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WWII veteran has stories from the front lines

By LINDA DENG in Seattle | China Daily Global | Updated: 2019-02-14 02:52
US Army veteran Mark Wing, then and now.

"The principal called an assembly, and they showed a video of President Roosevelt declaring war on Japan (after the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor). It made quite an impression on me. I was probably too young to make any decisions about the war. I just go where they want me to go," said Wing Mark, 94.

With his blue Hawaiian shirt and modest smile, Mark is a slight gentleman whose demeanor makes it more surprising to find out that he witnessed the ravages of World War II while serving in a US Army tank battalion.

There were only 78,000 Chinese Americans living on the United States mainland at the start of World War II. Despite anti-Chinese discrimination at the time, 20,000 Chinese Americans served in the Armed Forces.

Of the total serving, approximately 25 percent served in the US Army Air Force, with some sent to the China-Burma-India Theater with the 14th Air Service Group. The remainder of Chinese Americans who served in World War II served in all branches of the Armed Forces in all four theaters of war.

When Mark joined the Eighth Armored Division to fight Nazis in Europe, he was the only Chinese American out of 10,000 troops in the division.

He got drafted when he finished high school, first serving at Fort Lewis in Washington state, and then headed to Texas for infantry training at Camp Fannin.

Mark entered the Army Specialized Training Program (ASTP), a program instituted during World War II to train junior officers and technical engineers, and stayed in the program until June 1944.

"General Eisenhower (supreme commander of Allied forces in Western Europe during World War II) needed more reinforcement for the invasion of Nazi-occupied Europe, so the ASTP was shut down," Mark said.

"When we arrived in France, 5 January 1945, at Le Havre, we needed to climb down the rope ladders. It was about two stories high, and we had all our belongings, over 50 pounds. The ship could get close to the shore, but all the docks were destroyed," Mark recalled.

The Germans heavily defended the west bank of the Rhine River — "a door to Germany". Mark said that a Bible he carried in his chest pocket helped him overcome fear.

"We were approaching the river, a tank ran over a hidden German mine," he said. "A company of 20 individuals tried to neutralize a German mine; it exploded and killed all of them.

And in the towns, the fighting was street-to-street and house-to-house.

"We suffered a lot of losses, including tanks," Mark said.

Mark recalled how sad he was when he had to write to his colleague's family about how the soldier was killed in battle.

"The Germans fired bazookas at our tanks, and my buddy happened to be in one of those tanks," he said.

In March 1945, the Eighth Division successfully crossed the Rhine, encircled approximately 430,000 German soldiers, trapping them in an area that came to be known as the Ruhr Pocket.

Mark's division also earned the nickname "Iron Snake", after a Newsweek correspondent likened them to a "great ironclad snake" as they crossed the river.

Mark was discharged from the Army in March 1946. He completed college and became an engineer. He now lives with his family in Albany, Oregon.

Claudia Mark, Mark's daughter, said his father did not talk much about his Army career.

"I guess I just want to let the experience of war left behind and don't want to talk much about it," he said.

"After the war, my wife and I toured around Nuremberg in Germany, the city where we had to fight the Nazis. I saw the huge open stadium where Hitler held the Nazi rally became a pile of rubble. For me, that indicated the ending of the war," Mark said.

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