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Asian American Military Contributions

Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have made significant contributions to the US military dating back to the War of 1812. May is Asian Pacific American Heritage Month and to honor those many contributions, we’ve highlighted the actions of just a few.

Joseph Pierce

Joseph Pierce: During the 1800s, job opportunities brought many Asian immigrants to the United States, but Joseph Pierce arrived in a slightly different way. He was born in China and brought to the US by his adoptive father, sea captain Amos Peck. There are several theories about how Peck came to adopt his son, but a photograph unearthed in the mid-1900s provides one. The photograph, purportedly of Joseph Pierce’s daughter, has an inscription on the back that reads, “Daughter of Joseph Pierce who was picked up 40 miles from shore in the China Sea by Capt. Peck.” Pierce (a name he later chose) was about 10 years old when he arrived in America in the early 1850s. On July 26, 1862, he enlisted in the Connecticut 14th Infantry Regiment, Company F. He fought valiantly in pivotal battles including Antietam and Gettysburg, and reached the highest rank of any Chinese American to serve in the Union Army, being appointed Corporal on November 1, 1863. He participated in the Grand Review of the Armies in Washington, D.C., and mustered out on May 31, 1865. His picture hangs in the Gettysburg Museum.

Sadao Munemori

Sadao Munemori: When Japanese forces attacked Pearl Harbor, more than a quarter-million Asian Americans were living in the US. In 1942, officials moved thousands to internment camps. Despite this, valiant Japanese American soldiers still volunteered to serve their country. Nisei is a Japanese language term used to describe second-generation Japanese Americans, and thousands of Nisei soldiers enlisted for service. The 442nd Infantry Regiment was an all-Nisei regiment and the most decorated unit for its size and length of service. Pfc. Sadao Munemori was in a US Army training center when his family was forced out of their home and moved to an inland internment camp. He served in the 442nd and while advancing up a strongly fortified hill in Italy, Munemori’s squad came under attack. Munemori moved through direct fire and knocked out two enemy machine guns. While returning to a crater where two of his fellow soldiers huddled, a grenade bounced on his helmet and rolled towards the crater. Munemori dived on the grenade and absorbed its impact. He was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.

L to R: Ralph, Philip, and Susan Ahn

The Ahn Siblings: In 1902, Dosan Ahn Changho and Helen Lee became the first Korean married couple to immigrate to the US. Dosan was an activist who fought against the Japanese occupation in Korea. Their home became a haven for other Korean immigrants in America. The couple had five children, and when WWII broke out, three Ahn siblings enlisted to serve. Ralph Ahn joined the US Navy in 1944 to fight the Japanese. Philip Ahn enlisted in the US Army and served in the Special Services as an entertainer. He was a prolific actor and played Japanese villains in war films. After the war, Ralph followed in his brother’s footsteps and became an actor, appearing in television and films. Susan Ahn led a distinguished military career and was the first Asian American woman in the Navy. She became a Navy LINK instructor in 1943, teaching aviators how to maneuver in simulators. She also became the first aerial gunnery officer in the Navy and rose to the rank of Lieutenant. She later served in Navy Intelligence.

Herbert K. Pililaʻau

Herbert K. Pililaʻau: Native Hawaiian and Pfc. Herbert K. Pililaʻau was born on the Island of Oahu in the Waianae district. Drafted into the Army, he served in the Korean War in Company C, 23rd Infantry Regiment, 2nd Infantry Division. On the morning of September 17, 1951, C Company was involved in a bloody battle with two enemy battalions. After an hour of heavy fighting in an area that would come to be known as Heartbreak Ridge, C Company ran short of ammunition. Pililaʻau volunteered to stay behind and covered the withdrawal of his fellow soldiers. He fired his automatic weapon until he ran out of ammunition, then he began to throw grenades. After those were gone, he grabbed a trench knife and engaged in hand-to-hand combat. More than 40 enemy soldiers died before Pililaʻau was completely overwhelmed by enemy troops and killed. He was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.

To learn more about additional Asian American and Pacific Islander contributions in the military, search our Honor Wall on Fold3® for individual stories of bravery and valor.


  1. Robert Shaw says:

    We need to remember that our country was made by many different ethnic groups, and that this diversity makes us stronger! United we stand divided we fall.

  2. Donald Clark says:

    I simply do not understand what you mean by your remark…seems to me that all sacrifices are honored regardless of color or race.

    • Donald, If you are replying to me, I simply cannot understand your remark. When is the celebration for White History Month? When has fold3 published a blog entry stating White Veterans? Where have you saw a sign “White Lives Matter, White Entertainment Channel? Since I have been reading this blog, they have published one about Black WW1 vets, and Pacific Islanders. Oh I would supposed you could count the one about the bomb group as being White, if it is it is defiantly hidden.

      Please tell me how we honor the sacrifices of Whites, the same as we do other races, I am waiting

    • Jeff Nibert says:

      When there’s a house on fire in your neighborhood, do the firefighters try to decide which house in the neighborhood to go to? No, they go straight to the house that’s on fire.

    • Truslove says:

      I actually agree. If we decided to have a white entertainment channel it would be considered racist, but there is the Latino network, the black network, so what would be wrong with having a British/ White channel that white people can relate to.
      I also agree with the history months on here. Seriously… I’m researching 3 family trees. All white peopled, a few Native American. My Family is from the same street, Same town, for over 200 years… all men participated in the military

  3. Earlene Gorman says:

    War is a complicated time but these stories remind us that individuals still live their lives as best they can. Many gave their life’s energy in service to their adopted country.

  4. Gordon R Sinclair says:

    No shortage of heros/heroines there …

  5. Donna Zamora says:

    Excuse me, Mr. Purvis? As the daughter of several white veterans, and the mother of two white veterans, I totally disagree with your “logic”.

    • Donna you are free to explain— if you can. Oh yes you do not have to be a veteran or a child of a veteran to know, just open your eyes and look around.

    • Donna Zamora says:

      I can see your point of view by your words. Sorry, I tend not to get into philosophical discussions with bigots or racists, the good Lord will take care of that for me.

    • So what makes you think I am a bigot or racist and you are not? You won’t get into a discussion because you actually have no solid ground to stand on.

  6. Andrew Bailey says:

    More stories are needed about Pacific Islanders, ie. Samoans, Fijians, and Filipinos.

  7. Donald Clark says:

    It is unfortunate that some people in this great nation are unaware of history….ALL American veterans are honored on November 11th of every year.
    This entire site is devoted to all American veterans no matter who they are or where they came from, or their color.
    I am sorry for those who cannot see and understand the purpose of this site.

    • Donald, if you think I am not aware of history , you are welcome to challenge me. Oh BTW you are correct Veterans Day does celebrate all veterans, but my point still stands, we do not acknowledge the WHITE vets as we do other races.

      What exactly is the purpose of this site, to honor every races but the White race?

  8. Trevor Townsent says:

    Thank you for writing this article. These men and women were heroes like many others, and we can thank them for our freedoms today.

  9. John Q Public says:

    George Purvis is only here to cause problems ignore the rabel.

  10. Bob Stewart says:

    George Purvis: The reason white veterans are not identified as white or honored with a special day, month, etc. is because they are assumed to be the norm. Unfortunately, whiteness is assumed unless otherwise specified. Whenever a category is left undefined, it is presumed because it is the standard. Your “sensitivity” to a lack of recognition is unbecoming. I’m sorry about your insecurity. I know it can be very painful and debilitating.

    As Donald Clark said, Veterans Day has evolved to commemorate all American veterans. I’ve been to several Veterans Day ceremonies in which the speaker implied that some veterans were more important or deserving than others (usually those with very conservative political views were more important). I considered those speakers to be a disgrace to veterans.

    Pointing out the sacrifices and honorable service of those who have too often been overlooked does nothing to diminish the service of those who have never been overlooked. It should not have taken decades to honor non-white veterans deserving of the Medal of Honor, but it has several times. When you understand why that happened, perhaps you can understand the point of this Fold3 article.

    • Donna Zamora says:

      Well said, Mr. Stewart. You are a true patriot.

    • And that is your opinion, I respect that as wrong as it might be. The fact of the matter is the US government and sites like this have no business in the race business. It only serves to divide the nation by classes and races. Another fact is throughout the history of the United States, the white race has sent more men and women to war than any other race that lives in this country. Now you want to tell me that we should honor people by race or heritage background. There are not enough months in the year to do that. We need an Italian American Month, Jewish Month, American Indian Month, German month , French month, Russian Month, Cajun Month, Werlch, Irish Scottish, Irish, oh man my head is spinning!!!!!

      Oh I did notice that Fold3 skipped over CONFEDERATE HISTORY MONTH WITHOUT A MENTION.

      And I just got this from Fold3–

      george Mon, May 24 at 1:24 PM

      Asian Pacific American Heritage Month


      Now if that doesn’t offend you, then your head must be in la la land, that or you haven’t the backbone to speak up against out and out discrimination and bigorty.

    • Donna Zamora says:

      hey, George, maybe you should proofread before you post.

    • Donna,
      Yes you are right first name basis. If you do not want me using your first name, then simply say so. Sort of a minor issue to complain about isn’t it?

      I love it that your best answers and digs are on typos. I gather you were able to understand what I was writing about, if not then the shame is on you.

      As far as supporters on this site, you see I really don’t need any when the best answers any you folks can come up with is name calling and insults. Speaks volumes for your knowledge of American history.

      Oh and tell me if you are White why are so ashamed, if you are not White , what do you have against White folks???

    • Lloyd W Rodgers says:

      Mr. Purvis, is there anyone here you haven’t attacked? Either with hostilty, sarcasm or by trying to prove your intellectual superiority? You have succeeded in driving me from the discussion. Your investment in being correct far exceeds my level of interest here. Best wishes to all, yes, including you.

  11. Marvin Shandler says:

    Well said Bob – Can’t fix ignorance.

  12. Janice Wright says:

    I’m co-chair of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and we need to remember that the remains in those tombs are only known to God. They could be Asian, White, Black, Hispanic, male or female, etc. The Vietnam Tomb which is left empty represents all soldiers of all colors and races including POW’s and MIA’s. It’s sad to put one race above another. We are all created equal. Let us not forget those who fought for our freedom ( our forefathers) and those who continue to fight and sacrifice their lives for us. Go to The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier Web site and read about the sacrifices these brave soldiers gave for their country. Remember November 11, 2021 is the 100th Anniversary of the Tomb of the Unknow Soldier.

  13. Lloyd W Rodgers says:

    Yes, what Bob Stewart said. And, just in case, I am a 71 year old white man, highly decorated VietNam vet. I have no problem saying that service there was predominately black and their heroism under reported.

    • Donna Zamora says:

      God bless you for your service and honesty, Mr. Rodgers, from a 71 year old white woman.

    • Really, perhaps you should check out this website–

      DCAS Vietnam Conflict Extract File record counts by RACE OMB NAME ( Race) (as of April 29, 2008 )















      Total Records


      Now tell me again why we have no White History Month.

    • Lloyd W Rodgers says:

      George, plz do me a favor and convert those numbers into percentages of population for the years covered by those statistics. Than k s in advance.

  14. Dave Mowen says:

    My time in the service was the Kennedy era, Bay of Pigs, Cuban Missile Crises, and Cold War tensions. There was active segregation South of the Mason Dixon Line, but it seemed that we in the ‘4 year’ stint services were accepting the moral decision of equality. By 1980 we seemed to be cool with the idea that we can all work together comfortably (personal working relationships).
    The common man population seemed to have come a long way – – – – -, and
    Then the passion for political power erupted its ugly head, and something happened after 2008 that stirred up the hornets nest again, and the morality of ‘all men are created equal’ , went out the window.
    Now we want Laws to take the place of Morality, as a solution.

  15. Richard Schumacher says:

    I am a white veteran (Army 1967-1970), serving a year in Vietnam w/the Big Red One. I support fold3 in bringing attention to non-white contributions, military or otherwise, to our country. Primarily, this is because these contributions were not mentioned or taught during my grade and high school classes in the 50’s-60’s. I grew up in an all-white rural area of Illinois. I don’t understand Mr. Purvis’ problem/rant.

  16. Donna Zamora says:

    White supremists have no understandable logic. Mr. Purvis is no exception. They like to stir the pot, then slither away. Fold3 should follow the lead of Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, and block him for hate speech.

    • Teresa Hogan says:

      Don’t overlook the First Amendment Donna. Mr Purvis has the right to speak his mind. Why would you think he is a White Supremacist? Best not to jump to conclusions unless you know him personally. Name-calling is so unattractive.

    • Donna Zamora says:

      Teresa, this is no place for Mr. Purvis’s vindictive comments. This site is to honor all veterans, and honoring those that have been ignored is a special cause. I’m sick of hate speech hiding behind the first amendment. Reread my comments, I did not call Mr. Purvis a name. But thank you for supporting my right to do so, regardless of how unattractive I am.

    • Donald Clark says:

      He does have the right to speak his mind even if his opinions are hateful and his comments clearly indicate his intent to incite hate. Many Veterans of many ethnic groups and many colors died for his right to voice his opinion. I do not believe he really deserves your defense.

    • Lloyd W Rodgers says:

      I’m of the ipinion, meaning you all are free to disagree, that hateful inflammatory language is immediately off putting to most folks. I’d like to hold on to my, perhaps naive, notion that most get that sick feeling in the pit of their stomach when they encounter it. I hope this is taken in a manner intended. We truly are more alike than different regardless of skin-tone or anything else. Best wishes to you all.

    • Donna,

      Why is it that a person of any races other than white can speak up and exorewss their opinion and be called a civil rights activist or fighting for equality, while a white poerson is call a White surpremist .

      Is this the only card in your deck of one that you have to play???

      What hate speech? I only ask that the White race be equally represented. Perhaps you should be blocked because of ignorance????

    • Donna Zamora says:

      George, (I see we’re on a first name basis here}, you don’t seem to have very many supporters of your opinions on this site. Again, my point is, this is not the place for your ranting, this article is to honor Asian American Veterans. Start a blog. And speaking of ignorance, please, for God’s sake, proofread before you post. The constant misspellings aren’t a good look for your points on knowledge versus ignorance.

    • Donna,

      Ah just can’t help spewing your hate and ignorance can you? I love it. Maybe you should try a few more names, need help, I have plenty for you to use.

      Oh I am still waiting for you to point out why I am a racist and my hate speech. Seems like you did a better job in the hate speech department than I !!!!

    • Donald Clark,

      How are my comments anything but factual? I notice you haven’t disputed any facts I have posted?? Why???

  17. Donna says:

    I am a 77 year old woman and I can assure you that there was not any history taught on school regarding the non white militery in any of our wars. That is a disgusting. One can blame those who wrote our history books. I will always look towards the bravery they displayed and am saddened that it took so many years to be made public

    • History is all over the web, you don’t need Fold 3 to provide history lessons, so why are you ignorant of facts, and how is it you can’t see the reverse discrimination.

  18. kwambino says:

    A country is made of people with different ethnicity, but that does not mean that it will hoist different flags, officialize different languages, as a country, it means we have one identity, one official language, one flag, one official religion, one coin, and one demeanor.
    A person born in a country but honor the flag and costume of another country is called treason or maybe an invasion.
    A country divided will not stand.
    Everything the country represents must be honored as one.

    • To be honest, the Constitution defines treason as —
      Section 3.
      Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying war against them, or in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort. No person shall be convicted of treason unless on the testimony of two witnesses to the same overt act, or on confession in open court.

      The Congress shall have power to declare the punishment of treason, but no attainder of treason shall work corruption of blood, or forfeiture except during the life of the person attainted.

      But I DO understand your point, and I agree, nothing but US flags.

  19. Theodore Roosevelt’s ideas on Immigrants and being an AMERICAN in 1907.

    ‘In the first place, we should insist that if the immigrant who comes here in good faith becomes an American and assimilates himself to us, he shall be treated on an exact equality with everyone else, for it is an outrage to discriminate against any such man because of creed, or birthplace, or origin. But this is predicated upon the person’s becoming in every facet an American, and nothing but an American…There can be no divided allegiance here. Any man who says he is an American, but something else also, isn’t an American at all. We have room for but one flag, the American flag… We have room for but one language here, and that is the English language.. And we have room for but one sole loyalty and that is a loyalty to the American people.’

    Pretty much sums up this and that History Month doesn’t it.

  20. Here is another website full of stats—

    Compare the numbers by race if you dare.

  21. and for those of you who really have no cards to play but the White Supremacist and racist card, take a look at this website I have built—

    Not to be insulting but you folks who come here and attack me without knowing anything about me really need to check the location of your brain..

  22. Donald Clark says:

    Hey Purvis…did you notice the fold3 article about WACs: “New WAC History Added to Fold3”. The WACs were mostly white women. I guess you could complain that white male veterans are discriminated against while female white veterans are not.
    Enough is enough …I have listened to all that you have said and I can’t take anymore so I won’t come back to this ridiculous conversation that just goes around in circles.

    • Donna Zamora says:

      Mr. Clark, you took the words right outta my mouth. Goodbye, George, enjoy your Confederate shenanigans.

    • Hey Clark, did you notice that the article was posted after I SPOKE UP??? Also did you notice Fold# still doesn’t call for a White History month, nor have they sent out an email calling this White History Month? Put on your thinking cap!!

    • Donna Zamora,

      Love your response of “Confederate shenanigans”, that says more about your than yo0u know. So it appears that the “White Supremacist” and racist titles suit you very well after all. You see I have been in this game a long time, I know all the buzz words and insults, I know the double standards by which some people play and the PC agenda. I actually I did nothing but expose you as to what you really are.

      Go, feel free to wallow in your ignorance.

  23. Lloyd W Rodgers says:

    Mr. Purvis, I had an afterthought about the casualty numbers you posted. My comment related to under recognized heroism. Yours to deaths as you clearly indicated. Plz recall, since I don’t recall seeing your veteran status, not all heroes died. Peace be with you.

    • Mr. Rodgers,

      My point is the number of deaths of Whites vs. these other races. I said nothing about anyone of any race being a hero, giving or taking away credit for their service, I simply said that when we get into all these “heritage months” the White race is overlooked, the same as Confederate History Month, which celebrates all races.

      The stats of deaths would be reflective of the numbers of men and women of each race who served and made sacrifices, note that wounded etc. is also posted.

      My veteran status doesn’t matter nor does my years of service. Please know this I grew up with many WWII heroes, listening to their stories and saw their tears, so I do know many did not die