Soldier embodied bravery of 100th Battalion vets
RETIRED U.S. ARMY COL. YOUNG OAK KIM / WWII AND KOREAN WAR VETERAN
Retired Army Col. Young Oak Kim, a decorated member of the 100th Battalion in World War II who also fought in the Korean War, died Sunday from cancer at Cedars-Sinai Hospital in California. He was 86.
After retiring from the Army, Kim dedicated his life to helping others and supporting and founding many Asian-American civic organizations.
Many of his fellow soldiers said Kim should have been awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions in World War II with the 100th Battalion.
"I will miss Col. Kim. He was a good soldier, and a good American," said U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye, who earned the Medal of Honor as a member of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team in World War II.
Inouye recalled when he was going through basic training "there was one name that always commanded attention and respect: Capt. Kim's. He was a bona fide hero of the 100th Infantry Battalion."
Inouye said that he knew of Kim's heroism and leadership abilities before he met him on the battlefields in Europe. "When I got to meet him after I entered combat, my respect and admiration of him grew because he was such a fearless leader who, through his deeds, inspired his men."
Born in Los Angeles as the second child of Korean immigrants Soon Kwon and Nora Koh Kim, Kim enlisted in the Army in January 1941. He was the only Asian American in his class when he was selected for the infantry officer candidate school at Fort Benning, Ga.
In February 1943, Kim was assigned to the 100th Infantry Battalion, a segregated unit of Japanese Americans from Hawaii. Later, when asked by his commanding officer if he would like a transfer, knowing the historical conflicts between Koreans and Japanese, Kim stated that they were all Americans and would fight together.
In Italy, Kim received his first Silver Star and Purple Heart near Santa Maria Olivetto. But Kim is best remembered for the battle of Anzio where he volunteered to capture German soldiers for intelligence information. During the day, he and another soldier crawled more than 600 yards directly under German observation posts with no cover. They captured two prisoners and obtained information that contributed to the fall of Rome. For his actions, Kim received the Distinguished Service Cross.
He re-enlisted into the Army in 1950 and a year later he arrived in Korea and commanded a South Korean guerrilla unit. Kim took part in the U.N. Forces last drive into the north and was awarded his second Silver Star and Bronze Star. Upon his promotion to major, he became the first Asian-American to command a regular U.S. combat battalion in a war.
Kim was the head of Fine Particle Technology in San Diego and founded numerous Asian-American civic groups in Southern California.
Inouye said that Kim served on board of the Go for Broke Educational Foundation, "whose mission is to keep alive, especially in classrooms, the legacy of nisei veterans and the values they embodied -- courage, honor, determination, loyalty, and justice for all."
Kim is survived by his sister Willa of New York; brothers Jack (Kyoung Ha) and Henry (Cookie); and stepsons Jerry Surh, Tom Surh, and Corey Covert. Funeral services will be held Jan. 9 at the Santa Monica United Methodist Church, 1008 11th St., Santa Monica, Calif.
Burial will be held at a later time at National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Go For Broke Educational Foundation.