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96-year-old WWII veteran awarded Congressional Gold Medal

Congressional Gold Medal. (Sgt. Timothy Smithers/US. Marine Corps)

Congress has honored a 96-year-old Novato resident with one of the nation’s highest awards.

Randall Ching, who served as an Army ranger in World War II, was one of thousands of Chinese American World War II veterans presented with a Congressional Gold Medal during an online ceremony on Wednesday.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called it “a celebration of courage and patriotism.”

The roughly 20,000 veterans were honored for serving at a time when discrimination against Chinese people in America was common, according to a bill passed by Congress in 2018 that authorized the medal award. The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, which greatly restricted Chinese immigration into the U.S., was in effect during much of the war.

“With this honor, we are telling a more complete story of the people who fought for the United States during World War II and the personal and systemic challenges they faced,” said Rep. Mark Takano, who represents California’s 41st District.

“We are forever grateful for these brave service members who helped pave the way for a more diverse and inclusive military in the years and generations that followed,” Takano said.

Ching, who served in the Army’s elite 5th Ranger Infantry Battalion, is believed to be the only ranger of Chinese descent who fought in WWII.

“At the time, it never occurred to me that I was the only Chinese ranger,” Ching said. “But looking back now, I’m very proud.”

Ching was born in San Francisco and raised in Chinatown until the early 1930s, when his parents moved the family back to their native China to escape the Great Depression. When the Second Sino-Japanese War broke out, Ching served briefly with the Chinese army before he returned to America. He was drafted into the U.S. Army at age 18.

Ching, who is 5-foot-4, was initially assigned to the 75th Infantry Division and began his training at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo. He was quickly recognized as an expert shooter and reassigned to the newly formed 5th Ranger Infantry Battalion, according to Noel Mehlo, an author who interviewed Ching for a book about his service.

On June 6, 1944, Ching landed on Omaha Beach, the site of the bloodiest D-Day battle.

He said his strongest memories from the war were “trying to stay alive during the battles.”

“I used all my skills learned from the training camps,” he said.

Ching, who served until the war ended in 1945, was awarded a Bronze Star for heroic service. Advocates, including Mehlo, have petitioned the French government to induct Ching into the French Legion of Honor.

“His patriotism and courage inspired his family, motivating his son to serve in the Navy in Vietnam and his grandson with the Marines in Iraq — a family legacy of proud service,” Pelosi said on Wednesday.

Ching said the award was an honor.

“I hope the present and future generations remember the lives lost then to preserve the freedom they have now,” he said. “Don’t take it for granted.”


(c) 2020 The Marin Independent Journal

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