Young-Oak Kim, a Korean-American and United States Army officer during World War II and the Korean War and a civic leader and humanitarian. He proudly led the famed all-Japanese American 100th Infantry Battalion/442nd Regimental Combat Team during World War II and volunteered to serve in the Korean War, where he fought with distinction.
Even more impressive than Colonel Kim’s military awards, however, was his ability to overcome the racial divide. Upon his commission as a second lieutenant in 1943, Kim was assigned to the 100th Battalion/442nd Regimental Combat Team. As the unit’s only Korean American, Kim was offered a transfer due to the Army’s fear of ethnic conflict exacerbated by Japanese colonial rule over Korea. But Kim refused, declaring, “There is no Japanese or Korean here. We’re all Americans and we’re fighting for the same cause.”
After retiring from the Army Colonel Kim spent ten years to build the Go For Broke Monument and National Education Center in remembrance of the thousands of Nisei veterans who fought during World War II at a time of intense discrimination against Japanese Americans.
“Koreans and Japanese don’t always get along.” Kim refused on the spot: “You’re wrong. They’re Americans, I’m American, and we’re going to fight for America.”
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