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Young Oak Kim Biography papers

Identifier: 3006

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Scope and Contents

The Young Oak Kim Biography papers (1944-1953, 1999), consist of military documents and audiovisual materials relating to Young Oak Kim’s involvement in World War II and the Korean War, collected and created by Woo Sung Han during the writing of the biography “Unsung Hero: the Col. Young O. Kim Story.” The majority of the material is comprised of military documents from the 1940s and 1950s, in the form of command and intelligence reports, relating to the US Army’s 442nd Regimental Combat Team and 31st Infantry, both of which Kim served under during World War II and Korean War respectively. These items have been declassified and were photocopied from the National Archives. Each report is hundreds of pages long, and remain loose inside archival boxes.

The significant date gap within the collection is reflected through the audiovisual materials, which were created in 1999 by Han during the research and writing process of his book. They comprise primarily audiocassette tapes of informal interviews with Kim as well as with Military colleagues and officials who served with him during World War II and the Korean War. The remainder of the collection consists of one VHS tape regarding Kim’s career with the 100th Infantry Battalion and 442nd Regimental Combat Team, and a typed transcript and floppy disk of an interview with General William McCaffrey, Kim’s commanding officer during the Korean War.


  • Creation: 1944-1953, 1999


Conditions Governing Access

COLLECTION STORED OFF-SITE. Advance notice required for access.

Conditions Governing Use

All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the Curator of the Korean Heritage Library. Permission for publication is given on behalf of the Korean Heritage Library as the owner of the physical items and is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which must also be obtained.

Biographical Note

Young Oak Kim, born in Los Angeles in 1919, was a Korean American United States Army officer during World War II and the Korean War, as well as a civic leader and humanitarian. He was a member of the U.S. 100th Infantry Battalion and the 442nd Regimental Combat Team. He was also a combat leader in Italy and France during World War II. During the Korean War, Kim was assigned to the 31st Infantry of the 7th Infantry Division. The 31st Infantry played a significant role in stopping Chinese troops and pushing them back above the 38th parallel. Shortly after this, Kim was seriously wounded in combat. He served out the remainder of his participation in the Korean War as the commander of the 31st Infantry’s 1st Battalion, the first minority officer in U.S. History to do so. After serving a year in this post, Kim left Korea in September of 1952.

Thereafter, Kim became an instructor at the U.S. Army Infantry School in Fort Benning, Georgia, was both a staff officer and lieutenant colonel in Germany, and was an instructor of the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College. In the 1960s, Kim returned to Korea as a U.S. Military Advisor to the South Korean army and was thereafter promoted to rank of colonel. Kim has been awarded 19 decorations and medals for his military service, including the Distinguished Silver Cross, the Purple Heart, the American Defensive Service Medal, the Silver Star, and the Bronze Star. After 30 years of experience, Kim retired from military service in 1972 with 80% disability.

In 1973, Kim joined Special Services for Groups (SSG), a non-profit health and human service organization. His interest led him to serving on the Board of United Way, where he would remain for 10 years, focusing his efforts on underserved ethnic communities in Los Angeles and working with providing them linguistic and cultural competent services. He was integral in adding various Asian American Centers to the United Way, as well as diversifying the Board by including more Asian American members.

In 1975, Kim founded the Korean Youth and Cultural Center, now entitled the Koreatown Youth and Community Center. From 1986 to 1988, he served as a member of Serving the Family and Friends of Keiro Homes, and throughout the 1990s was Chairman of the Center for Pacific Asian Families, which focused on addressing violence and sexual assault in Asian and Pacific Islander communities. From 1989 until 2005, Kim served as Chairman of the 100th/442nd/MIS Memorial Foundation. Kim died as a result of cancer on December 29, 2005.

In 2010, the Young Oak Kim Center for Korean American Studies opened at the University of California, Riverside. The Young Oak Kim Center is the publisher of “Unsung Hero: the Col. Young O. Kim Story”, written by Woo Sung Han and translated into English by Professor Edward T. Chang. Han was a member of the Korean Air Force. Along with his biography on Kim has written about Korean American Pioneer Aviators. His research materials regarding Kim’s military career comprise this collection.


5 Linear Feet (7 boxes)

Language of Materials



Young Oak Kim was a Korean American United States Army officer, civic leader, and humanitarian. This collection comprises military documents and audiovisual materials relating to Kim’s service in World War II and the Korean War, collected as well as created by author Woo Sung Han during the research and writing process of his 2011 biography entitled “Unsung Hero: The Col. Young O. Kim Story.”


The collection is organized into the following series: 1. military documents; 2. Audiovisual materials. Arrangement within each series is chronological.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The collection was acquired as part of a mutual arrangement between USC's Korean Heritage Library and Woo Sung Han, the author of the Young Oak Kim biography, “Unsung Hero: the Col. Young O. Kim Story.” USC financed the cost of photocopying of the military documents that Han used for the research of the biography and, as exchange, received them as part of the collection. In return, Han donated his audiovisual materials of interviews to include in the collection.

Related Archival Materials

Related materials pertaining to Young Oak Kim can be found within USC's Korean-American Digital Archive in the form of oral histories, as part of the Korean American Museum Oral History Series subcollection.

Finding aid for the Young Oak Kim Biography papers
Sarah Cassone
2018 March
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the USC Libraries East Asian Library Repository

Doheny Memorial Library
3550 Trousdale Parkway
Los Angeles California 90089-1825 United States