Born in Honolulu, Hawaii, on April 14, 1917, Francis Brown Wai grew up dwelling the American Dream. His father, Kim Wai, had emigrated from China and develop into a profitable banker, whereas mom Rosina was a local Hawaiian. Educated at Honolulu’s elite Punahou prep college, Francis earned athletic letters in monitor, soccer and baseball by the point he graduated in 1935. After two years at California’s Sacramento Junior Faculty, he transferred to UCLA, from which the four-sport athlete graduated in 1940 with a bachelor’s diploma in economics.
As conflict clouds gathered, Wai enlisted within the Hawaii Nationwide Guard, which despatched him to the U.S. Military’s Officer Candidate Faculty, at Fort Benning, Ga. On Sept. 27, 1941, he was commissioned a second lieutenant—a uncommon feat for an American of Asian or Pacific Islander ancestry. Assigned as an intelligence officer in Headquarters Firm, thirty fourth Infantry Regiment, twenty fourth Infantry Division, Capt. Wai was in Oahu when the Japanese attacked on Dec. 7, 1941, and shipped to Australia with the division in 1943.
In April 1944 the division participated in Operation Reckless, the seizure of Hollandia, Papua New Guinea, an Allied victory that eradicated all Japanese forces east of the bottom. Wai’s bolstered thirty fourth Infantry helped seize Biak Island. As soon as that springboard was secured in August, the twenty fourth Infantry Division was hooked up to X Corps for the opening transfer in Gen. Douglas MacArthur’s promised return to the Philippines—the October 20 touchdown on Leyte Island.
The thirty fourth Infantry got here ashore at Palo, or Purple Seaside. Touchdown within the fifth wave, Wai was shocked by what he discovered. The primary 4 waves of troops have been pinned down on the beachhead, leaderless and disorganized as a consequence of heavy casualties amongst their officers. Between them and frontline Japanese defensive positions amid palm groves there was just about no cowl, solely an intervening stretch of low-lying rice paddies.
Assuming command of everybody inside earshot, Wai, seeing little different, led an assault celebration ahead, virtually daring the enemy to fireplace at him. In doing simply that, the Japanese gunners gave away their positions, permitting the captain and his group to pinpoint and eradicate the enemy. Whereas main an assault on the final remaining pillbox within the grove, nevertheless, Wai’s luck ran out, its defenders killing him earlier than they themselves have been overrun. In response to a subsequent posthumous quotation, “Capt. Wai’s brave, aggressive management impressed the boys, even after his loss of life, to advance and destroy the enemy.” By late afternoon Purple Seaside was securely in American arms.
At 6 p.m. that day a burial element interred Wai in a makeshift American army cemetery in Palo. Repatriated in 1949, his stays have been reinterred with full army honors that September 8 on the Nationwide Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific (aka the “Punchbowl”) in Honolulu. Wai’s mother and father and 100 family and buddies have been in attendance.
Within the wake of Wai’s actions on Purple Seaside his regimental commander, Col. Aubrey Newman, had really useful the hard-charging captain for a posthumous Medal of Honor, however the Military as an alternative had awarded Wai the Distinguished Service Cross. In 1996, nevertheless, allegations of previous prejudicial remedy of Asian American service members led Congress to direct the Military to assessment the information. Consequently the department upgraded 22 DSCs granted to Asian Individuals to Medals of Honor. All however two have been granted to Japanese Individuals of the 442nd Regimental Fight Group and a hundredth Infantry Battalion. One of many two went to Rudolph D. Davila, a Texan of Spanish-Filipino descent, for his heroism at Anzio, Italy, in Might 1944. The opposite went to Wai.
On June 21, 2000, President Invoice Clinton offered Robert Wai the Medal of Honor on behalf of his late brother Francis—the one American of Chinese language ancestry but to have obtained the USA’ highest medal for valor.