Canadian-Chinese in the C.B.I. 1944-45

 

Force 136

Force 136

Rumble in the Jungle: The Story of Force 136 is on at the Chinese Canadian Military Museum in Vancouver Canada until the end of 2016.  More information at: www.ccmms.ca

Ironically, while these men were agents for the Allies, back home in Canada they were not considered citizens. Although born in Canada, these soldiers could not vote, nor could they become engineers, doctors or lawyers. Many were forced to live in segregated neighborhoods. In some cities, they were forbidden to swim in public pools and were forced to sit in the back of theaters.

In late 1941, Japan entered the war. It quickly invaded large swathes of Southeast Asia. Many of these areas had been British, French and Dutch colonies.

Britain was desperate to infiltrate the region. They had had some success in occupied Europe when Special Operations Executive (SOE.) trained and dropped secret agents into France, Belgium, and Holland. These agents organized and supported local resistance fighters, and helped with espionage and sabotage of infrastructure and German supply lines and equipment.

Training camp near Poona, India. (another camp was in Australia).

Training camp near Poona, India. (another camp was in Australia).

However, Southeast Asia presented unique challenges to SOE. It was a vast area with many islands, challenging physical terrain and diverse populations and languages. As well, most of the residents of the region resented their former colonizers.

SOE realized that Caucasian agents would stand out too much and would struggle to gain local trust. The British needed an alternative.

There was one glimmer of hope. Scattered throughout the region was a sizeable population of Chinese who were vehemently opposed to Japanese occupation and angry about Japanese aggression in China. The question was how to contact and organize them?

Training by British Intelligence.

Training by British Intelligence.

That’s when the British discovered Chinese Canadians. They could easily blend into the population. They could speak Cantonese. They were loyal to the Allies. And there were lots of these young men waiting for an assignment.

Between 1944 and 1945, Chinese Canadians were recruited and quietly seconded to SOE in Southeast Asia (Force 136). They were told they had a 50-50 chance of surviving. They also were sworn to secrecy.

To do this kind of work would require much more than basic army training. The men would need to learn commando warfare techniques. Over the course of several months they learned skills such as: stalking; silent killing; demolition; jungle travel and survival; wireless operations; espionage; and parachuting.

Originally unsure that Chinese Canadians could pass muster, SOE recruited in waves. The first team consisted of only 13 hand-picked men. Eventually, about 150 were seconded for Southeast Asia with the majority based out of India.

Force 136

Force 136

Some men had been assigned to do short trips into occupied Burma. But 14 Chinese Canadians found themselves operating behind Japanese lines for several months in Borneo, Malay, and Singapore. They endured primitive conditions as well as suffocating heat and humidity. They befriended headhunters and other guerrilla groups in the jungles. To survive, some men were forced to eat monkey and crocodile meat, and even insects.

Fortunately, all the Chinese Canadians in Force 136 survived the war although some came back sick with tropical diseases.

With the war over and the Allies victorious, Chinese Canadians now wanted a second victory – the right to vote. Armed with their war wounds and service records, veterans became part of a chorus that demanded full citizenship for the community.  Their loyalty won out. Two years after the guns fell silent, Chinese Canadians were finally granted citizenship. By 1957, the country elected their first Chinese Canadian Member of Parliament: Douglas Jung, who had served with Force 136.

Veterans from Force 136; Hank Lowe, Gordon Quan, Tommy Wong, Charlie Lee & Ronald Lee, cut their cake, 14 May 2016

Veterans from Force 136; Hank Lowe, Gordon Quan, Tommy Wong, Charlie Lee & Ronald Lee, cut their cake, 14 May 2016

Today, through the Museum’s special exhibition, a new generation is learning how the blood, sweat, and tears of a small group of men, in a secret jungle war, helped change the destiny of an entire community. And how their service helped secure a coveted title: the right to be called a “Chinese Canadian.”

Condensed from information found with the Chinese-Canadian Military Museum, Vancouver, Canada.

Click on images to enlarge.

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CBI Roundup Humor  – Private Louie by Somerville

 

"I guess it's safe to say - he DOESN'T like snakes !"

“I guess it’s safe to say – he DOESN’T like snakes !”

Louie leaving for a change & rest - the bearers have all his change and the railroad got the rest !

Louie leaving for a change & rest – the bearers have all his change and the railroad got the rest !

 

 

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Farewell Salutes – 

Edward Albert – Milwaukee, WI; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, 11th Airborne Division

Kenneth Bailey – Ames, IA; US Army Air Corps, WWII, ETO, B-24 pilot, Major (Ret.)

Passing the Colors

Passing the Colors

Joseph Clancy – Durand, MI; US Army, WWII & Korea, Captain

Kenneth Eastlick – Osoyoos, BC, CAN; RC Army, WWII

Beryl Head – Hawke’s Bay, NZ; WR Air Force, WWII, LACW R-T operator

George Keyser – Redington Bch., FL; US Army, WWII/USAF, Korean War

Keith Meredith – Launceston, AUS; RA Army # TX6408, WWII, 6th & 2nd Regiments

Garrett ‘Ray’ Myers – Hemet, CA; US Navy, WWII, signalman

Allen Pellegrin – Houma, LA; US Army, WWII, 109th Engineers/”Red Bull” Division

Karl Zerfoss – Chicago, IL; US Army, WWII, 397th/100th Infantry Div., T-5 radio operator

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About GP Cox

Everett Smith served with the Headquarters Company, 187th Regiment, 11th A/B Division during WWII. This site is in tribute to my father, "Smitty." GPCox is a member of the 11th Airborne Association. Member # 4511 and extremely proud of that fact!

Posted on December 1, 2016, in Current News, WWII and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 128 Comments.

  1. Thanks for this fascinating post. It’s important to highlight this kind of history out there for the world to recognize!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Shades of what the Aboriginals went through. Extremely brave men doing very hazardous work. I’m glad they were able to vote so soon after fighting for their country. I cannot understand those who don’t bother to vote.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. An excellent piece of Canadian Military history gp, these men formed a very elite team and must have endured much more than the average soldier serving behind enemy lines.
    Not the first group to not have prior recognition before their service was completed, our Aboriginal Servicemen had the same irony, not permitted to vote before they left or when they came home, not permitted in White only pubs.
    A sad indictment on our fellow countryman.
    Cheers.

    Liked by 2 people

    • So true. I’ve mentioned your Aboriginal men in a number of posts – another brave group of men. I’ve tried to make that clear to the readers that most every country has had something to this nature in their past, and we should learn from that history – not try to erase or forget it.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Great story.I didn’t know Chines Canadian has no rights.Happy after war they get citizenship to

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Wonderful piece of history.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I am a Canadian and didn’t know about this! Thank you for another valuable post xx

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m not surprised, Christy. It’s not exactly something your country would brag about, but each country has something of similar content in their past. I feel it’s better to know the history and learn from it rather than have it swept under the rug.

      Liked by 2 people

  7. This is a very good write up… recognizing the contribution of the Chinese Canadians in war. I was just saddened to read that they were discriminated before.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. G.P., I wonder if you or any of your readers knows of any personal memoir written by a Seabee. We have tried Amazon unsuccessfully and our library does not have one.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I always learn something new here each time I visit, GP, including from the commenters.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Wow! I never read about this before.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Einen schönen Advent wünsche ich dir lieber Gruß von mir Gislinde

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Reblogged this on Lest We Forget and commented:
    Something I didn’t know about World War Two

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Thank you for a post that opened my eyes and expanded personal knowledge – this Canadian had no idea.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Great story on many levels, GP. I’m glad none got killed and they were granted rights too.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Yes! 🙌 I love that they won citizenship. I was on the edge of my seat reading this, hoping they would get what they rightfully deserve. Thank you for sharing this.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. I’m glad they got the rights they deserved.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Amazing piece of history which — once again — I had no idea existed. Thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Hey buddy, do you have an email address or somewhere I could speak to you privately? Have you seen Hacksaw Ridge? Awesome film! anne.t.bell@gmail.com

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Something else I knew nothing about, GP. Thanks

    Liked by 1 person

  20. A really interesting post, thank you. It is truly astonishing nowadays to read about people’s attitudes in the 1940s…and these were the good guys!

    Liked by 1 person

  21. I’ve never heard of these guys, so thanks. It’s a shame it took such lengths before they were even recognised as citizens.

    Liked by 1 person

  22. I think perhaps it would have been more proper and appropriate to refer to them as Canadians, not ‘Chinese-Canadians’, like Afro – Americans, instead of Americans, it has a second class citizen feel to it I believe.

    They have earned the right to be recognized as fully fledged Canandians and Americans

    Liked by 1 person

  23. You’ve done it again, brought a group of unsung heroes to our attention. Super post. Thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

  24. As always, you have surfaced something I had no idea of…..very interesting, but not overly surprising and not in a negative way. May we continue to learn from the past!! Great post!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • With today’s view of hiding and erasing our history, I think it’s more important than ever to repeat these stories. The schools sure aren’t teaching them! Thanks for visiting, Kirt, our long friendship is much appreciated.

      Liked by 1 person

  25. Racism is a waste of everything. It doesn’t matter a hoot what a person’s race is—it’s what he thinks, says, and does that really matters.

    Too often race is just a short-cut simplistic label, not good. A complex issue, sadly; ‘culture’ more than colour—behaviours rather than appearances are the sidelined really important factors.

    The answer lies in objective thinking rather than subjective, but who teaches such in these ‘indoctrination rules’ times?

    Another illustrative post …

    Like

    • I’m still trying to grasp what exactly it is they teach kids today. But here, we are looking into a different world and using 2016 eyes. Back then, this was the norm in one way or another and in most every country.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Valid point, Sir. This was indeed the norm—I was born into and brought up in what at the time was the greatest empire the world has ever known. Arrogant little bugger? Hell … everybody else was wogs.

        What finally set me right was a lot of travel, a lot of experiences, and (especially) a lot of reading.

        But whenever I look under the surface of what goes on here in NZ everything is heavily PC.

        Not much, especially at entry level, is objective. Not good at all: again, kids must be taught how to think—think for themselves, how to test for Truth and how to act accordingly.

        Liked by 1 person

  26. Thank you, CP Cox, for presenting the little known Canadian-Chinese heroes of WW2 to us. It is perhaps beyond the scope of your blog, but if you can, would you consider writing about the Japanese, who unlike the Chinese population were Canadian citizens and yet were treated as aliens deprived of their rights to property and deported to interment camps.

    Liked by 1 person

  27. I’m afraid not one of Canada’s prouder moments in embracing diversity. Thank you for sharing the contribution of these special soldiers.

    Liked by 1 person

  28. What a interesting article and agree that it would make a interesting movie. Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

  29. Excellent post. It;s hard enough to get quality information about American history and even though ny father’s family was origially Canadian, I don’t know as much as I should about Canadian history. These stories that aren’t part of the mainstream narrative need more exposure, so thtnk you very much.

    Liked by 1 person

  30. Another very interesting story ! I admire your consistent diligence in presenting all of this information in your fine blog .

    Liked by 1 person

  31. The treatment of these people in Canada – before, during and after the War – is a sorry and scandalous chapter of our history. They were courageous and gave their lives for the Free World. And you wonder at lack of recognition and thanks. Shameful.

    Excellent write up GP.

    Like

    • It was a different world back then, so it is difficult for us to actually judge their actions. That ideology was even taught in the schools, so the chain of behavior was hard to break.

      Like

  32. Such a shameful thing for Canada, that these men had to endure hardships and service in the military, to get the basic right to be treated equally, and to be allowed to vote.
    Thanks for keeping their memory alive, GP.
    Best wishes, Pete.

    Liked by 1 person

  33. What a wonderful story. Thank you for sharing it! I’m so glad they all survived the war. I was going to say that stuff like this, “Two years after the guns fell silent, Chinese Canadians were finally granted citizenship.” kills me, but then I remembered our long, awful history of racism towards Chinese immigrants so I really shouldn’t be so surprised. It’s a shame it took so long.

    Liked by 1 person

  34. These stories are fantastic.

    Liked by 1 person

  35. Absolutely fascinating. I read your answer to someone about “discrimination”, how right you are those that complain now have no idea. Discrimination was not just against the “blacks” the word used then (no offence intended|). My Father and Mother came here around mid 1930s, separately, they met and married around 1939. My Father would tell me that houses had signs in their windows, not just “No Blacks” but “No Micks, No Irish”, he was sent here from the Ford’s Factory in Cork to the new Fords in Essex. When he did find “digs” he said the first evening the landlady gave him and another Irish lad plates of stew, my Father said he would not touch it, she said it was fresh meat, and my Father told her it was “KIt-e-Kat”, cat food, she admitted it was, the other chap said it was lovely, believe it or not. My Father took a lot of abuse from the British, but he loved this Country would never run it down said time and again to me “you don’t bite the hand that feeds you” I was born in England, 1949 to this day the British can still be a little too much at times, we need to get rid of the “Class system”, and the Royals. The ones who riot these days, say they are picked on all the time by the Police, they need to get jobs. Since “Brexit” and I voted “Out of Europe”, anyone who has done so is called a racist, even bullied I have been on the internet. “Every answer these days is “racist” all of a sudden all those that wanted our Country back are racists.

    Wonderful post of yours, you must be giving so much pleasure, is that the right word, to those that went through the Wars, lost loved ones.

    Liked by 1 person

  36. Really interesting! I think of Canada as more tolerant than the US in many ways, at least today. So it was interesting to read that they also have some shameful stories of discrimination in their history.

    Liked by 1 person

  37. A fascinating story….that needs to be told….

    Liked by 1 person

  38. This brought up that, in history, discrimination wasn’t limited between “Caucasians” and “African-Americans”. Discrimination back in the day was very very grim. It’s ironic what these wars actually did in building up nations, and the whole world actually.
    The last pic is pretty sight.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Discrimination was everywhere back then. (and people who think they know about it today are wrong). It was a different world back then, it was even taught in the schools. African-Americans looked down on Mulattoes, Cubans looked down on Mexicans, the Oriental were in question, the list is endless.

      Like

  39. It’s exciting to read your blog! I am a little bit interested in world war 1 history since a relative was killed in action fighting for Canadian army

    Liked by 1 person

  40. WOW! What a fascinating story I’ve never heard of before. What a great movie this would make.

    Liked by 3 people

  41. Thank you for sharing this with your readers!

    Like

  1. Pingback: The Weekly Headlines – My Daily Musing

  2. Pingback: Canadian-Chinese in the C.B.I. 1944-45 – Br Andrew's Muses

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