HomeBad Ass AsiansU.S. Honors surviving Chinese American WWII Vets

U.S. Honors surviving Chinese American WWII Vets

By Ahmed Sharma, AsAmNews Staff Writer

Kong, David
David Kong poses for a photo in his ROTC uniform in Arizona in 1943. (courtesy David Kong)

In 1882, the United States passed the Chinese Exclusion Act, making Chinese Americans the first group ever targeted in the U.S. for immigration restrictions. Despite that, many Chinese Americans fought valiantly in WWI and II.

Last December, Congress passed federal legislation, awarding Chinese American veterans with a Congressional Gold Medal, the highest honor that it can award to civilians. The award honors veterans like David Kong, 93, whose efforts have historically been overlooked.

It has been decades since Kong’s time in the military. As a result, his memory is quite fuzzy but tells AsAmNews that in 1943, he was drafted into the military: “I was 18. Only a teenager, who just got out of high school.” During his service, Kong was stationed in the South Pacific as an infantry soldier.

He was unable to recollect much from his time in service but remembered some of the racial discrimination and prejudice he faced, saying “you could just feel it.”  Soldiers would still throw racial slurs at Kong, referring to him as a foreigner. “You know, being Chinese, they call you a chinamen, and they look down upon you.” When asked what Kong meant by, “they” he comically explained it was never superior officers, but rather, “a lot of individuals – you know, rednecks. Some people are very nice; but you’ve got some individuals that’ll look down on you.”

Kong left the military after three years and he began a career in carpentry. He would continue his career as a carpenter for 40 years, until he retired. “It’s something I liked to do. Building houses, making things,” Kong says.

Kong was born in San Francisco, California in 1925 as a second generation Chinese American. Kong’s family arrived in the United States in the 1800s. Despite this, Kong contends, “it doesn’t make any difference. You look different. And they treat you that way. But you just ignore it, is all you can do.” Even after his military service, people viewed Kong as an outsider. “There’s always some prejudice…Not everyone knows you’re a veteran. They just see you as a foreigner.”

By no means does this deter Kong from being grateful for receiving the Congressional Gold Medal. “I’m just glad they gave us some recognition,” Kong says. Ultimately, Kong holds no regret for his time in the service. He is proud of what he has done and tells AsAmNews, both his brothers entered the service. His younger brother fought in the Korean war. Kong concluded by saying, “I think this is a great country. I’m glad I went into the service. And I’m glad I made it back.”  

AsAmNews has Asian America in its heart. We’re an all-volunteer effort of dedicated staff and interns. Check out our Twitter feed and Facebook page for more content. Please consider interning, joining our staff or submitting a story.


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