Chinese Americans in Aviation

Relationship: Child of im/migrant
National Geographic, October 1942
National Geographic, October 1942

My mom (pictured left, in this article titled “Wartime in the Pacific Northwest”) volunteered to support the U.S. wartime effort by reporting and mapping aircraft movement over the Pacific Northwest. Miss Lee Ya Ching (pictured in the second photo at Boeing Field) visited Seattle on May 7, 1939. She was a Chinese film star under the name Li Dandan. Her most famous role was the title character in the 1928 film “Hua Mulan Joins the Army,” the basis for the Disney animated film “Mulan.” In 1934, she became the first woman to receive a private pilot’s license in Geneva. She furthered her studies at the Boeing School of Aeronautics in Oakland, California, where she learned aerodynamics, meteorology, aircraft design and radiotelephony, and on November 5, 1935, she became the first woman to graduate from the school. She ultimately returned to China and became the first woman to have a government pilot’s license. When Japan invaded China in 1937, she began fundraising efforts to support China by flying around the U.S. to raise money. The Seattle Chinese American community held a party for her during her visit. There were about 80 women present. Here, a smaller group poses with her (from left to right): Jeanie Pang, Marjorie Kay, Marjorie Lee, Miss Lee Ya Ching, Betty Chinn, Lilly Louie, Nellie Tang, Mary Luke, Grace Wang and Marion Lew. 

Place(s): Seattle, China

– Kevin Gow

Relationship:  Child of im/migrant Child of im/migrant