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https://www.discovernikkei.org/en/interviews/clips/1019/

They had to succeed

We were all very, very much aware of the disadvantages of being Asian. None of us felt that we were inferior psychologically, physically, mentally, or spiritually. We felt the system was dead set against us. We also realized that there’s a certain mystique about combat soldiers and I think it goes clear back to the days when the tribe’s very livelihood depended on the success or failure of the warrior.

And so we knew…we felt that the success and failure of the Japanese…they said for the Japanese Americans in Hawaii cause they were talking Hawaii, they were all from Hawaii, but they had to do good. They had to succeed. They couldn’t fail. That their hopes and aspirations were to be as good as any other American unit. We all wished that we could be better than any other American unit, but I think what you have to realize is all this, recognize the fact that sometimes when you go to combat, you fail, not because you want to fail. I don’t think anybody goes to war to be a coward. But some people are. That’s something they have no control of.

And so therefore none of us could say, in these bull sessions, that we’re going to be the greatest or that stuff, that would be just a bunch of, how would you say, talk, it would just be hot air. But we all knew that we had to be as good as any other Caucasian outfit. And we all had to toe the line and do our best. That we all knew. And we knew that we had to shed blood. That was the price we were gonna pay. And we all had to be prepared to pay that price.


100th Infantry Battalion 442nd Regimental Combat Team armed forces discrimination interpersonal relations military racism retired military personnel United States Army veterans World War II

Date: August 28, 1995

Location: California, US

Contributed by: Watase Media Arts Center, Japanese American National Museum

Interviewee Bio

Colonel Young Oak Kim (U.S. Army Ret.) was a decorated combat veteran as a member of the 100th Infantry Battalion/442nd Regimental Combat Team during World War II and a respected community leader. He was born in 1919 in Los Angeles, CA to Korean immigrants.

Following the outbreak of war, he was assigned to the “all-Nisei” 100th as a young officer, but was given a chance for reassignment because the common belief was that Koreans and Japanese did not get along. He rejected the offer stating that they were all Americans. A natural leader with keen instincts in the field, Colonel Kim’s battlefield exploits are near legendary.

Colonel Kim continued to serve his country in the Korean War where he became the first minority to command an Army combat battalion. He retired from the Army in 1972. He was awarded 19 medals, including the Distinguished Service Cross, a Silver Star, two Bronze Stars, three Purple Hearts, and the French Croix de Guerre.

Later in life, Colonel Kim served the Asian American community by helping to found the Go For Broke Educational Foundation, the Japanese American National Museum, the Korean Health, Education, Information and Research Center and the Korean American Coalition among others. He died from cancer on December 29, 2005 at the age of 86. (August 8, 2008)

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Venancio Shinki
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An expert researcher and scholar on Japanese immigrant clothing.

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Barbara Kawakami
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Yuri Kochiyama
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Yuri Kochiyama

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Yuri Kochiyama
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