Saturday, December 29, 2018

Chinese-American WWII Veterans

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On Thursday, December 20, 2018, President Donald Trump signed into law:

S. 1050, the “Chinese-American World War II Veteran Congressional Gold Medal Act,” which provides for the award of a Congressional Gold Medal, collectively, to the Chinese-American Veterans of World War II, in recognition of their dedicated service during World War II; and

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S. 2101, the “USS Indianapolis Congressional Gold Medal Act,” which provides for the award of a Congressional Gold Medal, collectively, to the crew of the USS Indianapolis, in recognition of their perseverance, bravery, and service to the United States.

The White House identified the signing on its website as a simple "Bill Announcement" and there appears to have been little or no White House ceremony. Neither bill was mentioned on the White House Facebook or Twitter. Both Gold Medals generated very little press.

The Chinese-American World War II Veteran Congressional Gold Medal Act orders the creation of the medal to recognize the 20,000 Chinese Americans who volunteered or were drafted in WWII when the Chinese Exclusion Act was still in place.

The bill to award the medal was introduced in both the House of Representatives and the Senate in 2017, the result of a campaign by the Chinese American Citizens Alliance (C.A.C.A.) called the Chinese American WWII Veterans Recognition Project. It passed unanimously in the Senate this past September and in the House on Dec. 12.

There were a number of Chinese or Chinese Americans who became POWs of Japan. Most were aboard US Naval ships as stewards and cooks. There were possibly as many as 37 Chinese aboard the USS Houston (CA-30) when it was sunk in the Sunda Strait on March 1, 1942. The survivors were sent to be slave laborers on the Thai-Burma Death Railway. Pvt. Eddie Fung who was surrendered on Java with the Texas National Guard was also there.

The Portland-class heavy cruiser USS Indianapolis was commissioned in 1932. It operated from Pearl Harbor and throughout the Pacific while participating in major battles during World War II, escorting convoys and attacking enemy submarines. The ship, unescorted, was returning from Tinian to the Philippines after its top secret mission delivering the uranium core for the atomic bomb.

After midnight on July 30, 1945, a Japanese submarine attacked the USS Indianapolis, sinking the ship within minutes. Approximately 1,200 U.S. servicemembers were on board. After five days afloat in the shark filled Pacific Ocean, just over 300 sailors survived. It was the worst sea disaster in U.S. Navy history. This recognition honors all the men who served, including the fewer than 20 living survivors, as well as those who died on board the Indianapolis.

Friday, December 21, 2018

Remembering the Hopevale Martyrs

On December 19, 1943, 75 years ago, Imperial Japanese soldiers stumbled upon 17 Americans hiding in the forest near Tapaz, Capiz on Panay. Eleven were Baptist missionaries, three were children. They had built an outdoor chapel in their hidden encampment. The next morning, after prayers, the adults were beheaded and the children bayoneted to death. 

In his 1977 memoir, The Blood and Mud of the Philippines: The Worst Anti-Guerrilla Warfare in the Pacific, Mr. Toshimi Kumai, former Adjutant and Captain of the Panay Garrison described the incident, which had shocked him. The Edge of Terror: The Heroic Story of American Families Trapped in the Japanese-occupied Philippines by Scott Walker (2009) is a contemporary account of the tragedy. 

Memorial Plaque at University of the Central Philippines
Iloilo-city, Panay

Replica in Wisconsin of Hopevale Chapel 
where the Japanese captured 
the Americans

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Palawan Massacre Anniversary

At noon on December 14, 1944, 150 American POWs building an airstrip on Palawan Island in the Philippines were sent to their recently constructed air raid trenches. Quickly, the Japanese troops doused them with buckets of airplane fuel and set them afire with flaming torches, followed by hand grenades and machine gun fire. Miraculously, 11 men escaped to the sea and were rescued by Filipino guerrillas.

Never Forget

Don Schloat (d. 2010), a San Diego artist and veteran who was a prisoner at the camp before the mass murder there, was the driving force behind a 2009 memorial at the site of the killings. With the help of the municipal government of Puerto Princesa City, Palawan’s capital, a permanent monument now graces a city park to honor the men who were slain (above).

Survivor's Story
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The massacre had haunted Schloat for decades. He completed a series of 77 paintings that depict the slaughter in abstract, impressionistic and realistic forms. Disappointed that the US government never erected a memorial, he took it upon himself to design and place a monument in Puerto Princesa City in 2009.

The site of the massacre actually has had a small monument that displays the names of the handful of survivors — Schloat’s name is mistakenly included — but there had been no official memorial to those who were killed.

The new one is a simple obelisk with bronze faceplates that tells the story of what happened and bears the names of the men who died there. A bronze statue created by Schloat sits atop the memorial. It depicts a tortured male figure writhing in pain as flames rise from his feet.

Schloat had been an Army medic at Bataan before being imprisoned at Palawan early in the war. Nearly two years before the massacre, Schloat tried to escape but was quickly captured and sent to Bilibid, a POW camp in Manila.

He spent the rest of the war there, racked with dysentery, beriberi, pellagra and scurvy. He learned of the massacre after he was liberated Feb. 4, 1945.

For an accurate accounting of all the POWs who were killed and survived see HERE.