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Chinese Americans World War II Veterans To Be Recognized with Congressional Gold Medal

SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) -- Chinese American World War II veterans are finally getting the recognition they deserve more than 70 years later.

On Saturday, more than 100 Chinese American World War II veterans from the Bay Area and Sacramento will be honored for their sacrifice and service in Sacramento. They will be receiving the Congressional Gold Medal which is Congress's highest honor of national appreciation. Only four World War II veterans are still alive and will be there this weekend to accept the awards themselves.

This reporter has been covering this story over the last few years. For my family, the story is a personal one. That's because one of the Chinese American World War II veterans to be honored is my grandfather.

Back in June 2018, San Francisco supervisors pushed Congress to officially honor and celebrate Chinese American World War II veterans. At the time, I spoke to two of the veterans, heroes who were both proud to be American.

World War II veterans Ron Won and Dale King were in their 90s.

"I'm just as American as anybody else," said Won. "Just the color of my skin and I'm just as patriotic as any American."

"If I have to do it again, I'd do it again!" said KIng.

Even during a time of extreme racism against Chinese Americans with the Exclusion Act still in place, they felt it was their duty to fight for our freedom. More than 20,000 Chinese Americans served our country around the world and even formed Chinese American squadrons like the Flying Tigers 14th Air Service Group.

"I think it's always been important they should've been honored," said former San Francisco Supervisor Norman Yee. "The fact that we have so few veterans I think it's very important that we recognize them while some of them are still alive."

In December of 2018, Congress did officially recognize Chinese American World War II veterans for their service and sacrifice, awarding them with the Congressional Gold Medal.

"I think 70 years. It's too late you know," said my father, Jim Lee, son of World War II Veteran Edward Lee.

Lee said father told him stories of his service during WWII before he passed away.

"He did tell me the story about the time they were flying over Europe and they were being shot at," said Lee. "The commanding officer said it's a good time for you to start praying so we can get out of this alive."

Edward Lee was in high school when he went to war. He served in the Army Air Corps. He was the only Asian American in his unit.

"He was proud of being a serviceman," said Lee. "I remember going through his closet one time and found his uniform. This was about 15 years after the war. I remember putting on his jacket and I knew he was a sergeant."

To learn more, visit the Chinese American WWII Veterans Recognition Project

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