OF EDDIE FUNG:
by Mel Brown
Chinatown Kid, Texas Cowboy, Prisoner of War
an avocational historian and wannabe Asian American scholar, I have
had the privilege of meeting or connecting with some very special
people along the way. Two of the most special are Dr. Judy Yung and
her husband Eddie Fung, who have created a fine new book that chronicles
the life and times of Eddie himself. Titled not so simply, The
Adventures of Eddie Fung: Chinatown Kid, Texas Cowboy, Prisoner of
War is an amazing mix of memoir and history lesson that we the
readers can follow as he explains his life's path.
began his journey as a scrawny kid on the crowded, colorful and sometimes
mean streets of San Francisco's Chinatown in the 1930s. Had you run
into Eddie back then, he would have looked like any average Chinese
American kid on the Chinatown block, but that's the last thing that
he actually was. For reasons beyond the understanding of anyone, Eddie
was born with the soul of a maverick and an unusually restless one
at that. "A Maverick is a person with independence of thought or action,
a non-conformist" is one dictionary's definition, and it fits Eddie
Fung to the letter. His second year in high school, where he was a†decent
student but an unruly citizen, Eddie was " ... thrown out for being
a wise guy my sophomore year."
So having been fascinated by horses since childhood, he lit out for
Texas to become a cowboy at age sixteen
and made it. Working on various ranches in the high plains region
north and west of Midland,
Eddie learned many of life's lessons from that rare breed of men who
lived out their lives around livestock. This meant he also learned
to know, admire and love the people who owned and operated the large
cattle ranches of that part of Texas then.
A couple of years of growing up in that environment would mean a lot
to Eddie when WW
II came along and he joined the Texas National Guard's 36th Infantry
Division. Those experiences combined with a native common sense born
into him plus what he had learned from his parents in their struggle
to raise a family in the Depression, this young man would survive
situations as a prisoner of war that killed many of his comrades.
He almost died a couple times himself while earning the dubious distinction
of being the only Chinese American prisoner of war that the Japanese
held from early 1942 until Allied victory in August 1945.
is young Eddie Fung striking a soldierly pose with a powerful B.A.R.
or Browning Automatic Rifle at Camp Bowie, Tx. Located near Brownwood,
the seat of Brown County, the sprawling army training post became
one of the largest installations in Texas by the end of the war. The
36th Infantry Division got to Camp Bowie in mid December of 1940 for
intensive field training. They were in the Pacific in 1941 when Pearl
Harbor was attacked.
Courtesy of Eddie Fung
|His stories of
life in the POW camps alone are worth the price of this book but there's
a lot more, including post war education, married life and professional
adventures in the atomic age. Along the way, Eddie also experienced
the unpleasant side effects of being in war and how one can learn
to deal with them. We also follow him through reconnection with his
veteran buddies many years later and his latest adventure as the Greatest
Generation housemate of a baby boomer college professor.
are Eddie and Judy on their wedding day April 1, 2003. He was retired
and a widower when they met and Judy was a professor of American Studies
at the University of California Santa Cruz. Cupidís arrow apparently
struck just the right spot on each of them in spite of age experiential
differences that some might consider insurmountable.
Courtesy of Judy Yung
| Dr. Judy Yung
is the other half of the amazing equation that has produced a book
long on experience and deep in wisdom. She is Professor Emeritus at
UC Santa Cruz and one of the nation's leading Asian American scholars
and the author of a number of benchmark books in that field of study.
The†story of how they got together is another reason that this book
must be held in hand and cherished.