By David Li, bostonese.com
Boston, August 2, 2013, — Arthur Wong was among the first groups of American soldiers who landed on Normandy Beach on June 6, 1944, and was later seriously injured in November 1944 when the Allied Forces advanced into Germany. Sixty-five years after he returned from WWII battlegrounds, Arthur Wong finally received nine U.S. military medals, including Purple Heart, Bronze Star, with the help from Senator John Kerry in 2010.
Recently, 90-year-old Arthur Wong received a letter from Senator Mo Cowan who was appointed by Gov. Patrick after Kerry was confirmed as Secretary of the State early this year. Along with the letter, there was a new Bronze Star medal. It turned out that the first Bronze Star medal Mr. Wong received three years ago didn’t have his name engraved in it.
On July 30, I paid a visit to Mr. Wong in his apartment in Boston Chinatown to congratulate his second Bronze Star. Mr. Wong was in good spirit and reflected on his early years as a new immigrant in Boston over 70 years ago.
“When I first came to Boston in 1938 from China, I felt very lonely, discouraged, and had no hope for future,” Mr. Wong recalled. He worked as a busboy at a restaurant on 16 Tyler St. in Chinatown, and went to Quincy School on 90 Tyler St, which is now the CCBA-NE office building, to study English in the morning.
“Every morning, I got myself a sandwich for 10 cents and a cup of milk for 5 cents for breakfast,” Mr. Wong said with a smile. He was paid $1.5 a week working as a busboy, and waiters gave him 5 or 10 cents a table from the tips they got. He also worked as shoeshine boy and sold Chinese newspaper on the street. “I made 10 cents for each pair of shoes or selling a copy of the newspaper.”
Arthur Wong didn’t study too hard as he knew a co-worker in the restaurant who graduated from MIT. “He couldn’t find a decent job because of discrimination. So, I just studied for two years and quit.”
>When the Japanese invaded Canton (Guangdong province), China in 1938, and then attacked Pearl Harbor in 1941, Arthur Wong wanted to join the Army to fight the Japanese. But he was assigned to the battlegrounds of Europe later on.
“Because of the Chinese Exclusion Act, Chinese immigrants could not be naturalized, and family members in China couldn’t come to the US to join them. Chinese immigrants had nothing to do after work and 90% of them gambled in underground casinos,” Arthur Wong recalled. After he lost all his money gambling, and could not even pay the rent, Arthur Wong joined the Army in 1943.
As a soldier, Arthur Wong received $80 a month. “I sent $75 to my grandpa in Boston every month because I didn’t know if I would come back alive. I was single and was not afraid to die.” Mr. Wong fought many battles against the Germans. In one of the battles near German-French border, “I threw three grenades first, then opened fire again a group of German soldiers, and killed seven of them.” After he was injured in the battleground, Mr. Wong was treated in a hospital in southern France, and came back to Boston in 1945.
Arthur Wong now lives in a one-bedroom apartment, and is in overall good health. He spends the day listening to the music, reading newspapers and watching TV. He still pays close attention to news from China and from his hometown Taishan, Guangdong province. He expressed his outrage about continued illegal occupation of the Diaoyu Islands by Japan.