New Organizing Project blogger Part 3 of the Asian Pacific American Heritage Month series Read Part 1 and Part 2
From the halls of Montezuma to the shores of Tripoli, the Asian American has been a part of the American military.
In case most of ya’ll missed seeing men and women in uniform walking the streets, American flags hanging in every window, and the parade going on in downtown – it’s Memorial Day. Today is when we remember those who have served and died for our country. Now regardless of some of ya’lls personal opinions on the Armed Forces, it is important to realize that men and women serve and put their lives on the line for an idea.
So some of ya’ll are thinking, “but Josh, you’re supposed to blog about Asian Americans, where are you going with this?” Well before you guys start getting ahead of me I’ll tell you.
Asian Americans have been serving in our nation’s armed forces since the War of 1812, but have never been heavily recorded. Dang, I don’t know about you, but heck we been here for quite some time if you ask me.
Now the 19th century was kind of a dud. I mean there was very little documentation and a lot of these guys adopted Anglo names so it’s hard to tell if they were White, Chinese, or Filipino. The early 20th century conflicts also had the same problem of little documentation. However, it was noted that many Filipinos were enlisted in the Navy and served in various military campaigns.
It would not be until World War II that the presence of Asian Americans in the military would be at it’s highest peak. The most famous and most highly decorated unit in the entire history of the United States Military was the segregated unit of all Japanese Americans, the 442nd Regimental Combat Team. As said before in my previous blog, Japanese Americans were suspected of disloyalty even though the majority were American born. Japanese Americans volunteered to fight in the war even when their own government turned their backs on them to prove that they were indeed Americans. Over 10,000 volunteered for service. Holy crap, now Ima say that these guys have a lot of guts, just to prove their loyalty they will take a bullet for Uncle Sam. That’s a high price. but after all I suppose you can’t put a price on loyalty.
The 442nd saw action in Italy and North Africa fighting the Fascist Italian and Nazis. The casualty rate was 314%…. that’s insane, this means that each person had to be replaced three times. The unit also received over 9,000 Purple Hearts, which is given for those wounded or killed in action, 8 presidential unit citations, and 21 Medals of Honor, the highest decoration in the armed forces. The 442nd Regimental Combat Team proved to America for a time that we were not foreign aliens or spies, but American citizens who loved Apple pie but with a hearty helping of dumplings on the side. Huh? Yeah, ya’ll like that analogy huh? LOL 😀
In the days of the Vietnam War, over 85,000 Asian Americans served and were deployed to the jungles. Today Asian Americans are enlisting at a higher rate than their proportion of population. 4.4% of the commissioned officers and 3.5% of enlisted personnel are Asian American.
Leadership from within the military has led to the advancement of the presence of Asian Americans. Daniel Inoyue, a U.S. Representative from the state of Hawaii hails from this famed unit with a Purple Heart and a Medal of Honor. Colonel Young-Oak Kim, the only Korean American officer, who also came from the 442nd, was the first minority to command combat battalion. These two are evidence of progress of Asian Americans serving their country. Today, the Marine Corps has promoted their first Korean American Brigadier General, Daniel D. Yoo. As of last year there has been 42 Japanese Americans, 26 Chinese Americans, 10 Filipino Americans, and 4 Korean Generals and flag officers
Today many Asian Americans continue to enlist in the United States military and have served in conflicts all around the world from the jungles of Battle of New Orleans to the jungles of Vietnam, and the deserts of Iraq and Afghanistan.
So today let us honor the sacrifices of these men and women who have served our country, sacrificing their lives for our way of life.