In the Military
GREG K. KAKESAKO / GKAKESAKO@STARBULLETIN.COM
Al Chang, who covered World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War through the lens of his camera, celebrated his 85th birthday earlier this month. Among those honoring him was his wife, Jacqueline, and long time friend retired Brig. Gen. Irwin Cockett. CLICK FOR LARGE
Photographer of three wars turns 85
Swaying to the refrains of "In the Mood" more than 300 family members and friends celebrated the 85th birthday last week of photographer Al Chang, whose works chronicle three wars and earned him a chest full of medals.
Chang was just 19 and a dock worker at Pearl Harbor when the Japanese attacked in 1941. After serving as a combat photographer in the jungles and beaches of the Pacific, Chang covered the surrender by the Japanese on the deck of the battleship USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay in September 1945.
Retired Army Brig. Gen. Irwin Cockett told Chang's birthday crowd that he was one of the first American photographers to cover the start of the Korean War in 1950, developing friendships with his soldiers in the 5th Regimental Combat Team. More than 70 percent of its soldiers were from Hawaii.
"He provided a link between the battlefield and folks back home in Hawaii," Cockett said. "He really made the 5th Regimental Combat Team, which was made up of a lot of guys from Hawaii, famous with his pictures of the fighting in Korea."
Chang's 1950 photo of 1st Sgt. Frank Chandler cradling a soldier in his arms after the soldier learned that a buddy had died earned Chang a Pulitzer Prize nomination, Cockett said.
Chang authored the book "This Way to War," which was the pictorial history of the 5th Regimental Combat Team.
After the Korean War, Chang retired from the Army and went to work for National Geographic magazine and was sent to Vietnam covering the work of U.S. Army advisers. There he shot another Pulitzer-nominated photograph of a Viet Cong prisoner being treated for his wounds by U.S. Army advisers while the soldier's wife looked on.
After working for the Associated Press and the Honolulu Advertiser, Chang volunteered for active duty and returned to Vietnam, toting his trusted Nikon camera and chewing his trademark cigar. He was never wounded in World War II, but got hit three times in Vietnam and once received one of his Purple Hearts from Gen. William Westmoreland.
It took more than a month for Chang's daughter, Paokalani Naluai, to plan last week's birthday party complete with red, white and blue patriotic trimmings. She said the ballroom at the Hale Koa Hotel was decorated by several dozen of Chang's nieces and nephews. Family members also danced and sang for the crowd.
In 1994, Chang suffered the first of two strokes, and two years later had triple bypass heart surgery. Today, he spends his time at the Spark Matsunaga Center for the Aging at Tripler Army Medical Center and did not quickly recognize people who stopped his wheelchair to wish him a Happy Birthday.
"In the Military" was compiled from wire reports and other sources by reporter Gregg K. Kakesako
, who covers military affairs for the Star-Bulletin. He can be reached by phone at 294-4075 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org