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It's Not The Size that Counts
by Gim Fong

Gim Fong (born 1922 in Vancouver's Chinatown, currently residing in Vancouver)

When the war broke out, I tried for two years to join the Air Force. But the Air Force didn't want Chinese Canadians then, and I was rejected several times. Finally, I was granted a twenty-minute interview. They just wanted to get me off their backs.

The recruiting officer asked me why I wanted to join when I was so clearly not welcome.

I answered, "This Chinaman is like you. I want to defend this country and I'm entitled to. We are brainwashed into believing that the Chinese are incapable of anything high tech and that we have no balance. You can't tell me you're any braver, that size counts in bravery." (I was only 125 pounds at the time.)

At the end of the interview, the recruiting officer remarked, "Mr. Wong, think of it. There's 1,000 guys in the camp where you will be stationed. You may be in tents. You won't own a damn thing. Everything is orchestrated by us. You will be one of a team of five to nine in a bomber crew. You must be relied on 100 per cent. You will do everything together, live together, fight and fly together, die and be buried together... Each depends on the others. How do you think you will handle it?"

I admit I exaggerated a bit in my answer. I told him, "I get along with ninety-nine out of a hundred people. I can't say much more." It was enough.

He said, "That's better than I can say." After years of begging to be recruited, I was allowed to serve my country.

In under two years, I went from the rank of book private to lance corporal to leading aircraftsman to corporal. I was discharged with the rank of Pilot Officer at the age of twenty-two.

I had trained as an air gunner with Lancaster and Halifax bombers. I was in Elmer, Ontario, in August 1944 when we were scheduled to go overseas. Every third person was sent over. I wasn't picked. The guy standing next to me was shot down in Germany one week later.

The Air Force picked me to retrain as flight engineer in readiness to fight the Pacific War. I was stationed at Jericho Beach in Vancouver. But that was around the time the Americans dropped the bomb on Hiroshima and the war ended.

The first time I put my uniform on after it was refurbished, I froze when I saw myself. I still fit into it fifty-four years later. 


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