The following is an excerpt from an interview by Ron Chew with Cathay Post #186 Senior Vice Commander Jack Pang as part of a documentary video project funded by Cathay Post #186 and the City of Seattle’s Neighborhood Matching Fund. The video, Cathay Post, American Legion #186: A Legacy of Camaraderie, Community and Patriotism, will premiere at the Wing Luke Museum on November 12.
Ron Chew: State your name and when and where you were born.
Jack Pang: My name is Jack H. Pang. I was born in Seattle, Washington, August 24, 1922, Providence Hospital right here in Seattle. It’s on 17th and East Jefferson Street. My mother’s name was Anne Mae Pang and my father’s name was Archie Herbert Pang. Her maiden name was Anne Mae Chin, but then my father was Archie Herbert Pang. …
Chew: You went back to Seattle and the war and so forth. What happened … you got drafted, right?
Pang: I got drafted in ’41, right after Pearl Harbor. Next thing I knew, I was sent to Fort Lewis. They sent me to Fort Lewis. I never did KP in the service except this one time when I was at Fort Lewis. I was sitting on the barracks there, on the porch. I looked out on the street there and there was guys marching up the street. I saw my schoolmate. … I said, “Hey Bill, where you going?” He says, “C’mon, follow me. Follow me.” I didn’t know. I says, “Okay.” So I follow him. Next thing I knew, I was in the kitchen, in the mess hall, and they had me washing pots and pans. That’s the only time I ever did KP. After that, it was a couple months later, next thing I knew, they threw me in a train and all the blinds, we left at night from Tacoma. All the blinds were pulled. The lights were gone. We didn’t know where we were going. There were rumors that we were going to go to Alaska. We ended up four or five days later in Camp Shenango in Youngstown, Ohio. Next thing I knew, we spent a little time there. We didn’t do much. By the way, I never had basic training, either. Next thing I knew, I was at Camp Couma, in New Jersey. They loaded us on this ship, rickety ship. It was a Chateau 30, and our bunk was about four tiers high. I had the bottom bunk and I could hear the water slushing against the bottom of the boat. I didn’t know where we were going, either. After a while, they told us we were going to Iran. From there, we went up through Africa. There’s a story there. I ended up in Algiers. We camped on this hill in Algiers. They told us then. They woke me up and three other fellows. They say, “Okay, you’re going to Italy.” I said, “How in the hell are we going to get up there?” “We don’t know. Here are your orders. Just go up to the mess hall, get something to eat, and you’re on your own.” So we went to Iran and Algiers and we went down the port and we asked all the ships which one was going to Italy. …
Chew: How did you feel? Did you know you were going into combat? Were you scared?
Pang: When they first drafted me, they sent me to north Africa, I was a replacement. … They looked over at my record and they said, “Okay, we’re going to send you into photography.” So I got into the army photographic service. My whole career in the army, I was in the army photographic service. I got out, when I came home, that’s a whole nuther story. …
Chew: Did you photograph any combat scenes?
Pang: Yeah, we did that, everything. I was in the processing end. I processed all that stuff. I saw a lot of that stuff. I wasn’t in the photographic, I was in the lab doing the work. I remember one instance when I was in Naples, I was a corporal then, technician in the fifth grade. During the day, I had charge of the lab. One of the privates came in and said, “Hey, sir. There’s a Japanese guy out in the lab. He wants his picture taken. He wants a new ID. He’s a Japanese guy.” Ah hell with him, let him wait. It was that time between the Japanese and the Chinese, so I let him wait for about 15 or 20 minutes. I says, “Well, let me go out and see what he wants.” It turned out to be Jimmy Mar. I was so embarrassed. I says, “Jimmy! Oh, my God.” Jimmy was in the medics and he got a direct commission as a second lieutenant. Oh, Jimmy!
Chew: So you knew him from before?
Pang: Yeah, I knew him.
Chew: When were you discharged?
Pang: I was discharged in 1945, December 1945. I came back in 1949, somewhere there. I knew Alan Yap Lee. He was a first lieutenant in the Air Force Reserve. He says, “Come on down to McChord with me, Jack. C’mon, join the reserve. C’mon!” So finally, I said, “Okay, I’ll go with you. So I jumped into the Air Force Reserve and I stayed there and played volleyball. Next thing I knew, the Korean War broke out in 1950. That’s when I got my papers okay. Korean War, you serve out of Korea. So I went and then I got out. After the Korean War, I came home and my mom says, “You might as well stay here because they’re going to call you up again anyhow.” Sure enough, the Vietnam War showed up. This was in the air force and I was in photography then, too. …
Chew: Why did you join the [Cathay] Post?
Pang: I really don’t know. At that time, I joined it, but I didn’t think about companionship or anything like that. It was far from that. I really don’t know why. I can’t remember.
Chew: Did you participate in any … Christmas parties?
Pang: … I know we rented Chong Wa. I forgot what night we called it. … There was a gambling table. You win a ham and all that. We had everything there. And then after that, every Christmas, we used to have a party for the kids in Chinatown, especially the Chinese kids, kids in the surrounding area.
Chew: Would you give out presents?
Pang: Oh yeah. We had Santa Claus there. We had food. We also had a one-man band … He was a Filipino, but he could play all the, he was a one-man band. He played every instrument and we sang, the kids. It was great. And then we had Santa Claus, and that was usually … Lloyd Hara. He was the Santa Claus. The parents took pictures. I took pictures. And after they had their eats and whatever, each one of them got a present, Christmas present from Santa Claus. It was a great deal.
Chew: Didn’t you guys have blood drives before? Do you remember that at all or was that earlier?
Pang: No, I don’t think so. I remember we did have a March of Dimes. At that time, the city was divided into little sections. I was involved with the Chinatown section. Anne Wing, Bill Sing, and I, we were in charge of Chinatown. We got donations and that was our responsibility. Anne Wing, and there was Bill Chin, Art Solomon, Bill Sing and myself. Cathay Post #186, we were Legionnaires. … You got to be an elite legionnaire and you had to be asked to join. They had a bar down in Seattle. … So we went there one day and we thought let’s see if we can get in. It’s a funny thing at that time. There’s a story there, too. So we went there and we had one Caucasian in our crowd. We went there and asked to come in. They said, “Oh no. No Asians. White people only.” So our Solomon says, “Well, I’m a Caucasian. Can I bring them in as my guests?” “No way!” So we got turned away from there. The reason why the American Legion, Cathay Post #186 was formed was because we wanted an organization made up of the Chinese veterans, so we asked the American Legion if we could join whatever post they had, like Post 1, various posts in Seattle. They said, “No, but I tell you what, you can form your own post if you want to.” So at that time, there was still prejudice in nineteen-fifty-something. …
To learn more or join the Cathay Post, #186 of the American Legion, contact post Commander Lloyd Hara at [email protected] or (206) 283-9681. For more on the International Examiner’s Cathay Post #186 project, visit www.iexaminer.org/cathay-post-186-project.