Delivering Babies among Bombings: Letter from WWII Chinese UM Alum

Vung-Yuin Ting, a Chinese woman who graduated from UM Med School in 1939, was caught in war-torn Chongqing.  During the incessant bombing and raids by the Japanese of WWII, she was working at a Chongqing hospital and came to know intimately the horrors of war.  Amidst the fires of death, she was in charge of the Ob. Gyn. department and oversaw new life enter her world on a daily basis.  Despite the enormity of suffering and atrocities she witnessed, her hope and fighting spirit seemed indefatigable.  We now know a sliver of her story in detail thanks to a recently published  letter she wrote to friends in America, dated June 4th, 1941. An excerpt is pasted below:

As soon as there was a lull in the raids, temporary types of buildings began to spring up, like the bamboo shoots after a shower, on the razed ground, utilizing the very bricks that had been scattered from the walls which had stood there once. So that when one walked among the crowd on New Year’s eve down the widened main streets lined with colorful shops, it required a still keener imagination to visualize its appearance after the baptism of fire.

The rebuilding of Chungking serves as a symbol of our spirit of resistance. For with an inferior war machine we are bound to see our land devastated and our homes destroyed, but we will reconstruct our homes each time it is destroyed. For as long as the spirit of construction is alive, destruction is to no avail. We work to see the day when all the wanton killings and destruction will cease and peace and happiness will be the common property of all nations and people.

The letter in its entirety can be read at this link: A Letter written on Jun 4, 1941 and can also be found at the Mt. Holyoke College archives.

Barbour Scholars, 1942-43. From the Barbour Scholars records at the Bentley Historical Library of the University of Michigan

Barbour Scholars, 1942-43. From the Barbour Scholars records at the Bentley Historical Library of the University of Michigan

Ms. Ting came to UM through the Barbour Scholarship for Oriental Women.  This initiative was started by university Regent Levi Lewis Barbour in 1914, who was impressed by Chinese medical missionaries he had seen working in their homeland after graduation from the university.  (UM alum may be more familiar with Levi Lewis' wife, Betsy, and her eponymous residence hall, Betsy Barbour House.)

This blog post was written with the help of the University of Michigan's Bentley Historical Library, particularly Nancy Bartlett, Jakob Dopp, Malgosia Myc, and Cinda Nofziger.