Every Day Is a Holiday

Dad got naturalized as a citizen in 1956. (He never got his green card — thanks to the private bill, in a little over two years, Dad went from the brink of deportation to citizenship. It’s the same benefit he would have gotten for his Korean War service if he’d qualified for HR 4233, which he missed by 12 days.)

Dad’s post-citizenship life is an entire other lifetime, so I won’t try to cover it all right now. Instead, I’ll focus on three objects that appear in Every Day Is a Holiday: A hat, a Mustang, and a lamp.

The Hat


Dad, with hat. Taken Father's Day, 2009

As stated in the movie, after college (as a 30-something freshman), Dad went to medical school in Bologna, Italy. There’s a festival for matriculating students, where everyone wears hats that they decorate with personal items and embroidered patches that they can buy from vendors.


Back of the hat.

On the back of Dad’s hat is a patch that reads, “Gli errori del medico sono ricoperti dalla terra”, or “The errors of the doctor are covered by dirt.”

Above it is a personalized souvenir badge from the Chicago Board of Trade Observatory, June 28, 1947, from his days at electrical school.


More patches

Here’s a skeleton with the legend, “Era mio cliente,” or “This was my patient.”


Side view of the hat

On the side, you can see the insignia of the 25th Infantry Division (“Tropic Lightning”), a bandage, a kangaroo, medicinal bottles, and a patch with an bearded old man that reads, “Saro laureato,” essentially saying, “This is me when I graduate.”

The Mustang

Dad and Mom and Dad's 1969 Mustang

We learned about my Dad’s black VW Beetle in the movie, but we only caught a glimpse of his second car: a black 1969 Mustang, which he bought when he was living and working in New York after medical school. He says he was basically convinced to buy it by a friend (he’s never really been a car guy), and bought it outright.

My sister and I only knew of this as my Mom’s car, which she would cart us around in, which meant baking, sticking agony in the summer thanks to its black vinyl interior. It was also a sight to see this tiny woman behind the wheel of a V-8 sports car. It would have been more impressive if it weren’t for the lengths of gray duct tape that ran down the entire right side of the car, from when my Dad sideswiped a NYC garbage truck and never got it fixed.

In fact, he basically stopped taking good care of the car after it kept getting broken into in the 1970s Bronx. (Someone had popped the trunk lock, so instead of a key, we used a screwdriver poked through the hole where the lock used to be to open the latch.)

The Mustang was eventually sold — for a song — to a boyfriend of our neighbor’s daughter.

The Lamp

The lamp made from a leg.

The lamp was a retirement gift from co-workers at the Veterans Administration hospital where he spent most of his career. Dad worked in rehabilitation medicine, helping veterans recovering from amputations, injuries, and disabilities. It was one of the ways he felt he could pay back the Americans who’d helped to liberate him from the POW camp.

For diabetics and other patients with reduced sensation in their feet, amputation was an all-too-frequent result of not taking proper care of feet. (Small abrasions can lead to large ulcers, infection, and gangrene which leads to amputation — and it can mostly be prevented by keeping an eye on the feet. Dad was always big on preventative medicine.)

Next post: I wrap up this little series by wishing my father a Happy Father’s Day.

All photos in this post are screencaps from the film, Every Day Is a Holiday, and come from my father’s scrapbook. We’re working on digitizing and archiving all of them, including the captions he meticulously wrote in the margins.

In the meantime, learn how to buy a copy of Every Day Is a Holiday on DVD, where you can also sign up to be notified when the film becomes available on premium streaming services and other events.

Since the Senate immigration bill was introduced this week, it’s a particularly relevant time to talk about how Dad actually got his citizenship. (This is kind of a long one.)

Previously, I covered his attempts to become a US citizen through service in the merchant marine and wartime US Army, both unsuccessful. In the first case, he was thwarted by the whim of an immigration bureaucrat; in the second, he failed because of 12 missing days.

Service Guarantees Citizenship? (Nope)

In HR 4233, later Public Law 86 [PDF], members of the Armed Forces serving after June 24, 1950 (the start of the Korean War), could become naturalized citizens — provided they served at least 90 days and were honorably discharged. No problem in either case for my dad.

However, the law also required people to have lived in the US for at least a full year prior to joining the military.

The relevant section of Public Law 83-86

According to the documentation, Dad had been in the US 12 days short of a year when he was drafted.

So instead of becoming a citizen upon discharge, he was nabbed by the INS for being an illegal alien.

Fortunately, he had money from his Army separation pay to post bond. So Dad went from the immigration office (at Columbus Circle) to the Bureau of Immigration of the National Catholic Welfare Conference (now part of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops), which had an office near the Seaman’s Institute, where he got the following advice:

Get down to Washington, DC and ask a member of Congress — in person — to sponsor a private bill for citizenship on his behalf. And do it as soon as possible.

He says that this is the best advice he ever got.

Help Me, Congress, You’re My Only Hope

Private bills are bills that affect specific people, not the entire public. They tend to deal with citizenship, tax relief, military awards, and veterans benefits, and aren’t as common as they used to be.

Like he says in the film, Dad took the train from New York Penn Station to Union Station in DC, and started knocking on doors of Congressmembers. He wasn’t wearing the double-breasted suit you see in some photos, or his military uniform — just simply dressed for the DC summer.

He was turned down at the first few offices he tried. Too busy, they said (he thinks he spoke to the actual Congressmen, not staffers.)

James C. Auchincloss

Congressman James C. Auchincloss. Public domain photo.

At the third or so office, that of James Auchincloss (R-New Jersey-3), he spoke to a woman at a desk, also simply dressed. Instead of a regular staffer, though, this was Lee Alexander Auchincloss — Mrs. Auchincloss. She said she’d ask her husband if he’d help. And he did.

(Sadly, Mrs. Auchincloss would die a few years later, in 1959. Mr. Auchincloss died in 1976, at the age of 91. I couldn’t find a photo of Mrs. Auchincloss, but here’s a small photo of the Congressman.)

If the Auchinclosses hadn’t agreed to help Dad, I’m fully convinced that he would have knocked on the doors of all 435 Representatives and 96 Senators (remember, Alaska and Hawaii weren’t yet states.) Which means he would have been visiting the offices of people like Representatives Sam Rayburn, Lloyd Bentsen, Gerald Ford, Tip O’Neil, and Senators Prescott Bush (father of George H. W.), Everett Dirksen, John F. Kennedy, Harry Flood Byrd, Hubert Humphrey, Strom Thurmond, Al Gore, Sr., and Lyndon Johnson.

HR 880 – Private Bill 147

Anyway, I won’t bore you with the full legislative history of the bill. Suffice it to say, the private bill was introduced as HR 6591 in the 83rd Congress. And it died. But because of Congressman Auchincloss’s intervention, the INS halted its deportation proceedings, and the bill was re-introduced in the 84th Congress as HR 880, and was approved July 7th, 1955:

HR 880: Approved July 7, 1955

You know the rest of the story, or at least the result — Dad got naturalized and started the next chapters of his life.

Dad has copies of most of the relevant bills and correspondence. Plus, in 2012, I visited the National Archives, where with the help of a legislative librarian, I was able to find the files associated with the legislation, including the investigative reports, correspondence, letters of recommendation, and more.


Documents from the National Archives

So, that’s how it all went down.

The dates and the paper trail aren’t really important, just the compassion that one Congressman and his wife showed to a man who wasn’t even an a constituent, and was in fact, an illegal alien.

Next post: I’ll cherry-pick some tidbits from his life after getting citizenship, then wrap it all up on Sunday.

All photos in this post are screencaps from the film, Every Day Is a Holiday, and come from my father’s scrapbook. We’re working on digitizing and archiving all of them, including the captions he meticulously wrote in the margins.

In the meantime, learn how to buy a copy of Every Day Is a Holiday on DVD, where you can also sign up to be notified when the film becomes available on premium streaming services and other events.

I never thought of my dad, Paul Loong, as being particular mechanical, even though he was pretty meticulous when it came to car oil changes and maintaining the lawn mower.

So it kind of surprised me growing up to learn that he enlisted in the RAF as a mechanic. And went to electrical school in Chicago.

And drove a tank during the Korean War.

Dad in the turret hatch of his Sherman tank in Korea

When we last left the story, it was April 19, 1951, and Dad was in New Orleans, having just learned that his three years of service as a fireman on oil tankers meant exactly jack when it came to getting his US citizenship.

Which is why, five days later, he was in Newark, NJ, registering for the draft.

Dad's draft card. Note incorrect birth year: 1925, not 1923

Note the dates, which says he was born in 1925. Only, dad was born in 1923. Why does it say 1925 on the card?

Dad gave the answer in Every Day Is a Holiday: He lied, to stay eligible for the draft, which in post-WWII America, cut off at 26. He said he was 25 and a half, instead his true age, 27 and a half.

That’s right: My dad lied so he could get drafted to fight in the Korean War.

Technically, as a non-green-card foreign national (and really, illegal alien), he wasn’t really eligible for service at all. But I don’t think the Army at the time knew, or cared.

The Army must have figured it out at some point, since originally it was going to send him to Officer Candidate School (OCS), but then changed its mind. But it also didn’t kick him out of the service.

Dad's official Army portrait

So, Dad was drafted, processed at Camp Kilmer, NJ, then went through Basic Training and Leadership Course at Fort Knox, Kentucky, where he learned how to drive an M4 Sherman tank.

Like he says in the film, “I drove a medium tank before I could drive a car.”

Here’s a photo of dad being awarded Outstanding Trainee of the Day at Fort Knox. If you know my dad, this will not be surprising. (You can see the accompanying press release from the public information office of the 3rd Armored Division):

Pvt. Paul Loong awarded "Outstanding Trainee of the Day"

Going through the nuts and bolts, he arrived at Yokohama, Japan, and was sent to Camp Drake. From there, he shipped out from Yokohama to Pusan, Korea, then to Chunchon, where he was attached to Charlie Company, 89th Tank Battalion, 25th Infantry Division. (He still wears the “Tropic Lightning” insignia of the 25th Division on his baseball cap.)

Dad was in Korea from about June 1952 to June 1953. Like he says in the film, he started as an assistant driver, then worked his way up through driver, loader, gunner (where he spent most his tour), and (one day as) tank commander.

Dad never talked much about his experiences during the war. He says his unit mostly provided artillery support, and he doesn’t go into much detail. He does tell one story, though, which if you know my dad, also will not be surprising:

When his unit was on the move, during the occasional rest break, most soldiers would relax, take a smoke, kick around for a while. Dad says he’d always get out, and the first thing he’d do was inspect the tracks and the running gear, making sure they were tight and in good condition, so they wouldn’t be immobilized by a thrown track (which would a bad thing in combat).

An officer saw this, and held him up as an example to the other troops.

I’m not sure if the other soldiers would have resented him, seeing him as a suck up, but that was just my dad being himself: Conscientious, and not wanting to be put in danger by something that he could control. And I don’t think they did.

Getting a haircut in Korea. The barber's last name is Hassan; he later was a NYPD detective.

Dad’s tour was up in June 1953, and he rotated back to the US. Where he was promptly arrested by the INS for being an illegal alien. More on what happened after that in the next post.

All photos in this post are screencaps from the film, Every Day Is a Holiday, and come from my father’s scrapbook. We’re working on digitizing and archiving all of them, including the captions he meticulously wrote in the margins.

In the meantime, learn how to buy a copy of Every Day Is a Holiday on DVD, where you can also sign up to be notified when the film becomes available on premium streaming services and other events.

It’s 1948. After three years in brutal Japanese prison camps — first breaking rocks, shoveling sand, and hauling sacks of cement… then mining copper deep underground — you’ve made it to the US on a one-year student visa. Which is about to run out. You need to find a way to get a green card. What do you do?

Dad on the SS Stanvac Singapore

Dad (in the life ring) on the SS Stanvac Singapore

If you’re my dad, Paul Loong, and you have no other options, you head from Chicago to New York and sign up for five years as a merchant seaman on American-flagged ships. Five years of hot, cramped, tedious, and hazardous work, working deep in the bowels of ship as a fireman tending the boilers, because at the end of your hitch, you’ll get your citizenship.

Did we mention it’s hot? Oil-fired boilers, and all that. And it gets even hotter when you go to the Persian Gulf, which as an oil tanker, that’s pretty much your thing.

The Stanvac Singapore. My dad served on her from 1949-1951.

At least, though, you get to travel. Sure, since you’re on an oil tanker, the destinations are mostly refineries and oil ports, but you do get to see some sights: Iran (the Abadan refinery), Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the UAE; Durban, South Africa; Mombasa; Mozambique; Australia; New Zealand; Noumea; the Philippines; and a few stops along the Mediterranean, including Athens:

Dad at the Acropolis in Athens on shore leave in Greece

All thanks to the post-Standard Oil companies (which is why the ships include “Stanvac” and “Esso” — though, oddly, the SS Camp Namanu appears to have been named for a Camp Fire Girls camp in Oregon.)

You spend most of your time from 1949 to 1951 on the Stanvac Singapore. Some of your shipmates, who are also foreign nationals, have the same hope as you — US citizenship after five years of service.

Dad (kneeling, second from right) with shipmates

All that came crashing to a halt in Port Arthur, Texas, December, 1950, after one of those shipmates told an port-of-entry immigration officer that he hoped to become an American citizen after his five years of service.

Boom. Simply by saying they knew about an existing law, the foreign national crewmen were declared mala fide seamen, acting in bad faith, to be disqualified from citizenship.

The rest of the story is told in the film — detained in jail, deported from Ellis Island… by being put back on the same ship, where he sailed for another year, until April, 1951, when he arrived in New Orleans, and realized his merchant marine service meant nothing.

So Dad signed up to go to war again. More on that in the next post.

All photos in this post are from the film, Every Day Is a Holiday, and come from my father’s scrapbook. We’re working on digitizing and archiving all of them, including the captions he meticulously wrote in the margins.

In the meantime, learn how to buy a copy of Every Day Is a Holiday on DVD, where you can also sign up to be notified when the film becomes available on premium streaming services and other events.

by Joseph Loong

(Part of a series of posts that will culminate on Father’s Day, highlighting why our dad, Paul Loong, is the Most Interesting Dad in the World.)

An iconic photo of the D-Day landings. US Govt photo.

Many people during World War II found out about the D-Day invasion that same day, June 6, 1944. For my Dad, it took a little longer, with a lot more risk. Here’s how it happened:

A few days after the Allies landed at Normandy, the POWs at Mitsushima, Japan were walking back to the prison camp, under guard, from the hydroelectric facility where they were being forced to work under harsh conditions.

One of the prisoners found a scrap of Japanese newspaper, featuring a story with a map of the European coast. Risking beheading if caught, he hid the newspaper and smuggled it back into the camp.

There, another prisoner who could read Chinese figured out from the characters (the Japanese written language uses Chinese characters) that the story was about the successful Normandy invasion.

According to Dad, while Japanese reporting of the Pacific War told of nothing except continuous Japanese victories, their coverage of the European theater of war was more truthful.

The newspaper was quickly destroyed to prevent the Japanese guards from discovering it, but Dad says the news “spread like wildfire” among the prisoners, who were starved of both food and information.

Much like the newspaper article, the June 1944 entries from my dad’s secret wartime diary didn’t survive to our time, but he remembers the story clearly, which gave all the prisoners a measure of hope that the Allies were winning the war.

And that’s how he learned about the successful D-Day invasion.

Growing up in suburban New Jersey, I knew little about my father’s past. Then, one day, I discovered his secret diary, written during WWII…

Every Day Is a Holiday tells the inspirational story of how my dad, Paul Loong, survived a POW camp in Japan and set out on an unlikely journey to become a citizen of the country that liberated him:  the United States.  

Every Day Is a Holiday is heading to the Montclair Film Festival!

Please join me and my dad and come see the film on the big screen:
Montclair Film Festival
Clairidge Cinema 1
Saturday, 5/4 11:15am
486 Bloomfield Ave
‪Montclair, NJ 07042‬
To order tickets online, visit http://bit.ly/everydayfilm

For more information about the film, including how to purchase a DVD for educational or home viewing, please sign up for our mailing list

Every Day Is a Holiday is playing on over 60 public television stations – on the World Compass channels – Over 60 stations, Friday, May 3 at 6pm and 9pm, Sunday May 5 at 7pm and Monday at 11am. See the map below for a station near you.

Some digital channels where Every Day Is a Holiday is playing

Some digital channels where Every Day Is a Holiday is playing

For current showtimes in your area, please type in your zip code.

For more information about the film, including how to purchase a DVD for educational or home viewing, please sign up for our mailing list

Of course, I would love to see you tomorrow at the Montclair Film Festival! Sat. May 4 at 11:15am. Bus information here

Dr. Paul Loong, WWII POW, Korean War veteran, doctor and subject of documentary ‘Every Day Is a Holiday,’ will give a live talk after a screening at the Montclair Film Festival’s spotlight on New Jersey films.

Contact: Theresa Loong
Tel: 718-496-4964
e-mail: Theresa@everydayisaholiday.org

How does a Malaysian-born RAF veteran get from prisoner-of-war camps in Japan to the NJ suburbs?

On May 4th, at the Montclair Film Festival, Dr. Paul Loong will answer that question, which involves oil tankers; arbitrary immigration bureaucrats; the US Army in the Korean War; a compassionate Congressman; Italian medical school; and the East Orange VA hospital.

Documentary filmmaker Theresa Loong was able to gradually pry the full story from Dr. Loong, her father, after discovering the wartime diary he’d kept secret — first from his Japanese captors, then his family — for over 60 years.

Ms. Loong’s questions grew into the documentary “Every Day Is a Holiday,” a title taken from a diary entry during a bleak time in Dr. Loong’s imprisonment, where he swore that if he survived as a free man,
“Every day would be a holiday.”

The film, previously broadcast on over 200 PBS stations, traces Dr. Loong’s journey through visits to former POW camps in Japan, wartime artifacts, archival documents, and interviews. It is featured in the Montclair Film Festival’s spotlight on movies featuring NJ filmmakers and subjects.

Dr. Loong, director Theresa Loong, executive producer Bill Einreinhofer and editor Kristen Nutile will comment on the film and answer audience questions after a screening of ‘Every Day Is a Holiday’ May 4, 11:15 am at the Clairidge Cinema, 486 Bloomfield Ave., Montclair, NJ., Tickets can be purchased through the Montclair Film Festival.

Director Theresa Loong is an award-winning multimedia multimedia director and producer, and founder of the interactive production company, FORM360, which provides editorial and strategic consulting services. For further information about ‘Every Day Is a Holiday,’  including information about the DVD, visit http://www.everydayisaholiday.org.

Download PDF for Every Day Is a Holiday Montclair Press Release here

Heading to Houston and Austin March 15-17! I will be screening Every Day Is a Holiday and speaking in Houston to this great group: USS HOUSTON (CA-30) Survivors Association and the Next Generations.

On April 17 at 6pm, I will be screening Every Day Is a Holiday at the Flushing Public Library in Queens, NY, as part of Immigrant Heritage Week.

For more information about the film, including how to purchase a DVD for educational or home viewing, please sign up for our mailing list

For current showtimes in your area, please type in your zip code.

Every Day Is a Holiday streamed online as part of a Social Screening series, on Sunday, June 17 at 3pm EST. Read the chat transcript with Dr. Loong and special guests, including ex-POW Eddie Fung and Professor Judy Yung.

Many thanks to Steve Goldbloom at ITVS, Eddie Fung, Judy Yung, Craig Cornwell and Karin Pekarchik at KET.

The film also played:
- in FLORIDA (WGCU Create & Encore) on May 4th at 7pm,
- in INDIANA (WTIU) on May 6th at 3pm,
- in S. & Central CALIFORNIA (hello LA!) (KCET) on May 6th at 11pm
- in MILWAUKEE, WI (MPTV) on May 7th at 8am
-Rhode Island PBS, Monday, May 7 @ 10pm
-KVIE/Sacramento, Monday, May 7 @ 11pm
-Nashville/WNPT, Monday, May 7 @ 11pm
-KLRU/Austin, Thursday, May 10 @ 9pm
-KQED/San Francisco, Saturday, May 12 @ 6pm
-KUAT Tucson/PBS HD Monday, May 14 @ 11pm
-WXEL/West Palm Beach, Wednesday, May 16 @ 1pm
-DPTV HD/Detroit, Thursday, May 17 @ 11pm
-Rocky Mountain PBS, Sunday, May 20 @ 4pm
-WHRO/Norfolk, Thursday, May 24 @ 9pm
-WNET/New York City, Sunday, May 27 @ 2:30pm
-WQED/Pittsburgh, Sunday, May 27 @ 4pm
-KET Kentucky, Sunday, May 27 @ 5pm
-WLIW21, Sunday, May 27 @ 5:30pm
-KCTS/Seattle, Sunday, May 27 @ 11pm
-KET Kentucky, Monday, May 28 @ 9pm
-KLRN/San Antonio, Thursday, May 31 @ 9pm
-PBS Hawaii, Thursday, May 31 @ 10pm
-WLIW21, Friday, June 1 @ 4:00am (yes, that’s AM; it’s being rebroadcast!)
-UNC-MX/Raleigh-Durham, Tuesday, June 12 @ 9pm
-KRCB 22.1 San Francisco/San Jose/Oakland, Thursday, June 14 @ 9pm
-KCSM/San Francisco, Sunday, June 17 @ 9pm
-KUHT/Houston on Monday, June 25 @ 9am (yes, that’s AM)
-WQED/Pittsburgh, Sunday, 7/01 @ 5pm
-WHUT/Washington, DC, Tuesday 7/17 @ 8pm
-WHUT/Washington, DC, Wednesday 7/18 @ midnight
-Oregon Public Broadcasting/Bend, Tuesday, July 24 @ 8pm
-Oregon Public Broadcasting/Portland, Eugene, Bend, Wednesday, July 25 @ 5am
-Alaska One HD, Tuesday, 9/4/12, 9:00pm AKDT (That’s Alaska Daylight Time)
-KUAC HD, Tuesday, 9/4/12, 10:00pm
-Alaska One HD, Wednesday, 9/5/12, 3:00am AKDT
-WHUT, Washington DC, Thursday, 1/31/13, 10pm

-World Compass channels – Over 60 stations, Friday, May 11 at 5am, 11am, and 6pm.

You can CHECK OUT the list of broadcast premiere dates here:

NOTE: Check local listings for additional dates & times as multiple broadcasts will take place on each local channel throughout the month…

If you don’t see a listing, or missed a broadcast, please contact your local public television station and request a screening.

Click Here to Launch the Archive of the Chat with Panelists: Ex-POW Dr. Paul Loong, Ex-POW, Eddie Fung, Professor Judy Yung, Director Theresa Loong and other special guests!

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