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Congressman Ro Khanna

Representing the 17th District of California

RELEASE: Rep. Khanna Honors WWII hero and U.S. Ally, Chinese General Sun Li-jen

September 27, 2017
Press Release

September 28, 2017 – Today, Rep. Ro Khanna (CA-17) honored a World War II ally of the United States, Chinese General Sun Li-jen. General Sun died at the age of 91 in 1990, but his legacy lives on among the Chinese American community.

General Sun graduated with a degree in civil engineering from Purdue University and went on to attend the Virginia Military Institute. During WWII, he bravely served alongside U.S. and British forces. In 1942, he led a Chinese army regiment during the Battle of Yenangyaung in Burma (Myanmar) and saved British troops who were fighting the Japanese. Although he encountered discrimination, General Sun led soldiers from different ethnicities and religions and valued the strength that comes from embracing diversity.

Watch video of Rep. Khanna’s remarks honoring General Sun on the House floor on C-SPAN.

Descendants of General Sun were also in attendance on Capitol Hill today including California Assemblyman Kansen Chu, who’s state district overlaps that of Rep. Khanna’s congressional district.

Read the congressman’s full remarks as prepared below:

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to honor the late Chinese General Sun Li-jen. He was known as the ever-victorious general and fought with valor against Axis forces in Burma during World War II. General Sun’s strategies on the battlefield were a combination of traditional Chinese military theory and American military training. He was an important ally for the United States and a popular figure among his people.

He was born in Anhui Province, China, and was the son of a Confucian scholar. He moved to the United States to attend Purdue University on a Boxer Indemnity Scholarship and graduated with a degree in civil engineering.

As China fell deeper into political upheaval and war, General Sun believed he could be more useful as a soldier than as an engineer. He went on to attend the Virginia Military Institute, where he faced prejudice and racism from other cadets.

When he returned to China, he advanced to the rank of colonel. In one of the earliest battles of World War II, he led troops in defense of Shanghai and was wounded while leading his own men to safety. After recovering from his injuries, he established a military training camp in southern China. The men at the camp were trained in both Eastern and Western military strategy.

General Sun is internationally renowned for his extraordinary service during the Battle of Yenangyaung in 1942. He saved the British First Burma Division by leading a regiment in a flanking maneuver. His bravery protected Allied forces from encirclement by the Imperial Japanese Army. 

During this battle, General Sun was also given command of a small group from the British Second Royal Tanks, making him the first Chinese officer to command British troops.

In recognition of his victory in Burma, he was knighted by the United Kingdom and awarded the Legion of Merit by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. He was a friend of American Generals MacArthur and Eisenhower.

In the report that recommended General Sun for the Legion of Merit, the U.S. War Department wrote the following:

For exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding service during the Burma operations in 1942. Under most trying conditions General Sun displayed high qualities of leadership. The First Burma Division of the British Force at Yenangyaung was extricated by the attack of the 38th Division and saved from annihilation. General Sun held his unit together at all times during the retreat and brought it ready for combat to India. His example of courage and leadership reflect great credit on Allied Arms.”

Mr. Speaker, I wish to thank the FDR Library and the Congressional Research Service for finding this document and ask for unanimous consent to enter it along with a letter from the Virginia Military Institute into the Congressional Record.

General Sun’s legacy lives on through his family, including California Assemblyman Kansen Chu. I am pleased to recognize Assemblyman Chu, who joined us here today with his family and other honored guests, in the House gallery.

The districts that Assemblyman Chu and I represent are some of the most ethnically diverse areas in the country. General Sun valued diversity. He found greater strength as a leader by combining Eastern and Western ideas. He led soldiers with different ethnicities and religions. His accomplishments demonstrate that we are better when we embrace diversity.

Mr. Speaker, I encourage Congress to remember the contributions and legacy of General Sun Li-jen and their importance to people of Chinese and Chinese-American ancestry. 

And with that Mr. Speaker, I yield the remainder of the time of my special order to the gentleman from Arizona, Rep. Gallego.

About the Office

Congressman Khanna represents the 17th District of California, which covers communities in Silicon Valley. Visit his website at khanna.house.gov. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter @RepRoKhanna.

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