Los Angeles County Declares ‘Susan Ahn Cuddy Day’

On Jan. 16, Susan Ahn Cuddy, a Korean American living legend who was the first Asian American woman to serve in the U.S. Armed Forces, turned 100. On Tuesday, Los Angeles County honored the Los Angeles-born trailblazer and patriot by declaring March 10, 2015 “Susan Ahn Cuddy Day.”

For those unfamiliar with her biography, Cuddy was a warrior who shattered race and gender stereotypes during an era when women, let alone Asian American women, serving in the U.S. military was rare. During World War II, the petite 4’11 dynamo was the first female gunnery officer in the U.S. Navy who trained fighter pilots in air combat tactics and shooting down enemy planes. Following the war, Cuddy joined the Navy’s elite code-breaking team, rising to the rank of lieutenant. She later became a civilian officer for the National Security Agency, leading a department of 300 tasked with gathering intelligence on the Soviet Union during the Cold War.

“These were all firsts as an Asian American woman in a man’s world. Anti-Asian sentiment was brazenly prevalent but that didn’t deter Susan Ahn Cuddy—she just knew what her mission was,” L.A. County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas said during Tuesday’s ceremony, attended by Cuddy, daughter Christine Cuddy, grandson Michael Gittes, son Philip Cuddy, caregiver Daisy Flores and friends and family. Ridley-Thomas introduced the motion to declare March 10, 2015 “Susan Ahn Cuddy Day,” and it was unanimously approved by the five-member board of supervisors, the governing body of the County of Los Angeles. Tuesday’s date was selected since it is the 77th anniversary of the death of Cuddy’s father, Dosan Ahn Chang Ho, the renowned Korean independence movement leader.

In her personal life, Cuddy was also a pioneer who defied existing barriers to interracial marriage. In 1947, she married fellow NSA codebreaker Frank Cuddy. Because the Korean-Irish couple could not obtain a marriage license in Virginia due to the state’s interracial marriage ban, they wed at a Navy chapel in Washington, D.C.

Cuddy is one of four children and the eldest daughter of Ahn Chang Ho and Helen Ahn, who were the first married couple to immigrate from Korea to the United States. Cuddy’s brother, Philip Ahn, was the first Asian American actor to receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

In an 2009 interview with KoreAm, Cuddy said, “I never had a feeling I was denied anything on a personal basis; it was the particular time of life. I think as far as racism is concerned, it’s how you [respond to] it and go on with your life.”

Check out KoreAm‘s tribute to Susan Ahn Cuddy’s remarkable 100-year-long history here.


Featured image courtesy of Christina Villacorte