Congressional Record Honoring Henry Ong, Jr.
Mr. STANTON. Madam Speaker, I rise to honor the life and legacy of Henry Ong, Jr., who passed away on July 2, 2020, at the age of 98. A native son of Arizona, Henry was a part of the Greatest Generation who fought to preserve our freedom and American way of life. As a nation, state, and community, we are forever indebted to Henry’s service and sacrifice.
Henry was born to Henry Ong, Sr. and Mar Lai Hing Ong in Phoenix, Arizona. After he graduated from Phoenix Union High School, and despite the widespread anti-Chinese sentiment of the time, Henry and his three brothers answered the call of duty and joined the U.S. Army. He became a bombardier, forming part of a B-24 and B-17 crew that carried out 29 successful bomber missions. On June 6, 1944, Henry participated in the D-Day invasion of the beaches of Normandy, helping deliver the victory that marked the beginning of the end of the war in Europe.
In his final mission before coming home, the German Army shot down Henry’s plane deep in enemy territory. Alive but wounded, Henry was captured, interrogated, and taken as a prisoner of war by the Nazis, surviving nearly nine months of suffering and starvation. As Allied troops advanced through Europe, the Nazis began liquidating the camps and Henry, along with thousands of prisoners, was forced to march over 1,000 miles during the brutal winter. Many perished.
On May 4, 1945, Allied forces liberated Henry and four days later declared victory in Europe. Henry was the only Chinese American from the state of Arizona to have been captured as a prisoner of war. For his selfless sacrifice and wounds sustained in war, he was awarded the Purple Heart.
After the war, Henry returned home to build a life in Arizona. He attended college and married his bride, Priscilla (Pat), and together they raised four children: Pamela, Michael, Curtis (Buddy), and Kevin. Even though he hung up his uniform, Henry continued to serve his community. A man of deep faith, he was a Sunday School teacher and deacon at First Chinese Baptist Church in Phoenix. He became a successful real estate and insurance broker and was known for his contagious energy, charismatic spirit, and love and devotion to his wife and family.
Although Henry had survived the depths of darkness, invisible wounds of the war remained with him. After 40 years of silence, Henry began to speak about his encounters with the horrors of war and his imprisonment by the Nazis. He cared deeply for his fellow veterans and encouraged other POWs to share their own experiences and heal from their memories. He was a past commander and life member of the American Legion and the Disabled American Veterans, and he maintained a lifelong friendship with members of his crew.
The American people must never forget Henry’s patriotism and bravery. A man of courage and conviction, our nation is better for his presence among us. Godspeed, Henry.