Search for WWII Chinese-American veterans is a race against time

By Dong Leshuo in Washington | China Daily USA | Updated: 2017-08-21 10:35

Search for WWII Chinese-American veterans is a race against time

Chinese-American units of the US Army Air Corps in World War II march in Dayton, Ohio, on Memorial Day, 1943. PROVIDED TO CHINA DAILY

They are dying virtually every day, and Ed Gor is trying to find them before they do.

They are the 20,000 Chinese Americans who fought in World War II. Nobody knows how many are alive.

"The youngest who served would be 88 now. The oldest who is still alive is 101," said Gor, the national president of Chinese American Citizens Alliance (CACA). "We're trying to find them as quickly as possible."

For the veterans, many of their parents were not able to join their families in China or get them to the US because of the Chinese Exclusion Act.

When the war broke out, they believed it was a chance to fight not only for the US but for the Chinese people as well, where they were originally from, according to Gor.

Gor's father and uncle are among those who served and died.

The Chinese American WWII Veterans Recognition Project, initiated by CACA, has been launched to recognize, honor and celebrate the Chinese-American servicemen and women who volunteered or were drafted during World War II when the Chinese Exclusion Act was still in place.

The project's goal is to ensure that the achievements and contributions of the "greatest generation" will never be forgotten.

"As Chinese Americans, if we do not capture and record for our history no one is going to do it for us," project director Samantha Cheng said.

The project is working on creating a public database that will carry the names of all Chinese Americans who served in the US armed forces during World War II.

After the team dug into National Archives and began breaking everything down by common Chinese last names, they have been able to confirm more than 14,000 people who served in the US Army and US Army Air Force, Cheng said.

At the beginning of World War II, 77,504 Chinese were recorded to have lived in the US and as many as 25 percent, approximately 20,000, served in the armed forces, according to Fighting for the Dream: Voices of Chinese American Veterans from WWII to Afghanistan, a book by Victoria Moy, a Los Angeles and New York City-based Asian-American writer.

"People should know that they participated in significant numbers -- the highest of any national group. As many as 25 percent served in the armed forces and contributed in the effort, while 11.5 percent of the general US population did," Moy said.

As part of the Chinese American WWII Veterans Recognition Project, a bill to award a Congressional Gold Medal, collectively, in recognition of their service was introduced in Congress in May.

On Dec 2, 2016, Congress granted the Gold Medal of national recognition to the 260,000 Filipino and Filipino-American soldiers who served under the US Army in the Far East.

However, the Chinese Americans who served in World War II haven't been recognized and honored by the nation.

"We need 67 from the Senate and 290 from the House. We're about one-sixth of the way through on the House side and about 10 percent on the Senate side," said Gor.

The bill has 48 co-sponsors on the House side, with two main sponsors, Democrat Ted

Lieu and Republican Ed Royce, both from California.

There are seven co-sponsors in the US Senate. The main sponsors are Democrats Tammy Duckworth of Illinois and Mazie Hirono of Hawaii and Thad Cochran, Republican of Mississippi.

Duckworth is a retired US Army lieutenant colonel. She served as a helicopter pilot in Iraq and suffered severe combat wounds, losing both of her legs and damaging her right arm. She was the first female double amputee from the war.

"More than 13,000 brave Chinese Americans volunteered to risk their lives to protect their fellow Americans from our enemies during World War II," said Duckworth. "Their unwavering commitment to their country even after being initially turned away should be recognized, and it's important we honor this brave group of veterans with a Congressional Gold Medal."

A website,, was launched in February as a platform to support the effort to find Chinese-American veterans, and 78 people have registered that they are veterans. "We need to have more people respond," Cheng said.

"Sometimes people don't even realize that their father or grandfather were veterans," Gor said. "Sometimes it happens when people pass away, their children look at their records, and they come across those military records. That's how they find out that their parents were veterans.

"My father and uncle are like most of the other people in their generation, they didn't talk about it very much. You almost had to ask them about it," he said.

Gor's father, Joe M.F. Gor, was born in China in 1918. entered the US military at Camp Wolters Reception Center in Texas. He served in multiple locations and was honorably discharged at Sheppard Air Force Base in Texas in 1945.

Ed Gor's uncle, George Gor, enlisted in the US Army in December 1942. He trained at the radar unit at Camp Crowder, Missouri, and was stationed in New Guinea.

"I remember he talked about the ship he was on, the Liberty. It was hit by torpedo and sank 200 miles from the Fiji Islands. He and the crew spent three days in the water before being rescued," Ed Gor said.

George Gor was awarded a Purple Heart before being discharged from Fort Sam Houston, Texas, as a sergeant.

Captain Francis B. Wai is the only Chinese American who served in World War II to have been awarded the Medal of Honor by Congress, the US' highest military award. His posthumous Distinguished Service Medal, awarded in 1944, was upgraded in 2000 to a Medal of Honor.

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