It’s time to recognize the service of Chinese-American WWII veterans with Congressional Gold Medal
© Stefani Reynolds

Few people know that more than 18,000 Chinese and Chinese Americans served in the U.S. Armed Forces during World War II. Not kept apart like Japanese or African-American service members, they served in every capacity within the armed forces, even though the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act was still in force for much of the war. At the onset of Word War II there were approximately 78,000 Chinese living in the United States and another 29,000 living in the Territory of Hawaii. These Chinese and Chinese American men and women enlisted in large numbers, demonstrating their loyalty and patriotism to this country despite a history of discrimination.

Despite institutional racism and personal discrimination, the Chinese have fought bravely in every United States military conflict since the Civil War. But they have never been recognized for their service and sacrifice to this country. Chinese Americans from across the United States are asking that Chinese and Chinese Americans who served during World War II be recognized for their military service to this country with a Congressional Gold Medal. The Chinese are the only U.S. minority group that has not been recognized for their service. Native Americans and Navajo Code Talkers; Tuskegee Airman; Montford Point Marines; Women Air Force Service Pilots; Japanese Americans and Filipino Veterans have all been recognized for their service during World War II with Congressional Gold Medals.

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Sergeant Harry Lim is 94 years old living in Oakland, Calif. He served with the 407 Air Service Squadron, 14th Air Service Group in the China Burma India (CBI) theater supporting the 14th Army Air Corps providing aircraft maintenance and equipment support. Like many American born Chinese, Harry was categorized as a white citizen on his enlistment records. After the war, Harry joined the Navy electrical apprentice program and eventually found work in the private sector working on military aircraft. His story of service to country should be recognized.

Technical Sergeant Kwong Y. Yee is 96 years old living in New York City. He was born in China, naturalized as a U.S. citizen and enlisted in the US Army Air Corps. He served as a Construction Foreman and Mechanic also with the 407 Air Service Squadron, 14th Air Service Group in the China Burma India (CBI) theater. Kwong was categorized as a Chinese American citizen on his enlistment records. After the war, Kwong could not find a job in his field because he was Chinese. He ended up buying a laundry business in New York to support his family. His story of service to country should be recognized.

Corporal Beck “Bock Hong” Gee is 96 years old living in Houston. Born in China, he came to the United States when he was a child and worked in his family’s grocery store. It was there he took an interest in photography and began developing Black and white photos in the back of the store. During World War II, he joined the 13th Photo Technical Unit processing film for the 9th Army Air Corps in England, France and Germany. When he returned to the U.S. after the war, Beck went to college on the GI Bill, got his degree and worked as a commercial artist in Houston. His story of service to country should be recognized.

A bipartisan bill (S 1050 and HR 2358), the Chinese American WWII Veterans Congressional Gold Medal (CGM) Act has been introduced by Sens. Tammy DuckworthLadda (Tammy) Tammy DuckworthOvernight Defense: Dems talk Afghanistan, nukes at Detroit debate | Senate panel advances Hyten nomination | Iranian foreign minister hit with sanctions | Senate confirms UN ambassador Senate committee advances nomination of general accused of sexual assault Overnight Defense: General accused of sexual assault to get confirmation hearing | Senate to vote Monday on overriding Saudi arms deal veto | Next Joint Chiefs chair confirmed | Graham tries to ease Turkey tensions MORE (D-Ill.), Mazie HironoMazie Keiko HironoLawmakers urge DNC to name Asian American debate moderator Democratic senator on possibility of Trump standing up to the NRA: 'That's just such BS' Schumer to Trump: Demand McConnell hold vote on background check bill MORE (D-Hawaii) and Thad CochranWilliam (Thad) Thad CochranBiden has a lot at stake in first debate The Hill's Morning Report — Trump turns the page back to Mueller probe Trump praises Thad Cochran: 'A real senator with incredible values' MORE (R-Miss.) with Reps. Ed RoyceEdward (Ed) Randall RoyceMystery surrounds elusive sanctions on Russia Hillicon Valley: Lawmakers struggle to understand Facebook's Libra project | EU hits Amazon with antitrust probe | New cybersecurity concerns over census | Robocall, election security bills head to House floor | Privacy questions over FaceApp House panel advances bill to protect elections from foreign interference MORE (R-Calif.) and Ted Lieu (D-Calif.), respectively, on May 4, 2017. The Senate passed S 1050 by unanimous consent on Sept. 12, 2018. HR 2358 needs a supermajority, 290 House co-sponsors so it can be sent to the White House for signature and to become public law. To date, it has 236 co-sponsors in the House. Over a dozen city and state resolutions have been enacted in support of the Chinese American WWII Veterans Congressional Gold Medal Act, 30 letters of support from affinity groups and organizations in addition to a letter signed by 66 retired generals and admirals.

The Chinese American World War II Veterans commitment and sacrifice to our country demonstrated an extraordinary sense of patriotism. We have lost many of these patriots in the years since the end of World War II and several dozen in this decade. With precious few still alive, approximately 50, we must honor and recognize the selflessness and sacrifice of those still with us, quoting Tom Brokaw, they are “the Greatest Generation.” They served as Americans with honor and distinction. Their service to this country must be recognized. It is their time.

Cheng is Project Director with Chinese American WWII Veterans Recognition Project and Congressional Gold Medal Act, a program of the National Chinese American Citizens Alliance Community Involvement Fund.