Winston Ho 何嶸.
University of New Orleans,
Department of History 紐奧良大學歷史學系.
2018 Oct. 14, Sunday (revised 2021 Jun. 20, Sunday).
[Wally Yip, age 20, in 1943. Taken in the months before the Normandy Invasion. Photograph courtesy of Jeanette Hew.]
Poy Yip 葉培 (official name: Yip Jung Kwan 葉仲君) [Poy Yip had two Chinese names; Poy Yip may have been a “courtesy name,” adopted when he reached adulthood] (1877? → 1940s) arrived in the United States from Guangdong Province around the turn of the century. He was a former railroad worker, and later became a farmer in Stockton, California. He returned to China about once every five years to visit his wife and children, including his son Wally Yip.
In 1923, PFC Yip Wah Sim “Wallace S. Yip” 葉華深 (1923 Feb. 8 → 2012 Jul. 13) was born in Taihen village, Taishan (Hoishan) county, Guangdong province 廣東省台山縣葉村. In 1933, when Wally was 10-years old, his father and an adopted brother traveled 2-days overland from the Yip Village to Hong Kong. The family then traveled 21-days by sea aboard the ship “President Coolidge,” with stops in Shanghai, Tokyo, and Hawaii.
[Wally Yip, age 10, on the far right, before leaving China for the United States. Wally Yip’s father, Poy Yip, appears in the center, and his mother, Leong Kam Yuk, appears on the left. Wally Yip’s adopted brother, Tommy, appears on the far left. One of Wally Yip’s two younger sisters is also on the left. The women immediately left of Wally Yip is Poy Yip’s first wife, Che See (Gee See). This woman is the mother of Yip Hong Koon (Yip Shee) and the maternal grandmother of Sheriff Harry Lee. Wally Yip’s mother was Poy Yip’s second wife — a concubine. Photograph courtesy of Jeanette Hew.]
Upon reaching San Francisco, California 加州舊金山, his father was allowed to enter the country, but Wally and his brother Tommy Yip were detained at Angel Island 天使島, where they were interrogated over several sessions by immigration officials. After six weeks on Angel Island, Yip was reunited with his brother and father in San Francisco. Afterward, Wally’s older sister, Yip Shee, arrived from New Orleans, Louisiana 路州紐奧良市, to bring Wally to live with her family.
In New Orleans, Yip Shee was the wife of Lee Bing and mother of eight children, including her oldest son, Harry Lee. The Lee family owned a laundry on Carondelet Street, and the entire family lived together in the back of the laundry. Wally Yip delivered laundry for the Lee family, and later, he also worked at a restaurant, shined shoes, and delivered newspapers. At first, Wally Yip was denied the right to attend public school and forced to work because he didn’t have shoes. This was the Great Depression, and Lee family were struggling to provide shoes for their own children. Wally eventually ran away from home.
[Wally Yip with his childhood friend Back Gee in Leland, Mississippi, in 1938. Photograph courtesy of Jeanette Hew.]
He learned to ride the railroads from an African American boy in the neighborhood, and he traveled to Greenville in the Mississippi Delta 密州青成, where he earned money by picking cotton. After returning to New Orleans, Wally Yip was beaten by his sister for running away, but he had earned enough money to buy shoes and attend school. He continued to travel to Mississippi every summer, until he met a childhood friend, Beck Gee, who had left New Orleans earlier with his grandmother to Leland, Mississippi 密州李菕. Beck’s grandmother hired Wally to sweep the floors and stock the shelves at her grocery every summer, until the Second World War.
At first, Wally Yip was teased in school whenever his name “Wah Sim” was read during roll call. Finally, a sympathetic teacher gave him the English name “Wallace.” Though he barely spoke English when he first arrived in the United States, he was an excellent student, learning to read and write English fluently, and graduating from Warren Easton High School in 1941.
[Wally Yip’s letter to Lois Garrison when he was undergoing infantry training at Camp Claiborne, southwest of Alexandria, 1943 Apr. 4. Note the penmanship, remarkable for someone with limited English skills when he arrived in the United States nine years earlier. Japanese Americans from the West Coast were interned at another camp called Camp Livingston, several miles away northeast of Alexandria, apparently unknown to Wally Yip and the other Chinese American soldiers at Camp Claiborne.]
Wally Yip was drafted into the U.S. Army in January of 1943. He was trained in Alexandria, Louisiana 路州亞歷山德里亞, and in England 英國, and assigned to the Third Army, 79th Infantry Division, 313 Regiment, 3rd Battalion, C Company (mortar team), part of George Patton’s army. Wally Yip’s unit was among the reinforcements deployed to Normandy 諾曼第戰役 in the days immediately after the invasion. His unit landed at Utah Beach on June 12, D+6, clearing German resistance between Cherbourg and St. Lo 法國瑟堡市和聖洛市, and later pushing the Germans across northern France towards the Rhine River. He won the Bronze Star for his service in this campaign.
[Movements of the 79th Infantry Division in northern France and Germany, 1944-1945. Wally Yip was with the 79th from England until he was wounded somewhere in Alsace-Lorraine. He rejoined his unit a few weeks later and crossed the Rhine north of Essen, participating in the race across Germany and the occupation of Czechoslovakia. Map courtesy of the U.S. Army.]
Wally Yip was wounded by artillery fire during the approach to the Rhine 萊茵河 in October of 1944. Yip was carrying a bag of mortar ammunition, when the bag was hit by an artillery shard. The shard pierced the bag, continuing to the other side, piercing Yip’s leg, and exiting out the other side, without detonating the ammunition he was carrying, or cutting an artery. Four other members of his platoon, with whom he had served with since Normandy, were killed around the same time. Yip was awarded a Purple Heart for this injury.
He was sent to a field hospital and eventually transferred to a military hospital for six weeks of recovery. He expected to be sent home, but instead, the army awarded him a Purple Heart and returned him to the front line. By now, the Germans had formed a defensive line beyond the Rhine. For two weeks, Wally Yip and the 79th Infantry waited, as American bombers pounded the Germans by day, British and Canadians aircraft bombed the Germans by night, and American artillery bombarded the Germans day and night.
[Dedication to the Wally Yip and Johnny Ngai Purple Heart Conference Room, on the fourth floor of the Louisiana Pavilion of the National WWII Museum in New Orleans. Harry Lee is Wally Yip’s nephew, and Johnny Ngai is his brother-in-law. Photograph by Winston Ho, 2010.]
By the time Yip’s unit crossed the Rhine in April of 1945, Germany was in ruins, and the surviving German soldiers surrendered without a fight. The 79th Infantry continued into Germany 德國 until meeting Soviet troops from the Eastern front. After the German surrender, Yip’s unit was sent to Czechoslovakia 捷克斯洛伐克 for occupation duty and to prepare for redeployment to the Pacific theater. The Japanese surrendered a few months later.
Yip was discharged from the army with the rank of Private-First-Class. He returned to New Orleans just before Christmas of 1945. He worked in a restaurant and a grocery for the next two years, saving enough money for a visit to China. In 1947, Wally Yip and his sister Yip Shee returned to their home village in Guangdong province, where Wally saw his mother for the first time in 14 years. His mother introduced him to several prospective brides, and he married a woman from the nearby Lew village in June of that year, Lew Hong-lee “Lilly Yip” 劉香利.
[Wally Yip with his wife Lilly Lew Yip, 1947.]
They returned to the United States in October, and they lived in San Francisco for one year, where their first child, Jeanette, was born. By 1948, the Yip family had returned to New Orleans, and Wally and his wife worked at the original House of Lee restaurant on Baronne Street in Orleans Parish. In the 1950s, Yip sold cars for Bolton Chevrolet on Canal Street by day, and he waited tables at Brennan’s Restaurant by night. The other four Yip children were born at this time.
[Wally and Lilly Lew Yip at the National WWII Museum in 2009. Photograph by Jenni Hew.]
In 1957, the family bought the Ding How Laundry at 5004 Prytania Street, which Wally and Lilly Yip managed for 39 years. They retired and closed the laundry in 1996. They raised five children together – Jeanette Yip Hew, Wally Yip Jr., Barbara Yip Douglas, Nellie Yip Underwood, and Lotus Yip Cosmo. Wally Yip passed away in 2012. His medals are on display at the Purple Heart Conference Room at the National WWII Museum in New Orleans.
NolaChinese: Yip Family 葉家族. Accessed from WordPress (https://nolachinese.wordpress.com/2020/01/20/yip-family/).
NolaChinese: Wallace Yip 葉華深. Accessed from WordPress (https://nolachinese.wordpress.com/2018/10/14/wah-sim-wallace-yip/).
[Authentic war-hero Wally Yip with pretend war-hero Tom Hanks, at the National WWII Museum in 2009. Photograph by Jenni Hew.]
Angel Island, California State Park. Accessed from the California State Park official website (https://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=1309).
Grady, Bill. “Details, security anchor vet.” Times-Picayune (1994 May 8): p. B1, B3.
Kelso, Iris. “Farewell to neighborhood fixture.” Times-Picayune (1996 Aug. 16): p. B7.
Yip, Wally. Interviewed by Blanton, Mackie. “Oral History with Yip, Wally.” UNO. 1998.
Soong, Tina. “Lee honors heroes with museum room.” Times-Picayune (2000 Sep. 14): Metairie, p. 4.
Yip, Wally. “Oral History with Yip, Wally.” National World War II Museum. 2005. Accessed from the National WWII Museum (https://www.ww2online.org/view/wallace-yip-0#segment-stub-for-71143).
Wallace S. Yip.” Chinese American WWII Veterans Recognition Project (https://www.caww2.org/profile13).
“National World War II Museum Annual Report,” 2010.
Soong, Tina. “Memorial honors life of Chinese-American, Wally Yip.” Times-Picayune (2012 Aug. 2): p. B02.
“Obituary for Yip, Wally.” Times-Picayune (2012 Jul. 19): Metro, p. FN. Accessed from Dignity Memorial (http://obits.dignitymemorial.com/dignity-memorial/obituary.aspx?n=Wallace-Yip&lc=7186&pid=158590987&mid=5171621).
U.S. Army. Combat History of the 79th Infantry Division. 1946. http://digicom.bpl.lib.me.us/ww_reg_his/39/
Raw footage of the 79th Infantry Division near Lassay, France. Including video of mortars, grenade launchers, and other heavy weapons being fired in the hedgerow country of Normandy. HDArchives. Accessed from Youtube (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U_jGxx3N5hA).