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The Chinese Canadian participation in the World Wars is largely unknown within and outside the Chinese communities yet their contribution changed the social landscape of Canada forever. Through their war efforts and the efforts of concerned citizens, the Chinese gained their franchise rights to citizenship and to vote, which in turn, led to membership in professional societies such as law and engineering previously closed to them. In short, the Chinese can finally enjoy the opportunities and rights as any other Canadians.
Flying mostly Douglas DC-3s, they airlifted gasoline, ammunition, explosives and large amounts of American-minted Chinese currency into China and then brought back silver, tin and such commodities as hog bristles. It was one of the most hazardous air routes on the planet. Unpredictable winds, towering mountains and blinding cloud cover made for challenging flying, not to mention attacks by prowling Japanese fighter planes.
Mr. Mah interrupted one of his missions to journey across China, then being fought over by the invading Japanese, the ruling Chinese nationalists and the emerging Communists, to find his mother and sister deep behind enemy lines in the village of Fei Gno. Born in Canada, Mr. Mah had a limited comprehension of Chinese dialects, so he pretended that he could neither hear nor speak in order to escape questioning by the Japanese.
"I had to conceal myself in a coffin to get by a sentry post and I nearly suffocated," he once told an interviewer. By the time he arrived in Fei Gno, he'd come to the conclusion that the enterprise was too risky and that he should take back only his 12-year-old sister, Bernice. Together, they circumvented Japanese positions under cover of darkness and rested by day in bordellos. On one occasion, the boat on which they were travelling was strafed by Japanese Zeros. Eventually, they made it to safety. Bernice went on to India, and Mr. Mah returned to flying.
The role of the museum is to collect, record and preserve artifacts, memorabilia and photographs and tell their wartime stories. In spite their courage and patriotism, the Canadian War Museum has no display of Chinese Canadian participation nor acknowledged them in the histories of the Royal Canadian Navy, the Canadian Army and the Royal Canadian Air Force.
The Chinese Canadian Military Museum is unique. It reminds Canadians of the racist mistakes of the past and keeps the Chinese Canadian heritage and legacy alive by educating the public of the Chinese fight to repeal discriminatory laws and to earn their citizenship with all the rights and privileges and stand equal with other Canadians.