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Guide to the Trask Family Chinese Correspondence Collection MS 234
MS 234  
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Conditions Governing Access
  • Conditions Governing Use
  • Processing Information
  • Preferred Citation
  • Arrangement
  • Scope and Content
  • Biographical / Historical Notes
  • Immediate Source of Acquisition

  • Title: Trask family Chinese Correspondence Collection
    Identifier/Call Number: MS 234
    Contributing Institution: San Diego History Center Document Collection
    Language of Material: English
    Physical Description: 0.25 Linear feet (1 box)
    Date (inclusive): 1946-1998
    Abstract: This collection contains original correspondence written to the Trask family (Grover and Pauline Trask) from several Chinese Air Force personnel between 1946 and 1957, who had previously been stationed in San Diego. Some letters are written from China while others are written from various parts of the United States.
    Language of Materials: Collection materials are in English and Chinese.
    creator: Trask family

    Conditions Governing Access

    This collection is open for research.

    Conditions Governing Use

    The San Diego History Center (SDHC) holds the copyright to any unpublished materials. SDHC Library regulations do apply.

    Processing Information

    Collection processed by Katrina White on July 18, 2011.
    Collection processed as part of grant project supported by the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) with generous funding from The Andrew Mellon Foundation.

    Preferred Citation

    Trask Family Chinese Correspondence Collection, MS 234, San Diego History Center Document Collection, San Diego, CA.


    Items in this collection are arranged by subject.

    Scope and Content

    The collection contains original correspondence between Chinese Air Force personnel and the Trask family dating from 1946 to 1957. The correspondence is made up of 35 handwritten letters and one typed letter from five individual Chinese engineers addressed to the Trasks; no letters written by the Trasks are included in the collection. In most cases, the original envelopes with postage are included along with the letter. The letters were written following the engineers’ stay in San Diego from a range of locations including China, Taiwan, and other U.S. cities where they were later stationed. The correspondence is of a personal nature and reveals the close friendship between the Trasks and these individuals, as well as their thoughts on the political events of that period and on cultural similarities and differences between the U.S. and China. The majority of the correspondence (23 letters) is from Hsiou Tseng Wang. Hsiao Tseng Wang and Li Shen Wen, another Chinese engineer, were very good friends and referred to each other in letters as H.T. and L.S., respectively. All the men who wrote to the Trask family were acquainted with each other and would occasionally refer to one another in their letters.
    The collection also includes photographs of several of the Chinese engineers. There is also an empty, oversized cloth envelope that was sent as a package by H.T. Wang to the Trasks. Finally, the collection includes typed “Memories” from Willard and Joyce Trask about Riverwalk and their family’s friendship with the Chinese residents there.

    Biographical / Historical Notes

    In 1943 twenty-one Chinese engineers from their national Air Force were sent to San Diego to study at Consolidated-Vultee Aircraft Corp (known as Convair). They comprised the single largest group at any single American aircraft plant, though there were about 62 such engineers scattered around the United States studying at 15 factories. In the U.S. by special arrangement between the Chinese and American governments, their job was to learn the practical and theoretical side of bomber production, since China had only a limited number of airplane factories that could only build fighter planes made from bamboo and plywood. China was totally dependent on other nations for its bomber-type aircraft. Though on a stipend from the Chinese government they were also considered regular employees at Convair and were paid regular salaries for their services. The head of the industrial education department was impressed by the engineers’ excellent work ethic and politeness.
    The Second World War was somewhat of a watershed for the Chinese in San Diego when there was enough work for everyone and the Japanese became the ‘enemy.’ Reportedly, the air force personnel studying here during that time were well-received by the local community and from their own perspective their experiences in San Diego and elsewhere were warm and positive, evidenced in how quickly they picked up the language, nuances and all, and were eager to take American culture home to their own families.
    During the population boom in San Diego during the war, housing units were hastily built to house all the war workers from Convair and Boeing, and military personnel. Two such areas, at Congress Street and ‘Highway 8’ and at Midway Drive, were named “Riverlawn” and “Frontier” respectively. The owner and manager of the cafeteria at “Riverlawn” was Mr. Grover C. Trask, a local civic leader and president of the Progress & Prosperity Club of East San Diego. Trask was a central figure in the purchase of Camp Kearney for the army, was involved in real estate with O.W. Cotton, and worked for the Office of Price Administration during the war. Trask and his wife Pauline had two children, Willard W. Trask and Webster E. Trask. Mr. Trask and his family lived at the “Frontier” housing project but ate most of their meals at the “Riverlawn” cafeteria where they, particularly his wife Pauline, befriended some of the Chinese Air Force personnel working and studying at Convair. These friendships carried on for many years; they exchanged letters and gifts and some of the Chinese airmen made several visits to see the Trasks and San Diego once they were stationed elsewhere. Their correspondence, though mostly of a personal nature often touched upon important political events happening at the time, as well as the differences and similarities between American and Chinese culture.
    Pauline Trask died in 1958. It appears that the family’s correspondence with the Chinese engineers had ended a year earlier in 1957. However, in 1998, Willard and Joyce Trask recorded their memories of the period, recalling the Frontier and Riverlawn residences and the Chinese Air Force personnel whom their family had befriended.

    Immediate Source of Acquisition

    Accession number 980311.

    Subjects and Indexing Terms

    Arlington National Cemetery (Arlington, Va.).
    California State Fair and Exposition.
    Chen, Wan Ming
    Chiang, Kai-shek, 1887-1975
    China (Republic : 1949- ). Kong jun .
    China. Kong jun.
    Chou, Chang Li
    Churchill, Winston, 1874-1965
    Consolidated Vultee Aircraft Corporation.
    El Cortez Hotel.
    Mare Island Naval Shipyard.
    Roosevelt, Franklin D. (Franklin Delano), 1882-1945
    Shen, Po Lin
    Stilwell, Joseph Warren, 1883-1946
    Trask family
    Trask, Grover C.
    Trask, Joyce
    Trask, Pauline
    Trask, Webster
    Trask, Willard
    United States. Air Force.
    University of Michigan.
    Wang, Hsieo-Yu
    Wang, Hsiou Tseng
    Wang, Su-Hua
    Webster, Williard, Lt.
    Wen, Li Shen
    Ann Arbor (Mich.)
    Aztec Terrace
    Aztec Villa
    Beverly Hills (Calif.)
    Chengdu (China)
    Chongqing (China)
    Frontier housing
    Gloucester (England)
    Golden Gate Park (San Francisco, Calif.)
    Imperial Valley (Calif. and Mexico)
    Kao-Shang Tribe
    Lake Arrowhead (Calif.)
    Los Angeles (Calif.)
    Mexicali (Mexico)
    Nanjing (Jiangsu Sheng, China)
    New York (N.Y.)
    Port Hueneme (Calif.)
    Riverlawn housing
    Saint Louis (Mo.)
    San Bernadino (Calif.)
    San Diego (Calif.)
    San Francisco (Calif.)
    Santa Monica (Calif.)
    Taipei (Taiwan)
    Temporary housing
    World War, 1939-1945