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Chinese American World War II Vets Recognized 75 Years Later

The highest civilian honor awarded by Congress has been bestowed on Chinese American WWII veterans decades after their service.
Posted at 7:28 PM, Dec 09, 2020

It’s a day 75 years in the making. Congress awarded Chinese American WWII veterans with the highest civilian honor awarded by Congress: the Congressional Gold Medal.

"No, kidding," says 98-year-old veteran Kim Wing Ngai, who served in the Army as a radio technician. His daughter Susan Lin says, "He doesn't believe it. ... It's an honor, and I'm sure he's very happy." 

Ngai and other Chinese American World War II veterans now join the ranks of the Tuskegee Airmen, Navajo Code Talkers and Filipino World War II soldiers who were awarded years before. 

"My initial response was, thank goodness that we still have some World War II veterans that are still alive that can receive this honor and recognition, because it's way past due," says E. Samantha Cheng, program director of the Chinese American WWII Veterans Recognition Project.  

Cheng helped this moment happen. The project began in 2016, when there were about 500 Chinese American World War II veterans living. Now she says they're less than 50.

They served when the discriminatory Chinese Exclusion Act was in place. It had ended Chinese nationals' immigration and barred a pathway to citizenship. Forty percent of those who served were not U.S. citizens but later received citizenship due to their service. The Chinese Exclusion Act was later repealed. 

Retired U.S. Navy Cmdr. Evelyn Moy says this recognition helps the legacy of her father, Moo Gew Moy, live on.

"There should be a huge spotlight on the contributions of the Chinese American World War II veterans because many people think that the Chinese Americans are not part of this country. But if you look at our history, you'll see that Chinese Americans are hugely patriotic."