On December 9th, Chinese American World War II veterans were recognized in a virtual ceremony with the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest civilian honor awarded by Congress. Featured speakers included Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer. Officers of all military branches expressed their gratitude in between military band performances of patriotic songs as well.
One in five Chinese Americans volunteered to fight and serve in World War II, totaling an estimated 20,000 men and women. They served in every branch of the armed forces and in every theater of the war. This is especially significant because the Chinese exclusion laws, which restricted Chinese immigration to the United States from 1882 to 1943, were still in effect. Despite xenophobia and discrimination, these Chinese Americans demonstrated a willingness to serve that reflects in younger generations.
Elsie Chin Yuen Seetoo, a 102-year-old veteran who served as a First Lieutenant military nurse stationed with the 14th Army Air Force in China, received the award on behalf of Chinese American veterans. “We have waited a long time for this moment. I am deeply honored to receive this Congressional Gold Medal on behalf of my sisters and brothers. I hope our perseverance, commitment, and hard work will further inspire our young people to serve this wonderful country,” she said.
Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus Chair Judy Chu, Congressman Ted Lieu, Senator Tammy Duckworth, the Chinese American Citizens Alliance, and other policymakers spearheaded the efforts to recognize Chinese American veterans like Seetoo. Their work resulted in the Chinese-American World War II Veterans Congressional Gold Medal Act, which will ensure that Chinese American contributions in World War II are never forgotten.
One Congressional Gold Medal will be displayed at the Smithsonian Institute, and all registered Chinese American veterans will receive a bronze replica. More information about the Congressional Gold Medal ceremony, the medal’s design, and Chinese American World War II service can be found here.
Click here for the full text of the Chinese-American World War II Veterans Congressional Gold Medal Act.