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Cadets at the U.S. Military Academy. The number of Asian-American officers in the army grew by 41% between 2004 and 2016.   © AP

Asian-Americans' rise through the US military ranks -- in charts

Growth in number of Army officers ten times higher than other minorities

LONDON -- The growth of the Asian-American community since the turn of the century has been reflected in all professional and social areas of life in the U.S., not least the armed forces.

In recent years, Americans of Asian background have been signing up for the military in growing numbers, and, in 2016, they were 28% more likely to be among the officer ranks than they were 12 years earlier. 

The change was more pronounced in certain branches of the military than others. The number of Asian-American officers in the army, for example, grew by 41%. That compares with growth of just 4% for ethnic minorities overall and a 3.1% decline among African Americans.

Statistics for this year show that 8% of soldiers completing basic training are of Asian background, slightly above the 6.8% figure for the population as a whole.

The trend has been evident for at least a decade. A report conducted by the RAND National Defense Research Institute in 2010 showed that first-year completion rates for Asian-American cadets had risen by 10 percentage points between 1992-94 and 2006-08 -- the biggest change of any ethnic group. 

Increased levels of diversity could have an impact on how minorities are treated within the military, although some question to what extent. A Korea-based infantry veteran who enlisted in 1988 claims he saw widespread hazing and bullying as a young cadet, but doubts the situation has improved since then.

"I'm not going to hold my breath. The racially motivated hazing and subsequent suicide of U.S. Marine Lance Cpl. Harry Lew and the suicide of U.S. Army Pvt. Danny Chen, both in 2011 in Afghanistan, indicate that not much has changed." 

Ken Mochizuki, co-author of a novel about Asians in the U.S. military, suggested that there may be less apprehension about joining the military these days, as today's young soldiers were born after the Korea and Vietnam wars. "They will unfailingly perform the same as any other member of the U.S. Armed Forces," he said.

Datawatch is a series jointly produced by the Nikkei Asian Review and FT Confidential Research.

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