Photo of Men Yem Wong

Men Yem Wong

My grandpa came from China in 1939. He had to stay in Seattle’s Immigration building for 39 days. After he proved he was the son of a US citizen, he was allowed to enter into America. He first lived in Chinatown at 625 South King Street on the second floor. “My brother was here, and he take care of me. [At] that time I don’t understand English at all, no English. Then I went to school [at] Bailey Gatzert school for foreign class people.” At first he didn’t have a job, but was eventually able to get a job working in a fish cannery in Kodiak Island, Alaska through his brother who knew the cannery foreman. For two years, he would go to work in the cannery in the summer; during the rest of the year he went to school. During World War II, he joined the Navy and helped recruit other Chinese Americans to join. “Everyday I stay in the office, just taking fingerprint from the new guy [who] come [to] the Navy. It was a good job. Then the war was pretty tough down South Pacific. Then everything get tough, everybody had to go to sea. And that time, I still don’t understand much English, but pretty lucky, I go on the ship, meet about, about almost ten Chinese people working the ship. They talk Chinese and then we work in the kitchen. Then we get by pretty good. Then I learn English little by little…then I see lots of action every day, see lots of Japanese suicide plane come tried to hit our ship. I was pretty scared. Pretty lucky, everything safe. Some of the boys pretty scared. Then pretty lucky, I’m safe then I come home. Come home 1945, right about August. Come home 1945 on vacation. Then later on the War is over. Then lucky, I get out of the Navy. Then I stay in Seattle and work for Boeing for eight years. Then work in restaurant, all my life.”

Year: 1939

– Cassie Chinn

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