Young-Oak Kim

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Young-Oak Kim
Korean American male wearing a United States Army Dress Blue uniform and eyeglasses
Kim in his "dress blue" uniform as a lieutenant colonel in 1961.
Born January 29, 1919[1]
Los Angeles, California
Died December 29, 2005(2005-12-29) (aged 86)
Los Angeles, California
Allegiance  United States
Service/branch United States Department of the Army Seal.svg United States Army
Years of service 1941–1946
1950–1972
Rank US-O6 insignia.svg Colonel [2]
Commands held 1st Battalion, 31st Infantry Regiment
Battles/wars World War II
Korean War
Awards Distinguished Service Cross
Silver Star (2)
Legion of Merit (2)
Bronze Star (2)
Purple Heart (3)
Bronze Medal of Military Valor (Italy)
Légion d'honneur
Croix de guerre
Taeguk Cordon of the Order of Military Merit (Korea)
Young-Oak Kim
Hangul 김영옥
Hanja
Revised Romanization Gim Yeong-ok
McCune–Reischauer Kim Yŏng-ok

Colonel Young-Oak Kim (Korean: 김영옥; Hanja: 金永玉;[3] RR: Gim Yeong-ok, M-R: Kim Yŏng-ok, 1919 – December 29, 2005), a highly decorated U.S. Army combat veteran of World War II and the Korean War. He was a member of the U.S. 100th Infantry Battalion and 442nd Regimental Combat Team, and a combat leader in Italy and France during World War II. He was awarded 19 medals, including the Distinguished Service Cross, two Silver Stars, two Bronze Stars, three Purple Hearts, a Bronze Medal of Military Valor, a Légion d'honneur, a Croix de guerre, and (posthumously) the Korean Taeguk Cordon of the Order of Military Merit. He died of cancer at the age of 86.[4][5]

Early years[edit]

Kim was born in Los Angeles in 1919.[6] 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 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, where his father operated a grocery store at the intersection of Temple Street and Figueroa Street.

Kim graduated from Belmont High School and proceeded to Los Angeles City College. 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 Americans to conscription, Kim was drafted into the Army. He entered service on January 31, 1941,[7] three months before his father died.

World War II[edit]

After spending half a year in the Army as an engineer, Kim was selected for the Infantry Officer Candidate School at Fort Benning, Georgia. Upon graduating in January 1943, he was assigned to the U.S. 100th Infantry Battalion, a unit of Japanese Americans from Hawaii. 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."[citation needed]

The 100th Battalion was sent to North Africa to assist in the war in Europe, 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, the Allies needed to determine the locations of German tank units. Captain Kim, as officer in the joint U.S. 100th Infantry Battalion and 442nd Regimental Combat Team, volunteered to capture German soldiers to gain intelligence. On May 16, 1944, with Private First Class Irving Akahoshi, he crawled into German territory near Cisterna, Italy. 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.[5][8][9]

He also led elements of the 100th Battalion in battles at Belvedere and Pisa, which helped break the Gothic Line. 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 and Biffontaine. He sustained severe wounds from enemy fire in Biffontaine, and later spent a six-month leave in Los Angeles in late 1944. Germany surrendered shortly before he was to return to the European Theater of Operations.

Korean War[edit]

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, which was quite rare at the time. The business was very successful; Kim's earnings were five times his salary as an Army captain.[10] Two years later, war broke out in Korea. Kim abandoned the business and re-entered the Army:

As a Korean, the most direct way to help my father's country even a little, and as a U.S. citizen, the most direct way to repay even a little the debt owed to Korea by the U.S. was to go to Korea, pick up a gun and fight.

—Young-Oak Kim, interview, The Chosun Ilbo[10]

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

He was assigned to the 31st Infantry 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.[citation needed]

The 31st Infantry played a major role in stopping Chinese troops, and pushing them back above the 38th parallel. Kim's unit was the very first to cross that line. The 7th Infantry Division 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, 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 incident. He was saved by doctors from Johns Hopkins University, who were in Tokyo. 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 in Seoul. In 2003, the government of the Republic of Korea decorated Kim for his social service.[10]

Kim returned to Korea in the 1960s as a U.S. military advisor.[10]

Awards and decorations[edit]

Distinguished Service Cross
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Silver Star
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Legion of Merit
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Bronze Star
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Purple Heart
Bronze Medal of Military Valor (Italy)
Légion d'honneur (France)
Croix de Guerre (France)
Taeguk Cordon of the Order of Military Merit (South Korea)

[11]

Retirement[edit]

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 Educational Foundation, the Japanese American National Museum, the Korean Health, Education, Information and Research Center, the Korean American Coalition, the Korean American Museum, the Korean Youth and Cultural Center, and the Center for Pacific Asian Families.[12]

Kim died from cancer on December 29, 2005, at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. He has three stepsons, one sister, and two brothers.[13] His sister Willa Kim is a well known American costume designer.

Tributes[edit]

A newly opened middle school in Los Angeles' fourth local district was named Young Oak Kim Academy in 2009 in recognition of Kim.[14] In 2010, the Young Oak Kim Center for Korean American Studies opened at University of California, Riverside.[15]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Young Oak Kim Academy | Monica Garcia – Board Member President
  2. ^ "Heroes of the Korean War: COL Young-oak Kim". ROKdrop.com. November 11, 2008. Retrieved November 22, 2009. 
  3. ^ http://www.renhan.com/html/2011/zaihankanshijie_0620/9790.html
  4. ^ Kakesako, Gregg K. (Vol. 11, Issue 4 – Wednesday, January 4, 2006). "Soldier embodied bravery of 100th Battalion vets". Star Bulletin (Honolulu, Hawaii). Retrieved December 4, 2008.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  5. ^ a b "YOUNG OAK KIM, 86; WW II & Korean War Hero, Uniter of LA Asian Communities". Quarterly Chapter Newsletter (Torrance, California: The South Bay Chapter of the Japanese American Citizens League). January 2006. Retrieved December 4, 2008.  adapted from Myrna Oliver, LA Times. Jan 4, 2006, page B8 obituaries
  6. ^ Possibly Young Kim, born in Los Angeles on February 24, 1920. Source Information: Ancestry.com. California Birth Index, 1905–1995 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2005. Original data: State of California. California Birth Index, 1905–1995. Sacramento, CA, USA: State of California Department of Health Services, Center for Health Statistics.[dubious ]
  7. ^ National Archives and Records Administration. U.S. World War II Army Enlistment Records, 1938–1946 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2005. Original data: Electronic Army Serial Number Merged File, 1938–1946 [Archival Database]; World War II Army Enlistment Records; Records of the National Archives and Records Administration, Record Group 64; National Archives at College Park, College Park, MD.
  8. ^ "Go For Broke National Education Center >> Oral Histories >> Hanashi Oral History Program >> Podcasts". Go For Broke National Education Center. Retrieved December 4, 2008. "Colonel Young Oak Kim, a member of the 100th Infantry Battalion/442nd Regimental Combat Team, shares with us an anecdote of a daring mission that made it possible for the Allies to break out of Anzio. General Mark Clark, commander of the Fifth Army, was so pleased at the outcome of this heroic mission that he personally awarded Colonel Kim the Distinguished Service Cross...the second highest military declaration of the United States Army and is awarded only to those who express acts of heroism that involve extraordinary risk of life." 
  9. ^ Travers, Dorian (June 2006). "Four New Inductees to Museum's Gallery of Heroes". Museum News You Can Use (Honolulu: Hawaii Army Museum Society). pp. 4–6. Retrieved December 4, 2008. "Private first class Akahoshi voluntarily accompanied an officer on a patrol to secure information about enemy units and their locations in a vital sector of the front line. Pfc Akahoshi and the officer infiltrated about 800 yards through enemy lines to discover the German outposts ahead of them. After observing a large enemy group in a forward area, Akahoshi and the officer, in broad daylight, crawled 250 yards ahead, across an open field, exposed to enemy observation from the Germans located on a command ridge to their rear, and arrived at a point near the forward outpost. They surprised two German soldiers armed with machine pistols, who were providing security at the time. After participating in the capture of these two prisoners, Pfc Akahoshi retraced his perilous route, successfully by-passing two German listening posts, and got back to his own unit behind the front lines." 
  10. ^ a b c d "The Many Firsts of Col. Young-oak Kim". Digital Chosun Ilbo (English Edition) (Seoul: The Chosun Ilbo). August 19, 2005. Archived from the original on June 23, 2006. Retrieved December 4, 2008. 
  11. ^ Kim award upgraded 2005
  12. ^ Nam, Jaeyon (February 24, 2006). "Growing Support for Naming School for War Hero Kim". Dynamic Korea. Embassy of the Republic of Korea in the United States of America. 
  13. ^ "Colonel Young Oak Kim (U.S. Army Ret.), 86; decorated US World War II and Korean War veteran" (Press release). Go For Broke National Education Center. January 3, 2006. Retrieved September 19, 2010. 
  14. ^ "L.A. Names School for Korean-American War Hero". The Chosun Ilbo (Chosun Media). July 16, 2009. Retrieved September 19, 2010. 
  15. ^ Linda Ong (8 October 2010). "Daily Dose: 10/08/10". AsianWeek. Retrieved 1 September 2012. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Asahina, Robert (May 2006). Just Americans: how Japanese Americans won a war at home and abroad. New York: Gotham Books. ISBN 1-59240-198-8. 
  • Moulin, Pierre (January 1993). U.S. Samuraïs in Bruyères. Peace and Freedom Trail Editor. ISBN 978-2-9599984-0-9. 
  • Han, Woo Sung (2011). Unsung Hero: The Story of Colonel Young Oak Kim. Chang, Edward T (trans.). The Young Oak Kim Center for Korean American Studies, UC Riverside. ISBN 978-0-615-47372-7. 

External links[edit]