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[Reprinted with permission of the NVN]

The National Veterans Network, Go for Broke National Education Center, and Korean Americans for Political Action  are proud to announce that Colonel Young-Oak Kim was inducted into the 2023 Officer Candidate School (OCS) Hall of Fame for Superior Valorous Service at the National Infantry Museum in Fort Benning, Georgia on May 1, 2023 following his nomination from Officer Candidate Class 6-65. A memorial plaque in honor of Colonel Kim was unveiled on April 30 at the OCS Alumni Association’s OCS Memorial Walk.  

Dyanne McMath, niece of Colonel Young Oak Kim; Christine Sato-Yamazaki, executive director of NVN and former president/CEO of the Go for Broke National Education Center; and Andrew Kim, board chair, Korean Americans for Political Action; were in attendance to represent Colonel Kim at the ceremony. Ken Quade and Dave Schollman of the Officer Candidate School Class of 6-65 submitted Col. Kim for the nomination and hosted the three representatives. A Korean American Army officer, Colonel Young Oak Kim fought in World War II and the Korean War. Highly decorated, Colonel Kim served alongside Japanese Americans during WWII in the segregated units, the 100th Infantry Battalion and 442nd Regimental Combat Team.

Colonel Kim enlisted in the U.S. Army in January 1941 and was selected to attend the Infantry OCS at Ft. Benning, graduating in January 1943. His first assignment out of OCS was as an officer of the 100th Infantry Battalion (Separate), a segregated unit composed of Japanese Americans from Hawaii. When Kim reported for duty at Camp Shelby, MS, the 100th’s commanding officer, aware of the historical conflict between Korea and Japan, told Kim that he would transfer him out of the unit. “No,” Kim responded. “They’re Americans and I’m an American and we’re gonna go fight for America.”

The unit was soon to receive the nickname “the Purple Heart Battalion” based on their courageous performance in Italy with the 34th Infantry Division. In 1943, Colonel Kim received his first Purple Heart and first Silver Star and then the Distinguished Service Cross for actions against enemy forces in Cisterna, Italy in 1944. Additionally, he received the Italian Military Valor Cross. 

The 100th Infantry Battalion joined with the 442nd Regimental Combat Team and then deployed to France where it gained fame as the “Go for Broke Regiment.” It was there that Colonel Kim received his second Purple Heart and the French Croix de Guerre. The 442nd was the most highly decorated unit in WWII for its size and length of service.

Colonel Kim shared about being a member of the segregated units, “I think my being part of the 100th changed my life, and it’s one of the most important things in my life. Not only because of the experiences and the people I met, but to a great degree, made me what I was and opened the doors for all the other opportunities.”

Colonel Kim left the army after WWII but reentered as a captain at the outbreak of the war in Korea. He was sent to Korea where he joined the 31st Infantry commanded by Colonel (later General) William McCaffrey and was assigned as the Intelligence Officer and then Operations Officer. He received his second Silver Star, was promoted to major, and became the first Asian American to command a battalion in combat, the 1st Battalion 31st Infantry, 7th Infantry Division.

Kim left Korea in 1952 and later served as an instructor at Fort Benning, Georgia and at the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. He was promoted to colonel in 1965 and retired from the Army in 1972. 

Colonel Kim’s civilian achievements parallel his military accomplishments. He served in a variety of leadership positions supporting the Asian American community. He served as the Chairman of the Board of the 100th/442nd/MIS WWII Memorial Foundation, now known as the Go For Broke National Education Center, working with fellow 100th, 442nd and MIS veterans to build the Go for Broke Monument in downtown Los Angeles. The Young Oak Kim Academy, accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges, is a STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math) middle school located in a culturally diverse neighborhood of Koreatown, CA and is part of the Los Angles school system; the Young Oak Kim Center for Korean American Studies at the University of California and was a founder of the Korean American Museum.

Colonel Kim remains one of the most highly decorated Asian American soldiers in U.S. history, having been awarded 19 medals, including a variety of honors from Italy, France, and Korea. The induction ceremony took place on May 1, 2023, at the National Infantry Museum in Columbus, Georgia. A permanent plaque was added to the OCS Memorial Walk generously sponsored by Dyanne McMath, William and Gay Takakoshi, and Susan Muroshige.

For more information visit WWW.NVNVETS.ORG or contact INFO@NVNVETS.ORG

About the OCS Hall of Fame Program

The OCS Hall of Fame was established in 1958 to honor graduates who had distinguished themselves during WWII through Valorous Combat Leadership and subsequent Superior Meritorious Service. The first honoree was Medal of Honor recipient LT Thomas Wigle. The Hall of Fame building was subsequently named in his honor. The OCS Hall of Fame is a US Army Program administered by the Commanding General of the Maneuver Center of Excellence. 

About National Veterans Network (NVN)

NVN’s mission is to educate current and future generations about the extraordinary legacy of American WWII soldiers of Japanese ancestry in order to promote equality and justice. In 2010, the organization launched a national campaign to award the Congressional Gold Medal, the nation’s highest civilian honor, to the 100th, 442nd and MIS units, Since 2012, the organization has collaborated with the Smithsonian on educational initiatives that include a seven-city tour to promote recognition of the Nisei Soldier Congressional Gold Medal and with the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center to develop an online Digital Exhibition and an elementary and middle school curriculum to share the story of Japanese American soldiers of WWII (CGM.SMITHSONIANAPA.ORG). From 2017, NVN worked with the National Museum of the U.S. Army to gather artifacts and develop a special exhibit on the Japanese American WWII soldiers that is open until 2024. The NVN continues to honor the American WWII soldiers of Japanese ancestry by promoting, protecting, and preserving their legacy of uncommon valor and selfless service for future generations. Please visit us at WWW.NATIONALVETERANSNETWORK.COM, and follow the NVN on Facebook (NationalVeteransNetwork), Twitter (@NtlVetNetwork) or Instagram (nationalveteransnetwork).

About Go For Broke National Education Center 

Go For Broke National Education Center (GFBNEC) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that educates the public on the valor of Japanese American veterans of WWII and their contributions to democracy. Our goal is to inspire new generations to embody the veterans’ core values of courage, sacrifice, equality, humility, and patriotism. Founded in 1989, GFBNEC maintains the Go For Broke Monument and the interactive Defining Courage exhibit in downtown Los Angeles, as well as extensive oral histories and archives, education and training programs and other nationwide initiatives. For more information, please visit HTTPS://GOFORBROKE.ORG/.

About Korean Americans for Political Action (KAPA)

The Korean Americans for Political Action is a national non-partisan 501(c)4 non-profit dedicated to motivating, organizing, and supporting Americans of Korean descent to become more directly involved in the American political process to promote legislation and policies that benefit Korean Americans and the American society. For more information, please send an email to INFO@KAPACTION.ORG or visit the KAPA website at WWW.KAPACTION.ORG