Gary Yuen Chin Chow (94) passed away at Goodwin House of Alexandria on July 1, 2019.
Gary was born on May 22, 1925 to Yim Chow and Ngun Heong (Tom) Chow in Hilo, Hawaii. A 1944 graduate of Hilo High School, Gary enlisted in the Army, serving in the 187th Airborne Infantry Division, a regiment of the 101st Airborne Division. His division, sent to Okinawa, Japan in August 1945 for occupation duty at the end of WWII, is said to be the first foreign ground combat unit to enter the nation.
Gary rose to the rank of First Sergeant (“Top Kick”) of the division which returned to the United States and was stationed at Fort Campbell, KY. The division was renamed the 187th Airborne Infantry Regiment (Rakkasans) K Company and was deployed to Korea in 1950, where it became the 187th Airborne Regimental Combat Team (ARCT). Gary was a Charter Founding Life member of the ARCT.
While in Korea, Gary completed both combat jumps. The first was behind enemy lines in Sukchon on October 20, 1950. After the commander and executive officer were wounded in action, Gary temporarily assumed leadership of K Company during heavy combat on October 22. His second combat jump was into Musani-ni on March 23, 1951 where he and his fellow paratroopers cut off an enemy escape route. Gary received a Purple Heart for wounds sustained during the battle of “Bloody Inje” in May of 1951.. After this tour in the infantry, he applied and was accepted into the Army intelligence program. He served two more tours in Korea as an intelligence officer.
During a rotation back to the states, Gary returned to Hawaii where he served as a Junior ROTC instructor at Roosevelt High School in Honolulu. There he met Toshie Nishimura, who worked as a secretary. They were married on October 4, 1954 in Honolulu.
After his tours in Korea, Gary was transferred to Okinawa as an instructor for the U.S. Army Pacific Intelligence School. During this rotation, in 1963, he earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in government and politics through an extension program of the University of Maryland. During his time in the service, he earned black belts in judo and aikido and studied tae kwon do. His last assignment was as Operations Sergeant in the Office of Intelligence at Fort Shafter in Honolulu. He retired from the Army after 20 years 20 days in December 1964 and went to work at the post office in Honolulu.
In recognition of his skill, integrity and dedication to the Army, Gary was recruited by the CIA, and served as an agent during the Vietnam War. He served two tours in Vietnam, including during the Tet Offensive and the fall of Saigon. On April 29, 1975 he was airlifted off the roof of the U.S. embassy by American troops, fortunate to have been recognized by a Marine and allowed in. He retired from the CIA December 3, 1977 after nearly 12 years with the CIA and more than 32 years of government service.
In 1978, not ready for retirement, Gary went to work for the Planning Research Corporation (PRC) as a data analyst. He retired in 1987 at age 61 after nine years with PRC. Gary was anything but sedentary in his retirement, becoming a prolific painter after training with a Chinese master painter and taking a number of adult education courses.
Later, he took on the physical challenge of training for and hiking in the Sierra Club’s 100k, one-day hike from Washington, DC to Harper’s Ferry, WV. He started the hike in 1986 at age 61 and participated in 21 of the marathon hikes as well as leading training hikes for other participants. His last hike was in 2008 at age 82, and while he didn’t complete the entire 100k during that attempt--only one year after major abdominal surgery- he is considered a legend among those who hiked with him.
Gary was preceded in death by his parents, seven siblings, and wife, Toshie, who died at age 100 in 2017. He is survived by his brother, Matthew Yuen Pui Chow (Anna) of Hilo, Hawaii, daughters Nancy Chow of McLean, VA and Carol Hideko Everett of Poulsbo, WA, son Glen Yim Chow (Jill) of Falls Church, VA and granddaughter, Harper Emiko McAlister of Jacksonville, FL.
A private burial will be held with family at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific (Punchbowl) in Honolulu, Hawaii. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations to the DAV Foundation, Goodwin House Foundation, or the gift of time given as a volunteer with the Sierra Club One-Day Hike in Gary’s honor.
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