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Francis B. Wai

Date of birth: April 14, 1917
Date of death: October 20, 1944
Burial location: Honolulu, Hawaii
Place of Birth: Hawaii, Honolulu
Home of record: Honolulu Hawaii
Status: KIA

Only one Medal of Honor was presented to an Asian-American soldier during World War II, despite the fact that these soldiers, despite intense prejudice at home in the USA, were among the most decorated soldiers of the war. Following a review in the late 1990s of Distinguished Service Cross awards to Japanese Americans, the DSC previously awarded to Captain Wai was upgraded to the Medal of Honor. The award was presented posthumously by President Bill Clinton on June 21, 2000. Francis Wai is the only person of Chinese descent to receive the Medal of Honor. With an OCS commission, he was activated from the Hawaii National Guard in 1940, and was the only one of the 22 belated awards to these heroes for action in the Pacific theater of action.


Medal of Honor

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Awarded for actions during the World War II

The President of the United States of America, in the name of Congress, takes pride in presenting the Medal of Honor (Posthumously) to Captain (Infantry) Francis B. Wai, United States Army, for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action above and beyond the call of duty while serving with Headquarters, 34th Infantry Regiment, 24th Infantry Division, in action against the enemy on 20 October 1944, at Leyte, Philippine Islands. Captain Wai landed at Red Beach, Leyte, in the face of accurate, concentrated enemy fire from gun positions advantageously located in a palm grove bounded by submerged rice paddies. Finding the first four waves of American soldiers leaderless, disorganized, and pinned down on the open beach, he immediately assumed command. Issuing clear and concise orders, and disregarding heavy enemy machine gun and rifle fire, he began to move inland through the rice paddies without cover. The men, inspired by his cool demeanor and heroic example, rose from their positions and followed him. During the advance, Captain Wai repeatedly determined the locations of enemy strong points by deliberately exposing himself to draw their fire. In leading an assault upon the last remaining Japanese pillbox in the area, he was killed by its occupants. Captain Wai's courageous, aggressive leadership inspired the men, even after his death, to advance and destroy the enemy. His intrepid and determined efforts were largely responsible for the rapidity with which the initial beachhead was secured. Captain Wai's extraordinary heroism and devotion to duty are in keeping with the highest traditions of military service and reflect great credit on him, his unit, and the United States Army.

Action Date: October 20, 1944

Service: Army

Rank: Captain

Company: Headquarters

Regiment: 34th Infantry Regiment

Division: 24th Infantry Division