A Family of Trailblazers and Codebreakers
Susan Ahn Cuddy was born in Los Angeles in 1915 to the first Korean couple to immigrate to the US. Dosan Chang Ho and Helen Ahn had left Japanese occupied Korea in 1902. Ahn Cuddy enlisted in the Navy in 1942 after the Japanese bombing of Pearl Habor, seeing it as a way to help free Korea. Ahn Cuddy was the first Asian American woman and the first female gunnery officer in the Navy. She trained Navy pilots to maneuver and to shoot down enemy aircraft. Ahn Cuddy was later promoted to Lieutenant and served in Naval intelligence. After the war, Ahn Cuddy worked for the National Security Agency (NSA) as a code breaker and intelligent analyst overseeing top secret Cold War projects for the Department of Defense involving the Soviet Union. One of the programs she was involved with was studying how Russians learned English in order to assist agents in deciphering codes in Southeast Asia.
Ahn Cuddy met Chief Petty Officer Francis X. "Frank" Cuddy, and they were married in April 1947. Due to state anti-miscegenation laws which outlawed interracial marriages, they were wed at the Nary Chapel in Washington, DC. Cuddy also worked for Navy Intelligence and the NSA. Fluent in Japanese, he had served as a communications specialist in the Pacific Theater during WWII. He was a talented cryptographer and was one of the codebreakers who broke the Japanese code just before the Battle of Midway. He also was part of the group whose intelligence was responsible for the shooting down of Japanese Marshal Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto's plane over the Solomon Islands on April 18, 1943.
Ahn Cuddy's bothers, Philip and Ralph, also made contributions to the war effort. Philip Ahn was one of the most successful Asian American actors of his day. Though of Korean descent, he was often cast in wartime movies as a Japanese villain. Ahn enlisted in the US Army and served in the Special Services as an entertainer. After the war, he continued to act but was now more likely to portray a Korean character. Ahn was the first Korean American actor to receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Ralph Ahn enlisted in the Navy during the war, and likewise became an actor afterwards. He acted in the film Prisoner of War alongside future president Ronald Reagan. He was still acting a few years before his death in 2022, most recently in the tv show New Girl.
Ahn Cuddy passed away in 2015 at the age of 100. Her mantra was "If you are always trying to be normal you will never know how amazing you can be."