Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Arthur Chin: America's First Ace In World War II

Arthur Chin was born in Seattle, Washington. His dad was Chinese and his mom was Peruvian, so Arthur was a typical American boy. Japanese aggression in China made Arthur angry enough to learn to fly and travel to China to do something about it.

He and a few other Chinese Americans started out with the Guandong Provincial Air Force, and soon were accepted into the air forces of the central government. He mostly flew the Russian made Polikarpov i-15, like the black plane in the top photo, and English made Gloster Gladiators.

The two Chinese characters on the plane in the picture (the words, that is) say, "New York," indicating that the plane was purchased with money raised by the Chinese community in New York City. I'm pretty sure that the last sentence is true, but I don't read Chinese so I could have been fooled.

Between 1937 and 1939 Arthur Chin shot down nine Japanese planes, making him the first American flyer to make "ace" in WWII. Well, he was credited with "8.5," actually, one of the kills was "shared." These would not have been easy kills, even in the days before the arrival of the Zero. Just surviving two years worth of sorties against the Japanese would have required enormous courage, and adding nine kills to that record indicates that Arthur was a pilot of considerable skill.

He was shot down in 1939. The crash landing put him out of action until 1944 with serious orthopedic and burn injuries. He returned to flying, cargo planes "over the hump" from Burma this time.

In about 1995 Mr. Chin was finally recognized by the American government and military. He was acknowledged to be an American veteran, and he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross. He died a few years later at age eighty-three. In the early 2000s, a post office was named in his honor up in Washington State, I believe.

So, Happy Chinese New Year, Arthur Chin, wherever you are! Thanks for your service, and for a really wonderful American story.

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