Veterans of World War II Were Praised By Members Of Congress
They served in the U.S. Army
World War II brought extreme hardships to the people of Japanese heritage living in the United States. The American citizens and immigrants who were ethnic Japanese were faced with racism and discrimination at every turn. There were 120,000 of them who were removed from their homes on the West Coast of the United States. Most were placed in American concentration camps for the duration of the war.
Many of the young men who were unjustly incarcerated joined the United States Army when a segregated unit of Japanese Americans was set up. They became the 442nd Regimental Combat Team (442nd), which joined with the 100th Battalion of Japanese American soldiers from Hawaii. There were others who served in the Military Intelligence Service (MIS) of the U.S. Army. These were patriotic souls who served valiantly amidst prejudice and racism.
Almost seventy years after their service in the U.S. Army, these American soldiers of Japanese heritage were honored collectively with the Congressional Gold Medal for their extraordinary accomplishments and heroism during World War II. President Barack Obama signed the bill on October 5, 2010. The Congressional Gold Medal ceremony for the veterans was held at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. on November 2, 2010.
The lead co-sponsors for the Gold Medal legislation to honor the veterans for their service were Congressman Adam Schiff (D-CA) and Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA). They made the following comments:
Senator Barbara Boxer (CA): “Granting the Congressional Gold Medal is a long overdue honor which recognizes and expresses our utmost appreciation for the dedication of those Japanese-American soldiers who served in the U.S. Army during World War II. While we can never repay the debt that we owe them, we can — and we must — recognize their valor and patriotism. That is what we are doing today.”
Congressman Adam Schiff (CA-29): “Today we award the Congressional Gold Medal, the nation’s highest civilian honor to the “Go For Broke” regiments and the veterans of the Military Intelligence Service for their dedication to our country during World War II. These remarkable men left a segregated nation to fight and defend an America with no guarantee that their own freedom would be defended in return. These American heroes did defend our freedoms and ideals. Their true heroism lies in how they fought for the values of America — equality, justice, and opportunity — even when those values were denied them at home. And they paved the way for millions of other Americans to proudly wear the uniform today.”
Other leaders in Congress in 2010 made comments as well. These words help to tell the story of the Japanese American veterans.
House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) presided over the Congressional Gold Medal ceremony. He said: “Together, the 100th and 442nd became the most highly decorated outfit in U.S. Army history. They received more than 9,000 Purple Hearts. They earned thousands of Bronze and Silver Stars. They earned 52 Distinguished Service Crosses and 21 Medals of Honor. They even won medals from the Italians and the French. Since our founding, Americans have believed that our liberties, our Constitution, our way of life, even our flag are things worth fighting and dying for. We have also believed these ideas are not limited to one race or people, that the struggle for these ideas can unite all our people.”
Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-HI) was part of the 442nd. He said that after the bombing, Japanese-Americans “were declared by the government of this country as being enemy agents … and, as such, unfit to put on the uniform of this flag. But we didn’t sit by and do nothing about it. We petitioned the government to give us an opportunity to demonstrate our love of country and our patriotism, which you granted to us.”
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) praised the unit for helping to win the war. He said: “Not only were the men of the 442nd just as loyal as the most distinguished American soldiers of every other race or national background, they were also just as sharp of eye, true of aim and stout of heart. The blood they shed defending American freedom on the battlefields of Europe — while fighting for the only nation they had ever called home — was just as red.”
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said: “The veterans were in many ways America’s secret weapon in the war with Japan. Because of them, Gen. MacArthur could later say that never in military history did any army know so much about the enemy prior to an actual engagement.”
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said: “Today’s Gold Medal awardees bring honor to the Congress, pride to the country, and luster to this award. In battle, the Japanese-American veterans proved that they were great fighters; in their service, they proved they were great patriots. Their cause was not just the end of fascism, but the end of discrimination and the American ideal of equality. As a representative of San Francisco, it is a point of pride to me that so many of today’s awardees have San Francisco ties. The Japanese-American community enriches our city and is a source of strength to us. As others have said, the 442nd — the motto of the 442nd was ‘go for broke.’ Today’s Gold Medal awardees were willing to go for broke in the fight against tyranny abroad and, in doing so, fight discrimination here at home.”
Senator John McCain (R-AZ), who was also a war veteran said he welcomed the bipartisan effort of Congress to “pay tribute to fellow citizens who have served a just cause greater than their own self. What began as a Senate resolution over two years ago has now become a reality. Today at long last, we award the Congressional Gold Medal to a group of Americans who are as deserving of it as any I have ever known.”
Congresswoman Judy Chu (D-CA), CAPAC Chair, said: “Today, our nation honored Japanese-American veterans with the Congressional Gold Medal for their valiant service during World War II. These brave Americans volunteered to fight for their country and made heroic sacrifices to help our nation win the war abroad even as their loved-ones were imprisoned in internment camps at home. They battled through prejudice, yet never faltered in their loyalty and dedication to our country, and it is with great pride that we honor these veterans today and thank them for their incredible record of service.”
The Japanese American veterans of World War II who attended the event and received the Congressional Gold Medal were in their eighties and nineties. They were very happy to be recognized and thanked after all those years.
[More information and other comments can be found on the Internet or at www.nationalveteransnetwork.com or check out the book, The Japanese American Story As Told Through A Collection Of Speeches And Articles, www.thejapaneseamericanstory.com]