Susan Ahn Cuddy’s military service honors are accompanied by a long list of firsts. Cuddy was the first Asian American woman to join the U.S. Navy in 1942 during WWII. She became the first woman gunnery officer in the U.S. Navy and first Korean American in U.S. Naval Intelligence by 1946.
The East West Players, the nation’s premier Asian American theatre company, performed “Born to Lead: The Susan Ahn Cuddy Story” in the Creveling Lounge at Pasadena City College on March 24. The short play recapped Cuddy’s journey climbing the ranks of the Navy during WWII, a time when being an Asian American woman invited a lot of prejudice.
“It was my duty to join the service at that time,” said Cuddy. “I was Asian and they were not ready to accept me because of my color.”
The 100-year-old veteran attended the performance along with her son Philip Cuddy. It was the first time she’d seen the EWP Theatre for Youth play about her life that is currently on tour. Cuddy was presented with a certificate of achievement from PCC Veterans Resource Center coordinator Patty D’Orange-Martin before the performance to honor her for her exemplary service to our country.
“Our women veterans are really our invisible veterans because they’re usually not seen. When you close your eyes and you think about a veteran, what comes to mind?” said D’Orange-Martin. “You really very rarely envision a young woman in uniform who has served her country.”
A panel discussion with PCC women veterans Maggie Sanchez and Jamaica Springs followed the play. Stephanie Stone, a Navy veteran and chief deputy director of the County of Los Angeles Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, moderated the discussion. The women answered questions from the audience, including how their military service has affected their civilian life.
“The Navy has core values: honor, courage, commitment. These core values we learned to live by as they were instilled in us,” said Springs. “Every moment we were there we were reminded that these were the values we lived by, that we served by. So when you get out or when you transition you realize that you take those with you.”
The event was put on by the Veteran’s Resource Center as a way of highlighting women veterans during Women’s History Month. Of the 800 veterans currently attending Pasadena City College, 120 of them are women.