A veteran of a Japanese-American unit that liberated two northern French towns during World War II was awarded France’s highest military honor, the Legion of Honor, Thursday at a Honolulu Hale ceremony.
Attorney Patricia Lee, French honorary consul in Hawaii, presented the award to Kauai resident Masao Tamura, 88, a member of the famed 442nd Regimental Combat Team.
Tamura was wounded after the towns were liberated on the second day of a battle to rescue a trapped unit from Texas known as the "Lost Battalion."
Attending the bilingual ceremony were 38 people from one of the liberated towns, Bruyeres, including Deputy Mayor Ludovic Durain. There were also fellow members of the 442nd, one of the most decorated units in the European theater.
Out of gratitude to the 442nd, a sister-city relationship between Honolulu and Bruyeres was established in 1961, Lee said. Wilbert S. Holck, a 442nd veteran from Honolulu, visited Bruyeres with his family in the late 1950s, when he met Gerard Deschaseaux, who understood some English and was summoned to meet with the Americans. The two men persuaded officials in their respective cities to form the sister-city relationship.
Deschaseaux’s wife, Marcelle, who was a kindergarten teacher, required students there to learn and sing "Hawaii Pono‘i," the state song, Lee said. The song was sung at the end of Thursday’s ceremony.