Decades later, Chinese-American veteran honored in Wilton for WWII service

Wilton Meadows Chuck Eng holds the gold medal he was awarded Dec. 11, by the Chinese American Citizens Alliance for his service in the U.S. Army during World War II.

Wilton Meadows Chuck Eng holds the gold medal he was awarded Dec. 11, by the Chinese American Citizens Alliance for his service in the U.S. Army during World War II.

Wilton Meadows / Contributed photo

WILTON — Chuck Eng was 19 years old and knew little about horses when he was drafted into the Army’s Fifth Cavalry Regiment to fight in World War II.

Nearly 80 years later, Eng was awarded a replica of the Congressional Gold Medal by the Chinese American Citizens Alliance to honor his service. Eng received his award Dec. 11, at Wilton Meadows, where he is a resident.

It was presented virtually by retired Maj. Gen. William S. Chen, who said Chinese-Americans in World War II served in all branches of the armed forces. That is why, he said, on the front of the medal are images representing the Army, Navy, Army Air Force, Marine Corps, Coast Guard and Merchant Marine. There is also a nurse to represent Chinese-American women who served during the conflict.

Inscribed on the front of the medal, Chen said, is the phrase “proudly served as Americans.”

“This is significant because about 40 percent of the 20,000 Chinese-Americans who served were non-U.S. citizens,” he said. “Yet, they volunteered or were drafted and served in spite of the discriminatory aspects of the Chinese Exclusion Act, still in place until it was repealed in December 1943.

“They all served with pride and were proud to serve as Americans,” he said.

Their service was important not just to the war effort, but also in making “known to the American public who Chinese-Americans were and their capabilities,” Chen said.

Prior to that, he said, Chinese-Americans were segregated in Chinatowns or rural communities. They demonstrated their skills and loyalty, paving the way for future generations not only to serve in the armed forces but to achieve a better life through education and career advancement.

“They continued a legacy of progress of Chinese-Americans in the United States and enabled follow-on generations to live the American dream,” he said.

Pvt. First Class Chuck Eng served in the Asiatic Pacific Command for six years under Gen. Douglas MacArthur.

Eng’s daughter, Nancy Finchler, who was viewing the ceremony remotely, thanked everyone for coordinating the event. She said the medal “was a source of pride for my father who talks about his service a lot. Growing up, I remember his stories. We have a lot of pictures to prove it. ... This is really a nice recognition for my dad and Chinese-Americans.”

When Chen asked if he rode horses in the cavalry, Eng’s son Ken said he has his father’s saber and a photo of him in his riding uniform.

“When he was in training in Kansas, he learned how to ride horses,” he said, but during the war, the first cavalry became mechanized. Eng then became an infantryman, and was on his way to China to invade Japan until the atomic bomb was dropped. He then became part of the occupying forces in Japan and served with the military police.