I visited George Pong, a diminutive Chinese American, and noticed that, with his framed war ribbons, there were wings from the Army, Air Force, and Navy. I had gone to talk to him because I wanted to know about his service in a B-17 bomber in World War II. Christmas Day 1944 was his first navigator assignment to fly from Italy to Romania. The Army Air Corps gave him wings to bring the crews to target and back home. He also was to man one of the nose machine guns if under air attack. On some missions he had Black airmen with red-tailed airplanes for protection.
He then mentioned Japan and I asked if he flew against Germany and Japan. He said, no, he was in Japan during the Korean War navigating the Air Force SA 16 Albatross sea rescue aircraft to pick up downed aircrew off of North Korea.
More puzzling were the Navy wings. The Vietnam War was on and Pong was a civilian neighborhood pharmacist in San Mateo. He felt that he could give to the war effort. His neighbor told him to “go and talk to my boss.” To his dismay, not a few weeks after requesting, but a full year later, the Navy approved him to fly as navigator on the P3 Orion antisubmarine and surveillance aircraft in the South China sea.
That story, to me is, and he is, simply amazing.
My Irish-American father-in-law Ambrose Curry II of Pacifica fought those three wars as well. His battle station was down in the engine rooms of the Navy’s ships — from the cruiser New Orleans in WWII to the aircraft carrier Princeton off Korea to a destroyer escort in Vietnam waters. He thought his wings would come on a kamakaze flying bomb or a torpedo from below. He had lived through all that dread of being trapped below and torn asunder.
I wonder, when I hear of white Americans telling Asians to go home, how many have participated so deeply in preserving this country. Then there are the newly minted Hitler lovers and Jew haters who pretend to worship the swastika or the Confederate flag, barely out of diapers and sporting AR-15 rifles, whose minds were bent by spending too many hours with the internet. Also, there are the dullards who push over or rob the elderly Asians.
What is their legacy, besides prison time?