Sunday, April 28, 2013

Over A Century With Mississippi WWII Veteran Linn “Pap” Pang

Veteran Linn Pang, affectionately known as “Pap,” stares out a narrow window near the exit door at the Mississippi State Veterans Home in Oxford, Miss. Sunday, April 14, 2013. Photo by: Lauren Loyless

Over A Century With Mississippi WWII Veteran Linn “Pap” Pang 

By: Lauren Loyless

OXFORD- Navy Veteran Linn “Pap” Pang is a war hero overseas, a father figure to his niece and nephews, and has lived for over a century. 

Pang spent most of his childhood in Marks, Miss. with his nine siblings after his mother died when he was only 10 years-old. His older sister took on the role of motherhood, who he developed a close bond with over the years. While living in Marks as a child he obtained the nickname “Pap” due to his reputation of hanging out with the older boys. Pang’s family then moved to a British colony in Hong Kong, China where they lived with a family friend. Pang recalls that whenever his dad was questioned about the move to China he would simply reply, 

“If they can not speak Chinese, they are not Chinese,” laughed Pang who was imitating his father. 

 When Pang returned to the U.S. he decided to work at a Chicago mill making wooden boxes for 35-cents an hour while attending a local high school. After graduating, he joined the Signal Corps as a volunteer. 

“I’ll tell you when you have mouths to feed, including my father, money was scarce, so I am telling you like it is, I am not blowing it up...I joined for the money,” said Pang. 

 After a fourth round of military training, Pang moved from the Signal Corps to the Navy and began to work with Naval Aviation. When he arrived in Japan, Pang remembers fishing with the boys the first few nights, but even frying the fish in a case of butter could not mask the smell of death around them.

“Whoever was there before us had killed a lot of Japanese. They dug trenches near the water and laid all of the bodies inside. The flesh of these Japanese stayed in my nostrils for weeks, all you could smell was dead flesh...I didn’t eat no more fish from that water,” said Pang.  

Ten days before the end of the war Pang flew back to the U.S. where doctors discovered he had Tuberculosis. After a full recovery, he moved to Clarksdale, Miss. in 1950 to help his sister with the family's grocery store. He took an active role in helping to raise his niece and three nephews after his brother and law’s death, just like his sister did for him many years ago.  

Years down the road, Pang was living alone when three days before Christmas his home perished in a fire with all of his belongings. He now calls the Mississippi State Veterans Facility his home where the staff and his fellow veterans love him. 

“He’s very friendly and outgoing. Everyone here loves him, its kind of hard not too,” said Veteran’s Recreation Director Matt Lowry. 

“We both lived in Clarksdale...we are close to each other now,” said Veteran Thomas Miller.

For his 100th birthday last year, Pang received many honors including a letter from Michelle Obama, a day named after him in Clarksdale, Miss., and the honor of being named Ole Miss Community Hero of the Week during the 2012 Vanderbilt football game.

“It was thrilling,” said Pang. “To have all those people cheering for me...I’m just a small town man.” 

For more on this story watch here.

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