tv Chinese American World War II Military Service CSPAN August 12, 2021 12:51pm-1:47pm EDT
♪♪ next on american history tv, a discussion on efforts to document the more than 22,000 chinese-americans who served in the u.s. armed forces during world war ii. welcome, everyone. thank you for joining us this evening. >> thanks for having us. >> i want to begin by talking to samantha. samantha, how did your work on the stories of chinese-american veterans begin? >> this actually started -- this stems from a documentary i did on the mississippi delta chinese
and i needed to find the right hook to tell the story of the chinese-americans in the mississippi delta. chinese-american history is not sexy, so it took me almost 20 years to find the right way to tell the story compelling enough to bring in a full audience. and i had the good fortune of meeting dr. gong, who had done a tremendous amount of research on the veterans, the service personnel from the mississippi delta. and from there, we discussed and talked about how to create a three-part series that aired on pbs on the chinese in the mississippi delta and that got me interested in the world war ii veterans. >> so honor and duty is really a compendium that lists all 22,000 plus chinese-americans that
served in world war ii, correct? >> that is correct. this research was conducted over three years' time. actually, just a little bit more than three years. we have been able to identify 22,827 world war ii vets. we were able to verify their service through public domain sites, public information sites, through the national archives, and through other primary sourced material. >> and so what is your eventual goal, you know, with this project? what is your hope for it? >> well, my hope is to have the service of chinese-americans recorded in american history, that we are not passive americans, we are patriotic, as everyone else is. we are as american as everyone else. we just look a little different. you know, we can't change what our face looks like, but in our
hearts we are still all americans. >> and this is such an important story to be told. the chinese-americans were just one of many ethnic groups that contributed. but every american that served in world war ii deserves to be recognized for their service. this was a massive project, as you've said. and it eventually ended up at over 1,100 pages, is that right? >> yeah, it's at exactly 10,000 -- excuse me, 1,098 pages. and it's a huge roll. 1,000 of those pages are a roll call based on state. so it's separated by state. there's an index that you can follow. there's an index for what we call the main roll call and then there's an index for the dis disparate data set roll call. you can find your family members that way. we also have aliases that were known to us, so that's published in the parenthetical.
there's a lot of annotation and a lot of cross-referencing. >> no doubt this would be a very invaluable resource to researchers well into the future. now, of course, you didn't do this alone. i want to turn to one of your partners on the project, frank. >> yes. >> you provided research support on the project, so i wanted to ask you how you became involved with this massive undertaking. >> samantha was referred to me by a retired army general who i had worked with on a different project, so she said she needed help identifying information about chinese-american soldiers and i said, all right, i can do that offline. and so i began doing that. she would send me snippets of information, a lot of photographs, some documents saying, okay, what does this document mean, what did these
initials mean. he says he's in the army air corps or air force, but it looks like an army uniform. and i had to explain, well, the army air force and army air corps were part of the army and they wore the same uniform. it wasn't until 1947 and the air force becoming a separate organization that they designed their own uniforms. and it just sort of grew from there. >> you raise a lot of important points that i think a lot of our viewers who have tried -- have done world war ii research on their own will have come across. the army during world war ii really spoke a language of its own. they really invented the modern -- the acronyms that are so abundant in our society today. so was there ever a question that samantha sent you that really proved challenging or difficult, maybe talk about what resources you may have used to discover these things.
>> talk about the foot locker. >> that's what i was going to say. yeah, she said, okay, here's a picture of a foot locker. what can you tell me about it? and i said, it's olive drab. i said, okay, it's got the guy's name, it's got his serial number, and i could trace back and say, okay, based upon his serial number, he went into the army at this general location. i think there was a patch or two on it. i looked those up and i said, okay, here's what the patch was, it was -- one is such and such a unit and it was an air corps unit. yeah, and there was other things of samantha, i've got no idea. >> it was quite an adventure, tyler. and it was truly a partnership, because it wasn't just frank. i mean, frank can speak to the
amount of time that we spent at the american legions, but let's not forget that this project also stems from the organization to advocate for service men and women to be honored and recognized for the congressional gold medal. so it was very, very important for us to have a better understanding of the contribution of chinese-americans in this war effort and that helped us advocate with greater authority on the hill. and i am proud to say, without fang's support of this bill in congress and his diligence of him and his wife, barbara, coming down to washington on a regular basis, whenever i called and said, fang, i need you, he
was always there. so this was a great community. elaine, her family served -- her father served in world war ii and it was her story and her father's story that compelled me to take this a whole another level further than just having them featured in a documentary series. it was so important to realize that these chinese men and women served, they had no path to citizenship, yet they served anyway. they truly believed that they could contribute something to the united states of america and they did so willingly, with great sacrifice to them and their families. >> and that gave all the greater impetus to your project. so frank provided the valuable research support and you really had this bigger, overarching goal and driving force behind the project and the personal aspect, the door-knocking, the connections that you had to discover, seem
so important to this work. i wanted to ask fang about that. fang, the american legion was founded after world war i, i think most people will recall. but world war ii veterans swelled its ranks after returning home in 1945 and '46. could you speak a little bit about the contributions that chinese-american veterans made to the legion and then also what role you played in this project? >> well, the legion membership actually reached an all-time high, over 3 million after world war ii, and needless to say, we recognized over 20,000 chinese-americans that served. not everybody joined the american legion. the chinese-americans that have joined and created their own american legion out of necessity after the war, especially in the larger cities like, you know,
new york and san francisco and so forth, they recognized that after you serve as a veteran, this government does offer many benefits that could help them moving into quote/unquote the mainstream faster, things like gi bills, educations, loans, and, you know, all the other good things, medicals, that goes with it. if you ask me what is the biggest contribution of the chinese-american world war ii veterans, i would believe that their biggest contribution is outside of the american legion, because our number doesn't make any difference anywhere, except where any chinatown is located. those 20,000 returned chinese-american veterans, they went back and utilized the benefit the government offered and they bettered themselves. and by bettering themselves, most of the time they served as
a bridge between the confine of the old chinatown to the outside world. and then because of the law where the chinese exclusion act was vetoed and they were allowed to start bringing the wife, all of a sudden you changed from the chinatown community or chinese community from a bachelor, single bachelor, period, to a community that's actually resembles a normal society community, wife, young kids, all that. and because of their service with the u.s. government, their wife and children gets a better opportunity to go into school, education, jobs, and that's where all the chinatowns around the united states, around the big cities start to flourish.
and it actually moved the chinese -- i guess it moved us forward a lot quicker than we would if we have to rely on ourselves to make it. >> you raise a great point, fang, about the american legions, and not only the role that chinese-americans played in the legion, which was a local organization as much as it was a national advocacy group, but also the legion's role in helping these chinese-americans come back after the war. and to that point, i think it would be great to ask elaine about your father's service during the war. did he ever talk about his military service to you? >> when we were growing up in mississippi, none of my siblings nor i remember him talking about his service while we were growing up in mississippi. but then that could be because we were so young, it could have been that he was so busy with his own business and, you know, the jobs of raising a family.
but he really didn't talk very much about the war itself. however, there was always war memorabilia in the house. there was a sword that he had gotten when he was in japan for the occupation that hung in our house. he had memorabilia from the philippines, baskets, and he kept the personal items, the personal effects. so we always knew that that was part of his background and we probably didn't really address it until we were older, we were young adults. as a matter of fact, i recently came across a letter that my dad had written me back in 1970 when my brother was also serving in vietnam at the time and he did make reference to the comparison between my brother's years or
experiences in vietnam versus his experience in the south pacific during world war ii. so he really didn't start talking about it until we were all young adults and then he started talking more about it in earnest when he was probably closer toward retirement. then the grandchildren came along. he had four grandkids, and my sister and i tried to make sure that we actively engaged the children with their grandfather and asking him questions. we tried to record it as best we could. and then in the mid-90s, dad decided to write his memoire. and so he did. it was basically a stream of conscious -- you know, just random thoughts, but he did try to express some of his experiences, and he did devote a number of
passages to his experiences during world war ii. >> it sounds like it was a really formative experience in his life that he was really proud of, judging by how prominently he displayed those things in your home and how he mentioned it to your brother later on. and how do you think his war experiences maybe shaped his outlook on being an american later in life? >> well, i think ever since my father came to the states, which was in 1930, he was 13 years old, he was very excited about being there. his family essentially had sent him to america so that he would get an education and he would ultimately get a job, so that he could support the family back in china. and so he always had a very strong feeling and patriotism about america, even as a young boy, and he expressed that
throughout his entire life. he talked about being an american, he talked about how americans were so ingenious, that they had lots of integrity. he was all 100% american in his thought and even in his purchases. he reflected that in his purchases. he refused to buy any car other than an american car. all his appliances, everything was always american. so he definitely -- you know, that kind of pride was transferred over to the family. >> and his war experiences helped him meet your mother, is that correct? >> he did -- yes, my mother was a war bride and they met in china when my father went back after world war ii had ended, he went back to see his family. they had been separated for 16
years, so that was the very, very big event. and then as it turned out, mutual -- well, actually it was my mother's brother -- it was my father's brother who basically introduced them. because they were working for -- i'm sorry, i can't remember what the organization would be, but it had to do with the relief and assistance to china after the war by the allies. and so, anyway, they met and it wasn't too long that they decided that they would get married, and so that was in the fall of 1946. and they knew that their life was going to be in america. there was no talk about staying in china. and so they arrived in san francisco in january of 1947.
>> that's really an incredible story. and your own family story is just one of the stories behind the names that were included in samantha's book. i wanted to ask samantha and frank, how much information was it your goal to include about each veteran? i mean, obviously a book that includes the personal stories of each one would be beyond the scope of your abilities, i suppose, right? >> oh, completely beyond the scope of our ability. that would be impossible, because there is very, very little information available at this juncture. many of our veterans have passed. so we provide eight-point data points, their name, rank, serial number, any alias, their branch of service, their place of birth, whether or not they were a citizen.
what was the last one? i have to look. let me just pull the book out. my memory is tough. so branch, service number, rank, date of enlistment, year of birth, place of birth, their race. because there was some interesting findings in our research that, because chinese -- because of the chinese exclusion act, chinese was not a category that you can check a box off in your enlistment form. so also intake is subjective. so many of our veterans were called something other than chinese. they were black, they were white, they were oriental, they were -- that stymied frank 100%.
so they were referred to everything else but chinese. it wasn't until the repeal of the chinese exclusion act in 1943 that you started to see the ethnicity of chinese mentioned in any of the service records. >> that act was only repealed because, by lobbying from a lot of congressmen and a lot of chinese-americans because they -- china was such a staunch ally of the united states during world war ii and was fighting the bulk of japanese forces in the pacific. >> oh, yeah, it took the shaming of madam scheck to the members of congress. both houses of congress were addressed and shamed for their horrible treatment of chinese and they were allies. and she pointed out, going, what the heck is going on, guys? we're allies and you have no path for citizenship? you're treating chinese and chinese-americans like second-class citizens.
so that immediately guilted a lot of people into advocating for the repeal of the chinese exclusion act. but what's very curious here is that the chinese exclusion act itself as a name is still on the books. all the language within the bill has been -- has not disappeared, but doesn't appear when you look at the congressional record, because it was repealed. however, the actual act itself in terms of name still is on the congressional record. so, frank, what kind of curious stuff did i send you and make you go through? >> the biggest thing was working through the full three information from nara, the nara list based upon
chinese-sounding names and, you know, trying to figure out if robert e. lee from virginia and robert e. lee from california, whether they were chinese or english ancestry. there was a couple other names where the european name and the chinese last name are the same. that meant going in, searching, finding the person, and then doing a genealogical search on them to find out who their parents were. >> it was -- the research aspect of this book was huge and we were very, very fortunate to have teams of young people who were paid, everybody was paid, no one worked for free, who
helped support and research this effort on our behalf. >> it must have been especially challenging, because a lot of immigrants to the united states, chinese-americans, they did change their names sometimes willingly, sometimes out of necessity, and then that would make tracking them down and doing their genealogy even more challenging, i imagine. >> it wasn't easy. it wasn't easy, but it was incredibly fulfilling. whenever we found something -- because our expectations were zero. so when you start from zero and you hit 100, you're excited. i mean, we spent weeks upon weeks of going to the national archives at the beginning of this project looking for data. we would go to nara and college park and park ourselves on the second floor where the military data was, as well as on the fourth floor where the static images were.
and we couldn't find anything, you know, when we looked under world war ii. when we looked under chinese, they kept giving us china as the chinese with chinese-american participating, but there were no chinese-americans. they were all westerners. so after weeks and weeks of research, we finally found two images that just brought us great joy and motivation to move forward. so all these little nuggets of information, these treasures that we hold so dear and close to our heart that kept us motivated. like the picture behind me. this photograph was taken in 1943 in dayton, ohio. it's the army air corps marching, it's the 14th service
group who were in a military base near dayton, ohio, who were marching on july 4th. when we found this image, we were like, yay, we really did participate, we really did exist! we found an image of two men, two soldiers, a moy and wong, who were being sworn in as citizens in cbi, in the china/burma india theatre. finding that image was phenomenal. and then finding the highest ranking service personnel who was a commissioned officer was major edwin yang, finding his photograph in the national archives just validated our research. and it was just those little nuggets that kept us going, because, trust me, they didn't come all at once. we had to continue to search and
continue to search. and it was painstaking, but so rewarding. that's why getting this book published, huge, huge. >> so satisfying at the end of a long journey. >> very satisfying, yeah. >> and part of this challenge must have been that the chinese-americans, unlike african-americans or japanese-americans, didn't serve in segregated units, so they really were in every branch of the service in every theatre of war, right? >> yes, they were. and when we first started this project, we only -- our adviser, kay scott wong out of williams college in massachusetts, dr. wong had said to us there were only 12,000 chinese-americans who served. and we're scratching our head going, well, that's a pretty low number. we'll take your word for it. and then as we searched more, the numbers kept growing, until we got to 22,827. that's the final count. and since we published the book,
there's been more. we are getting more service notifications and we've gotten at least a half dozen since we published. we've only been published for about two weeks now. that's when we sent the document to our distributor. >> tyler? >> yes. >> the 14th air support group, which is in the picture behind samantha, was an all-chinese unit that was formed to deploy to china as part of the 14th air force under the theory of we get all these chinese-american soldiers, they will speak the language. and thus they can be over there and help integrate the american air groups into the chinese
units there -- not integrate them into units, but to help them just like the americans who went to england, you know, get to know the locals. they found out, one, some of the chinese that had been born here didn't know any chinese, or two, where they were located instead of speaking mandarin chinese, these folks spoke cantonese. over in china. >> or derivatives thereof. i mean, there was no common language amongst the chinese who were living in the united states and the chinese who were serving in the chinese air force or the chinese armed forces in china. they were centralized in -- what was the other area? yikes, my geography is a little
off. >> no one spoke the same dialect. so this whole vision of having this whole chinese-american air support group to help facilitate language did not work. >> it might come as a surprise to many of our viewers, too, that there was an american military presence in china during world war ii as part of the air force and the strategic bombing campaign against japan. >> very few people know that for some reason. it's disturbing to me. it was a huge theatre. i mean, gosh. >> people know only of the flying tigers, american volunteer group which went over before the war started and then was active for six months. they became the centerpiece of what became the 14th air force that served in china, and then you had the bulk of the ground units were actually in burma and india.
and the main american force within the boundaries of china itself was the army air corps, army air force. >> that's absolutely right. so i wanted to -- sorry, fang, did you want to say something? >> i would like to add something to what we were talking about as far as having a whole chinese-american gis as a unit. yes, it's true that originally i guess the idea is that they speak the language and all that. the language is the same, it's the dialect that kills everybody, because majority, i would say, must be over 90% of the chinese-americans that served during world war ii from the united states, even though they were born in the united states, chances are their parents immigrated from the southern part of china. that's what it is.
so back then mandrin and cantonese is not the main language. in chinatown. it was a local dialect from a small part of china. of course, when they went over to china, they were stationed where there was a different dialect and mandrin spoken with the unit that deployed in that area, the chinese army. so, yeah, you have a lot of issues there. the other thing is that i find out by talking to some of the seniors from my legion post, a lot of them, they were traveling back and forth within the cbi theatre because a lot of them were truck drivers. they were going to the burma road to carry the supplies to the back -- well, not the front, to the back, which was in the chongqing area. so a lot of them were forced to
be a translator and they learned as they go, because the dialect sometimes, you could pick up a little bit more easier if you have the background. so it wasn't a total failure, but it took a lot of effort to make it happen. >> i think for a lot of americans world war ii was their first time out of the country. even if they were immigrants when they came to the united states, they would stay in one general area, whether it was mississippi or whether it was chinatown and then when they went overseas, the great differences in local cultures probably was a shock to them. and the same thing in germany there's different dialects, just like in china, where some of them -- or in switzerland, they speak german but it's a lot different than in northern germany. so, fang, with your experiences in the legion, did those networks and the close ties that resulted from a lot of the
chinese immigrants being from the same area help locate any veterans for this project? >> yes, because i didn't realize when i first joined the legion, i joined the legion accidentally because what the legion did for me when i was a little boy, i was like 15. i had only been in the states like three years and gone to a chinese school, tried to keep up with my chinese. summer graduation this tall guy walks up to the stage and he presents me a check, it's a scholarship check i find out later, and a medal. and he was from the legion. i have no idea what's it all about as far as the legion goes. then later i find out that you need to serve to earn the eligibility to join the legion. so i d i went to vietnam and came back and i joined. my scope at that time was strictly just new york region. i thought that was the only one. but after i kind of got involved
with it, shortly i found out that there were chinese-american legion posts in boston, in san francisco, chicago, detroit, all over the place. but, sadly, because all of them were started by the world war ii veterans, and after the war obviously not as many chinese would join the service in the united states. so, therefore, they have less and less memberships. and by the time i entered to the american legion, a lot of the posts were not being active. but when i was getting ready to make my campaign stop throughout the united states, i find out that the chinese veterans actually, they heard about it, they reached out and they come to me and said, hey, i belong to post so-and-so and we're glad to have you, finally we have someone that could make it to the top.
i was working in phoenix during the national convention and all of a sudden this group of chinese came out of nowhere and they grabbed ahold of me and said i'm a legion, too, but they were not active because, for whatever reason, they were just not involved. they were happy to settle within their community and do their things. so they were happy. they said, oh, fang is in the national convention in phoenix, so therefore they came to phoenix. the year that i got elected -- the year before i got elected we had a national convention in milwaukee and i was walking around speaking to different state delegates and all that and all of a sudden somebody from illinois said, fang, i want you to come over here, i want to introduce you to someone. i walk over and it was a couple elder chinese gentlemen and they belonged to the chinese-american legion in chicago. i never heard of the chicago legion. but they said, oh, we're glad that you're here. so they were happy.
los angeles, when i was campaigning, one of the seniors, he was world war ii definitely, he walked up and said, you know, we used to have a post after the war, but then everybody got old, but now i would like to get it restarted, can you help me. so i said, sure. it took us a while, but we were able to get that post started again in los angeles, chinatown, and we were able to get the same numbers awarded back to them. so by getting involved with the american legion, deeply involved with the american legion, it definitely strikes some sort of interest from various corners, seattle and all that. people just come out of nowhere. and before that i don't even know where to find them. so, yeah, it helps. >> that's incredible. and we should also note that it
wasn't just -- we talked mostly about chinese men serving in world war ii. but, samantha, there were chinese women who served in the military, too, isn't that correct? >> yeah, we have chinese -- we were able to identify 61 chinese-american women who served in world war ii. and we actually have a graphic that we can share with you that provides the statistics of their service. if it comes up, that would be great. if it doesn't -- there it is. so it's a little hard to read. but out of -- no, that's not it. that's not it. that's it. whoa. yes, women veterans. so you can see from this graphic that they served from almost everywhere in the united states, although 22 of the 61 were undefined.
the highest ranking was a first lieutenant and that was a single one. their citizenships were a little undefined, but we do know that most of them served in the women's army air group, air corps. so it's the women's army corps, 47 of them served there and four of them were in the regular army and then we have a couple of one-offs in the air corps, in the air force, in the waves, the coast guard, and six were undefined. california was the highest number in terms of state of residence. and you can clearly see this on the infographic, and that's readily available to anyone who asks for these pieces of statistical data. so thank you, thank you for putting that up. >> excellent. so you mentioned that the chinese-american women were sort of predominantly in the women's air corps.
which branch of the service -- >> no, women's army corps, excuse me. >> sorry, the women's army corps. >> only two women served in the air corps. >> okay. >> and that was hazel yin lee and maggie gi. >> which branch was the most popular for chinese-americans as a whole? >> army. hands down it was the army. we had 16,000 plus serve in the u.s. army. >> wow. >> that's phenomenal. >> we have those statistics readily available as well. >> excellent. so eventually is it your hope that the book -- the information in the book will be able -- available digitally? >> that's what our goal is. we are now working to have this resource expand and be online. our intention is to work with several universities across the country. we don't want to keep this in
one single university's repository. we would like one on the east coast, one on the west coast, one in central u.s., northern and one central u.s. southern. we're still working out all those relationships and it's our intention that by the year 2023, 2024, this will be an online resource where that will be curated, that will allow more people to provide their information, make a query, be able to search for their loved ones or search for statistical data. this is not just for scholars, it's not just for educators. it's for everyone. so hopefully all of this data will become common -- creative commons by 2024. >> that's fantastic. so how many veterans do you estimate are still with us, if any? >> well, when we first started
this project there were about 500. right now we're under 50. and it's really sad, because the chinese world war ii, chinese-american world war ii veterans recognition congressional gold medal act passed on december 20th of 2018 and the coin has still not been minted and we are losing chinese-american veterans every day. i mean, just last month alone we lost three that i know of. but it usually comes to me much later. it's much after the fact. >> and it's the same with all veterans, but especially with a smaller group like the chinese-americans. >> yeah, the attrition rate is pretty accurate that comes from the chinese world war ii veterans in general. so when you break it down to the chinese-americans, we really don't have many left at all.
it's very sad, because this bill was very important to the families and to myself, because i am the daughter of four world war ii veterans. both my grandparents served, my father served and my great uncle served. and i learned -- i knew of this growing up, but it didn't become the impetus or by passion to make this happen, it just is a by-product of. >> and hopefully your efforts will inspire others to rediscover their family's past. to that end -- >> i hope so, i hope so. this has been an incredibly rewarding project and it's my intention to just change the line in history books. if we get a sentence fragment, chinese-americans served alongside of everybody else, you know, or when you start mentioning the ethnic groups which are being recognized, like
the tusk gi airmen, the navajo code talkers, the i want the chinese-american world war ii vets to be recognized. they talk about the filipino scouts, the 100th battalion of the 442. they don't talk about the chinese-americans. yet we were the largest number of minority to serve. 22,827 and counting. that's a huge number. >> other than african-americans, of course. >> yes. >> but to that end, i wanted to ask elaine, was there anything that you learned about your father's service because of your knowledge -- your involvement with this project that maybe encouraged you to go digging into his past that you've discovered things you didn't know? >> well, i think that with my siblings and myself, we have found that there's a lot of commonality with all --
especially from mississippi, the folks who served there, and that we share an awful lot in common, and that, you know, the underlying current that runs with all of them is the pride that they have and the responsibility they felt in being able to serve in the military. in many cases, you know, it has transferred over to the children, the heirs, and it has definitely lit a fire under me in terms of finding the rest of the family tree and maybe compiling different documents that we have or just personal things that we have and sharing them with the family. and definitely we want to make sure that our children and our grandchildren are going to, you know, be able to look at these collections with a lot of pride and with understanding that this
is part of the family and who we are. >> that is absolutely wonderful. it's so good to hear it, too. and i think, you know, one of my big takeaways from just speaking with you all and reading about chinese-americans is that their story, you know, it is distinct and yet it is part of the american story in that they did a lot of the same -- they experienced a lot of the same things during world war ii that other veterans did with coming back and with leaving maybe their ethnic enclaves in chinatown and mississippi and spreading out all over the country and achieving so many great things, them and their children. whether it was, you know, working with nasa or other -- developing other major companies and things like that. was there anything else that you wanted to add, samantha, about your research or the communities that you studied? >> well, what's really interesting, and frank just pointed out something that we didn't talk about the chinese
from hawaii. so that's a really interesting anecdote to our research. we were going, why are there so many chinese-americans designated from the state of idaho? and when we were advocating for the congressional gold medal act, we kept popping into the representative offices of the senators and the congresspersons just saying, hi, you need to support this bill, you know, we have x amount of chinese-americans from idaho. and they're like, you what? you have how many chinese people from idaho? and we showed them the statistics from nora and they're like, that's not possible. so we dug in a little bit more and, with the help of frank and some other historians involved in the project, we realized that it was a very simple reason why
there were that many chinese people in idaho, designated from the state of idaho. it's because hawaii was not a state yet. hawaii did not become a state until 1959. yet there were so many chinese-americans or chinese who were not yet citizens who hailed from the great state of hawaii. so where do you put them? what letter follows h? i. and the first i state is idaho. so we have 2,000 plus chinese service personnel from the state of idaho, but they're really from hawaii. and that was a really interesting anecdote. we have some very interesting data to share. this is a data-driven book. it is not something that we pulled up out of our hat. we didn't make up these numbers. this is hard core research.
and we're very, very proud of some of the stories that we were able to uncover and discover. >> that's fantastic. and those experiences really give color and give explanation for a lot of the difficulties of doing this kind of research and the problems that you had to solve in really getting at the truth of these numbers. and you can't always believe what you read right off the bat. >> that's true. we actually had a team of researchers in the state of hawaii and we went to the punch bowl cemetery and took photographs of all of the headstones of the service men and women from that state who were buried there, which is a national cemetery, and we took that data, we entered it into a giant spreadsheet and then did a cross-reference with all of our other resources, primary source and secondary source data, and it was phenomenal.
it was truly mind-blowing, the number of chinese who served in world war ii from the state of hawaii. >> wow. >> what else did you want to share, frank? because frank lived, read -- frank knows every name. he read every name, he reviewed all of our research. he kept us honest. he would not let us -- he wasn't very generous at times. he was like, no that doesn't sound right. you need to explain that. >> also, all of the, quote, born in china ethnic russians. >> oh, yes, we had to remove a lot of those. we had so many russians who were born in china. and we're like, they can't be chinese. and they weren't, because they were designated white. we had some really crazy names that we had to just remove from
the roster, because at one point in time we had over 30,000 plus names in our data, and we're like that's not possible. even based on the census where we stemmed our -- which became a principal research point, there was no way that we had 33,000 chinese-americans who served. there was just no way. >> that is really fascinating, too. so many things that people in the records claimed that they were from china. i wonder why that was, why the russians had been born in china. maybe they were diplomats or maybe there was some advantage to claiming that you were from russia because of the communists. >> they fled the communist revolution in 1917 and 1918. essentially they were the czarists or what were known as the white russians.
>> and not the cocktail. >> yeah. that fled into especially manchuria. >> and tibet. that's where we got the tibetan and sinkian nativity definition, which was lots of fun. we had to scroll through that line by line how they were designated and whether or not they were really chinese or were they another ethnic group. and i know that this book is about chinese-americans, but we did find a lot of other asian ethnicities in our research that were categorized as chinese, but were not chinese. and they were clearly not chinese. but we could not remove them from the roster and it wasn't --
you know, it's under 150. we couldn't remove them from the rosters because, according to the u.s. military, they were chinese. so that was our default. if the u.s. military recognized them as a chinese person, then we had to accept them as a chinese person. >> oh, okay. very interesting. >> with the exception of the russians. >> well, i want to thank you all so much for this work and this amazing product that you've produced. and i think future historians and genealogists and families will be thanking you in perpetuity for all of this. thank you so much for your time tonight in sharing about your research and, with that, i think we're just about out of time. i wanted to turn it back over to my colleague, abby. >> so thank you, tyler, and thank you to our wonderful panel this evening for speaking with us about chinese-american world war ii veterans. i also want to thank you all joining us from your homes. if you enjoyed this program,
please check out our website at the national world war ii museum for some upcoming programs. you can check that out at www.nationalww2museum.org. so thank you all so much and have a lovely evening. ♪♪ ♪♪ >> the linden b. johnson presidential library together with the university of virginia's miller center recently debuted a website
giving increased access to lbj's 650 hours of white house phone calls. the conversation focused on what the tapes reveal about mr. johnson and his presidency. >> you will hear a conversation that, you know, just knocks you out and shows what you a human being lbj is and funny he is and, you know, so interesting to be around. and then you realize that lbj were around to see this thing published or played in public he would be horrified and angry which brings me to the hagar slacks tape when lbj in 1964 describes in two -- two granular detail how he would like his trousers cut. he is talking to the head of hagar slacks. after my first book came out i was talking to mrs. johnson, i said were you happy with the way that the tapes and the book were received? and, you know, she always would tell you what she really thought and she said, well, i was but to tell you the truth i could have
lived the rest of my days happily without hearing you play the hagar slacks tape on tv, but, she said, you should know that tape is my grandchildren's favorite and i've never quite figured out why that was but about a month later i got a letter from old mr. hagar was still alive offering me a free pair of custom-made hagar slacks. that's an experience i never had before in this business. >> watch the full program at c-span.org/history. each week american history tvs american artifacts takes viewers behind the scenes at archives, museums and historic sites. next, a tour of the japanese-american national museum in los angeles' little tokyo. our tour guide is bill shishima who was born in little tokyo and spent three years at a relocation center during world r