(ARCHIVE): Before Ian Fleming’s portrayal of 007, there were the Asian Canadian Commandos of the #136 British Intelligence Unit. One notable super-spy was Vancouver-born Agent 50. His name was … Chong, Bill Chong — sorry, I know that doesn’t quite work. In any case, I’d see that movie!
Bill Chong (short for William) was born in Vancouver in 1911, and was in Hong Kong when the Japanese invaded in 1941. Bill volunteered after witnessing a massacre of unarmed Canadian soldiers by members of the invasion force. “Working well behind enemy lines, … code-named Agent 50, carried medical supplies between posts, gathered intelligence, translated messages, and helped downed air personnel escape across the Japanese line.” Pretty cool, huh?
“After the war, Mr. Chong received several decorations including the British Empire Medal (Medal of the Order of the British Empire for Meritorious Service).” [Excerpt from National Defence Asian Heritage Month Website]
Of course, there are many more notable Canadians who served at a time when racial discrimination was acceptable. There was Alex Louie, Daniel Lee, John Ko Bong, Howe Lee, Bing Wong, Douglas Jung, Dodson Mah, Roy Mah (who led the first Chinese Canadian contingent to fight the Japanese Army in the Malaysia-Singapore battle during WWII) and many, many others (read more after the jump). There was also an all-black No. 2 Construction Battalion, and the many aborginal veterans.
The Chinese Canadian Military Museum | First Nations Summit Aboriginal Veterans Recognition Ceremony | Fighting for Canada — Chinese and Japanese Canadians in Military Service is a new Canadian Forces publication celebrating the military service of Chinese and Japanese Canadians | Remembrance Day in Vancouver Chinatown
Remarks by The Honourable Iona Campagnolo, PC, CM, OBC
Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia
Vancouver, BC (May 12, 2005) Complete remarks here
“Almost forgotten are Chinese Canadian young women, who were doubly discriminated in our society by their sex and by their ethnic origin. Canadian women of Chinese heritage participated in the struggles of the Second World War too, by serving in the Women’s Army Corps. They were in the Second Company, Platoon A, had drilled at the Seaforth Armouries and proudly wore their smart uniforms on parade. They were Privates Edna Lowe, Marion Mah, Mary Ko Bong and Helen Hoe and Corporal Lila Wong with service in other units by Evelyn Kim, Margaret Jean Gee, Emma Lim and Peggy Wong. Jean Suey Zee Lee was the first and only woman of Chinese heritage to serve with the Royal Canadian Air Force in World War 2.
Subject to prejudice, low pay and other unfairness these exceptional people all won enormous respect with their discipline and dedication to service. All their names and those that I may have missed constitute an exceptional roll-call of honour that has memorably contributed to ever-greater equality in our shared society. All these gallant men and women, along all those many Canadians of Chinese heritage who today serve in all capacities in Canada’s Armed Forces and are numbered in our many Cadet Corps and among the Canadian Rangers. They all deserve our admiration because they are the inheritors of those who took courage in their hands 60 years ago and braved an unfair system and a terrible enemy to re-write history with their determination to gain equality. They broke a trail, not only to peace, but to a far better Canada than the one they originally served and we salute them all today.”