Americans First: Chinese Americans and the Second World War

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Overview

World War II was a watershed event for many of America's minorities, but its impact on Chinese Americans has been largely ignored. Utilizing extensive archival research as well as oral histories and letters from over one hundred informants, K. Scott Wong explores how Chinese Americans carved a newly respected and secure place for themselves in American society during the war years.

Long the victims of racial prejudice and discriminatory immigration practices, Chinese Americans struggled to transform their image in the nation's eyes. As Americans racialized the Japanese enemy abroad and interned Japanese Americans at home, Chinese citizens sought to distinguish themselves by venturing beyond the confines of Chinatown to join the military and various defense industries in record numbers. Wong offers the first in-depth account of Chinese Americans in the American military, tracing the history of the 14th Air Service Group, a segregated unit comprising over 1,200 men, and examining how their war service contributed to their social mobility and the shaping of their ethnic identity.

Americans First pays tribute to a generation of young men and women who, torn between loyalties to their parents' traditions and their growing identification with America and tormented by the pervasive racism of wartime America, served their country with patriotism and courage. Consciously developing their image as a "model minority," often at the expense of the Japanese and Japanese Americans, Chinese Americans created the pervasive image of Asian Americans that still resonates today.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Wong's book on the experiences of Chinese Americans during World War II will not only go a long way to fill in the gaps but also challenge students to think critically about social change for Asian Americans during Word War II. He skillfully employs numerous quotes from newspaper sources and interviews to tell this complicated history of ethnic tensions and racial formation. Americans First is a terrific book for course use. By illuminating a little known area of Asian American history, the book provokes much discussion and debate."
—Mary Ting Yi Lui, Yale University

"Americans First is insightful, beautifully written and highly readable from beginning to end.... an excellent reference for anyone interested in Asian American history, US-China relations, identity politics and migration studies."
—The Journal of Chinese Overseas

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781592138401
  • Publisher: Temple University Press
  • Publication date: 3/28/2008
  • Series: Asian American History & Cultu Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 272
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.25 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

K. Scott Wong is Professor of History at Williams College.
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Table of Contents

1 Chinese America before the war 6
2 Chinatown goes to war 45
3 The "good Asian" in the "good war" 72
4 Hawai'i's local warriors 125
5 The Fourteenth air service group 162
6 Into the mainstream 193
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