Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Honors Thesis



First Advisor

Zachary Scarlett


Pearl Harbor was one of the most shocking, devastating events in American military history. However, upon the entry of the United States into World War II, opportunities arose for Chinese American men and women. For Chinese American women, Pearl Harbor marked a pivotal transition as they were finally recruited by the United States military. More generally, American women expanded their noncombat roles and Asian Americans served in a number of capacities. I explore the related experiences of Hazel Ying Lee and Maggie Gee, the only two Chinese American Women Airforce Service Pilots. Lee and Gee dealt with and observed the effects of racist legal discrimination, such as the Chinese Exclusion Act, and the asymmetrical treatment of Chinese versus Japanese Americans. I analyze these themes within the scope of the evolving Sino-American relations before and during the war. While hundreds of thousands of Japanese Americans were forced into internment camps because of their race and ethnicity, Chinese Americans purposefully brought attention to their own identities, which included such practices as wearing “I am Chinese” buttons. Additionally, Chinese American women were able to display their loyalty to the United States as they were given the chance to serve in the military. In An “Often Formidable Sting”, I include Lee and Gee as case studies of these experiences. I conducted archival research in order to utilize a variety of primary sources, such as oral histories and newspapers, to center the experiences of Chinese American WASPs in World War II history.

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