Douglas Jung, VHS 1941 Enlisted in WWII Despite Discrimination
By King Lee, VHS 1958
Lest we forget, a former Victoria High School student enlisted in the Second World War despite the fact he was not recognized as a Canadian citizen. Douglas Jung, born in Victoria on Feb. 25, 1924, was named after Victoria’s main thoroughfare. He beat racism, beat discrimination and beat a sitting Minister of Defence to become Canada’s first Chinese-Canadian Member of Parliament in 1957.
Jung joined the Canadian Army and volunteered for Operation Oblivion, a group of 13 soldiers of Chinese descent that was to go to China and train 300,000 soldiers to fight the Japanese. It was originally a plan of British Prime Minister Winston Churchill’s wartime Special Operations Executive, and training took place near Lake Okanagan in the B.C. Interior and in Australia. Jung was an intelligence instructor. However, the plan was abruptly abandoned.
“Before we got into the actual operation,” Jung recalled, “a decision was made by the (Supreme) Allied Command that anything north of New Guinea would be a sphere of operation under (American) General (Douglas) McArthur. It then became a U.S.-only military operation.” Jung said the group was given two alternatives, return to Canada or remain. “We chose to remain behind because we were already there now and didn’t want to waste our training. So we were sent to New Guinea and Borneo.”
“We were people who, even denied the most fundamental rights of citizenship, acted as honourable citizens to serve our country in its hour of need,” Jung told a military reunion. “And no one can take that honour away from us.”
Full text below of Jung’s speech to military reunion.
Jung Addresses 40th Anniversary of Army, Navy, and Air Force Veterans
Pacific Command, Unit 280.
The following is an abridged text of Douglas Jung`s address September 6, 1987, at the Chinese Cultural Centre, Vancouver, B.C. Canada. This transcript was made possible with the kind permission of Sid Chow Tan who recorded the event for Roger`s Cable show, “Chinatown Today.”
Ladies and gentlemen, distinguished guests and dear friends.
Seven years ago in Victoria, I had the honour of welcoming those who attended the reunion of the Chinese – Canadian veterans who served Canada. Tonight, in Vancouver, we celebrate the 40th anniversary of our veterans reunion.
I take pride in the knowledge that we belong to an exclusive and special club. We paid the “no admission” fee to join this club and in fact for most of us, we even had to fight to be allowed into the Armed Forces. From a military point of view, there were not enough of us to form our battalion. Our contribution to the social and economic progress of our Chinese community was a far greater victory then any battle. The success of us veterans was entirely out of proportion to our actual numbers because after the war, we were able to demand and receive, for the first time, equality of treatment as Canadian citizens.
Unfortunately, after some 40 years, there are many among us, particularly the younger generation and new arrivals in Canada, who are not aware that, if it had not been for our efforts to demand recognition of our status as Canadian citizens, the Chinese Community would not be as dynamic, as affluent and as welcomed as it is today. They take for granted that we have always had the right to practice any of the professions, to receive recognition for our distinction in the arts, sports, business and academic achievement. These people know nothing about the very restrictions as to where we could live and know even less that we were denied the vote and to be recognized as a political voice, and they cannot and do not understand the discrimination which the Chinese community once suffered. For those members of the younger generation, it is almost inconceivable that these social, electoral and economic values existed.
Why should it be this way? Those of us who served during the Second World War were, on the whole, less educated, certainly less affluent or sophisticated than the present generation because we never had the opportunity or privilege that Canadians now have. And yet we took up arms and made it possible for others to follow in our footsteps. Is it too late for us to teach our children or educate our fellow citizens as to the value of what we did? I can tell you, we veterans, individually or as a group, have nothing to be ashamed of. We can hold our heads high because what we did accomplish could never been accomplished or bought with any amount of money.
We who, even denied the most fundamental rights of citizenship, acted as honourable citizens to serve our country in its hour of need. And no one can take that honour away from us. We are now in the September of our years. Our time and resources are limited and common to all veterans in every land. Some of us have paid terrible emotional, physical and mental price for what we did. But the price we paid was and remains a symbol of our loyalty and dedication to our country and we can be proud of our accomplishment.
I say this to you. We did something for the Chinese community no other group could ever have done. We should be proud and take satisfaction in the knowledge that without our contribution to Canada as members of the armed forces during the Second World War, none of the rights that exist in the Chinese community today would be possible. And to your loved ones and to members of your family, I say this, take pride in our accomplishments. Give to us the privilege to indulge a little bit in our comradeship and also give to us now, your support and understanding because what we did, we did for you.
Be proud of us, as we are with you. Be happy with us and take some time to spread the word and record of us among your friends so that someone will once more be inspired to take up the challenge to be a voice for our community in elected assembly. Do not, I beg of you, let our efforts go to waste simply because no one cares. Our efforts, instead of being recorded as a mere footnote in pages of Canadian history should, at least, be a blazing and inspiring chapter of the Chinese people in the history of Canada.
And finally, to my comrades-in-arms I sent you my warmest and most affectionate greetings wherever you may be. I am proud to be one of you and to all I say, “Well done.” Thank you for the honour and privilege of speaking to you. I wish you all continuing good health and success. I look forward to our next reunion. Until then. God bless.