WWII Service Medals Finally Awarded to Chinese-American Veterans

by Matthew Memrick

Several Chinese-American veterans finally received their World War II military honors in a Saturday ceremony in Chinatown, ending years of delays.

According to the New York Post, many men were now in their 90s. But they lived long enough to see a rare ceremony with six Bronze Star medals and dozens of Congressional Gold Medals for their valor in combat.

Three Chinese-American generals, retired Major Gen. William S. Chen, Major Gen. Darryll D.M. Wong, and Major Gen. Garrett S. Yee made the presentation. Chen is the first Chinese-American to earn the rank of two-star general.

Harry Chin, Ying Chin, Ng Y Jung, Sidney J. Tom, Wing Wong, and Koon Y. Yee were among the Bronze Star award recipients.

According to the newspaper, roughly 20,000 Chinese-Americans fought in World War II, and many did not have citizenship. Despite battling in segregated units and without civil rights under the Chinese Exclusion Act, these men fought for this country. Finally, America recognized these men for their service and sacrifices.

Long Wait Over For Several Chinese-American Veterans

For one Vietnam veteran, his father’s service medals were long overdue.

“It took a long time,” Paul Cheng said. “For our family, this is a total honor.”

The 73-year-old Cheng is a retired hospital administrator. He accepted the service medals on behalf of his father, Paul Cheng Sr., who served in the Navy during World War II, and two grandfathers, Kong Chu, a Marine, and James Cheng, who served in the Army.

Cheng has more than a few memories of Kong Chu during the war.

“One of the stories he told me once was he was on a ship in the Atlantic as a seaman,” Cheng told NY1. “It got torpedoed from under him, and I was like ‘holy mackerel!’”

According to that NY1 story in 2020, Cheng served as an Army Sergeant and medic. He also is a Purple Heart recipient. The man is thankful for his military experiences and his bonding with his fellow soldiers. He believes it translated into a long and successful career as a hospital executive.

“The thing that they taught us well was teamwork. In order to survive, you have to know teamwork,” a tearful Cheng told NY1. “You have to be able to depend on the person next to you, what they’re going to do, and you know what you have to do.”

Medal Ceremony A Long Time Coming

Congress formally recognized Chinese American veterans for their service in December 2018. Soon after, a nominating process for the Congressional Gold Medal started, but there still were delays. The pandemic threw a wrench into these ceremonies, but they restarted across the country in recent months.

Saturday’s Chinatown crowd included many who carried photos of their honored family members

Unfortunately, elderly Bronze Star awardees could not attend because of the city’s rising number of COVID-19 cases.