SACRAMENTO, Calif. (March 2, 2018) — California Assemblywoman Sharon Quirk-Silva (D – Orange County) introduced Assembly Concurrent Resolution 188 (ACR 188), which would designate a specified portion of Interstate 5 in Orange County as the Colonel Young Oak Kim, United States Army, Memorial Highway.
The measure would also request the California Department of Transportation place signs along the highway showing this special designation. The cost of the signs that memorialize the Korean American Colonel will be covered by donations from non-state sources.
“Colonel Young Oak Kim is a hero, in not only American History, but in World History. He holds a special place in the Korean American community of California from which he was born,” said Quirk-Silva. “This memorial will celebrate his heroic efforts in the U.S. Army’s 100th Infantry Battalion, and his life as a champion of human rights; serving underprivileged, and minority populations. My office will continue to work with the Korean American communities in Orange County, Los Angeles County, and greater California to memorialize the life a great hero. This memorial is just one simple move to remind us of the valor and work of Colonel Young Oak Kim, and all veterans.”
Colonel Kim was born in California, and grew up in Downtown Los Angeles. During WWII, he fought with the 100th Infantry Battalion, a segregated unit of Japanese Americans from Hawaii. He was the only non-Japanese American. He later rejoined the army to fight in the Korean War. Kim was the Asian American to command a regular U.S. combat battalion.
For his military service, Colonel Kim earned an unprecedented number of awards: Distinguished Service Cross, two Silver Stars, two Bronze Stars, three Purple Hearts, two Legions of Merit, Italy’s Bronze Medal of Military Valor and Military Valor Cross, France’s la Legion D’Honneur, and the Republic of Korea’s Moran Order of Military Merit.
Upon his commission as a second lieutenant in 1943, Kim was assigned to the 100th Battalion/442nd Regimental Combat Team. As the unit’s only Korean American, Kim was offered a transfer due to the Army’s fear of ethnic conflict exacerbated by Japanese colonial rule over Korea. But Kim refused, declaring, “There is no Japanese or Korean here. We’re all Americans and we’re fighting for the same cause.”
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