Hawaii News Others share in honor bestowed by France, 442nd veteran says By Gregg K. Kakesako Oct. 5, 2011 Mahalo for supporting Honolulu Star-Advertiser. Enjoy this free story! Read more Mahalo for reading the Honolulu Star-Advertiser! You're reading a premium story. Read the full story with our Print & Digital Subscription. Subscribe Now Read this story for free: Watch an ad or complete a survey Log In Already a subscriber? Log in now to continue reading this story. Activate Digital Account Print subscriber but without online access? Activate your Digital Account now. A retired Kauai bookkeeper who was wounded during a bloody World War II battle to rescue a battalion of Texas soldiers in 1944 said he is surprised that the French government has singled him out for his actions. Masao Tamura, 88, said in July he received a letter from French Ambassador Francois Delattre informing him that French President Nicolas Sarkozy has awarded him the Legion of Honor and conferred upon him the rank of "Chevalier," or Knight. "I am really happy," said Tamura, a bookkeeper for more than 40 years at Kauai Veterans Express. "But there are a lot people who deserve it more than me." The medal will be presented by attorney Patricia Lee, honorary French consul, at a special ceremony hosted at 10 a.m. Thursday by Mayor Peter Carlisle in the Honolulu Hale courtyard to commemorate the 50th anniversary of its sister-city relationship with Bruyeres. Tamura was a member of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, a segregated unit of mostly nisei, or second-generation, Japanese-American soldiers that together with the 100th Infantry Battalion was the most decorated combat unit for its size in U.S. history. The French medal is one of the most prestigious French awards and the country’s highest civilian honor. The award consists of five classes. In descending order of distinction, they are grand cross, grand officer, commander, officer and chevalier. The order is conferred upon either French citizens or foreigners for outstanding achievements in military or civilian life. During the 10 days following Oct. 14, 1944, the French towns of Bruyeres and Biffontaine in the forests of France’s Vosges Mountains were liberated by soldiers of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team and the 100th Battalion. The area covers the Vosges Mountains, where the unit suffered 800 casualties as it maneuvered through fog and dense forest against hidden German machine guns to rescue the trapped "Lost Battalion" of the nearly all-Texan 36th Division, doing so without being allowed to rest following the liberation of Bruyeres and Biffontaine. Tamura was wounded on the second day of the battle on Oct. 24, 1944, and received a Purple Heart because of wounds to his left arm and leg. He was hospitalized for five months in southern France before he was sent back to the United States to recuperate. He was discharged three years later. "It’s a big honor," said the 1941 Kauai High School graduate. "I hope more guys can get that medal." In his letter to Tamura, the French ambassador said the award is "a sign of France’s infinite gratitude and appreciation for your personal and precious contribution to the United States’ decisive role in the liberation of our country during World War II." Also attending the ceremony will be 40 French citizens from the town of Bruyeres, which established a sister-city relationship with Honolulu 50 years ago. The French delegation has been in the state since Sept. 29 touring the islands. The delegation is led by Bruyeres Deputy Mayor Ludovic Durain. On Monday the delegation placed small American and French flags on seven graves of the nisei soldiers who helped free the villages in northern France. At Thursday’s ceremony Carlisle will reaffirm the sister-city relations between Bruyeres and Honolulu that were established in 1961 by former City Councilman Wilbert "Sandy" Holck, who served in the 442nd RCT. He died in 1999. Nisei veterans of the 100th Battalion and the 442nd RCT as well as students from Le Jardin School also are invited to Thursday’s ceremony. Retired attorney Genro Kashiwa, 87, in March received the Legion of Honor on the deck of a French surveillance ship during a port call here. Barney Hajiro, one of 21 Medal of Honor recipients from the 442nd RCT, received the Legion of Honor in 2004 for his part in the liberation of "the "Lost Battalion." The ceremony also took place on a French frigate during a port call. Hajiro died in January. Previous Story Hughes Corp. revives plan for Kakaako Next Story In Arizona bull run, danger, yes. liability, no.