Gordon Paiʻea Chung-Hoon, who was born in Honolulu in 1910 to a Chinese-English-Hawaiian father and a Hawaiian mother, was a U.S. maritime transportation pioneer in a couple of key respects. Chung-Hoon attended the U.S. Naval Academy and, in 1934, he made history as the first person to be both an Asian American and U.S. citizen to graduate from that military institution.
During his time at USNA, Chung-Hoon also earned nationwide fame as the football team’s champion halfback and punter. He brought that same level of determination and distinction to his naval career, smashing down another barrier when he became that military service’s first Asian American flag officer. (A flag officer is a commissioned officer in the U.S. armed forces who is senior enough to be entitled to fly a flag to mark the position from which he or she exercises command.) Chung-Hoon was awarded both the Navy Cross and Silver Star for extraordinary heroism while serving as commanding officer of USS Sigsbee in the Pacific Theater during World War II. He also saw military action during the Korean War as commander of USS John W. Thomason.
Chung-Hoon retired from the Navy in 1959 as a rear admiral. He died in 1979 on the day before his 69th birthday.