Captain Francis B. Wai
Captain Francis B. Wai is being inducted into the OCS Hall of Fame for Valorous Combat Service. He received the Medal of Honor for his actions above and beyond the call of duty during combat in Leyte, Philippines. | Francis B. Wai was born in Honolulu Hawaii on 14 April 1917. He earned a degree in banking and finance from UCLA before joining the Hawaii National Guard. In 1941 he was commissioned a second lieutenant Infantry after completing Officer Candidate School at Fort Benning, Georgia. His commission was rare at a time when few Asian Americans were allowed to serve in combat leadership roles.
Lieutenant Wai was assigned to the 24th Infantry Division at Schofield Barracks on Oahu. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, Wai remained stationed on Oahu until his unit was sent to Australia to train for the upcoming New Guinea Campaign in 1943. Following participation in New Guinea, Wai, now a Captain, began preparing for the invasion of the Philippines. On 30 October 20 1944, Captain Wai and others in the unit landed on Red Beach at Leyte and immediately encountered devastating mortar and machine gun fire from the Japanese defenders.
Captain Wai landed with the fifth wave of attackers, only to find that the previous four waves were all pinned down by machine gun fire. One of the rifle company commanders had been killed and most members of the battalion were leaderless, disorganized, and pinned down on the open beach. Wai took charge of the situation and organized an attack on the Japanese pillboxes.
Assuming command, and carrying only his rifle, he moved through the rice paddies without cover. His demeanor and example inspired the other men to follow him. With deliberate disregard for his own personal safety, he advanced to draw Japanese machine gun and rifle fire, thus exposing the locations of the entrenched Japanese forces. Systematically the Japanese positions were assaulted and overcome. Wai was killed leading an assault against the last Japanese pillbox in the area.
Wai was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, at a time when Asian Americans were considered for the Medal of Honor. Recognizing the injustice of that policy, Wai's award was upgraded to the Medal of Honor, making him the only Chinese American and the first Asian American officer to receive the Medal, which was presented to his brother by President Clinton in 2000.