Asian Americans
& Pacific Islanders


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Individuals of Asian and Pacific Islander descent have historically served in the Army with great valor and distinction and continue to be critical members of the Army team. They play vital roles in today's Army as Soldiers, Army Civilians and Family members.

Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month celebrates the important contributions of individuals of Asian and Pacific Islander descent to the nation, both historically and in today's society. The month of May was chosen for this commemoration because it marks the anniversary of the arrival of the first Japanese immigrants to American on May 7, 1843, and the completion of the transcontinental railroad by predominantly Chinese laborers on May 10, 1869.

Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month stands as a reminder of the strength the Army has gained, and will gain, through a high-quality diverse all-volunteer force. The Army firmly values the principles of diversity and inclusion and continues to lead American society in maximizing the potential of future leaders from all backgrounds. Diversity makes the Army better and more equipped to meet the challenges and threats of the future. The Army continues to cultivate a climate of trust and respect to allow every Soldier to thrive and achieve their full potential.


“The principle on which this country was founded and by which it has always been governed is that Americanism is a matter of mind and heart; Americanism is not, and never was, a matter of race or ancestry.”

— President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Upon signing the Executive Order that created the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, February 1943. The only all Japanese unit during World War II.

Featured Historical Image - GO FOR BROKE

Go FOR BROKE, 100th Battalion battle painting
Image above: "Go For Broke" was more than a motto for the 442d Regimental Combat Team. France, October 1944. The 442nd was called on to rescue a surrounded U.S. battalion. This painting depicts attack on the heavily fortified defenses of German force. Click for full details...

"Go For Broke" was more than a motto for the 442d Regimental Combat Team. The picture depicts, France, October 1944. The rain and chill, which precedes winter in the Vosges mountains had started. The 442nd Regimental Combat Team was weary and battle-scarred after fighting in Italy. Most of its members were Americans of Japanese ancestry. Men with names like Sumida, Miyamoto, Takemoto and Tanaka would write a bright page in the history of the U.S. Army. The 442nd was called on to rescue a surrounded U.S. battalion. They attacked the heavily fortified defenses of a superior German force, Oct. 27. Fighting was desperate, often hand-to-hand. By Oct. 30, nearly half the regiment had become casualties. Then, something happened in the 442nd. By ones and twos, almost spontaneously and without orders, the men got to their feet and, with a kind of universal anger, moved toward the enemy positions. Bitter hand-to-hand combat ensued as the Americans fought from one fortified position to the next. Finally, the enemy broke in disorder. U.S. Army photo by the Center of Military History.

Go For Broke!

Activated on February 1, 1943, the 422nd Regimental Combat Team was an Army unit composed almost entirely of second-generation Japanese Americans — also known as Nisei — who volunteered from Hawaii and internment camps on the mainland. "Go for broke," a Hawaiian gambling slang for betting it all, was the unit's motto.

Despite being subjected to prejudice and discrimination, a large number of Nisei volunteered for service in the U.S. Army. These Soldiers served with great honor in the European and North African campaigns during World War II. Their feats of courage, particularly in the Italian campaign, are legendary. Other Asian American groups also answered the call to duty and served with great distinction in the European and Pacific theaters — many taking part in the liberation of their ancestral homelands.


Related Historical Videos


General Eric Shinseki - First Asian American four-star general and 34th Chief of Staff of the Army.

Gen. Eric K. Shinseki is also the first Asian American to hold the post of Veterans Affairs secretary. Shinseki credited his mother and the brave Asian Americans who served in World War II for paving the way for his success during a speech at a previous Asian Pacific American Heritage Month Observance. Shinseki assumed duties as the 28th Vice Chief of Staff, United States Army, Nov. 24, 1998. Shinseki assumed duties as the 34th Chief of Staff, United States Army, June 22, 1999. He retired from the United States Army in June 2003. Shinseki later served as the seventh secretary of veterans affairs in the Obama administration from 2009 to 2014 — the first Asian American to serve in the role.

medal of honor stars graphic

Medal of Honor Recipients

The Medal of Honor is the nation's highest medal for valor in combat that can be awarded to members of the armed forces. The medal was first authorized in 1861. Since then, more than 3,400 Medals of Honor have been awarded to members of all DOD services and the Coast Guard, as well as to a few civilians who distinguished themselves with valor. Those deserving of the medal sometimes are not recognized for years after their heroic actions. So it was for 22 Asian American World War II Soldiers, who finally received the Medal of Honor nearly six decades after the war, when former President Clinton bestowed the belated medals.


According to the office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army - Manpower & Reserve Affairs, nearly 64,500 Soldiers who identify as Asian American or Pacific Islander serve in the total force.


Tammy Duckworth - First Thai American elected to Congress

Rep. Tammy Duckworth is also one of the first two female combat veterans and the first disabled woman to be elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2012. In 2004, then-Maj. Duckworth was deployed to Iraq as a Blackhawk helicopter pilot for the Illinois Army National Guard. She was one of the first Army women to fly combat missions during Operation Iraqi Freedom until her helicopter was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade, Nov. 12, 2004.

The Asian American designation encompasses a diverse set of ethnic or language groups of Asian descent. These groups include Chinese Americans, Filipino Americans, Japanese Americans, Korean Americans, Vietnamese Americans, Indian Americans, Laotian Americans, Cambodian Americans, Hmong Americans, Thai Americans, Pakistani Americans.

Pacific Islander refers to people with ancestors originating from Polynesia, Micronesia and Melanesia. It includes people who indicate their race or races as Native Hawaiian, Guamanian or Chamorro, Maori, Samoan, Tahitian, Fijian and Chuukese. Many Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have ancestry in a number of different cultures.

Related Videos - Present Day

This selection of videos is representative of Asian American and Pacific Islander soldiers in the U.S. Army today. These include an instructor for the 25th Infantry Division Hui Ha'a team describing what it means to represent the diversity of the division and the U.S. Army on Schofield Barracks, Hawaii. The Hui Ha'a is a traditional cultural expression used by native Hawaiian warriors. An Apache pilot from 2nd Squadron, 17th Cavalry Regiment, 101st Combat Aviation Brigade, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), conducting aerial gunnery to increase proficiency and maintain readiness at forward operations. The command sergeant major for the 3rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division talking about immigrating to the U.S. from wartorn Vietnam and how he started off in the U.S. with nothing and rose to become a brigade command sergeant major.


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This website was made possible through a collaboration between the U.S. Army Center for Military History and the Office of the Chief of Public Affairs