[The following entry is from guest blogger, Mike Wong, a student at SF State University. He supplied all the text and images that follow.]

Having heard the same story every year of my grandpa going into “the wrong branch of the armed forces,” I decided to make it my mission to research more about my grandpa, more than any other person in my family has before. I decided to undertake this research this semester and the process on finding more information about my grandpa rapidly advanced from a casual story into a much more intriguing story I would have ever imagined.

Mike GrandpaGung-Gung in his youth, in his Navy Uniform

Given the resources I had, one major website that blew open the doors for me was Ancestry.com. The Sutro Library gave me free access to Ancestry.com, and after a quick dive into my family’s heritage, I uncovered much more information, more information than I needed quite frankly. Initially I thought I was going to cover the basics of my grandpa and his time in the military, but with the grind of research, I found much more about my family than just my grandpa.

Before doing hours of research in the Sutro, I conducted an oral interview with my grandma and my dear great-Aunt. During the interview, I called them the way I always called them growing up, for my grandma I call her “Paw-Paw” because in the Chinese culture that is what you call a grandma on the mother side, and Aunty Virginia, is a standard name for Aunts, and I would ask them questions about Gung-Gung. The term “Gung-Gung” means grandpa on the mother side in the Chinese culture.

When talking to Paw-Paw, I had focused my questions more towards after the war, and more of the solid facts. They were primarily Why type of questions, I had asked those because my grandmother would give more detailed answers as if it was from a textbook. When it came to Aunty Virginia, I had to change my questions up a little bit because she knew Gung-Gung longer, and more on a family basis rather than a soldier basis from my grandmother. While interviewing my Aunt I had asked her a lot more What and How style questions, which would enable answers to a more personal basis. In the end of both interviews, in their closing statements they had admitted that they are thankful for me doing this interview. Both of them had a lot of sympathy for Gung-Gung and his time on Earth, and yet they were proud. They were both proud because they got to reminisce of a good man, an even better brother, a soldier who sacrificed blood sweat and tears for this nation, and most importantly, a loving hero to three children and six grandchildren.

Mike with Aunt and grandmaFrom Left to Right, Anna (Paw-Paw, grandma, wife of Gung-Gung), me, Aunty Virginia (sister of Gung-Gung)

After the oral interview with both my grandma and my Aunt, my knowledge of Gung-Gung was considered minimal for the amount of information I received. For example I found out that my grandpa went through an infamous typhoon in the pacific, and I also found out how far my grandpa went in his personal education. Granted I did learn a lot about his time in the armed forces, I feel like I learned more about him outside of the military. I found out where he lived before he met my grandma, I found out the location of his little mom and pop liquor store was, and I even found out who he was related to. There is an all-important family member I have always heard of, but I always end up overlooking. Through research and asking around internally I found out that my grandpa’s grandfather’s sister had a son, and that son was the local Oakland judge Delbert Earl Wong, the first Chinese American Judge in the United States of America.

Young Delbert.png

Delbert E. Wong (young)

Because my research lead me more towards Delbert, I decided to see where this would take me. I had found out that Delbert was the son of Alice Mar Wong and Earl Wong. Alice Wong was the sister of Cuyler Sr (great-Grandpa). Cuyler Sr. had three children, the oldest was Gung-Gung, who was named Cuyler Jr, the middle son named Gavin (he passed away from leukemia in the year 1973) and the youngest was a daughter he named Virginia. To my understanding on Delbert’s side of the family, Earl is the one who married into the family. Earl and Alice got married in Fresno County on May 20, 1919, by a man named John Freeman Mills. It is logged in the Fresno County certificates in volume 38, on page 345. According to the official California passenger and crew list for 1882-1959,  Earl was coming back from Hong Kong via SS President Coolidge on May 23, 1935 but nobody accompanied him. He was 37 years old and married to Alice and had two kids, Delbert and Ervin.  Less than a month later, the same source listed Alice coming back to California from Hong Kong as well, on June 11, 1935, and with Delbert accompanying her.  Alice’s age was 34 making Delbert 15 years old.

The question that arises is Where was Erwin in all of this? and why didn’t they travel as a single unit? Well to conclude the latter question, my theory behind that is Alice had to come back separately from Earl because of a federal act that was in play at the time. This act called the Expatriation Act of 1907, was a law that forced American women to lose their nationality and citizenship if they married an alien. With the Expatriation Act of 1907 in play, I am theorizing it is the reason why Alice had to come back separate (but not divorced) from Earl and with Delbert. This would explain also why I found accounts of Alice’s naturalization papers on Ancestry.com. Naturalization papers were forms an individual has to fill out to become a citizen in the United States back then. The question remains of where Erwin was during this time. One thing that doesn’t connect is that Erwin, born a US citizen, should’ve been 10 years old when Alice and the family moved back to California.

With all this research on my family heritage, including Gung-Gung’s military time and cousin Delbert, questions still arise. Some questions that come to mind are, how close was Gung-Gung to Delbert?, What were the military ID numbers, ranks, and where were they stationed? Did Delbert see any action in the war?, or Did Gung-Gung do anything in the war that made a huge impact, and Delbert as well? The list of questions can be endless, and I believe that I just scratched the tip of the iceberg, and that there is many more routes I can go down in doing my genealogy.

For future investigation (and if time permits) I know that the archives in Saint Louis would be a great place to start, I could conduct research in the pentagon and get through all the public information because I am family. I could also investigate locally in the N.A.R.A (National Archives and Records Administration) in San Bruno. To investigate further into Gung-Gung, I could dive deeper into a database called fold3 and look up WWII US Navy Muster Rolls. From there I could look into which ship my grandpa was on and what rank he was.

As for Delbert, I could always contact Stanford University and UCLA to look up his school records, as well as try to find out what laws and projects he had worked on while being part of the Judicial system and California State Legislature.Judge Delbert

In conclusion, although I wanted more information about Gung-Gung, my research time in the Sutro Library lead me down a different path, a path that I wasn’t expecting. I had a goal coming into this research project looking to find more about the military presence of Gung-Gung but it ended up being more directed towards my first cousin, twice removed cousin Delbert Earl Wong, the first Chinese-American judge in America.

Mike Wong FamilyGung-Gung (in the blue shirt with yellow flowers), surrounded with the upcoming two generations

Although I’m proud of my connection and family heritage associated with Delbert, I am still interested in finding out more about my grandpa.

Mike Wong grandparents.jpgGung-Gung with the one he loves the most, Anna or Paw-Paw

During the closing thoughts portion of the interview with Aunty Virginia, she had mentioned a wise line to live by, and I would like to share it. Aunty Virginia had said “Do the best you can, and keep your nose clean. Do what you’re expected to do, and don’t get into any trouble.”

Mike Wong grandpa and auntGung-Gung with his one and only sister Virginia

–Michael Wong, SFSU History undergraduate class of 2019, student in SFSU History #405, History of Maritime Class


List of Resources Consulted via Ancestry.com:

California, Passenger and Crew Lists, 1882-1959 for Alice Wong

California, Passenger and Crew Lists, 1882-1959 for Earl Wong

California, County Birth, Marriage, & Death Records, 1849-1980 for Early Quong Wong

Delbert Earl Wong in the U.S. WWII Draft Cards Young Men, 1940-1947

1940 United States Federal Census for Earl Wong

Alice Mar Wong in the U.S., Find A Grave Index, 1600s-Current

Earl Q Wong in the U.S., Find A Grave Index, 1600s-Current

Erwin Wong in the U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995

Ervin Wong in the U.S. WWII Draft Cards Young Men, 1940-1947






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