WWII Chinese American Veterans Honored with Congressional Gold Medal

chinese american

We’ve talked about the discrimination against blacks in the military during WWII, but there is another group that struggled as well: the Chinese American Veteran. In 2018, President Trump signed the Chinese American World War II Veteran Congressional Gold Medal Act. The law awarded roughly 20,000 Chinese Americans the medal for their service in WWII.

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In Fresno, California on Saturday, a ceremony was held honoring four living Chinese American veterans, as well as some of the families of those who served and have passed on.

Approximately 40% of the Chinese Americans who served in WWII were not citizens due to the “Chinese Exclusion Act” which forbade Chinese from becoming citizens. The law wasn’t repealed until about halfway through WWII. But it didn’t deter those 20,000 Chinese Americans – some of them were drafted, others tried to enlist but were rebuffed at least once…but went on to serve in nearly every branch and theater of WWII.

Another medal recipient was Raymond Yuen Lee, who was born in San Francisco and moved to Fresno at 5 or 6 years old, he said. Lee enlisted in the Army in 1943 after he was turned down by the Air Force and Navy.

Lee said he had heard about the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor.

“I looked at my dad and said, ‘Where’s Pearl Harbor?’ ” he said. “We found out Pearl Harbor was in Hawaii. I said, ‘Man, looks like I have to go into the service.’ ”

After serving as a medic in the 97th Infantry Division, 322nd Medical Battalion, Company C, Lee left the service in 1946. He retired from the city of Fresno’s traffic division after 25 years.


The ceremonies have been held in different cities at different times, not just in Fresno, California. There were others who were drafted:

It is a great honor to receive the Congressional Gold Medal for my World War II service.

I was a teenager with an eighth-grade education in San Francisco Chinatown when I was drafted into the Army. My military experience provided me a chance to see the world, improve my English and contribute to the war effort.

After the war, I took advantage of the GI Bill to complete my high school education and receive an engineering degree from UC Berkeley. This education allowed me to work in the industries of space and nuclear technology and enjoy a comfortable family life.

Ming K Wong (profiles of service)

It didn’t matter whether a WWII Chinese American veteran did paperwork for the war, or flew and trained bomber pilots. Many of them served with the 14th Air Force in the China- Burma- India theater. They served with honor. Every job, every race, every person who served was vital to the war effort. Finally, yet another forgotten group is being recognized.


Featured photo : screenshot via Fresno Bee of the ceremony.

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