After years of advocacy, the approximately 20,000 Chinese-American veterans of World War II will be awarded the Congressional Gold Medal.
On Thursday, President Donald Trump signed the Chinese-American World War II Veteran Congressional Gold Medal Act into law, ordering the creation of the medal to recognize the Chinese Americans who volunteered or were drafted in WWII when the Chinese Exclusion Act was still in place.
“Many of the benefactors of this Act are sadly no longer with us,” Wilson Lee, an advocate for the act, said in statement released by the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (WHIAAPI). “But as they sacrificed for us then, we now offer this tribute to their most precious contribution to our country — their lives for our freedom.”
The bill to award the medal was introduced in both the House of Representatives and the Senate in 2017, the result of a campaign by the Chinese American Citizens Alliance (C.A.C.A.) called the Chinese American WWII Veterans Recognition Project. It passed unanimously in the Senate this past September and in the House on Dec. 12.
The passage of the bill in the House cames five days before the 75th anniversary of the passage of the Magnuson Act, which repealed the Chinese Exclusion Act, WHIAAPI noted.
The law stipulates for the striking of one gold medal, which would be given to the Smithsonian Institute and be available for display elsewhere, particularly in locations associated with the veterans. The Treasury Department would also be able to strike bronze duplicates of the medal. Filipino WWII veterans who fought on behalf of the U.S. were honored with a Congressional Gold Medal last year following similar advocacy.
“The Chinese-American community has been working very closely with political leaders from every state to ensure unanimity in the passing of this great legislative bill,” Ed Gor, past national C.A.C.A. president, said in the WHIAAPI statement. “We applaud the work of everyone involved in this initiative.”
CORRECTION (Dec. 21, 2018, 5:32 p.m. ET): An earlier version of this article misstated the timing of the signing of the Chinese-American World War II Veteran Congressional Gold Medal Act in relation to the 75th anniversary of the passage of the Magnuson Act. The act was signed Thursday, three days after the anniversary, not five days before.