WASHINGTON D.C. (KHON2) — After a year of COVID restrictions Congress has finally bestowed its highest honor to Chinese-American WWII veterans.
There is one man often considered Hawaii’s Oscar Schindler who protected lives with a list of his own.
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Every war has its heroes. Not all distinguished themselves on the battlefield. One Chinese-American hero used his reputation and influence to protect his Nisei neighbors.
Executive Order 9066 sent 120,000 mainland Japanese-Americans to relocation camps during WWII.
Japanese-Americans in the the Hawaiian Islands were spared the worst largely because of this man.
Along with police Capt. John Burns and other community leaders, YMCA counselor Hung Wai Ching met with the FBI, Army and Navy intelligence, and President Roosevelt himself to assure them there was no need for Hawaii’s Japanese population to be sent to mainland camps. He vouched for and secured the release of a long list of scholars, religious and civic leaders arrested because of their cultural ties to Japan.
“40% of the population was thrown into jeopardy,” said Tom Coffman, “The First Battle” producer. “Hung Wai Ching stood out among the network that lit the way and got through.”
In 2006, Ching spoke to Coffman about his meeting with FDR.
Ching was instrumental in organizing the Varsity Victor volunteers, a construction corps of Japanese-American UH ROTC students and territorial guardsmen released because they were considered enemy aliens.
When Washington finally relented, 10,000 nisei from Hawaii enlisted with Hung Wai Ching as the soldiers’ advocate, traveling with them to mainland boot camps.
Wherever the Nisei encountered racial hostility, Ching met with local officials and the press to ameliorate tension and promote the soldiers as loyal Americans. When they received their overseas orders, he was on the dock to wave them aloha.
“When they came home he really wanted to help them get into jobs or the education they needed,” said
Shari Tamashiro, KCC Cybrarian. “He set up a scholarships for veterans who couldn’t afford vocation training or the job they wanted. He tapped into his contacts, like the Big Five. You can support someone but he did it to a degree I’ve never read about before.”
Hung Wai Ching died in 2008 at the age of 97.
For his service as a National Guard captain, he receives the Chinese American Congressional Gold Medal, and a 2nd Congressional Medal from the Nisei for his devotion to Hawaii’s Japanese-American community.
Hung Wai Ching is the first American to receive two congressional gold medals from different military units
Today less than 1% of our military men and women are Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.
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The hope is that this recognition will convince more Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders to consider serving our country as a member of the U.S. Armed Forces.