Author: Diane Tanaka
Go For Broke, 2/8/2005
Puka Puka Parades, March 2005
News release from Diane Tanaka about Col. Oak Kim receiving the National Order of the Legion of Honor award from France
LOS ANGELES – The Consul General of France, Los Angeles, presented the highly decorated World War II and Korean War Veteran Colonel Young O. Kim (Ret.) with the National Order of the Legion of Honor award (“Legion d’honneur”) from the government of France on Friday, February 4. This award is the highest bestowed to its citizens and foreign nationals. Colonel Kim is receiving this honor as a token of gratitude for his heroism and valor in France during its liberation by the Allied forces in 1944 – 45. The special presentation made by Consul General, the Honorable Philippe Larrieu, to Colonel Kim in Los Angeles at the Go For Broke Monument took place in the context of the recent celebrations of the 60th anniversary of the liberation of France, when more than 100 other American veterans of WWII were awarded the French Legion of Honor.
To honor Colonel Kim, U.S. Senator Daniel Inouye, LA City Councilperson Jan Perry, and U.S. Olympic Gold medalist Sammy Lee spoke about their friend and colleague, Colonel Kim. In attendance to pay their regards to Colonel Kim was WWII Medal of Honor recipient of the D-Day campaign Lt. Walter Ehlers, Consul General of South Korea Youn-Bok Lee, and approximately IS) friends, family and veterans – including many Nisei WWII veterans with whom he served and worked with to build the Go For Broke Monument. Actor George Takei served as Master Of Ceremonies of the event, sponsored by the Go For Broke Educational Foundation.
Colonel Kim’s award was elevated to the rank of the Officer in the Order of the Legion of Honor as he served as an Officer in the famed 100th Infantry Battalion/442nd Regimental Combat Team. He fought in France from September 1944 to February 1945 and participated in several battles, including the battle of Bruyeres and Biffontaine. He was seriously wounded in Biffontaine (in the French district of “Les Vosges”) and received his second Purple Heart and the Croix de la Guerre from France. Because of his extraordinary heroism, the people of Biffontaine dedicated a commemorative plaque that honors his memory.
“On behalf of the French government and all the fellow citizens, France will never forget Colonel Kim’s heroism and courageousness along with the other men of the 100/442nd Regiment Combat Team,” said Consul General Phillipe Larrieu.
“It is an honor for me to receive the French Legion of Honor award as it is not only for me, but for the entire regiment and Japanese American soldiers I fought with,” said Colonel Kim. “I requested the award to be presented at the Go For Broke Monument today because it represents what the men and I stood for as we fought in France – that of liberty for all.”
After graduating as 2nd lieutenant from Infantry Officer Candidate School in Fort Benning, Georgia in January 1943, he joined the 100th Battalion which with the 442nd Regimental Combat Team became the most decorated unit in U.S. military history for its size and length of service. In Italy, he participated in the Cassino and Anzio battles until the 100th left for France in September 1944, where he participated in the Bruyeres and Biffontaine campaigns.
Of all his battles, Colonel Kim is best known for a daylight mission in Anzio (Italy) in which he volunteered to capture German soldiers for intelligence information. He and another soldier crawled more the 600 yards located directly under German observation posts with no cover. They captured two prisoners and obtained information that significantly contributed to the fall of Rome. For his actions, Colonel Kim received the Distinguished Service Cross.
Colonel Kim is credited as being the first Asian American to command a regular U.S. combat battalion in a war when he commanded the 1st Battalion, 31st Infantry Regiment, 7th U.S. Army Division during the Korean War. After 30 years of active duty, Colonel Kim retired from the U.S. Army in 1972. He then became active in the Asian American community, helping found the Go For Broke Educational Foundation, Japanese American National Museum, Korean Health Education Information and Research Center, Korean American Coalition, Korean American Museum, Korean Youth and Culture Center and the Center for Pacific Asian Families.
Today Colonel Kim is still very active with the Go For Broke Educational Foundation, an organization he helped found to build the Go For Broke Monument in Los Angeles’ little Tokyo district to preserve and educate the public about the contributions of the Japanese segregated units. He currently serves as its Chairman Emeritus.