Written by Linh Chuong
Peter Soo Hoo Jr. was born at home in a bungalow on Alvarado and Sunset, but spent much of his childhood at 12th and Burlington. He was a typical adolescent for his time: he would listen to the radio and go to dances. When asked in a recent interview if he noticed any differences during the Great Depression, he said, “ I didn’t… I was in my own world,�? although he did mention that some of his relatives were taking jobs as elevator operators, door-to-door salesmen, and sign painting.
Even though events such as the bombing of Pearl Harbor and developments of the war would not directly affect him, reactions from other people would. People would blur the lines between different Asian Pacific Islander Americans when attacking the Japanese. Peter Soo Hoo Jr. notes, “Because of Pearl Harbor and the resulting casualties, everybody who looked Oriental was fair game unless you wore the “I am Chinese” badge.�? He remembered an incidence once when he was wearing his military uniform: “…as we were walking past this older woman, she yelled, “Get away from me you Jap”.�? Service to your country was not enough it seemed.
The ensuing World War II would more directly affect him. He was one of the many Chinese Americans drafted into the military. After graduating high school in 1944 when he was still just 18, he was sent to get basic training at Camp Roberts from October 1944 to January of 1945; he was shipped to Italy in April. Sadly, three days after he landed in Italy, his father would pass away from a stroke, which Peter Soo Hoo Jr. partially attributes to concern for his only son. Luckily the war ended in May. Because he was inexperienced, he “didn’t know the dangers, really. Just what you read. You think you are a hero….�? The position he was in was especially difficult because, “ I was in reserve in case of a lot of casualties. They used to call us Rep Depo commanders…replacements who were rushed into the front in the event of a lot of American casualties.�?
He would get a break because the war in Europe ended in May, VJ day soon after, and his dependency discharge further shortened his service. He would come home and go to USC like his parents with three years covered through the GI bill, and eventually settle down with Lucy his girlfriend-turned wife.