Becoming the first Asian-American flag officer is quite the accomplishment.
Asians and Pacific Islanders have a proud tradition in the U.S. Navy and in the armed forces as a whole. Their influence has been felt far and wide in the Navy and has ultimately provided a strong effort in a global force for good.
Rear Adm. Gordon Pai'ea Chung-Hoon was born on July 25, 1910, in Honolulu, Hawaii. The second youngest of five Chung-Hoon children, he attended the U.S. Naval Academy and graduated in May 1934. While at the Naval Academy, he was a valued member of the Navy Football team.
Rear Adm. Chung-Hoon is a recipient of the Navy Cross and Silver Star for conspicuous gallantry and extraordinary heroism as Commanding Officer of USS Sigsbee (DD 502) from May 1944 to October 1945. In the spring of 1945, Sigsbee assisted in the destruction of 20 enemy planes while screening a carrier strike force off the Japanese island of Kyushu.
On April 14, 1945, while on radar picket station off Okinawa, a kamikaze crashed into Sigsbee, reducing her starboard engine to five knots and knocking out the ship's port engine and steering control. Despite the damage, Chung-Hoon, then a Commander, valiantly kept his anti-aircraft batteries delivering "prolonged and effective fire" against the continuing enemy air attack while simultaneously directing the damage control efforts that allowed Sigsbee to make port under her own power.
After retiring from the Navy in 1959, Rear Adm. Chung-Hoon was appointed by William Quinn, Hawaii’s first elected governor since statehood, to serve as director of the state Department of Agriculture. Rear Adm. Chung-Hoon died in July 1979.
Chung-Hoon's legacy continues on today with the USS Chung Hoon (DDG 93), an Arleigh-Burke class destroyer that has been serving the Navy since its commission in September 2004. She was sponsored by Michelle Punana Chung-Hoon of Honolulu, Hawaii, Chung-Hoon's niece. In 2005 the vessel answered a distress call from a freighter, providing medical assistance until Coast Guard support arrived. It is currently deployed in the western Pacific region and has been since 2011.
One of the major strengths of the U.S. Navy is its penchant to utilize diversity. By allowing for and ultimately embracing the various types of people available to its service, the Navy establishes and continues a proud tradition, and Pacific Islanders and Asian Americans certainly do that tradition justice.
Some of the copy used in this story was provided by Commander Naval Surface Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet.