Four living Chinese American veterans who served during World War II were awarded Congressional Gold Medals in Fresno, Calif., over the weekend.
Why this matters: Signed by former President Donald Trump in 2018, the Chinese American World War II Veteran Congressional Medal Act recognizes Chinese Americans for their dedicated service.
- An estimated 20,000 Chinese Americans served in the armed forces during the war. Of this number, around 40% were not U.S. citizens due to existing laws that denied them citizenship.
- The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 was the first federal law that restricted the immigration of a specific nationality. It was repealed by the Magnuson Act in December 1943, which allowed the entry of 105 Chinese nationals per year.
- Chinese Americans served in all branches of the Armed Forces and all theaters of the war, according to the Department of Veteran Affairs. Many served with the 14th Air Force in the China-Burma-India theater.
The awardees: Hansen Chin, Wing Tuck Chin, Ray Lee and Edward Sing Quan each received the Congressional Gold Medal at the Veterans Memorial Museum in Fresno on Saturday.
- “This was a great day for me! I feel like a rare bird. I’m one of the only ones hanging around; the rest are all gone. All my buddies are gone. I feel kind of left out. I miss them,” Lee, 97, told KSEE/KGPE. He was also one of the people who helped establish the museum and is encouraging people to visit.
- Wing Tuck Chin, 98, was initially turned away when he tried to enlist because he was not white. He told KFSN, “It’s a great honor to be here. I didn’t think anything like this would happen to me.” His son, Mark Chin, was an organizer for the ceremony.
- Hansen Chin was unsure whether he would qualify for the medal, since he spent all of his service stateside, processing records for returning troops. But he realized that his service was just as valuable. “No matter what you did, what your job was, was important and it served a purpose. Just the service in the United States military, regardless, was an honor,” he told the Fresno Bee.
- From October 1944 to October 1946, Edward Sing Quan was in Korea, transporting troops and supplies in diesel trucks. He then served as a mess sergeant and chief baker.
More than 100 people attended the event. Aside from the living veterans, widows of six others were each awarded the gold medal.
Featured Image via Chinese American Citizens Alliance