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Douglas Jung

Douglas Jung is a Canadian-born Chinese. He went from persona non grata to representing Canada at the United Nations. « View Transcript

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Wesley Lowe (Interviewer)

Douglas Jung, born without legal status in Canada, became Canada's first Chinese- Canadian Member of Parliament. The Second World War was a pivotal time in Chinese-Canadian history and Jung recounts the significance of the era.

Douglas Jung (Interviewee)

Some of us realized that unless we volunteered to serve Canada during this hour of need, we would be in a very difficult position after the war ended to demand our rights as Canadian citizens because the Canadian government would say to us, "What did you do during the war when everybody else was out fighting for Canada? What did you do?" So a few of us volunteered to serve, and my group was probably the first to join up. My group consists of 12 Chinese-Canadian soldiers who were already volunteers in the Canadian army. We volunteered for an operation called Operation Oblivion. This was an operation mounted by the British War Ministry under the auspices of Special Operations Executive, which is the same branch that did all the clandestine operations behind German lines and France - dropping allied agents in for sabotage, espionage and things like that.

Our operation was for the Southwest Pacific, and I was at Pacific Command here in Vancouver during the war in the Intelligence Section under Major General George Perks. When this British officer came out from England, he came to see the Intelligence Section to find out if they knew of any Chinese-Canadians. I was there. He asked me about the volunteer, and when you're age 19, you don't think very much about what you're volunteering for, but we volunteered and he asked me if I knew of any other Chinese-Canadian Veterans. I happen to know all of them because there were so few of us at that time. And, so within a matter of 24 hours, they were all ordered to report to Vancouver. We took our initial secret training at a secret camp in Lake Okanagan. It was a place called Goose Bay.

But, as a result of our training there, the provincial government, the British Columbia Historical Society, has now officially renamed it as a historical site and there is a plaque there now with our names on it to commemorate our training there.


The aspirations of Operation Oblivion were bold and far-reaching. Like many war plans however, things had to change in the heat of battle.


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And the original plan was for our group to go into China and to arm and train an army of 300,000 communist soldiers because the British government considered at that time that they would help whoever was fighting the Japanese. And at that time, the most effective opposition to the Japanese were the Chinese communist. The arms and equipment destined for us were the captured German-Africa corps' arms and equipment because they were using nine millimetre ammunition, which was the ammunition used in the Orient. And so all that German-Africa corps equipment, had been destined to go to China to equip this army. But before we got into the actual operation, a decision was made by the Allied high command that anything north of New Guinea would be a sphere of operation under General McArthur, which then became a "U.S. only" military operation. And so we were given our choice of either going home or remaining behind to work in some other area. We chose to remain behind because we said we were already here now and let's not waste our training. And so we were sent to New Guinea and Borneo.

Well, this was the underground, the clandestine operations behind enemy line, behind Japanese lines setting up intelligence circuits, observations and communications for the Australian army; and generally playing hell.


Secrecy was paramount in Operation Oblivion not only to the Allies but to the Canadian military. But ultimately, true recognition came not only personally, but to all Canadians of Chinese heritage.


There were only two officers in the Canadian army who knew about our operation at that time. That was General Perks and his colonel in charge of the administration, Colonel Hugh Alan. We were so secret in our operations that after we came back from overseas the military depot at Little Mountain refused to recognize that we had been overseas. We had to contact General Perks to confirm that we had been overseas because on our records, when we went overseas, it was shown as being struck off strength. Pacific Command, taken on strength National Defense Headquarters, Ottawa. There is no mention about going overseas.

And it is interesting to say that of the 12 of us who volunteered for this operation overseas, four received military medals for bravery, and this is the highest proportion of decorations given to any Canadian military formation either, before, during or after the Second World War. So we're very proud of that record and all this was done, bearing in mind, at a time when we did not have to serve Canada, but we thought in our guts that unless we did something like that, we could show to the Canadian people, and to the Canadian government that we were willing to work for everything that we wanted, which was no more than the rights of Canadian privileges, the rights that every other Canadian enjoy.

Did you Know?

Did you know that Douglas Jung was the first elected Chinese-Canadian Member of Parliament?

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Interviewee: Douglas Jung

Duration: 6:51

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