Francis Brown Wai was born on April 14, 1917 in Honolulu, Hawaii. His father was a Chinese immigrant and his mother a native Hawaiian. He graduated from the University of California, Los Angeles with the class of 1939 where he excelled both at academics and sports.
Wai joined the Hawaii National Guard after his UCLA graduation and was activated for federal service with the United States Army prior to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. He was able to break through some of the anti-Asian prejudices of the day, attended Officer Candidates’ School, and was commissioned in 1941.