R 191257Z MAY 20
MSGID/GENADMIN/CMC WASHINGTON DC MRA MP//
SUBJ/2020 NATIONAL ASIAN AMERICAN AND PACIFIC ISLANDER HERITAGE MONTH//
REF/A/PUBLIC LAW 102-450/23OCT1992//
REF/B/ASIAN-PACIFIC AMERICAN HERITAGE MONTH/ASIANPACIFICHERITAGE.GOV//
REF/C/SMITHSONIAN CHANNEL/YOUTUBE VIDEOS/05MAR2014/“HOW THE FIRST ASIAN AMERICAN MARINE OFFICER OVERCAME RACISM”/“THIS DECORATED WAR HERO SINGLEHANDEDLY SAVED 8,000 MEN”//
REF/D/AMERICAN VETERANS CENTER/YOUTUBE VIDEO/05MAR2014/“PROFILES IN VALOR: MAJOR KURT CHEW-EEN LEE”//
REF/E/SANQING CHANG/YOUTUBE VIDEO/08NOV2017/“THE FORGOTTEN HEROES: CHINESE AMERICAN VETERANS”//
REF/F/USMC ASIAN PACIFIC AMERICAN (APA) PROFESSIONALS/USMCAPAPROFESSIONALS.COM//
POC/T. M. VELAZQUEZ/CIV/MRA (MPE)/TEL: COM 703-784-9371/TEL: DSN 278/EMAIL: THERESA.VELAZQUEZ@USMC.MIL//
GENTEXT/REMARKS/1. Each May during Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, our Nation takes the opportunity to reflect upon the past and ongoing contributions Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders bring to the success and growth of our Nation. The 2020 observance theme is: “We Answered the Call.”
2. Major “Kurt” Chew-Een Lee (1926-2014) along with his two younger brothers served during the early years of the Korean War. Chew-Een Lee enlisted in 1944, and soon afterwards, he became the first American of Chinese ancestry to serve as a regular commissioned officer in the Marine Corps. While a first lieutenant during the Korean War, Chew-Een Lee was awarded the Navy Cross, the Silver Star for Valor, and two Purple Hearts.
3. At the onset of the Korean War, 1stLt Chew-Een Lee was the machine-gun platoon commander for “B” Company, 1st Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division (Reinforced). Standing at 5 feet 6 inches and weighing 130 pounds, 1stLt Lee was known as an uncompromising infantry officer who was committed to training his troops and devoting his personal time to the study of military tactics. During the bitter cold night mission of 2-3 November 1950 in the Sudong Valley, 1stLt Lee led his inexperienced Marines against attacking Chinese forces by directing their fire towards the enemy’s muzzle flashes. Moving far ahead of his unit, he ran a solo reconnaissance up a steep slope around the hostile fire to disclose the enemy’s entrenched positions. In a tactical ruse, he fired rounds from different weapons and threw hand grenades while maneuvering forward to make his unit appear to be advancing and to force the enemy to continue firing, thus further exposing their location. Innovating another tactic, 1stLt Lee shouted in Mandarin Chinese, “Don’t shoot! I am Chinese!” The momentary confusion prompted by his Americanized accent caused the advancing Chinese regular soldiers to pause their fire, which enabled the Marines to effectively counterattack and force the enemy’s retreat. For his extraordinary heroism, 1stLt Lee was awarded the Navy Cross.
4. Wounded in his right arm from the fighting at the Sudong Valley, 1stLt Lee was evacuated to an Army field hospital. However, upon him learning that the walking wounded were to be shipped out of theater for medical recovery, he and another Marine, Staff Sergeant Keller, equipped themselves with weapons, requisitioned an ambulance jeep, and successfully rejoined “Baker-One-Seven” after a high speed chase. Upon his return, 1stLt Lee took over the second rifle platoon. While enroute towards North Korea’s Chosin Reservoir from 27 November to 8 December 1950, despite sickness and suffering from the wound to his arm, 1stLt Lee led his heavily loaded unit across merciless, snowy mountain terrain. On 2 December, 1stLt Lee maneuvered his platoon in an aggressive forward attack against heavy enemy fire. His actions were deemed material to the success of 1st Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment’s demanding night march, which resulted in securing critical ground and retrieving “F” Company, 2nd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment and the Army’s 31st Regimental Combat Team. On 8 December, 1stLt Lee took command of “Baker-One-Seven” after the Company Commander and another senior company officer were killed. First Lieutenant Lee was severely wounded by machine-gun fire that same day while leading an attack on the main service road from Koto-ri leaving 2ndLt Joseph Owen, the mortar platoon commander, to take command of the company. For his spirited leadership, 1stLt Lee was awarded the Silver Star.
5. Major Chew-Een Lee served with distinction through three wars from World War II through Vietnam retiring from the Marine Corps in 1968. Early in his career, Major Lee was openly mocked for his ethnicity and some people questioned his commitment to fighting the enemy Chinese forces in Korea. However, despite this negativity, Major Lee undoubtedly distinguished himself as a professional warrior. “In the Marine Corps, first of all, you’ve got to know your job.” Major Lee once said in an interview, “People who know that you are a serious Marine… What is there to discriminate against?”
6. During mid-March 2020, at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia, the USMC Asian Pacific American (APA) Professionals group convened the first USMC APA Professionals Leadership Seminar. The two-day seminar gathered Marine Corps personnel interested in developing their individual career competitiveness, discovering professional opportunities, and advancing the APA community within the Marine Corps. With the success of this foundational event achieved, USMC APA Professionals anticipates hosting future events. Visit usmcapaprofessionals.com for group enrollment and event information. There is no fee to join USMC APA Professionals.
7. To learn more about the Marine Corps’ Asian and Pacific American heritage, Medal of Honor recipients, and U.S. military history, visit the Library of the Marine Corps (grc-usmcu.libguides.com/library-of-the-marine-corps) or select a book from the Commandant’s Professional Reading list (grc-usmcu.libguides.com/usmc-reading-list). To learn more about Major Chew-Een Lee and the Korean War, read, “Colder than Hell: A Marine Rifle Company at Chosin Reservoir,” by Joseph R. Owen (1996, Naval Institute Press).
8. During this observance month, commanders are encouraged to recognize and celebrate the invaluable service and selfless contributions Asian and Pacific Americans - military, veteran, and civilian - give to our country and Corps. Commanders are further encouraged to conduct online programs and to promote remote participation in observance events within their commands and across their local communities.
9. Release authorized by BGen D. L. Shipley, Division Director, Manpower Plans and Policy.//