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AJA soldiers to get top medal in November

William Cole

A Congressional Gold Medal ceremony honoring Japanese-American troops for their bravery in World War II will be held Nov. 2 in Washington, D.C., U.S. Rep Mazie Hirono’s office said today.

The nation’s highest civilian award will be bestowed, collectively, on the U.S. Army’s 100th Infantry Battalion, the 442nd Regimental Combat Team and the Military Intelligence Service for their extraordinary accomplishments at a time when the nation questioned nisei loyalties.

Hirono and U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa voted today in favor of Senate Concurrent Resolution 28, which will allow the use of Emancipation Hall in the Capitol Visitor Center for the commemoration. 

U.S. Sen. Daniel K. Inouye introduced the measure in the U.S. Senate last month where it passed on Sept. 8.

“This recognition of valor and heroism is long overdue,” Hanabusa said. “Following the attack on Pearl Harbor, these remarkable heroes volunteered to defend a country that declared them to be ‘enemy aliens.’ “

The Japanese-Americans “clamored for permission to fight for a nation that sent many of their family members and friends to internment camps,” Hanabusa added. “This ceremony will give us the opportunity to thank these veterans for their service and sacrifice — and honor those who are not with us to witness this extraordinary moment.”

On Oct. 5, 2010, President Barack Obama signed legislation collectively granting the Congressional Gold Medal to members of 100th Battalion, 442nd Regimental Combat Team and Military Intelligence Service for their decorated service.

Many of the Japanese-American soldiers were from Hawaii.

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 Battalion, earning the nickname “The Purple Heart Battalion.”

In addition, about 6,000 nisei linguists that comprised the Military Intelligence Service conducted classified intelligence operations.

Inouye, who was with the 442nd and lost his right arm to a German rifle grenade after charging the third of three machine gun nests in Italy in 1945, said he is pleased that the Gold Medal award will be shared with families, loved ones, and friends.

He recalled being in the Oval Office with several former comrades in arms when the president signed the recognition.

“We appeared to be in a happy, jovial mood, but I am certain that all of us recognized the emotional caliber of the moment,” Inouye said. “We knew that the recognition we were receiving was the result of lost lives and bloodshed. We remembered our brothers who did not come home from the war.”

“I am very grateful to this nation for remembering us,” Inouye added.

The bill signed by Obama will honor 13,000 nisei soldiers with a single Gold Medal that will be given to the Smithsonian Institution.

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