HomeBad Ass AsiansChinese American WWII Veterans claim their place in history

Chinese American WWII Veterans claim their place in history

By Shirley Ng, AsAmNews Staff Writer

(Editor’s note: Shirley Ng joined film producer and author Samantha Cheng in 2018 and 2019 in lobbying Congress in support of the Congressional Gold Medal. This is Shirley’s blog)

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi hosted a virtual Congressional Gold Medal ceremony Wednesday at the White House in honor of the nearly 20,000 Chinese American WWII Veterans .  This was a long overdue recognition for so many Chinese Americans WWII veterans and their families.

Speaker of The House, Nancy Pelosi holds the Chinese American WWII Veterans Congressional Gold Medal. Image from the virtual ceremony.

Hundreds of celebrants watched the ceremony streamed on Youtube with Pelosi making the opening remarks, followed by the National Anthem, Color Guards and a prayer.  There were old photos of the veterans in uniform that scrolled across the screen-the faces of brave Americans.

Organizers halted earlier plans to host a live-in-person ceremony last spring or summer due to COVID-19

“Today, I am proud to represent thousands of Chinese American veterans who served side by side in every branch of our country’s military in every service at the time,” said Elsie Chin Yuen Seeto, a 102-year-old veteran who received the first Congressional Gold Medal on behalf of all veterans. She served as a first lieutenant in the US Army Nurse Corps in China.

Elsie Chin Yuen Seeto, accepts the Congressional Gold Medal for all the Chinese American WWII Veterans. Image from the virtual ceremony.
Elsie Chin Yuen Seeto in uniform during WWII. Image from the virtual ceremony.

Other veterans quickly followed. They included Grace Chin, Gloria Toy Gim Jee and her sister Lorraine, all members of the Coast Guard’s Womens Reserve, known as SPARS.

Gordon Chung-Hoon, a Navy Admiral who received the Navy Cross and was the first Asian American flag officer, also received a medal during the virtual ceremony. A Navy destroyer is named after him for his heroic service at sea.  

Photos of Gordon Chung-Hoon. Images from CAWW2.org

Congresswoman and Chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC) Judy Chu, Congressman Mark Takano, Senator Tammy Duckworth and Congressman Ted Lieu offered their congratulations and spoke of the service and bravery of the veterans.

Lieu co-led the bill to recognize the veterans for the Congressional Gold Medal with Senators Mazie Hirono, Tammy Duckworth, former Senators Ed Royce (Ret.) and Thad Cochran who died in 2019.

President Trump signed the bill into law recognizing the veterans for the Congressional Gold Medal just before the federal shut down in December 2018.

Photos of Chinese American WWII Veterans shown during the live virtual ceremony. Image from the virtual ceremony.

Many may think the government decided on its own to recognize the service of men and women for the Congressional Gold Medal, but that isn’t so. It’s not until a group, organization or individual comes along and decides to petition Congress does this happen.

E. Samantha Cheng, the visionary of this project took personal time and a lot of her own funds to get the Chinese American WWII Veterans Recognition Project up and running in 2016, with support from the Chinese American Citizens Alliance. In her new book, “Honor and Duty: The Chinese American WWII Veterans,” she lists records from over 22,000 veterans.

Many of the veterans were drafted into service, but many also volunteered. They all served with patriotism despite the Chinese Exclusion Act, which was still in effect during the war. They are now finally honored for the distinction of their service, dedication and bravery for defending our nation’s freedom. It is indeed a very proud moment for all people of Chinese ancestry.

The front and back of the Congressional Gold Medal. Image from the virtual ceremony.

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