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Congress honors Japanese-American veterans

By Gregg K. Kakesako

LAST UPDATED: 09:21 a.m. HST, Nov 02, 2011

More than 33,000 Japanese Americans, 13,000 of them from Hawaii, who once were classified as "enemy aliens" after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, were honored today with the Congressional Gold Medal.

The World War II veterans honored were nisei or second generation Japanese American soldiers who were members of the 100th Battalion and the 442nd Regimental Combat -- two segregated Army units -- and the Military Intelligence Service, whose soldiers served as interpreters and intelligence experts in the Pacific War.

Sen. Daniel Inouye, a Medal of Honor recipient who lost his right arm serving with the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, told more than 1,200 people at a  U.S. Capitol ceremony that the U.S. government believed that Japanese Americans were "were unfit to put on an uniform" following the Dec. 7, 1941 Japanese attack.

He recalled that Japanese Americans, many of them imprisoned behind barbed wire fences at internment camps, petitioned the U.S. government that they be allowed to fight in World War II "to show their patriotism."

In accepting the medal for his comrades Inouye, who wore a dark navy blazer with the patch of the 442nd RCT sewn on his pocket,  said that Gen. Douglas McArthur said the efforts of the MIS "ended the war (in the Pacific) by at least a year."

"This has been a long journey," Hawaii's senior senator added.

Waialae resident Herbert Yanamura, who enlisted in the 442nd RCT during his senior year at Konawaena High School on the Big Island, said he was "overwhelmed" by the attention and the accolades.

"It's a really a collective effort of all of us," said Yanamura, who was transferred to the MIS and participated in Leyte and Okinawan campaigns. "I am really touched for the country to give us this honor."

Pearl City resident Mitsuo Ted Hamasu, who was drafted into the Army a year before the war started, represented the 100th Battalion on the podium and accepted the medal from House Speaker John Boehner.

The 442nd, which also included soldiers from the 100th Battalion, was the most decorated unit in U.S. military history because of its size and length of service.

The legislation signed on Oct. 5, 2010 was co-sponsored by Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.).

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manakuke wrote:
Just adding to the true untold stories. After WWII many of these men continued service to their country. At home in America; and overseas through Korea, and Vietnam. Their exploits are told by others, for these humble heroes rarely would tell. Those trapped and rescued Texans; they didn't forget.
on November 2,2011 | 08:31AM
squidman22 wrote:
We're going to be honoring them til the end of time. Such old news already.
on November 2,2011 | 08:42AM
hilopango wrote:
And your point is? We SHOULD be honoring them, and all of our service men and women, till the end of time. If not for their efforts, we would not have the freedoms we do now. We take them for granted because we have not walked, or fought, in their shoes, when instead we should be giving them our thanks.
on November 2,2011 | 10:59AM
kk808 wrote:
So true hilopango!
on November 2,2011 | 11:20AM
kk808 wrote:
So true hilopango!
on November 2,2011 | 11:20AM
sak wrote:
on November 2,2011 | 09:15AM
KoreAmBear wrote:
Thank you for risking your lives, 442nd and 100th. We live in a better world because of brave men like these, who injected themselves into the deadly arena when they didn't have to and when they were even doubted.
on November 2,2011 | 09:22AM
elecmailnet wrote:
Thank you for your bravery and for being the essence of love. We will not forget.
on November 2,2011 | 10:49AM
kuewa wrote:
On the one hand, I think the 100th and 442nd deserve gratitude and recognition. On the other hand, I have to wonder why the other local non-white soldiers are not recognized and honored in a similar manner. The Chinese, Koreans, Filipino, Hawaiians (such as my own relatives) who also faced social prejudice and obstacles in their quest to serve their country. In the eyes of many Americans back then, other Asian-looking people were no different from Japanese. I tend to agree with squidman22 that we keep hearing about the same group being honored over and over again while other groups seem to be completely ignored.
on November 2,2011 | 01:43PM
squidman22 wrote:
Thank you Kuewa. My previous comment wasn't meant to be a slight to those men. I am a former US Army Combat Infantryman myself. We all know about the 100th and 442nd and what they did. If you don't, you've been living under a rock for the last 60 years. I just don't see how another award or accolade for their group, does anything for them. The media has rode this horse into the ground long ago.
on November 2,2011 | 02:53PM
bobbity wrote:
These AJA units are specifically honored because many are American citizens who were singled out because of their Japanese ancestry, stripped of their rights and placed in internment camps. As far as I know, no other race as a whole was targeted and placed in U.S. camps. Even so, they petitioned the military to form a unit so they could prove their loyalty, and thousands volunteered. You just don't see something like that very often -- wouldn't it be amazing if there was a rush of volunteers from Americans of Middle Eastern descent to form a fighting unit or an intelligence unit today? The Congressional Gold Medal is a big honor for them -- I know because my dad has never participated in any previous honors, but he traveled to today's ceremony as a WWII MIS veteran and to represent his 3 older brothers (now deceased) that were in the 442.
on November 2,2011 | 05:56PM
Kalli wrote:
They are legends in their own minds. Sure they helped win WWII, so did millions of others, their story is no different that other non citizens who answered the call. The only difference is that Sen. Dan Inouye has decided that he will honor his friends until they die. Enough is enough. Thanks should be sufficient.
on November 2,2011 | 06:12PM
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