“This is a very interesting story that I have never heard before and I have never heard of this man. He is a great leader who rises above the fear, prejudices and anger to pick up a cause to do the right thing for humanity.”
“One wonders if there was never a Hung Wai Ching, where would the Japanese Americans be today?” (Mae Kimura; Yoshinaga)
Hung Wai Ching was born on August 1, 1905, in Hawai‘i. His parents, Yei and Un Fong Ching, came to Hawaii in 1898 from the Chung Shan district of Guangdong province, China. (Ng)
At an early age, his father was killed in an accident, leaving his mother to bring up the six children under circumstances of extreme financial hardship, forcing Hung Wai to sell papers and do odd jobs to help his way through school.
He lived in the predominantly immigrant neighborhood around the Nuʻuanu YMCA. He attended Royal School and graduated in 1924 with the famous McKinley Class of ‘24, which included Hiram Fong, Chinn Ho, Masaji Marumoto and Elsie Ting (to whom he was married for 60 years.)
He graduated from the University of Hawai‘i in 1928 with a degree in civil engineering, earned a Bachelor of Divinity degree from Union Theological Seminary and graduated from Yale Divinity School in 1932.
He worked at the Nuʻuanu YMCA as a boys’ secretary and served as secretary of the Atherton YMCA from 1938 to 1941. (Tsukiyama)
In December 1940, he was invited to attend a meeting with the FBI, Army and Navy intelligence, and community leaders present to form the Council on Interracial Unity to prepare the people of Hawaii against the shock of imminent war and to preserve the harmonious race relations among Hawaii’s multiracial population.
When the Japanese bombs fell on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, the military governor appointed a Morale Division composed of Charles Loomis, Shigeo Yoshida and Hung Wai to put into effect the plans prepared by the Council of Interracial Unity.
The Morale Division served as bridge between the military government and the civilian community, in particular with the Emergency Service Committee composed of leaders of the Japanese American community.
Ching reported to Col. Kendall J. Fielder of Army Intelligence charged with the internal security of Hawai‘i and also reported to FBI Chief Agent Robert L. Shivers.
There were any number of Japanese in Hawaii who unbeknownst to them were either not detained or were released from internment because of Hung Wai Ching’s intervention on their behalf.
In the first few weeks of the war, the military governor assigned Col. Fielder a quota of Japanese to be picked up each day, but upon consultation with Ching, Fielder refused to make indiscriminate quota arrests, even at the risk of court-martial and his military career.
In January 1942, when all soldiers of Japanese ancestry were discharged from the Hawai‘i Territorial Guard, comprised of UH ROTC students, Ching met, counselled and persuaded these confused, bitter and disillusioned Nisei dischargees to offer themselves to the Military Governor for war time service as a non-combat labor battalion.
The petition of 170 Nisei volunteers was accepted by the Military Governor who assigned this group to the 34 Combat Engineers at Schofield Barracks as a labor and construction corps, popularly to become known as the ‘Varsity Victory Volunteers.’ As Father of the VVVs, Ching showed off the VVVs at every opportunity to military, intelligence and governmental officials.
In late-December 1942, Ching was asked to escort Assistant Secretary of War John J McCloy around military installations on O‘ahu and made certain that McCloy witnessed the VVV volunteers at work in the field.
A few weeks later in January 1943, the War Department announced its decision to form a volunteer all Nisei combat team. This is exactly what the VVV had been working for, so its members disbanded so that they could volunteer for the newly conceived 442nd.
Ching then adopted the 442nd in place of the disbanded VVV and thereafter dedicated himself to seeing that the Nisei got every fair opportunity to prove their loyalty.
“Who knows if we would’ve had a 442nd if it wasn’t for all the things Hung Wai did.” (Tsukiyama)
Through his Morale Division job, Ching met with some very high and influential people, including President Roosevelt and Mrs. Roosevelt, but he never used these contacts to benefit himself.
During a 1943 visit to the White House, Ching used the occasion to brief the president on the wartime situation in Hawaii, how well Sen. Emmons and the FBI were handling the “Japanese situation” and assuring him that there was no necessity for a mass evacuation of Japanese from Hawai‘i.
Ching had no question about the loyalty of Japanese he had known all of his life, but he knew that the general American public would never be convinced of the loyalty of Japanese Americans until they could shed their 4-C (enemy alien) status, get back into military service and fight and even die for their country.
The greatest contributions made by Hung Wai Ching were his outspoken affirmation of the loyalty of Japanese Americans and the direct part he played in the long struggle of Japanese Americans to regain that opportunity to bear arms and to prove their ultimate loyalty to America. (Tsukiyama)
After the war Ching became a real estate broker and land developer, as well as continuing to be a leader in the community, serving on several community and company boards. He, along with his brother Hung Wo Ching, helped found Aloha Airlines. (Ng) (Lots of information here from Tsukiyama, Yoshinaga, Gee and Ng.)
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Mary Mulhall says
Thank you, Peter ! this was wonderful. It will be copied and forwarded to several on my downline.
Mahalo for this and all that you do!