May 12

Asian/Pacific Islander American Month

Tuesday, May 12, 2020 10:57 AM


This month is Asian American/Pacific Islander month and as we celebrate their significant contributions to the United States Navy, there are many fascinating stories of individuals who exemplify the best of us.

One riveting story is that of Susan Ahn Cuddy. Mrs. Cuddy lived a long and remarkable life, and was honored by Los Angeles County as a “100 year old Korean American Pioneer and Patriot” by the declaration of “Susan Ahn Cuddy Day” on March 10th, 2015.

PORT HUENEME, Calif. (May 9, 2015) Susan Ahn Cuddy, a former Navy lieutenant, meets with U.S. Navy Seabee Museum Education Specialist Hanako Wakatsuki after a guest presentation honoring Ahn Cuddy at the Seabee Museum. (U.S. Navy photo by Aramis X. Ramirez/Released)

According to the Los Angeles County website, Susan Ahn Cuddy was born in 1915 to the first married couple to immigrate from Korea to the United States. (Her father, Dosan Ahn Chang Ho was a Korean independence activist and is a national hero in South Korea. He is also believed to have co-written the lyrics to South Korea’s National Anthem.)

Susan’s parents raised her to embrace being an American without forgetting her Korean Heritage,

After graduating with a college degree in sociology from San Diego State University, Miss Ahn became the first Asian American female to serve in the United States Navy when she enlisted in the WAVES in 1942 and headed to the U. S. Naval Reserve Midshipmen’s School at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts. (Her first application had been denied because of her race, but Susan persisted and her second application was accepted a year later.)

After her initial training, Susan was assigned to the Flight-simulator Link Trainer program in Georgia where she taught air combat tactics to future Naval pilots. Next, she went to Pensacola to train to become the Navy’s first woman gunnery officer. Ahn was then sent to the Naval Air Station in Atlantic City where she trained Naval Aviators to fire .50 caliber machine guns.

Now a Navy Lieutenant, Ahn was sent to work at the U.S. Naval Intelligence Office where she served as a code-breaker. It was there that Lieutenant Ahn met fellow code-breaker, Chief Petty Officer Frances X. Cuddy, an Irish American who spoke fluent Japanese. Their relationship grew into something special, but they could not marry in the state of Virginia where they each lived because the laws in 1947 still prohibited inter-racial marriages. Undaunted, the couple married in a U.S. Navy Chapel in Washington, DC.

As the Cold War went on, the couple worked at the National Security Agency, where Susan was an analyst and a section chief.

In 1959, the couple made the decision to move to California to raise their children, and to win the approval of Susan’s mother for their marriage. On her website, she remarked that “the way to get your relatives to accept your mixed-race marriage is to have kids.”

Susan went on to support the growing Korean Community in Los Angeles by promoting civic engagement among Korean Americans. She taught youth Korean history and encouraged them to pursue their dreams. Susan Ahn Cuddy remained active in her community until she passed away at 100 years of age.

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