POSTED: 01:02 p.m. HST, Sep 23, 2010
LAST UPDATED: 02:09 p.m. HST, Sep 23, 2010
Congress has approved the award of one of its highest honors to Japanese-American veterans who served with the 100th Battalion, the 442nd Regimental Combat Team and the Military Intelligence Service during World War II, officials said.
The office of U.S. Rep Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, said the House approved the awarding of the Congressional Gold Medal by voice vote today.
"At a time when many of their fellow Americans questioned their loyalty to the United States, these Japanese-American soldiers enlisted and put their lives on the line to defend our freedom overseas while fighting against fear and discrimination at home," Hirono said on the House floor.
Hirono added that the 442nd "Go for Broke" combat team became the most decorated in U.S. military history for its size and length of service, with its component unit, the 100th Infantry Battalion, earning the nickname "The Purple Heart Battalion."
In addition, about 6,000 nisei that comprised the Military Intelligence Service "made vital contributions to our wartime success by conducting critical classified intelligence operations," Hirono said. "Only in recent years has their invaluable service come to light, and it is long past due for honoring and acknowledging their critical role during the war."
About two-thirds of the servicemen were from Hawaii.
The Senate approved the legislation in August. The recognition is on its way to President Barack Obama for his signature.
The medal would be given to the Smithsonian Institution. The legislation authorizes the Treasury to make bronze duplicates of the medal.
The Congressional Gold Medal was first awarded by the U.S. Continental Congress to George Washington in 1776.
The last recipient was Arnold Palmer in 2009. Other recipients have been the Apollo 13 astronauts, surgeon Dr. Michael DeBakey, Tuskegee Airmen, Frank Sinatra, Mother Teresa, John Wayne and Navajo Code Talkers.
Along with the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Presidential Citizens Medal, it is the highest civilian honor awarded in the U.S.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.