Title: Margaret Chung Papers,
Date (inclusive): 1880-1958 (bulk 1942-1944
Collection number: AAS ARC 2000/3
1 oversize folder
University of California, Berkeley.
The Ethnic Studies Library.
Berkeley, California 94720-2360
Abstract: Contains writings and personal papers, including biographies, photographs and a scrapbook of newsclippings, relating to Margaret
Chung and her military "sons" spanning the years from 1933 to 1958. The bulk of the collection, dating from 1942 to 1944
consists of correspondence with her "sons" as well as photographs, military printed materials, and scrapbooks.
Collection is open for research.
Copyright has not been assigned to the Ethnic Studies Library. All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts
must be submitted in writing to the appropriate curator. Permission for publication is given on behalf of the Ethnic Studies
Library as the owner of the physical items and is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which
must also be obtained by the reader.
[Identification of item], Margaret Chung Papers, AAS ARC 2000/3,
The Ethnic Studies Library, University of California, Berkeley.
The Margaret Chung papers were given to the Ethnic Studies Library by Mollie Leong with the Charles Leong papers on October
Margaret Chung was born in 1890 in Santa Barbara, California. Her parents were both native-born Chinese who, when they were
very young, came to America with their parents. They were devout Christians who insisted their children practice daily prayers
and attend church twice every Sunday. Margaret Chung grew up on a 24,000-acre ranch in Ventura County where her father was
the foreman. As a child, she explored every aspect of the outdoor life on the ranch with her inquisitive mind and endless
energy, often riding horseback along with the ranch hands to mend fences and herd cattle. She was the eldest of eleven children
and played a major role in the upbringing of her brothers and sisters.
With sheer determination, Chung pursued her ambition in the medical field. She won a scholarship to college by selling a large
number of subscriptions for the
Los Angeles Times, and graduated from the University of Southern California, College of Physicians and Surgeons. Her first choice was to serve
as a medical missionary, but she was barred because of her Chinese nationality. Chung interned at hospitals in Los Angeles
and Chicago and then became staff resident at the State Hospital for the Insane in Kankakee, Illinois, where a well-known
Chicago criminologist recognized her brilliance and compassionate understanding of mental disorders. With him, she established
Chicago's first juvenile psychopathic institute. At 26 years of age, Chung was appointed criminologist for the State of Illinois,
but she disliked the nature of this position because life or death decisions depended on a criminal's sanity or insanity.
She preferred to cure people and to concentrate on surgical cases.
At this time her father died unexpectedly, leaving her to struggle with the responsibility of raising her six young siblings.
Upon returning to California, Chung was hired as staff surgeon at the Santa Fe Railroad Hospital in Los Angeles and became
experienced with industrial accident cases which led to her specialization in plastic surgery. She built up a private practice
that included many Hollywood celebrities and film industry executives.
After Chung's first visit to San Francisco, California in 1923, she was immediately attracted to Chinatown and the possibility
of serving the Chinese people. She became not only the first American doctor in Chinatown, but also the first woman to practice
modern medicine in Chinatown. Through perseverance, Chung was able to prove her medical skills and she eventually gained the
confidence of the Chinese people who previously solely depended on herbal doctors.
When the Japanese attacked China in 1931, Chung wanted to give her medical services to China, but authorities felt she would
better serve its cause by her work in the United States. At that time, seven flyers approached the famous Chinese-American
physician to offer their services to China, knowing Chung's deep interests in both aviation and China. She, in turn, advised
them to stay in America where they would also be needed. The flyers formed a club with Chung in which they became "adopted
sons" and she became their "Mom." During World War II, the club grew to thousands of military men and women, including some
of the highest ranking officers. She received large volumes of correspondence from them and she reciprocated with letters
of enthusiastic support and with thoughtful gifts. Chung also supported women during World War II through her persistence
in the creation of the Women's U.S. Naval Reserve (WAVES). She served tirelessly in the war effort and in giving aid to China
through her medical practice, through the lecture circuit, and through countless other activities. In 1945, Catholic Bishop
Paul Yu-Pin presented Chung with the "People's Medal" of the Chinese government.
Throughout her life, Chung was surrounded by numerous admirers from all walks of life. She felt comfortable on opening night
at a performance in a white ermine coat with a caged parakeet dangling from her wrist or at home in a gingham apron cooking
spare-ribs by the bushelful for her "adopted sons" and their families or convincing Chinese patients of the importance of
milk for its high calcium content. She was a humanitarian and patriot and proud to be a symbol of friendship between the Chinese
and American peoples.
Margaret Chung died at the age of sixty-nine after a long illness.
The Margaret Chung Papers contain writings and personal papers, including biographies, photographs and a scrapbook of newsclippings
relating to Margaret Chung and her military "sons" spanning the years form 1933 to 1958. The bulk of the collection, dating
from 1942 to 1944 consists of correspondence with her "sons" as well as photographs, military printed materials, and scrapbooks.
Chung's handwritten autobiographical manuscript and other biographical materials provide an insight into her humble beginnings
and her determination to serve humanity through her medical practice in San Francisco's Chinatown, where her patients were
not confined to the Chinese community, but included people from all around the country. The personal papers also reflect her
many friendships with interesting people ranging from Madame Chiang Kai-shek to Tallulah Bankhead and Sophie Tucker. Chung
made many friends in the motion picture industry while on the medical staff in a Los Angeles hospital where she specialized
in industrial accident cases and plastic surgery.
Beyond medicine, she had two passions: aviation and China. Although she never visited China, she was deeply devoted to the
land of her parents' birth. When the Japanese attacked China, Chung contributed to China aid through lectures, radio programs,
writings and related activities. The collection shows Chung's incredible support during World War II for military men, especially
pilots whom she "adopted" as her "sons." Notable in World War II history was Chung's recruitment of numerous aviators who
became known as the "Flying Tigers" under the command of General Claire Chennault, one of Chung's "adopted sons." Also significant
was her instrumental role in getting a Congressional bill introduced and passed through the help of "adopted son #447," Brigadier
General Melvin Maas, Senator from Minnesota. It was the bill creating the Women's Naval Reserve (WAVES) and making it possible
for women to join the military service.
The name "Mom" Chung was revered by flyers all over the world. In 1931, a club of "adopted sons" took form when seven top
flight American aviators came to consult with her concerning China. This group grew to thousands and included aviators (the
"Fair-Haired Bastards"), submarine men (the "Golden Dolphins"), and those who neither flew nor went to sea (the "Kiwis").
The majority of the collection conveys Chung's inexhaustible support and her intense patriotism through the hundreds of letters
from her "adopted sons" and their devotion to her. Chung presented each "son" with a small carved jade Buddha and personally
wrapped and sent over four thousand Christmas gifts to her "sons" overseas. Known as a great cook, she often invited these
military men and their families as well as Hollywood celebrities for dinners at her home in San Francisco. During 1943 to
1945, Chung also frequented restaurants and nightclubs, particularly the Copacabana, Bal Tabarin, and Forbidden City, where
photographs were taken as she was surrounded by her "sons," their families and friends. Chung's home became a museum of war
memorabilia which even included parts of downed airplanes. The collection contains military publications and materials, numerous
photographs, letters, telegrams, invitations, announcements, and stories sent to her. These "sons" came from diverse backgrounds
and included those awarded with the military's highest honors and other prominent figures who supported the war effort. They
included Senator Albert B. Chandler, Fleet Admiral C.W. Nimitz, Brigadier General Russell Randall, Admiral W.F. Halsey as
well as Andre Kostelanetz, the famed conductor.
The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the library's online public access catalog.
Tucker, Sophie, 1884-1966.
United States. Naval Reserve. Women's Reserve.
Chinese American women--California--San Francisco.
World War, 1939-1945--Anecdotes.
Chinese Americans--Social life and customs.
World War, 1939-1945--Civilian relief--United States.
World War, 1939-1945--War work--California--San Francisco.
Chiang, May-ling Soong, 1897-.