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Young-Oak Kim

Young-Oak Kim

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Colonel
Colonel
Colonel , abbreviated Col or COL, is a military rank of a senior commissioned officer. It or a corresponding rank exists in most armies and in many air forces; the naval equivalent rank is generally "Captain". It is also used in some police forces and other paramilitary rank structures...

 Young-Oak Kim (Korean
Korean language
Korean is the official language of the country Korea, in both South and North. It is also one of the two official languages in the Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture in People's Republic of China. There are about 78 million Korean speakers worldwide. In the 15th century, a national writing...

: 김영옥, RR
Revised Romanization of Korean
The Revised Romanization of Korean is the official Korean language romanization system in South Korea proclaimed by Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, replacing the older McCune–Reischauer system...

: Gim Yeong-ok, M-R
McCune-Reischauer
McCune–Reischauer romanization is one of the two most widely used Korean language romanization systems, along with the Revised Romanization of Korean, which replaced McCune–Reischauer as the official romanization system in South Korea in 2000...

: Kim Yŏng-ok, 1919 – December 29, 2005), a highly-decorated U.S. Army combat veteran of World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

 and the Korean War
Korean War
The Korean War was a conventional war between South Korea, supported by the United Nations, and North Korea, supported by the People's Republic of China , with military material aid from the Soviet Union...

. He was a member of the U.S. 100th Infantry Battalion
U.S. 100th Infantry Battalion
The 100th Infantry Battalion was a unit within the US Army's 34th Infantry Division during World War II. The primarily Nisei battalion was composed largely of former members of the Hawaii Army National Guard...

 and 442nd Regimental Combat Team
442nd Regimental Combat Team
The 442nd Regimental Combat Team of the United States Army, was composed of Japanese-American enlisted men and mostly Caucasian officers. They fought primarily in Europe during World War II, beginning in 1944. The families of many of its soldiers were subject to internment...

, and a combat leader in Italy
Italy
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

 and France
France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

 during World War II. He was awarded 19 medals, including the Distinguished Service Cross
Distinguished Service Cross (United States)
The Distinguished Service Cross is the second highest military decoration that can be awarded to a member of the United States Army, for extreme gallantry and risk of life in actual combat with an armed enemy force. Actions that merit the Distinguished Service Cross must be of such a high degree...

, two Silver Star
Silver Star
The Silver Star is the third-highest combat military decoration that can be awarded to a member of any branch of the United States armed forces for valor in the face of the enemy....

s, two Bronze Stars, three Purple Heart
Purple Heart
The Purple Heart is a United States military decoration awarded in the name of the President to those who have been wounded or killed while serving on or after April 5, 1917 with the U.S. military. The National Purple Heart Hall of Honor is located in New Windsor, New York...

s, a Bronze Medal of Military Valor
Bronze Medal of Military Valor
The Bronze Medal of Military Valor is an Italian medal for gallantry.It was established by Charles Albert of Sardinia on March 26, 1833, along with the higher ranking Gold and Silver Medals for Military valor...

, a Légion d'honneur
Légion d'honneur
The Legion of Honour, or in full the National Order of the Legion of Honour is a French order established by Napoleon Bonaparte, First Consul of the Consulat which succeeded to the First Republic, on 19 May 1802...

, a Croix de guerre
Croix de guerre
The Croix de guerre is a military decoration of France. It was first created in 1915 and consists of a square-cross medal on two crossed swords, hanging from a ribbon with various degree pins. The decoration was awarded during World War I, again in World War II, and in other conflicts...

, and (posthumously) the Korean Taeguk Cordon of the Order of Military Merit. He died of cancer at the age of 86.

Early years


Kim was born in Los Angeles
Los Ángeles
Los Ángeles is the capital of the province of Biobío, in the commune of the same name, in Region VIII , in the center-south of Chile. It is located between the Laja and Biobío rivers. The population is 123,445 inhabitants...

 in 1919. His parents were Soon Kwon Kim and Nora Koh. He had three brothers, two sisters, and one adopted brother, Andy Kil. His father was a member of Daehanin-dongjihwe (대한인 동지회, literally: "The Great Korean Association"), the group Syngman Rhee
Syngman Rhee
Syngman Rhee or Yi Seungman was the first president of South Korea. His presidency, from August 1948 to April 1960, remains controversial, affected by Cold War tensions on the Korean peninsula and elsewhere. Rhee was regarded as an anti-Communist and a strongman, and he led South Korea through the...

 established in Hawaii to help liberate Korea from Japan. This background helped Kim build a strong cultural identity. He grew up in Bunker Hill, Los Angeles, California
Bunker Hill, Los Angeles, California
Bunker Hill, in the downtown area of Los Angeles, California, is a short, developed hill with its peak located roughly around 3rd Street. It is located directly east of the Harbor Freeway...

, where his father operated a grocery store
Grocery store
A grocery store is a store that retails food. A grocer, the owner of a grocery store, stocks different kinds of foods from assorted places and cultures, and sells these "groceries" to customers. Large grocery stores that stock products other than food, such as clothing or household items, are...

 at the intersection of Temple Street
Temple Street (Los Angeles)
Temple Street is a street in the City of Los Angeles, California. The street is an east-west thoroughfare that runs through Downtown Los Angeles parallel to the Hollywood Freeway between Virgil Avenue past Alameda Street to the banks of the Los Angeles River...

 and Figueroa Street
Figueroa Street
Figueroa Street is a street in Los Angeles County, California named for General José Figueroa , governor of Alta California from 1833 to 1835, who oversaw the secularization of the missions of California...

.

Kim graduated from Belmont High School and proceeded to Los Angeles City College
Los Angeles City College
Los Angeles City College, known as LACC, is a public community college in the East Hollywood section of Los Angeles, California. A part of the Los Angeles Community College District, it is located on Vermont Avenue south of Santa Monica Boulevard...

. He dropped out after a year. He tried various jobs, but racial discrimination prevented him from staying long at any job.

The U.S. Army refused his enlistment for the same reason. But after the U.S. Congress enacted a law subjecting Asian American
Asian American
Asian Americans are Americans of Asian descent. The U.S. Census Bureau definition of Asians as "Asian” refers to a person having origins in any of the original peoples of the Far East, Southeast Asia, or the Indian subcontinent, including, for example, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Japan,...

s to conscription
Conscription in the United States
Conscription in the United States has been employed several times, usually during war but also during the nominal peace of the Cold War...

, Kim was drafted into the Army. He entered service on January 31, 1941, three months before his father died.

World War II


After spending half a year in the Army as an engineer, Kim was selected for the Infantry
Infantry
Infantrymen are soldiers who are specifically trained for the role of fighting on foot to engage the enemy face to face and have historically borne the brunt of the casualties of combat in wars. As the oldest branch of combat arms, they are the backbone of armies...

 Officer Candidate School
Officer Candidate School (U.S. Army)
The United States Army's Officer Candidate School , located at Fort Benning, Georgia, provides training to become a commissioned officer in the U.S. Army...

 at Fort Benning
Fort Benning
Fort Benning is a United States Army post located southeast of the city of Columbus in Muscogee and Chattahoochee counties in Georgia and Russell County, Alabama...

, Georgia
Georgia (U.S. state)
Georgia is a state located in the southeastern United States. It was established in 1732, the last of the original Thirteen Colonies. The state is named after King George II of Great Britain. Georgia was the fourth state to ratify the United States Constitution, on January 2, 1788...

. Upon graduating in January 1943, he was assigned to the U.S. 100th Infantry Battalion
U.S. 100th Infantry Battalion
The 100th Infantry Battalion was a unit within the US Army's 34th Infantry Division during World War II. The primarily Nisei battalion was composed largely of former members of the Hawaii Army National Guard...

, a unit
Military organization
Military organization is the structuring of the armed forces of a state so as to offer military capability required by the national defence policy. In some countries paramilitary forces are included in a nation's armed forces...

 of Japanese Americans from Hawaii
Hawaii
Hawaii is the newest of the 50 U.S. states , and is the only U.S. state made up entirely of islands. It is the northernmost island group in Polynesia, occupying most of an archipelago in the central Pacific Ocean, southwest of the continental United States, southeast of Japan, and northeast of...

. The battalion commander offered him a transfer, fearing ethnic conflict. (Korea was still under Japanese control.) But he insisted on staying, saying "There is no Japanese nor Korean here. We're all Americans and we're fighting for the same cause."

The 100th Battalion was sent to North Africa
North Africa
North Africa or Northern Africa is the northernmost region of the African continent, linked by the Sahara to Sub-Saharan Africa. Geopolitically, the United Nations definition of Northern Africa includes eight countries or territories; Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, South Sudan, Sudan, Tunisia, and...

 to assist in the war in Europe
Europe
Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

, but initially the U.S. Army had no plan for its deployment. By its own request, the battalion was sent to the front and joined the war in Italy. There, Kim's map-reading skills and determination led to success in many battles and some "impossible missions".

In the planning for Operation Diadem
Operation Diadem
Operation Diadem, also referred to as the Fourth Battle of Monte Cassino was an offensive operation undertaken by the Allies in May 1944, as part of the Italian Campaign. It was launched at 2300 Hours on 11 May 1944 to break the German defenses on the western half of the Winter Line and open up...

, the Allies needed to determine the locations of German
Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany , also known as the Third Reich , but officially called German Reich from 1933 to 1943 and Greater German Reich from 26 June 1943 onward, is the name commonly used to refer to the state of Germany from 1933 to 1945, when it was a totalitarian dictatorship ruled by...

 tank
Armoured fighting vehicle
An armoured fighting vehicle is a combat vehicle, protected by strong armour and armed with weapons. AFVs can be wheeled or tracked....

 units. Captain Kim, as officer in the joint U.S. 100th Infantry Battalion
U.S. 100th Infantry Battalion
The 100th Infantry Battalion was a unit within the US Army's 34th Infantry Division during World War II. The primarily Nisei battalion was composed largely of former members of the Hawaii Army National Guard...

 and
442nd Regimental Combat Team
442nd Regimental Combat Team
The 442nd Regimental Combat Team of the United States Army, was composed of Japanese-American enlisted men and mostly Caucasian officers. They fought primarily in Europe during World War II, beginning in 1944. The families of many of its soldiers were subject to internment...

, volunteered to capture German soldiers to gain intelligence
Intelligence
Intelligence has been defined in different ways, including the abilities for abstract thought, understanding, communication, reasoning, learning, planning, emotional intelligence and problem solving....

. On 16 May 1944, with Private First Class
Private First Class
Private First Class is a military rank held by junior enlisted persons.- Singapore :The rank of Private First Class in the Singapore Armed Forces lies between the ranks of Private and Lance-Corporal . It is usually held by conscript soldiers midway through their national service term...

 Irving Akahoshi, he crawled into German territory near Cisterna, Italy
Cisterna, Italy
Cisterna di Latina is a town and comune in the province of Latina in Lazio, of central Italy. It was the scene of the Battle of Cisterna in January 1944.The Garden of Ninfa is located in the commune's territory....

. They captured two German soldiers in the daytime, while the enemy rested for the evening watch. The information they gathered from the prisoners helped determine that there was not a tank unit in the breakthrough path the Allies were considering. The Allies broke the Gustav Line, and liberated Rome
Rome
Rome is the capital of Italy and the country's largest and most populated city and comune, with over 2.7 million residents in . The city is located in the central-western portion of the Italian Peninsula, on the Tiber River within the Lazio region of Italy.Rome's history spans two and a half...

.

He also led elements of the 100th Battalion in battles at Belvedere and Pisa
Pisa
Pisa is a city in Tuscany, Central Italy, on the right bank of the mouth of the River Arno on the Tyrrhenian Sea. It is the capital city of the Province of Pisa...

, which helped break the Gothic Line
Gothic Line
The Gothic Line formed Field Marshal Albert Kesselring's last major line of defence in the final stages of World War II along the summits of the Apennines during the fighting retreat of German forces in Italy against the Allied Armies in Italy commanded by General Sir Harold Alexander.Adolf Hitler...

. The Allies were able to occupy Pisa without casualties.

In France, Kim was the battalion's operations officer. He fought in battles that liberated the towns of Bruyères
Bruyères
Bruyères is a commune in the Vosges department in Lorraine in northeastern France.The town built up around a castle built on a hill in the locality in the 6th century. It was the birthplace of Jean Lurçat, in 1892.-History:...

 and Biffontaine
Biffontaine
Biffontaine is a commune in the Vosges department in Lorraine in northeastern France.-History:In the Second World War, it was liberated from German occupation by soldiers from the Japanese-American soldiers of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team in late October 1944, who defended then it from fierce...

. He sustained severe wounds from enemy fire in Biffontaine, and later spent a six-month leave in Los Angeles in late 1944. Germany
Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

 surrendered shortly before he was to return to the European Theater of Operations
European Theater of Operations
The European Theater of Operations, United States Army was a United States Army formation which directed U.S. Army operations in parts of Europe from 1942 to 1945. It referred to Army Ground Forces, United States Army Air Forces, and Army Service Forces operations north of Italy and the...

.

Korean War


Kim left the Army after World War II. However, there were not many opportunities for a young Korean man. He started a self-service laundry
Self-service laundry
A self-service laundry is a facility where clothes are washed and dried. They are known in the United Kingdom as launderettes or laundrettes, and in the United States, Canada, and Australia as laundromats or washaterias...

, which was quite rare at the time. The business was very successful; Kim's earnings were five times his salary as an Army captain. Two years later, war broke out in Korea. Kim abandoned the business and re-entered the Army:

The Army allowed all soldiers with Korean heritage—and anyone who could speak at least a word of Korean—to work in the Army Security Agency. Kim was no exception, but he wanted to fight. At his request, he was sent to East Asia, and by pretending not to know any Korean and with the help of people he had known from World War II, he was able to join the infantry
Infantry
Infantrymen are soldiers who are specifically trained for the role of fighting on foot to engage the enemy face to face and have historically borne the brunt of the casualties of combat in wars. As the oldest branch of combat arms, they are the backbone of armies...

. This was the first time he had ever been to Korea.

He was assigned to the 31st Infantry
U.S. 31st Infantry Regiment
The 31st Infantry Regiment of the United States Army was formed on 13 August 1916, and was part of USAFFE's Philippine Division during World War II...

 of the 7th Infantry Division in April, 1951 as the intelligence officer, under William J. McCaffrey, who scouted him. Kim worked not only as an intelligence officer, but also virtually as an operations officer, by the request of McCaffrey. Kim rescued many U.S. and Korean Army troops in several battles.

The 31st Infantry played a major role in stopping Chinese
China
Chinese civilization may refer to:* China for more general discussion of the country.* Chinese culture* Greater China, the transnational community of ethnic Chinese.* History of China* Sinosphere, the area historically affected by Chinese culture...

 troops, and pushing them back above the 38th parallel
38th parallel north
The 38th parallel north is a circle of latitude that is 38 degrees north of the Earth's equatorial plane. It crosses Europe, the Mediterranean Sea, Asia, the Pacific Ocean, North America, and the Atlantic Ocean...

. Kim's unit was the very first to cross that line. The 7th Infantry Division
U.S. 7th Infantry Division
The 7th Infantry Division was an infantry division of the United States Army. It was activated in December 1917 in World War I, inactivated in August 2006 following the end of the Cold War, and based at Fort Ord, California for most of its history...

 redrew the situation map every day, but only recorded the locations of regiments or larger military units. However, the map from May 31, 1951 included the location of Kim's battalion.

During Operation Piledriver in August, after a battle in which his unit proceeded to the north of Kimhwa
Kimhwa
Kimhwa is a kun, or county, in Kangwon province, North Korea. It is primarily mountainous, but the county's southeastern region is low-lying....

, his unit was mistakenly bombarded by the 555th Field Artillery Battalion, because it seemed too far north to be friendly. Kim was seriously injured in the friendly fire
Friendly fire
Friendly fire is inadvertent firing towards one's own or otherwise friendly forces while attempting to engage enemy forces, particularly where this results in injury or death. A death resulting from a negligent discharge is not considered friendly fire...

 incident. He was saved by doctors from Johns Hopkins University
Johns Hopkins University
The Johns Hopkins University, commonly referred to as Johns Hopkins, JHU, or simply Hopkins, is a private research university based in Baltimore, Maryland, United States...

, who were in Tokyo
Tokyo
, ; officially , is one of the 47 prefectures of Japan. Tokyo is the capital of Japan, the center of the Greater Tokyo Area, and the largest metropolitan area of Japan. It is the seat of the Japanese government and the Imperial Palace, and the home of the Japanese Imperial Family...

. He made it back to Korea after two months of recuperation.

Upon his return, McCaffrey put him in command of the regiment's 1st Battalion. After fighting for nearly a year, Kim left Korea in September 1952.

Kim also organized his unit's sponsorship of an orphanage
Orphanage
An orphanage is a residential institution devoted to the care of orphans – children whose parents are deceased or otherwise unable or unwilling to care for them...

 in Seoul
Seoul
Seoul , officially the Seoul Special City, is the capital and largest metropolis of South Korea. A megacity with a population of over 10 million, it is the largest city proper in the OECD developed world...

. In 2003, the government of the Republic of Korea decorated Kim for his social service.

Kim returned to Korea in the 1960s as a U.S. military advisor.

Retirement


After serving in the Army for 30 years, Kim retired in 1972. He then actively participated in Asian-American community affairs. He helped found the Go For Broke Monument
Go For Broke Monument
The Go For Broke Monument in Little Tokyo, Los Angeles, California commemorates Japanese Americans who served in the United States Army during World War II....

, Go For Broke Educational Foundation, the Japanese American National Museum
Japanese American National Museum
The opened its doors in 1992. The idea for the museum was originally thought up by Bruce Kaji with help from other notable Japanese American people at the time. The museum is located in the Little Tokyo an area near downtown Los Angeles, California. It is devoted to preserving the history and...

, the Korean Health, Education, Information and Research Center
Korean Health, Education, Information and Research Center
The Korean Health, Education, Information and Research Center is Los Angeles-based non-profit healthcare service agency established in 1986 to deliver medical services, including health education, health care, and social support, to the Korean American community, mainly assistng the low-income,...

, the Korean American Coalition, the Korean American Museum, the Korean Youth and Cultural Center, and the Center for Pacific Asian Families.

Kim died from cancer
Cancer
Cancer , known medically as a malignant neoplasm, is a large group of different diseases, all involving unregulated cell growth. In cancer, cells divide and grow uncontrollably, forming malignant tumors, and invade nearby parts of the body. The cancer may also spread to more distant parts of the...

 on December 29, 2005, at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center
Cedars-Sinai Medical Center
Originally established as Kaspare Cohn Hospital in 1902, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center is a non-profit, tertiary 958-bed hospital and multi-specialty academic health science centre located in Los Angeles, California, US. Part of the Cedars-Sinai Health System, the hospital employs a staff of over...

 in Los Angeles. He was survived by three stepsons, as well as one sister and two brothers.

A newly opened middle school in Los Angeles' fourth local district was named Young Oak Kim Academy
Young Oak Kim Academy
Young Oak Kim Academy is a middle school within the Los Angeles Unified School District , Local District 4. It was established in 2009 as the only middle school in the LAUSD to practice single-sex education. The school is named in honor of Colonel Young-Oak Kim, the first Asian-American colonel...

 in 2009 in recognition of Kim.

See also


  • U.S. 100th Infantry Battalion
    U.S. 100th Infantry Battalion
    The 100th Infantry Battalion was a unit within the US Army's 34th Infantry Division during World War II. The primarily Nisei battalion was composed largely of former members of the Hawaii Army National Guard...

  • 442nd Regimental Combat Team
    442nd Regimental Combat Team
    The 442nd Regimental Combat Team of the United States Army, was composed of Japanese-American enlisted men and mostly Caucasian officers. They fought primarily in Europe during World War II, beginning in 1944. The families of many of its soldiers were subject to internment...

  • U.S. 31st Infantry Regiment
    U.S. 31st Infantry Regiment
    The 31st Infantry Regiment of the United States Army was formed on 13 August 1916, and was part of USAFFE's Philippine Division during World War II...

  • Operation Shingle
    Operation Shingle
    Operation Shingle , during the Italian Campaign of World War II, was an Allied amphibious landing against Axis forces in the area of Anzio and Nettuno, Italy. The operation was commanded by Major General John P. Lucas and was intended to outflank German forces of the Winter Line and enable an...

  • Go For Broke!
    Go for Broke! (1951 film)
    Go for Broke! is a 1951 war film directed by Robert Pirosh, produced by Dore Schary and starred Van Johnson, several veterans of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, and Henry Nakamura....

    —This film dramatizes the lives and wartime heroics of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team
    442nd Regimental Combat Team
    The 442nd Regimental Combat Team of the United States Army, was composed of Japanese-American enlisted men and mostly Caucasian officers. They fought primarily in Europe during World War II, beginning in 1944. The families of many of its soldiers were subject to internment...

     and the 100th Infantry Battalion's Hawaiian troops. The film stars Van Johnson as a young officer, reluctant about his assignment to the 442nd. He comes to respect the Nisei troops, eventually contesting a transfer back to his original Texas unit.
  • List of Korean War veterans who are recipients of the Bronze Star
  • Willa Kim
    Willa Kim
    Willa Kim is an American costume designer for stage, dance, and film.Kim was born in Los Angeles, California and is a 1935 graduate of Belmont High School where she excelled in art and was an art editor for the 1935 Campanile...

    —Young-Oak Kim's sister, a noted costume designer for stage, dance and film who twice received the Tony Award for Outstanding Costume Design.

External links