【6/15/2021 】CAPA-NoVA Distinguished Chinese American Project

(Author: Yuyan Zhou)

呂超然(Kurt Chew-Een Lee) (January 21, 1926 – March 3, 2014) was the first Asian American United States Marine Corps officer. Lee earned the Navy Cross under fire in Korea in September 1950, serving in the 1st Battalion 7th Marines.

On November 2, 1950, Marine Corps Lieutenant Kurt Chew-Een Lee struck out ahead of his unit in the midst of a blizzard in the mountains of Northeast Korea. Lee commanded a machine-gun platoon in First Marine Division, and they were facing advancing Chinese troops deployed to aid North Korean forces. By drawing enemy fire and yelling phrases in Mandarin, he confused and exposed the position of Chinese units. His bravery enabled his unit to take a Chinese-occupied base, despite their significantly lower numbers.

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Lee died at the age of 88. For his heroism during the Korean War, he received the Navy Cross, the Silver Star, and two purple hearts, and before retiring in 1968, he rose to the rank of major. Born in northern California in 1926, Lee became the first Chinese-American Marine in 1946. As the only Asian American in his unit, Lee initially faced his fare share of prejudice and racism from fellow Marines and those under his command. Driven by a sense of patriotism, Lee earned their respect, though. “I wanted to dispel the notion about the Chinese being meek, bland and obsequious,” he told the Los Angeles Times in 2010.

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Around 20,000 Chinese Americans served in World War II, and many served in Korea, as well, including two of Lee’s brothers. Following World War II, the U. S. Army dropped the designation “Asian American” and abolished segregated units. As a result, exact estimates of the number of Chinese Americans who served in Korea remain unknown.


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【Not only do we live among the stars, the stars live within us! 】


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