On December 7th, 1On December 7th, 1941, Pearl Harbor was attacked and the United States
entered World War II. Among those who joined the armed forces were Chinese
Americans who wanted to show their patriotism and loyalty to their country.
Others fought a different battle, raising funds and selling war bonds. The war
offered opportunities and experiences that would change their lives forever and
affect the course of Chinese American history.
Approximately 15,000 to 20,000 Chinese Americans served in the war or
19-25% of the total Chinese population in the United States served in the U.S.
Armed Forces. According to one survey of Southern California Veterans of Chinese
decent, 42% served in the Army, 39% in the Air Corps, and the remaining 19% were
in the Navy, Marines, Coast Guard, or Merchant Marines.1 They were
assigned a variety of jobs ranging from cook to pilots with ranks ranging from
Private to Major.
As the war continued, Chinese Americans not in uniform fought the battle
in a different way. Many joined the campaign to save, recycle, and/or ration
tires, rubber, scrap metal, and gasoline. Even before American involvement in
the war, Chinese Americans were trying to relieve China, who was suffering from
its war with Japan. With Madame Chiang Kai-shek’s visit in 1943, the Chinese
Americans had already been raising funds for several years. Simultaneously,
Chinese American women were entering the war industry as men were sent off to
the war. Through this, they were able to expand the roles of Chinese Americans
and women in the war industry.
Through the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act
of 1944 (G.I Bill), many war veterans were able to attend to college to resume
their education. The bill provided loans to veterans who wanted to buy houses or
start businesses and paid for the G.I.’s entire education if they chose to
attend school. Through the bill, many Chinese Americans from Los Angeles
Chinatown entered universities such as the University of Southern California,
University of California, Los Angeles and the University of California,
Berkeley. Many became engineers, teachers, judges, doctors, and professionals.
1. Jim Fong & Marjorie Lee, "The Unsung 390," in
Marjorie Lee, editor, Duty & Honor: A Tribute to Chinese American World War
II Veterans of Southern California, (Los Angeles: CHSSC, 1998), 81.
© 2008 Chinese Historical Society of Southern California. |