Remembering Chinese-American Vets in Chinatown

Tommy Ong, a Vietnam War-era veteran, at a Veterans Day parade in Chinatown. (Photo courtesy of Tommy Ong via The Villager)

Last month, the 20,000 Chinese Americans who served during World War II received formal recognition from the federal government when President Trump signed into law the Chinese-American World War II Veteran Congressional Gold Medal Act. The bill awards a collective Congressional Gold Medal to Chinese-American veterans of the war. Among those servicemen is U.S. Air Force pilot Benjamin Ralph Kimlau who died when his bomber was attacked near Los Negros Island in the South Pacific Ocean.

Today the American Legion Lt. B. R. Kimlau Chinese Memorial Post 1291 on Canal Street, named in his honor, has 46 WWII vets among its members, some of whom plan to travel to the White House for an upcoming ceremony in honor of the Act, reports Gabe Herman in a Villager story on the organization dedicated to remembering the service of Chinese-American veterans.

The Chinatown post has a total of 530 members, down from 600 just two years ago due to older members passing away. There are 180 members of the post’s Auxiliary, for female family of vets, and 90 in the Sons, for male family members.

Vietnam War veterans are currently the largest group at Post 1291, followed by those who served in the Gulf War. It is older members, though, who are more frequent visitors to the post’s headquarters, according to member Tommy Ong, who served in the later years of the Vietnam War and turns 67 on Jan. 25.

Ong recalls the “dread of driving in his car” when the announcements of the birthdays for the draft came on the radio. Go to The Villager for more from the vet and to find out the activities Post 1291 organizes.

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