How much do Asians and Pacific Islanders contribute to US national defense? Lots! I met with American Legion Post 1003 Commander Philip Chen at the National Day of the Republic of China (Taiwan) on Friday, October 7th .
What caught my eye immediately was the Post name on his Legion cap – Chinatown -- and so we discussed the Flying Tigers of WWII. I have an old friend, now deceased (Vince Mayberry of Fort Dodge) who served in the Flying Tigers, and that is what triggered the question. It seems that he had a fair number of Flying Tiger vets in his post – Chinese Americans -- all of whom are now deceased. And for those wondering about what the Flying Tigers were -- just look up some old WWII movies. It was a private operation started as the First American Volunteer Group of the Republic of China Air Force. The organization was created under the authority of President Roosevelt prior to Pearl Harbor because of fear that if China fell to the Japanese, that the full force of Japan would be aimed at the US. However, it became active in theater against the Japanese only after Pearl Harbor.
I also had the opportunity to meet Prof. Jack Yao, who is president of the Republic of China (Taiwan) Veterans Association in Chicago, which is composed of veterans of the Taiwanese military.
But that record of support by Chinese Americans and others from Asia and the Pacific continues. The Navy has a large contingent, with 24,743 sailors, slightly over 7% having a heritage in Asia and the Pacific. The Army has quite a few also, with nearly 7% of all active duty personnel having Asian and Pacific Islander heritage.
Finally, I was able to talk with Johnson Chiang, Director General of the Taiwanese consulate in Chicago, after his speech. We talked about Taiwan’s strong democracy – rated by Freedom House as at 94 of 100 points in a measure of democratic structures and values.