanic Heritage Month. My response is that these special months were created because the public needs to learn more about these groups.
The struggles, achievements and contributions of many people are often overlooked. Learning about our diverse society – about people who look, speak and eat differently than we do – may help us gain a better understanding of one another. And we can only hope that will lead to more tolerance.
So just for the record, here are a few Asian-American “firsts” that helped shape the world we
live in today.
– Col. Young Oak Kim: first Asian-American to command a battalion during war. He led the 1st Battalion, 31st Army Infantry Regiment during the Korean War. During World War II, Col. Kim was a member of the 442nd/100th Regimental Combat Team, one of the most decorated units in U.S. military history. The “Go for Broke” segregated Japanese-American battalion was created while an estimated 120,000 people of Japanese descent were interned in this country.
– Gen. Eric K. Shinseki: first Asian-American to be named chief of staff of the Army, in 1999. Before the war in Iraq , he was the first to tell the Senate Armed Services Committee that it would take several hundred thousand soldiers to maintain order in that country after the war. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld disagreed with Gen. Shinseki, who retired shortly afterward.
1/4/06 Los Angeles Times: “Young O. Kim, 86; World War II and Korean War Hero, Uniter of L.A. Asian Communities,”
by Myrna Oliver
Retired Army Col. Young O. Kim, one of the most celebrated heroes of World War II and the Korean War, who later became Los Angeles’ elder statesman and link among Korean, Japanese and other Asian American communities, has died.
He was 86.
Kim died Thursday of cancer at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles .
10/5/05 Los Angeles Daily Breeze: “Veterans ‘Go for Broke’ in honoring fallen soldier. WWII Nisei troops pay tribute to Torrance ‘s Medal of Honor winner, Ted Tanouye.”
by Doug Irving
The old soldiers gathered in the morning sun, greeting each other with hands that trembled with age, snapping pictures of a granite monument to a fallen comrade.
They were Nisei, second-generation Japanese-Americans who fought in Italy and France while their parents waited behind the barbed wire of relocation camps.
They had fought alongside Ted Tanouye, the Torrance farm boy who earned a Medal of Honor in World War II.
. . . . . . . . . .
8/16/05 Seattle Post-Intelligencer: “Japanese American vets’ service to U.S. hailed. In intelligence, they acted as translators, interrogators, code breakers,”
by John Iwasaki
Less than a year after Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, Howard Minato — whose parents emigrated from the country waging war against the United States — received his draft notice in Seattle .
8/11/05 Lincoln (NE) Journal Star: “New honor for Japanese-American hero,”
by Joe Duggan
He remembers the day, but not if it was cloudy or clear.
Doesn’t matter – no one could discern sky through all the antiaircraft shells blasting around them.
“You couldn’t believe how black it was with all the explosions,” says Ben Kuroki, recalling the World War II bombing mission over Munster, Germany, that occurred nearly 62 years ago.
5/17/05 Hattiesburg (Miss) American: “Veteran of famed Japanese-American regiment dies.”
by Janet Braswell
Herbert Sasaki first saw Camp Shelby as a 23-year-old Japanese-American soldier who left his family in an interment camp to fight with the 442nd Regimental Combat Team.
5/15/05 Twin Cities Pioneer Press: ‘Secret war’ echoes: In May 1975, the U.S. evacuated Hmong leaders from Laos as the Vietnam era climaxed. That exodus 30 years ago changed a people – and a faraway city.
by Jim Ragsdale
America’s secret war was finally ending – in chaos, and in private.
Tens of thousands of Hmong fighters and their families waited on a mountain airstrip in northern Laos. Gun-toting men, aged parents and mothers nursing babies, their belongings stuffed into bamboo boxes and overflowing suitcases, all sat on the airfield in the tropical heat.
2/25/05 Pasadena Star News: “Marine honored with tree planting,”
By Jason Kosareff , Staff Writer
Rosemead — Officials, family and friends gathered Friday at Bitely Elementary School to plant a tree in honor of a young Marine killed in Iraq during the attack on Fallujah.
Lance Cpl. Victor Lu, 22, of Lincoln Heights, was praised as a courageous fighter and beloved relative by his family and as a role model by state and local officials who came to pay respects.
2/10/05 The Sunfire Group
Retired Col. Young O. Kim Receives French Legion of Honor Award from Government of France
Los Angeles (February 8, 2005) – The Consul General of France Los Angeles presented the highly decorated World War II and Korean War veteran Colonel Young
O. Kim (Ret.) with the National Order of The Legion of Honor award (“Legion d’honneur”)
from the government of France on Friday, February 4.
9/17/04 Associated Press: “Sen. Inouye, Grandfather-in-waiting”
By B.J. Reyes
Honolulu – In his office, significant honors over eight decades – college diplomas, civic honors, the Purple Heart, the Bronze Star and other military awards for valor – overshadow the tiny scrap of yellowed paper set off to the side.
“This I’m proudest about, above all else,” Sen. Daniel Inouye says, pointing out the “junior police officer” certificate he received in elementary school.
. . . . . . . . .
6/23/04 Sacramento Bee: ” Iraq death hits Willows: Hmong family mourns its loss,”
Chou Vue’s father and brother were killed in Laos as they fought for the U.S. government during the Vietnam War.
On Friday, he lost his son.
Spc. Thai Vue died Friday in Baghdad when a mortar round hit a group of vehicles where he was working. The 22-year-old mechanic served with the U.S. Army’s 127th Military Police Company, 709th Military Police Battalion, 18th Military Police Brigade.
6/3/04: ASIAN AMERICANS REMEMBER D-DAY: They also ask that their contributions not be forgotten
By Sam Chu Lin
A visitor to Kenny Gong’s home in Cleveland , Mississippi will quickly notice a picture frame with World War II medals and photographs prominently displayed in the living room. They are reminders that he was among the thousands of paratroopers who dropped behind enemy lines in France on D-Day. One photograph shows him proudly cradling a machine gun in his arms, a good clue as to why his colleagues in the 101st Airborne nicknamed the 17-year-old paratrooper “Machine Gun Gong.”
In nearby Greenville, Jack Wong and his wife Fannie are thumbing through an old newspaper acknowledging him as one of the city’s three honorary grand marshals in last December’s Christmas parade and for his service during World War II. Wong was in the Army Signal Corp and was among the tens of thousands of soldiers who waded through the waters onto Omaha Beach only days after the initial invasion took place.
Delbert Wong, a Los Angeles judge, is sitting in his Silver Lake home, ready to watch the Los Angeles Lakers take on the Minnesota Timberwolves in the final Western Conference championship game [Lakers’ won.]. A model of a B-17 Flying Fortressbomber like the one he flew as a navigator sits on a coffee table nearby. As a
Lieutenant, Wong served in the 401 Bomb Group of the 8th Air Force during World War II. He’s thankful that he survived 30 missions over Germany and Berlin . Those raids, he says, helped to pave the way for D-Day.
In Santa Barbara , Roy Fong is in the garage repairing a drawer to an old refrigerator while his wife is preparing a salmon sandwich in the kitchen for lunch. During World War II, he was a radio operator stationed at Warmwell, a P-38 Lightning and Spitfire base in Southern England and helped to guide fighter pilots home. He recently celebrated his 80th birthday. He soon plans to call a friend in Pittsburgh , Pennsylvania
to remember D-Day.
On that fateful day, Gong says it was about 1:30 in the morning when a C-47 dropped him and his fellow paratroopers near Saint-Mere Eglise. As the men jumped from their plane into the dark night air, they were greeted with a deadly 4th of July fireworks show.
“There were plenty of ack-ack guns,” Gong recounted. “I was so scared. The man ahead of me got shot through the stomach. I landed in a ditch near hedgerows with Germans running all around me. It took me a day to get back to my unit.”
The 80-year-old World War II veteran is proud of his military service. He smiles as he wishfully thinks that perhaps one day a book might be written including his wartime experiences. He notes that he has collected war souvenirs including a German Luger, but his voice becomes serious when he talks about those who made the supreme sacrifice on that fateful June 6 six decades ago.
“When I think about that day,” he related, “I get sick all over. I think about all of the dead people. I don’t want to watch any television shows about D-Day. I went through the real thing.”
In contrast, 82-year-old Jack Wong vividly remembers the many bodies on Omaha Beach and his own close calls with German snipers, but he feels differently about this 60th anniversary. “This D-Day anniversary means a lot to me,” Wong stated. “It brings back a lot of memories. I was drafted to protect the liberty and freedom we so cherish in this country. In boot camp, I met with men who came from all over the country. I learned a lot, and I matured a whole lot.”
Wong was with the 12th Army Group and on D- Day, he and other troops were amassed on the southern tip of England . Fate dealt them a positive hand. They were held in reserve and didn’t go in on the first wave. When they arrived, fierce fighting continued.
“We got off a transport ship into a landing craft,” the Mississippi Delta veteran remembered. “Near shore we waded in knee deep water. Many bodies were floating in the water. The Germans were firing artillery and machine guns at us, and our battleships and troops fired back at them.”
“Our main job was to intercept German radio messages and to turn over that information to G2 intelligence,” he continued on. “They would decode those messages and feed it to headquarters to let them know where the German armored divisions were deployed and what they were up to.”
Wong emphasizes all Americans — especially Asian Pacific Americans — should appreciate the sacrifices that the veterans of World War II and other conflicts have made for this country.
He is thankful that his city, which once denied Chinese Americans the right to send their children to once segregated white schools or to use the local hospital facilities, has recognized veterans like himself for their contributions and honored them.
“We have more liberty and freedom than any other country in the world,” he commented. “Many people including Asian Americans sacrificed their lives to protect that liberty and freedom that we enjoy. The people who are new in this country should be educated about that history so they too will appreciate the sacrifices that have been made, and they’ll be encouraged to do what they can to protect that liberty and freedom.”
Judge Wong, who later became the first person of Chinese descent to be appointed to the judiciary in the continental United States , says that the Allied bomb raids over Germany helped to eliminate Hitler’s air power so an invasion could take place.
“There were few (German) airplanes flying over D-Day,” Judge Wong noted. “If there were more, they would have strafed our troops and we couldn’t have had the invasion.” The retired superior court judge had completed his 30 missions on June 2nd and was scheduled to go home just before the D-Day invasion, but he and his fellow crewmembers were held in reserve just in case they were needed. He says the bombers paid a heavy
price to pave the way for D-Day to happen.
“We flew the last hour to Berlin without fighter cover,” he recounted. “The city was surrounded by over 400 gun batteries. We lost 60 bombers. At the same time, our division was credited with 400 enemy aircraft destroyed in one day. We didn’t know what to shoot at because there were so many fighters coming through. They came so close you could see the pilots’ faces as they went whizzing by.”
On another mission, German fighters raked Wong’s B-17 dubbed the “Dry Run” with 17 direct hits. A waist gunner was killed and two other crewmembers were wounded. The bomber limped back to England and crashed landed at a British fighter base.
Judge Wong feels the media and historians should make more of an effort to recognize the contributions of Asian Pacific Americans during World War II, especially with the 60th anniversary of D-Day approaching.
“I think that the 100th Battalion / 442nd Nisei Regimental Combat Team has not gotten as much coverage or attention that they deserve,” he cited as example. “They are the most decorated unit in U.S. military history. We don’t really hear about them except in the Asian press, and they should get more coverage.”
Roy Fong, who was a sergeant and radio operator in the 9th Air Force of the Army Air Corps, says if anyone looked up at the sky on D-Day it was clear an invasion was under way.
“With 10,000 planes up in the air —- maybe more, some going in one direction and others going in another direction,” the retired Los Angeles Department of Water and Power employee noted, “you couldn’t count them. They were headed for Normandy and then coming back to reload. On June 6th our squadron commander didn’t come back. He was shot down.”
There had been plenty of air activity going on for a solid week. The former radio operator says he couldn’t hear the machine gun fire, but he knew when the pilots were in combat by listening to them on the radio. “They’d say, ‘Bandit at two o’clock high! There’s one coming in at four o’clock,'” he recounted. “When they finished their missions, the pilots radioed us back. We set up homing beacons to guide them in.”
Years later Fong was reminded of how important a role he played. Several attendees at a veterans’ reunion nonchalantly identified him as a “cook.” “I was the only Asian in my fighter group,” he said.
His wife Elizabeth quickly interjected, “Pilots that knew Roy quickly said, ‘No, No, he’s not a cook! He brought us home safely. That’s why we’re here at this reunion.'” Fong added, “It would be great if more people realized that Asian Americans contributed much to help win the war.”