John Ko Bong

one of the original Operation Oblivion members

Every November 11, John Ko Bong marched proudly in the Remembrance Day Parade.

John was born November 18, 1912 in Victoria and was raised there until the family moved to Vancouver.

He attended Vancouver Technical High School and graduated at age 15.

In 1942, he enlisted with the 16th Canadian Scottish Reserve where he took basic training and anti-aircraft training in Vernon.

His sister, Mary Ko Bong, enlisted before he did.

They were followed by siblings Peter and Andrew.

John took basic and anti-aircraft training at Vernon. He was posted to Gander, Newfoundland for aerodrome defence in the 56th heavy Anti-Aircraft Battery for eight months. He returned to Halifax, then Toronto before being trained for infantry tank support at Camp Borden.

In 1944, Sergeant Bong was hand picked by Mike Kendall for Special Operations Executive. John was among a group of thirteen Chinese Canadians called Oblivion Group. At a secret training camp located ten miles north of Penticton, B.C. in the Okanagan valley, the group was trained in hand to hand combat, demolition, disruption of communications and equipment, wireless instructions and other guerrilla warfare tactics. Their mission was to infiltrate the Japanese defence of Hong Kong.

During this training period, John was the group’s barber.

Further training continued in Australia and India.

The mission was called off at the last minute when Hiroshima was bombed. The group was disbanded and individuals went on to other operations. John was posted to the Philippines where he helped repatriate the Japanese.

While waiting for transportation to return to Canada, he met a Chinese Australian woman and took her as a war bride. He was unable to bring her home right away due to the Chinese Exclusion Act.

Immediately following the end of the war, he and a close friend, Robert Lowe petitioned and sought an audience with the then B.C. Premier John Hart to repeal the 1923 Immigration Act, aka the Chinese Exclusion Act.

The Act was repealed in 1947 and on May 21, 1948, Ida Ko Bong entered Canada from White Rock, B.C. to join her husband in Vancouver.

John opened a sporting goods shop, next to his father’s watch repair shop on Main Street. In the following years he was active in the Chinese United Church and became a Church Elder.

He attended the monthly meeting of Pacific Unit 280 and the Chinese Canadian Military Museum, enjoying the fellowship and special trips.

John passed away June 17, 2008 at the age of 95. He will always be remembered.

Oral History story
90th birthday

Globe and Mail story.