Hank Wong

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Henry Albert (Hank) Wong enlisted in the army in 1940. He served with the Kent regiment until he was recruited for Operation Oblivion, in 1944. « View Transcript

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Larry Wong (Interviewer)

Hank Wong was born in the heartland of Ontario and was not considered a Canadian citizen because of his race.

Hank Wong (Interviewee)

During my youth I belonged to the Sea Scouts, so as. as a Sea Scout, I'm naturally going to be in the navy. I was going to join the navy. So with my gang, we went up to join the navy, and all my gang, all got in; five of them, and I didn't get in.

Larry

You didn't get into the navy because you were Chinese?

Hank

Lt-Cmdr Hunter . brought out a little black book and he says, "Hank you can't go in the navy. They don't, they're not allowed to. They're not allowed to bring Chinese into the navy. You must be of white race." So after I left my boys I went downstairs with, the recruiting was upstairs, went down to the army.

Now yes, about discrimination or anything like that. I was paraded for the Colonel before I was able to join and they. the. I guess the recruiting officer who was asked and he says, "Are we. are we allowing Chinese boys in the army?" And he says, "Well what's. what's his background?" And I told him I was a tech for a number of years and I got a motor mechanic degree, and he says, "Good, he's my, he's my driver." So I got in the army. And but a very a short while later, because I was speeding, I didn't drive him anymore (laughs).

In 1940, the Kent Regiment moved out to New Westminster and they. they. the whole, the whole Fraser Delta was covered by .We, we protected the whole thing 'cause the Japanese had already shelled. shelled the coast in, in Vancouver, Vancouver Island. So then. then when the. Japanese were coming down through Kiska. Remember that? They. they attacked Kiska. Well, then they. we sent a whole brigade of troops up to Terrace and Prince George and all down the line. There was no roads in those days. We had to use the railroad, and we were training up there all through the two years up in that area. And then we broke up the Kent Regiment to guard all Bella-Bella and Ocean Falls and, and Nanaimo and Vancouver and Victoria. All the little stations along there, we. we guarded that.

Larry

While on leave, Hank received an intriguing letter that both discharged him from regular duties and recruited him to a dangerous mission.

It turned out that Hank had been recruited for what would be known as Operation Oblivion, an elite guerilla unit dispatched to harass the enemy in Hong Kong.

Hank

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I went down to the old Vancouver Hotel. In one of the big ballrooms they had this table set up and all these guys with the red tabs and red hats on and Major Kendall was standing at the window with a. not facing us. And I was paraded in and he, as soon as he heard me talk, he turned right around. He says, "Are you Chinese?" And I says, "Yes I am." And he says, "'Cause you don't have an accent." And I says, "Well, I don't speak Chinese." And he said, "Wow." He said, "Well what's your background?" I told him my background was weapons and machinery. I was a weapons instructor. So he says, "Well that's okay, put him in." So that's how, that's how I got in. And then he sent me over to the camp. camp Commando Bay and that, that's where I was. See it wasn't called Commando Bay then, it was called Goose Bay.

Larry

How long were you at Goose Bay?

Hank

About four months. Four months intensive training

Larry

Now you mentioned that not all the Chinese spoke Chinese.

Hank

No. So they set up schools. Kendall's wife became our teacher, and they brought out this book. It's like. like it's like a primary book, and if you speak Chinese now, it's called. (speaks Chinese) which means a thousand words. But don't forget, I never spoke. My wife says to me, "If they ever caught you they'd have killed you, 'cause you can't speak Chinese. And also with that accent you got, you'd never get anywhere."

Larry

So what happened after your training was completed at Goose Bay?

Hank

Well then we were sent. We're okay. We're sent to Australia. We packed up and we're going on our way to Australia. We did the full training and the crash training. Like a five mile run every morning, do all your, all your exercises and your. your training, flying, coming out of airplanes and jumping. and jumping 13 foot walls. Jumping off the walls. did all that for to toughen you all up. Oh, it was. That was wonderful, yeah.

Larry

So you earned your parachute wings then?

Hank

Got the wings. Got the. got everything going, oh yeah. Never used it. Yeah, five jumps, five jumps, yeah.

Larry

So what happened after your training in Australia? Where did you go?

Hank

The war stopped, August the 15th. When the war stopped, everything stopped. They just told us "go home." They had no way of getting us home. If you stop and think of it, the Americans had all the troops, all the machines, all the air, all the airplanes and all the vessels to take all their boys home. The war's over now, right? We're talking a million soldiers. How are you going to get the Canadians home? We had to work our way home on tramp steamers. Anytime a, a tramp steamer came in and unloaded its cargo, they had no new cargo to take home so they'd put on the soldiers, but they have to work back; they have to sign on and work back. So in our case, we had the. the Kitsilano Park, which is about a 25-ton freighter. We had to work our way back by chipping decks.

Did you Know?

Did you know that Hank learned to speak Chinese as part of his training in an elite Canadian guerilla unit?

Copyright to Produce

Copyright / Permission to Reproduce

Interviewee: Hank Wong

Duration: 5:42

Date modified: