Friday, April 14, 2017

WW2 Fallen - Francis Wai, Medal of Honor Hero

Medal of Honor Hero Captain Francis Wai, 34th Infantry Regiment. 

Medal of Honor recipient Francis Brown Wai could have been 100 years old today. 

He was born on April 14, 1917 in Hawaii. His parents were also both born in Hawaii with grandparents from China. His father was a banker and real estate businessman. Francis had three younger brothers and a younger sister. By 1940 Francis had completed four years of college at UCLA with a degree in economics (or maybe finance). While at UCLA he lettered in four sports and was a star on the football team.

He joined the Hawaiian National Guard on October 15, 1940 as a private but was quickly advanced to the rank of lieutenant. At some point after that he married Louise Wai. On September 27, 1941 Francis joined the Army and was assigned to the 34th Infantry Regiment, 24th Infantry Division and rose to the rank of captain. He was an eyewitness to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

By the fall of 1944 the 34th Infantry Regiment was involved in the return to the Philippines. Captain Wai landed with the fifth wave on Red Beach at the Leyte invasion October 20, 1944. He would not survive the day.

This map shows the movement of the 34th on the day Captain Wai was killed.

Captain Wai's Medal of Honor citation is as follows:

Captain Francis B. Wai distinguished himself by extraordinary heroism in action, on 20 October 1944, in 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.

Captain Wai was originally recognized with the Distinguished Service Cross. Perhaps reflecting the bigotry of the times, Asian American WW2 soldiers often did not receive the level of recognition that they deserved. In 1996 Congress directed a review of military records which identified Captain Wai and 21 other Asian Americans as worthy of the Medal of Honor. Captain Wai remains the only American of Chinese descent to earn the Medal of Honor.

His remains were returned to be buried at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific. His wife remarried after Wai's death.

Thank you Francis for your sacrifice. Let's Earn It for Francis.

On behalf of the fallen, if you would like to see more people become aware of this project to honor the WW2 fallen, be sure to share with others on Twitter, Facebook, etc. Thanks for your interest!

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