Aloha post office named for World War II flying ace
- Ray Pitz
- Beaverton Valley Times - News
Arthur Chin was a longtime postal employee and Airpower museum hall of famer
John Gong remembers his grandfather as a very humble man, a tough old fellow who even in his old age did almost 100 sit ups every morning.
He also knew Arthur Chin worked quietly for nearly 40 years for the Beaverton Post Office.
But it was Chin's early life that so impressed Gong and others that he asked that the U.S. Post Office's Aloha Branch bear his name. That request will be honored today (Thursday) at 2 p.m. thanks to the efforts of Congressman David Wu.
The post office is located at 3800 S.W. 185th Ave.
'It's an honor for the family, and it's not only a great day for our family but the Chinese community as well,' said Gong, who works in the office of U.S. Rep. Devin Nunes, a Republican from California.
Born in Portland in 1913, Arthur Chin was a young man when he joined 15 other Chinese Americans who volunteered to join the Chinese air force out of concern about Japan's aggression and eventual bid to conquer China during the Second Sino-Japanese War, leading up to what would become World War II.
'Basically, when he was still in high school he enrolled in the early '30s in a flying school in Portland,' said Gong, who grew up in California but saw his grandfather frequently.
After finishing his primary training, Chin signed on with the Cantonese Air Force and was accepted as a warrant probationary pilot in December 1932.
Back then it was customary for the Chinese to send pilots to neighboring countries to train for aerial combat and Chin ended up in a German Luftwaffe fighter pilot school.
When the Japanese attacked the Chinese seaport city of Shanghai in 1937, Chin shot down his first plane, a Japanese bomber. What made this and his subsequent aerial feats so impressive is the fact that he flew American-made Curtis Hawk and British Glouster Gladiator fighter biplanes with open cockpits.
'He was credited with 8½ kills and he became a fighter ace in 1938,' said Gong. (Pilots who shot down five planes were deemed aces and Chin's one-half designation comes from a 'kill' shared with another pilot.)
Injured in battle
Throughout his stellar military career, Chin was shot down and wounded on three separate occasions. He once rammed a Japanese bomber, but parachuted to safety.
Recovering after being shot down, Chin was bedridden when the Japanese bombed his village. Chin's wife at the time saved his life.
'She basically protected him, threw her body over him, was hit by a piece of shrapnel and died,' said Gong.
A final mission proved to be his last air battle and took a physical toll that would remain with him the rest of his life.
Leading three fighter planes against a larger number of Japanese bombers, Chin's Glouster Gladiator was hit by gunfire and burst into flames. Covered with fuel and on fire, Chin parachuted out of the aircraft.
As he descended, Japanese planes came around and shot at him.
Luckily, Chin ended up in a Chinese-held section of a battlefield.
'He was burnt pretty badly,' said Gong.
He lay wounded in a rice paddy for three days before receiving proper medical care.
What followed were years of painful surgeries, and eventually, with the help of some powerful friends such as General Claire Chennault and Madame Chiang Kai-shek, made it home to the United States for treatment from what were then the leading plastic surgeons in the United States.
'He ended up going through dozens and dozens of surgeries in the states,' said Gong, estimating that his grandfather received some 30 or so operations. In the end, he still had scaring on his face and hands.
Undeterred by his injuries, Chin went back to flying several years later, working for five years for the Chinese National Aviation Corporation where he flew transport planes into China over 'The Hump,' a treacherous route over the Himalayas where violent turbulence and extreme weather plagued pilots who ferried supplies from India to China after the Japanese blocked the main land access.
'He did that for the remainder of the war,' said Gong. 'Flying over the Himalayas was a little crazy but he wanted to do it.'
In March 1945, Chin was officially discharged by the Chinese Air Force.
Quiet, well-liked person
In January, Rep. Wu introduced a House resolution to name the Aloha Post Office the Major Arthur Chin Post Office Building, which was unanimously approved and signed into law by President Bush on May 7.
Naming a post office after someone in Oregon isn't very common, the most recent occurring in Lakeview, Oregon, when the building there was named after Dr. Bernard Daly, a community booster, said Kerry Jeffrey, customer relations coordinator for the U.S. Postal Service.
Jeffrey said co-workers at the Beaverton Post Office recalled Chin as a 'very quiet, very well-liked person.'
Working for the post office for 39 years, Chin's final assignment involved working as a 'nixie clerk,' a specialized field usually reserved for senior employees assigned the often difficult task of trying to decipher letters with illegible handwriting or wrong addresses.
'He would sort of do the detective work and find homes for them,' said Jeffrey.
Jeffrey said today's ceremony would also be a chance to show off the remodeled Aloha Post Office including a memorial garden that Girl Scout Troop 1734 built recently in the memory of Engelein Kaeo, a well-liked U.S. Postal Service supervisor.
Officially a hero
It would be more than 50 years before Chin would receive the Distinguished Flying Cross and Air Medal in 1995. In 1997, he was posthumously inducted into the Hall of Fame of the American Airpower Heritage Museum in Midland, Texas, becoming the first American ace and an officially recognized Chinese American World War II hero. The ceremony attracted 3,000 people, including his second wife, Vivian.
Gong said his grandfather kept an extensive collection of memorabilia from his war days.
'I've been approached by numerous museums to donate his goods,' said Gong, noting that even the Smithsonian Institute has expressed interest.
Chin died on Sept. 3, 1997.
On Monday, Rep. Wu, the first and only Chinese-American to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives, praised Chin and his accomplishments.
'Recognizing Major Arthur Chin for service that truly went above and beyond the call of duty reminds us that all groups of Americans have made enormous contributions to, and sacrifices for, our country,' he said. 'I am proud to have the chance to honor a true American hero.'
(Additional sources: Wikipedia.org, sinoam.com and surfcity.kund.dalnet.se.)