Recognition has finally come for Chinese American World War II veterans

Congressional Gold Medals for Chinese American World War II veterans. (Photo: Han Li)

World War II ended in 1945 but the fight for recognition continues.

In 2018, I wrote several articles about the national Chinese American community’s effort pushing for Congressional Gold Medal recognition, the highest honor from Congress, to be bestowed upon World War II Chinese American veterans.

At that time, nothing had materialized but those initiating the concept knew time was of the essence: the youngest of the surviving veterans were now in their late eighties.

The Chinese American Citizens Alliance (CACA), Chinese American political and community leaders, along with Chinese American veterans persisted in their goal, and legislation was finally passed and signed by President Trump.

In December 2020, at a virtual event, Congress presented the first of the Congressional Gold Medals to Chinese American World War II veterans.

Regional virtual Congressional Gold Medal ceremonies began in early 2021 because of the pandemic. Reaching surviving Chinese American World War II veterans was a priority.

In June 2020, San Francisco safely re-opened because of its strong pandemic response. On this very meaningful July 4 weekend, San Francisco Chinatown opened its doors at CACA to honor the veterans, mostly nonagenarians, and to present them with their medals and certificates. Families also gathered to receive posthumous honors.

Henry Wong 黃寶堯(left), 97, of San Francisco, served in U.S. Navy during World War II and received his Congressional Gold Medal from retired Rear Admiral Jonathan Yuen 阮啟榮 on July 3, 2021. (Photo: Han Li)
Edward Chin 陳仲強(left), 99, of Santa Clara, served in U.S. Air Force during World War II. (Photo: Han Li)
Dai Nin Tom 譚帝年(left), 97, of San Francisco, served in U.S. Navy during World War II. (Photo: Han Li)

It’s estimated that 20,000 Chinese Americans served in the military during World War II. Many of them were immigrants, speaking limited English while being excluded by the Chinese Exclusion Act from citizenship, but they still chose to serve during wartime.

According to the Chinese American WWII Veterans Recognition Project, about 3,500 veteran families have been identified, and about 300 veterans are still alive.

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Attached is some of my coverage from 2018 to 2021.

2018:

2019:

2020 December & 2021 July:

Bilingual journalist. San Francisco-based.