May has been designated Asian American Pacific Islanders (AAPI) month. This video gives an overview of the long history of service that Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have given to the service and the defense of this nation, almost from the nation’s beginning.
It is another example that “Our nation’s strength truly rests on its diversity.”
E Pluribus Unum! (Out of Many, One).
The first recorded service of Asian American/Pacific Islanders was at the Battle of New Orleans during the War of 1812. They joined a truly diverse American force against the British at the barricades surrounding New Orleans and helped defeat the British attempt to retake the United States, only 19 years after their defeat by the patriots of the Continental Army at Yorktown in the Revolutionary War.
There were Asian Americans who actually fought on both sides of the American Civil War. Despite the passing of the Chinese Exclusion Act passed in 1882, which brought about incredible, long term violence and discrimination against Chinese in this country, many Chinese signed up and served in the Army in the Mexican Expedition, during the Mexican Revolution, fighting against the incursions of Pancho Villa from March 14, 1916, to February 7, 1917, under General John J. Pershing.
After the bombing at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, President Roosevelt signed the Executive Order 9066, sending 120,000 Japanese Americans to internment camps around the country. Despite this, 30,000 Nisei, or second generation Japanese Americans joined the U.S. Army forming the 100th, then the 442nd Regimental Combat unit. This unit fought with incredible courage and success in Italy and Germany and France becoming the most highly decorated military unit in our military history.
In the Pacific Theater, thousands of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders fought in the US military or as allies against the Japanese. In the Philippines, an American Territory since the end of the Spanish American War in 1898, saw 250,000 Filipinos serve and fight alongside American forces for the liberation of the Philippines. They were promised full American citizenship and other privileges for doing so, but those were denied them after the war.
Asian American and Pacific Islander women joined and served in the Women’s Army Corps (WACs) during WWII as well.
In 1980, the Federal Refugee Resettlement Program, or Refugee Act was signed allowing for refugees from the Vietnam War to be resettled here in the United States. It provided for the effective resettlement of refugees and to assist them to achieve economic self-sufficiency as quickly as possible. Since then, many Vietnamese Americans have served and continue to serve in the United States Military. I will be writing about some of their stories of heroism and service over the course of this month as well.
Today there are over 65,000 Asian American and Pacific Islanders serving in active duty in our Armed Forces.
Learn more in the video below.
The AAPI story follows along with all of the stories of minority peoples in our country who have served in our military despite the discrimination that they experienced in our society. They did so with patriotic fervor, courage and with the same motivations that every immigrant group brought to the building of this country. It is yet another proof that immigration, from our beginning to the present, has built this nation through the self-sacrificing service of each and every immigrant group. We are who we are because of the contributions made by all.