Tommy CG Wong has had and amazing life. At the tender age of 7, his mother returned to China and he was left in the care of his father on Vancouver Island. However, his father needed to work out of town and that meant spending the entire week far away from his kids.
Wong, and his younger brother, were left alone without any adults to take care of them. They were housed in a tiny room in a boarding house. As the eldest, Tommy was responsible for feeding and taking care of his baby brother.
“On the weekends, when my father was back from work, he would cook food for us,” Tommy recalls. “He would cut it up into pieces and that needed to last us the whole week. That’s what me and my brother would eat during the week when we were on our own.”
No other family seemed to notice these two young Chinese boys left to fend for themselves the whole week.
By the time Tommy reached adulthood, Canada was at war. And like hundreds of other young Chinese Canadian men, he wanted to serve his country. Although most were initially rejected by the Canadian Army due to their race, once Japan entered the war and invaded large areas of Southeast Asia, suddenly Chinese Canadians were considered valuable soldiers. They could blend into to the populations of Asia and carry out clandestine work.
Wong got the call up and was sent to Maple Creek, Saskatchewan for basic training.
In late 1944, Wong became a member of Force 136 – a Special Executive Operations group that was assigned to the South East Asia Theatre of war. Force 136 was created to help establish and supply resistance movements in Japanese-occupied territory, and also undertake clandestine sabotage operations.
He was seconded to the British Army and was shipped to India. Wong was trained in commando fighting and jungle survival, but he later specialized in wireless operations.
“We were trained in lots of things,” Wong recalls. “Because, when they would drop us in, we knew we would be more or less on our own. We would need to survive on our own. And we had to train the local people by ourselves, so we had to know everything.”