Decades After WWII, Chinese-American Vet Gets Congressional Gold Medal for His Army Service

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U.S. Army veteran Richard Goon.
U.S. Army veteran Richard Goon, 98, center, is congratulated after receiving the Congressional Gold Medal during a virtual ceremony at the Grand Villa Senior Living Community on Tuesday, July 5, 2022, in Deerfield Beach, Fla. (Matias J. Ocner/Miami Herald/TNS)

More than 75 years after his service in World War II, a 98-year-old Chinese-American veteran in Deerfield Beach received a Congressional Gold Medal to honor his service to the United States.

U.S. Army veteran Richard Goon was a cryptographer in units that served in the China-Burma-India corridor, where he deciphered enemy radio codes and translated instructions to the Chinese army.

The congressional medal was presented virtually on Tuesday to Goon at the Grand Villa of Deerfield Beach assisted living community by retired Major General William S. Chen, the first Chinese American to wear two-star rank in the U.S. Army. Goon was accompanied by family, friends and supporters.

"Richard Goon represents one of the thousands of Chinese Americans who came to seek opportunity and a better life, just like others who are members of ‘America's Greatest Generation,'" Ed Gor, national director of the Chinese American WWII Veterans Recognition Project, told the Miami Herald. He did his job proudly, Gor said. "He was persistent and determined!"

Said Goon: "I served my country loyally and I'm proud to be American."

Born in Fall River, Massachusetts, Goon also interpreted for the Flying Tigers — a group of American pilots who fought against the Japanese in WWII. He also assisted the pilots in finding the location of enemy forces, according to New Pelican, a newspaper based in Pompano Beach.

Goon served in the Army with the rank of Technician 5th Grade with the 987th Signal Company. Gor said that Goon "made flights to and from over what they call ‘The Hump' to transport people and supplies for the U.S. support to China in the fight against the Japanese."

"The Hump" is the nickname Allied pilots gave the airlift operation that crossed the Himalayan foothills into China.

During his service from January 1943 to December 1945, Goon was awarded a Bronze Star medal for meritorious service, among other accolades, Gor said.

After the war, Goon completed high school, got a college degree, went to law school and became an attorney. He later ran a successful restaurant in Florida and had a second career as an actor and model, Gor added.

There's Still Work to Be Done

The ceremony on Tuesday came about because of efforts by advocates to see Chinese-American veterans receive the military honors that were long overdue.

Intense institutional discrimination toward Chinese nationals and Chinese Americans in the World War II era was rampant. As many as 20,000 of the 78,000 Chinese Americans living in the U.S. during WWII served in the armed forces, and about 40% of these service members were not U.S. citizens, due to laws denying them the right, according to government records.

Efforts to remedy some of that injustice were boosted when the Chinese-American World War II Veteran Congressional Gold Medal Act was passed in 2018 — more than 70 years after the war ended. The law awards a collective Congressional Gold Medal to the Chinese-American Veterans of WWII in recognition of their dedicated service.

That law was achieved in part because of the efforts by the Chinese American WWII Veterans Recognition Project as well as the National Chinese American Citizens Alliance Community Involvement Fund, which also helped make Tuesday's ceremony possible.

The organizations currently spearhead a national campaign to identify, honor and recognize the efforts and accomplishments of all Chinese Americans who served in the U.S. armed services in WWII.

The Alliance has presented these medals to about 3,400 Chinese American WWII veterans or their next of kin, Gor said, adding that the goal is to find at least 5,000 more. But there are still some veterans who haven't heard about the award, he said.

"I'm hoping that stories of these men and women who served can help people understand that Chinese Americans have participated in the fight for democracy and freedom," Gor said.

To be presented the Congressional Gold Medal by the Chinese American Citizens Alliance, veterans or next-of-kin are encouraged to send an email to the organization at CGMInfo@caww2.org. For information on ways to donate, visit caww2.org/donate.

Due to incorrect information given to the Miami Herald, an earlier version of this story included an outdated reference to the U.S. Army and an unrelated archive photo.

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