PHILADELPHIA, Pa. — Chinese-American World War II veterans were awarded the Congressional Gold Medal Nov. 6 at the Crane Building in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, as a national appreciation for distinguished achievements and contributions.
The Congressional Gold Medal is an award bestowed by the U.S. Congress and is one of two of the highest civilian awards in the United States. The practice of issuing the medal began during the revolutionary war and continues today.
“We’re presenting Congressional Gold Medals to family members as well as a few surviving WWII veterans of Chinese-American decent,” said Maj. Gen. Garrett Sung Yee, U.S. Army. “Many of the Chinese-Americans who served during WWII have since passed, so this is long overdue. We’re happy we’re able to honor them and give recognition to their families for their service.”
Ken Wong, Civilian Aide to Secretary of the Army-Pennsylvania East, hosted the ceremony honoring veterans Harry Jung, Raymond Lee, and Paul Toy, as well as over 40 families receiving medals on their loved ones’ behalf.
“I remember destruction and death. I thought to myself, someone has to do something – let me do something,” shared retired Pvt. 1st Class Harry G. Jung, 104th Infantry Division. “I enlisted into the service, served in WWII, got injured and retired. I thank and congratulate all Chinese-Americans who served in the armed forces and fought for their country during WWII.”
As many as 20,000 Chinese-Americans served in every theater of war, as well as every branch of service, during WWII. The Chinese-American WWII Veterans Recognition project honors and celebrates the military service of Chinese-Americans in WWII through education and advocacy. Alongside Chinese-American Citizens Alliance and the National Chinese-American Citizen Alliance Community Involvement Fund, they are determined to identify, honor and recognize all Chinese-Americans who served as a WWII U.S. armed service member.
“Receiving the Congressional Gold Medal means a lot to me,” said Raymond Lee, retired Army veteran. “I’m extremely grateful that I’m still alive and able to be here.”
Jung and Lee are two of the few surviving Chinese-American WWII veterans being presented the medal. The medal seeks to honor those who have performed an achievement that has an impact on American history and culture that is likely to be recognized as a major achievement in the field, long after the achievement.
The obverse of the medal’s design depicts Chinese-American servicemen and a nurse, representing all U.S. service branches in WWII and highlighting that they fought in every theater with honor. The reverse of the medal’s design features an Iowa-class battleship, an M4 Sharman tank, and P-40 Warhawk from the Flying Tigers 14th Air Force showcased fronting a WWII-era American Flag.
“This is personal for me as my father and uncle served during WWII. Like many of the WWII veterans, they’ve since passed. To recognize their contribution to their country and our nation is absolutely significant to my personal life as I know I wouldn’t be here today as a two-star general in the U.S. Army if not for those who came before; my father, my uncle, the 20,000 Chinese-American men and women who served during WWII,” Yee said.