After 50 Years, 'Charlie Two Shoes' Still in the Hearts of Love Company Marines
Posted February 23, 1999 6:00 a.m. EST
Updated August 30, 2010 10:24 p.m. EDT
CHAPEL HILL — Most acts of heroism happen in an instant. A life is saved or in sports, a last second field goal wins a championship.
But this story of heroism has lasted over a half century. And it embodies the Marine slogan, Semper Fi, or "always faithful."
"This was the way Charlie looked first time I seen him 52 years ago," says Don Sexton, USMC, Ret. while holding up a photo from years past.
It was 1946 and an 11-year-old named Tsui Chi Hsii became known as "Charlie Two Shoes" to the U.S. Marines of Love Company near the end of World War II.
American military forces were stationed across north China.
Young Charlie honored the Marines with his admiration. They honored Charlie with Marine khakis and later, with the American dream.
Their story is now a book written by local authors Michael Peterson and David Perlmut.
"All these guys... We survived the war together and we lived through a lot of disastrous situations. But we all survived well with the bless of God," says Hsii.
"They were always telling me that someday they are going to bring me to the United States, they are going to come back for me. And I believed them. I always believed that," he says.
But then the Communist Revolution forced Americans out.
"When I left China in September of '47, I never thought I'd see Charlie again," says Sexton, a member of Love Company.
Communist party officials pressured Charlie to sign papers renouncing his Christian faith and rejecting his friends in Love Company.
"Charlie wouldn't sign it. Charlie said 'I'd rather die than sign those papers.' He said, 'I'm not going to do it,'" remembers Sexton.
Charlie suffered through imprisonment and humiliation. Through it all he says he clung to the hope of freedom in America.
"I have always prayed in my prayers 'God please make this happen. I want to be with my marine brothers,'" says Hsii.
He sent letters hoping to reach his Marine friends. By 1983, a campaign for Charlie's freedom succeeded and Chapel Hill became his family's new home.
A restaurant bearing his name is his piece of the American dream.
"I haven't met anyone in the United States who isn't friendly to me yet," he says with a smile.
Marines get a 10 percent discount at Charlie's restaurant. They were his heroes as a boy. He still looks up to them now.
"Absolutely," says Hsii. "They are heroes because they were there to fight the war and to end the war"
For Don Sexton, Charlie is the real hero.
"Well Charlie was a hero. To go through what he went through and not denounce his faith in God and his Marine spirit. That's an ultimate hero to me," insists Sexton.
Charlie's struggle for freedom isn't over yet. He and the surviving members of Love Company are petitioning the U.S. government for his citizenship.