AFROTC Detachment 175 at University of Hawaii keeps Asian-American heritage alive

Capt. Jamie Andrews
AFROTC Detachment 175

The University of Hawaii’s Air Force ROTC Detachment 175 facility is home to a significant piece of history. Their computer and audio-visual laboratory honors Lt. Wah Kau Kong, a fallen hero of Hawaii.

Kong was a graduate of McKinley High School (1936) and earned a bachelor’s degree in chemistry with honors from the University of Hawaii. He found his love for aviation through flight lessons at what is today the Honolulu International Airport. Eventually he received his commission to be an officer and was quickly transitioned to military flight training.

Upon graduation, Kong was America’s first Chinese-American pilot. He was in many air battles over Europe until Feb. 22, 1944. He was fatally shot down over Germany by the enemy fighter he had just disabled.

Friends of Wah Kau Kong have ensured his legacy is kept alive through the University of Hawaii and the AFROTC Detachment. A fundraising initiative was launched in 1998 by the Peng Hui Fraternity and many others in the Chinese community to establish an endowment to honor the legacy of Kong and to benefit the cadets of AFROTC Det 175 by providing funds to establish a computer lab with Kong’s personal effects.

The computer lab includes many historical artifacts, ranging from pictures and personal writings to his actual medals, including his Purple Heart and Air Medal.

The lab’s endowment is administered through the University of Hawaii Foundation. During a recent review of documents by Capt. Thomas Wingard, Det 175 member, it was noted that one special item had been overlooked when the artifacts of the lab were assembled. Founders of the endowment specifically requested a replica of Kong’s P51 Mustang fighter to be displayed in the lab.

Wingard started a research project to identify the exact plane model and markings in order to correct the omission. He received assistance from the American Fighter Aces Association and the Museum of Flight in Seattle, Wash. The gentlemen there were able to identify that Kong’s fighter was in fact the P-51B model, with a squadron code of FT*F, inscriptions of “No Tickee –

No Washee” on one side of the nose and “Chinaman’s Chance” painted on the other, and a tail number of 43-12393.

“It was an effort to make right what was first requested by the endowment’s founding supporters,” Wingard said. But his efforts paid off after a few short weeks as the 1/48th scale replica of the fighter was delivered to the detachment after being carefully crafted and shipped from a model plane enthusiast, Len Roberto in Huntington, Conn.

May is Asian Pacific American Heritage Month and a special time to remember those brave Asian Pacific Islander forerunners, including Lt. Wah Kau Kong, who have served or continue to serve in our armed forces around the world today.

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Category: News