Hank Wong

Hank Wong

Henry Albert (Hank) Wong was born in London, Ontario in 1919. His mother passed away when he was very young, and Wong was sent off to a Methodist orphanage for a few years. As a result, he never really learned to speak Chinese.

Hank Wong

Hank Wong

Being from Ontario, Wong did not face the same level of discrimination that was evident in other parts of Canada, particularly British Columbia.  So when war broke out and he decided to enlist with the army in 1940, he was accepted.

Wong learned a number of skills. He was first a transport driver. Then a small arms instructor, and later a demolition instructor.

It was these skills that drew the attention of British Intelligence and the recruiters behind Operation Oblivion. Although Wong could not speak Chinese, in 1944 he found himself undergoing commando training on Okanagan Lake with a small team of 13 hand-picked Chinese Canadians.

Operation Oblivion group.

Operation Oblivion group. Hank Wong is in the back row, second from the right.

Coming under Special Operations Executive in South East Asia (otherwise known as Force 136), their initial mission was to be dropped into Japanese-occupied China. The group was to seek out resistance fighters and help arm and train these groups in sabotage, espionage, etc.

Hank Wong (L) with fellow Operation Oblivion member Eddie Chow.

Hank Wong (L) with fellow Operation Oblivion member Eddie Chow.

Since the Force 136 men were not considered regular army — but in fact spies or agents — they were not protected in the same way as normal soldiers. If caught, they were likely to be executed. All of the recruits realized they were on a suicide mission.

Once the three-months of intensive training in the Okanagan was completed, the Operation Oblivion team was shipped to Fraser Island, Australia for further training. There they learned stalking, silent killing, parachuting, sabotage.

Their mission to China was eventually cancelled by the US who ended up taking charge of much of the war in the Pacific. But Operation Oblivion team continued to train and be ready for a mission. And a number of the men were parachuted behind Japanese lines.

At the end of the war, the men in Australia were more or less abandoned. According to Wong “When the war stopped… they just told us “go home.” They had no way of getting us home. … We had to work our way home… Anytime a tramp steamer came in and had no cargo to take back… they’d put on soldiers. But we had to sign on and work our way back by chipping decks.”

Force 136 men had to work on cargo ships to earn their passage home to Canada.

Force 136 men in Australia had to work on cargo ships to earn their passage home to Canada.

Australia-returning-home2

Oral history story

Learn more about Operation Oblivion