London man featured in documentary on Chinese Canadians who trained as spies during Second World War 29
Hank Wong, 94, shows pictures of himself and his late wife, Myrtle O'Hoy, taken while he was serving in Australia during World War II. He is pictured here in the Amica retirement home in London, Ontario on Tuesday January 21, 2014. CRAIG GLOVER/The London Free Press/QMI Agency
But spend about five minutes talking with the 94-year-old Londoner and you might be challenged to change your mind.
Or just watch a new documentary, Operation Oblivion, premiering Sunday on OMNI 2 television at 7 p.m., that tells the story of Wong and 12 other Chinese Canadian men who volunteered to train as spies for the British Special Operations Executive (now MI6) during the Second World War.
Their mission: To be dropped behind Japanese lines in the Pacific to fight and train local people how to disrupt, destroy, spy and resist using guerrilla tactics, explosives, hand-to-hand combat, espionage, sabotage and more.
Wong is the last surviving member of that team.
In 1940, Wong joined the Kent Regiment, spending time in Halifax helping with coastal defence, then Niagara and later different parts of British Columbia.
In the summer of 1944, he was in Palmerston, northeast of Stratford, on compassionate leave helping his sister, whose husband had died, run a restaurant.
“This man comes in wearing a black suit and bowler hat. He had an English accent. He ate his lunch but then didn’t leave. He asked if I was Henry Wong and I said ‘Yes’ and he said he wanted to talk to me.”
The man was an officer with the British Special Operations Executive. He asked Wong to join Operation Oblivion.
Wong jumped at the chance for action and wound up at a secret camp in a secluded bay near Penticton B.C.
Months later, the group was sent to Australia for more training before their mission was scrapped for reasons that remain unclear. But four of the 13 volunteered for a second mission to help free prisoners of war in the state of Sarawak in Borneo, each earning British medals for bravery.
Because theirs was a secret mission, the Canadian government never acknowledged the service by the men in Force 136. The producers have launched a petition (www.operationoblivion.com) for a permanent exhibit of their contribution at the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa.
“They wouldn’t recognize our service,” said Wong, with no hint of bitterness. “There were no medals. We were acknowledged for joining and leaving the army, but nothing in between. But if they don’t want to give us a medal, I don’t want it.“
HENRY ‘HANK’ WONG
Born: London, Ont.
Age: 94 .
Widower, three kids, five grandchildren
— Member, Kent Regiment, August 1940 to April 1946; rose to sergeant.
— Served on secret team, Force 136, for British; mission, though scrapped, was to spy and cause havoc behind Japanese lines in the Pacific.