Kurt Chew-Een Lee was born in San Francisco, California in 1926. His family immigrated from Guangzhou, China in the early 1920s. During the onset of World War II, Lee was a high school student and a part of the Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps.
Once he turned 18, he joined the Marine Corps in 1944. Lee went to Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego, where he learned Japanese. By the time the war ended, Lee was a sergeant.
Lee was a first lieutenant when the Korean War started. He shipped out with his unit in September 1950.
During the Battle of Inchon, Lee single-handedly advanced toward the opposition front, who wounded him in the knee. He received the Navy Cross for his bravery in combat. In the Battle of Chosin Reservoir, Lee’s platoon successfully attacked multiple enemy foxholes. On Dec. 8, 1950, a Chinese machine gunner shot Lee, seriously wounding him and ending his Korean War service. He received the Silver Star and Purple Heart.
During the Vietnam War, Lee served as a division combat intelligence officer. He was in charge of the translation of foreign language documents captured by the field units.
Lee retired from the military in 1968 and worked at the New York Life Insurance Company for seven years. He later also worked at the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association. He married twice and had a stepdaughter through his second marriage. Lee later retired and relocated to Arlington, Virginia.
He died March 3, 2014, at the age of 88.
We honor his service.
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