Friday, May 5, 2017

Congressional Gold Medal sought for Chinese/American WWII veterans


FOLLOWING IN THE FOOTSTEPS of legislation that honored Japanese/American and Filipino/American WWII veterans by awarding them the Congressional Gold Medal, a new bill was introduced to extend the same honor to Chinese/American WWII vets.

House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce, R-Calif, and Rep. Ted Lieu, D-Calif., introduced on May 4, the Chinese American World War II Congressional Gold Medal Act (H.R. 2358). The bipartisan legislation recognizes the dedicated service of Chinese American veterans of World War II and collectively awards them the Congressional Gold Medal.

“The United States remains forever indebted to the bravery, valor, and dedication that the Chinese/American veterans of World War II displayed," said Royce. "Their commitment and sacrifice demonstrates a highly uncommon and commendable sense of patriotism and honor in the face of discrimination.

“To these brave veterans of World War II, thank you for your service and sacrifice. We are a grateful nation, and we honor your service by working towards a better world. We must promote diplomacy over conflict and ensure that war is the absolute last resort.” 

“As we observe this month of May as Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, the introduction of our bill is a timely reminder of the many contributions AAPIs have made to our great nation, including serving in our military," added Lieu. 

By the start of World War II in 1941, slightly more than 100,000 Chinese/Americans had made a life for themselves in the U.S. Chinese/Americans faced major challenges, including discrimination, before the start of World War II due to laws such as the Chinese Exclusion Act, which limited the size of their population and their ability to build thriving communities. 

Nevertheless, and even with the Chinese Exclusion Act in place, almost 20,000 of these brave men and women served in the armed forces in every theater of battle and every branch of service, earning citations for their heroism and honorable service.

Francis B. Wai was awarded the Medal of Honor


One Chinese/American received the Distinguished Service Cross, Capt. Francis B. Wai. He was born in Hawaii, where his father was Chinese and his mother Native Hawaiian. After graduating from the Punahou School in Honolulu and the University of California at Los Angeles, Wai enlisted in the Hawaii National Guard and was called to active duty in 1940," said military historian James C. McNaughton of the Foreign Language Center of the Presidio of Monterey.

"Wai earned his commission through officers candidate school in 1941 and was assigned to the 34th Infantry, part of the 24th Infantry Division. On October 20, 1944, his unit landed at Leyte in the Philippines. He was killed in action while leading soldiers off the beach against accurate and concentrated enemy fire," said McNaughton. After the war, the award was upgraded to the Medal of Honor, the highest military award for heroism during a war.

About one quarter of all Chinese/American soldiers served with the Army Air Forces. In 1943 the Army Air Forces organized some support units for the China-Burma-India theater, including the 14th Air Service Group, composed predominantly of Chinese-American personnel, according to  
Other Chinese-Americans trained as pilots and aircrew and fought in Europe and the Pacific. However, most were assigned to regular ground units.

An estimated 40 percent of Chinese/American soldiers were not native-born citizens. After Congress repealed the Chinese Exclusion Act in 1943, many took advantage of their military service to become naturalized.
"From the Atlantic to the Pacific, Chinese/Americans served with courage and distinction during WWII and it is time for Congress to recognize them by awarding them the Congressional Gold Medal," said Lieu.

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