May marks the celebration of Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month, a time to celebrate the impact AAPI’s have made to our great country. AAPI’s have contributed and distinguished themselves in all walks of life, including the U.S. Armed Services. Although AAPI Month recognizes the challenges faced by all Asian Americans, Pacific Islanders, and Native Hawaiians, and their vital contributions to the American story, the following blog highlights the careers of a few officers of Chinese ancestry who achieved flag rank during their careers in the U.S. Navy. Learn more below!
Gordon Pai’ea Chung-Hoon was of Chinese-English-Hawaiian origin and was the first AAPI graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, Class of 1934. He was the recipient of the Navy Cross and Silver Star for conspicuous gallantry and extraordinary heroism as commanding officer of the USS Sigsbee from May 1944 to October 1945. During the Korean War, he commanded the USS John W. Thomason. He retired in October 1959 as a rear admiral, the first AAPI admiral in the U.S. Navy. The Guided Missile Destroyer USS Chung-Hoon was christened in 2003 in his honor. Clearly, Chung-Hoon was a leader and warfighter who established firsts: first AAPI to graduate from the U.S Naval Academy, be promoted to admiral rank, and have a ship named for him. He also made his mark early on as a halfback and punter on the Navy football team. Upon his retirement, he served as the director of the Hawaiian Department of Agriculture. He died in July 1979.
In 1980 Ming Chang became the first naturalized Asian American naval officer to reach flag rank. A graduate of William and Mary and the Naval Postgraduate School, Chang served on active duty for 34 years. He served as the Commanding Officer of the USS Rathburne (DE 1057), USS Reeves (CG-24); Chief of Staff, Carrier Group THREE; Chief of Staff, Commander THIRD Fleet; and Commander Cruiser Destroyer Group TWO. As a rear admiral, he served as Deputy Commander, Weapons and Combat Systems, Naval Sea Systems Command. He culminated his career serving as Department of the Navy Inspector General. Upon his retirement from the Navy, he became vice president and corporate director of the Pacific Region at Raytheon International. He passed away in October 2017.
Colin Chinn is a doctor and in the Medical Corps of the U.S. Navy. Armed with public health and epidemiology degrees (bachelor and master’s, respectively) from Johns Hopkins University, he attended the Medical College of Virginia through the Armed Forces Health Professions Scholarship Program and earned a Doctor of Medicine in 1985. Chinn is a Fleet Marine Force qualified officer. Assignments include director of Tricare Region West/Pacific, United States Pacific Command surgeon, and Acting Deputy Director, Defense Health Agency. Currently, he is the Joint Staff Surgeon at the Pentagon and serves as chief medical advisor to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Jonathan Yuen is a Supply Corps officer and has had numerous sea and shore duty assignments in supply and logistics support. He is a 1983 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy and has an MBA from The Wharton School of Business, University of Pennsylvania. He has earned supply warfare qualifications in submarine, aviation, and surface warfare. Joint assignments include serving as 9 deputy commander/chief of staff of the Joint Contracting Command, Iraq/Afghanistan and director, U.S. Central Command Deployment and Distribution Operations Center in Kuwait. Yuen became commander, Naval Supply Systems Command and 47th Chief of Supply Corps on October 3, 2013.
Editor’s Note: The information in this blog first appeared in the AAPI article “American Flag Rank Officers of Chinese Ancestry” by Major General Bill Chen, U.S. Army Retired.