– Harry S. Gee (1921–2007)
In 1943, Harry Gee was drafted into the Second Armored Division, the “Hell on Wheels” unit, of the United States Army. Harry was with the first group of Americans to reach Berlin in July of 1945. He later worked as a mechanical engineer with Douglas Aircraft. Harry and Fay Gee were part of Kwan Lee Lung Market in Los Angeles Chinatown. They were supporters of the founding of the Chinatown Public Safety Association in 1982. Gilbert Hom interviewed Harry Gee on 3 Jan 1997.
Before the war, I was going to Belmont High School and Los Angeles Community College. After the war started, I got me a job at Douglas Aircraft factory in El Segundo. I worked there for a year and a half. There were not enough men, and they took anybody that could work. They took Asians, and they took women. The Japanese Americans were locked up in the camps. I was making 50 cents an hour; that was good money. I made about $45/week. I wanted a deferment, so I quit school to go to work.
My deferment was up, and they wouldn’t extend it anymore. I got drafted in December of 1943. I took my basic training at Camp Roberts in field artillery. Some of my cousins were also in the military: Robert Gee, Stanley Gee, John Gee, and George Gee.
Then I went to Lanterman General Hospital to learn to be a medical technician. That was about six months. Then they sent me to Hammond Army Hospital in Modesto for three months. It was for people who had gotten wounded in the service and were recuperating. The war was going pretty bad so they sent me back to Camp Roberts for advanced infantry training. They were preparing me to go overseas. They sent me to Fort Hood in Texas.
I was sent after the Battle of the Bulge with the Second Armored Division.5 All we saw were broken down tanks and jeeps. We were wiped out. The enemy infiltrated the American line at Bulge. Next thing I knew, we were going up to Belgium. The Second Armored Division is a self-supporting division with infantry, tanks, reconnaissance, supply, maintenance, and medics. I was in the medical battalion, but I didn’t do any medical work. I was the company clerk; I did the paperwork. I wrote up the KP list and all that (laughs).
Actually, I had it very good there. I never walked a step as I was always on wheels (laughs). I never slept outside. I slept inside churches and school buildings. I never slept on the ground; I always had a bed. From Belgium, we went into Holland. We got into Germany, and we were at the border of Berlin for a couple of weeks. We got orders from the United States president to pull back and let the Russians come in first. The infantry and the tanks had already crossed the river. The supplies and medics still had not crossed the river. But the Germans had blown up the bridge, so our infantry—about 4000—had to swim back. After the European war was over, I got to cross into Berlin on 4 July 1945. We were the first American soldiers to go into Berlin. We couldn’t move around; we stayed in the American section especially after sundown. We didn’t know what the Russians would do either. A lot of them were huge, like 6’4”. We stayed in a school house for about a month and a half. Then the 82nd Airborne Division came in for the occupation. We were preparing to go to Japan.
We went to France to wait for a boat to come in. While we were waiting, the war ended in Asia. I was switched to occupational duty. We didn’t really associate with the Europeans; they warned us against fraternization. The Germans thought they were a superior race, but the French were okay.
I came back to the States and then I got discharged in El Paso, Texas. I went back to school at LA State. I got a job at Douglas Aircraft company again in Santa Monica making DC-3, DC-4, DC-5, DC-6, DC-7, DC-8, and DC-9. I was a manufacturing engineer. After the DC-9, I got transferred to the space section making missiles and working on the Apollo program. In 1978, I retired from Douglas after 31 years.
Actually, I was doing double-duty after 1958. My family also had a liquor store on Macy Street. I went there before work and after work. My dad and my wife worked there in the day time. My dad had been a cook in Old Chinatown. My uncle, Sam Ward Gee, was the “mayor” of Old Chinatown for 12 years.
5 Germany’s last offensive campaign was between Dec 1944 to January 1945. The “Bulge” is known as the bloodiest single battle fought by the United States. Over 36,000 were killed and more wounded. Members of the Second Armored Division were the first Americans to reach Berlin in July of 1945 after crossing the Elbe River.