January 26, 2012

Seattle Congressional Gold Medal video

Posted in 442nd RCT, Congressional Gold Medal, Japanese American Incarceration tagged , , , , , , , , , at 5:02 pm by minidokapilgrimage

For those who were unable to attend the Congressional Gold Medal ceremony in Seattle on January 15th, a video has been posted online of the ceremony.  Please click the link from the Seattle Channel to view if interested.

http://www.seattlechannel.org/videos/video.asp?ID=5011210

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January 15, 2012

Seattle Congressional Gold Medal Ceremony

Posted in 442nd RCT, Congressional Gold Medal, Honor Roll, Japanese American Incarceration tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , at 1:18 am by minidokapilgrimage

The Minidoka Pilgrimage Planning Committee

congratulates the men of the:

442nd Regimental Combat Team,

100th Infantry Battalion

and the Military Intelligence Service

on earning the Congressional Gold Medal.

Photo Courtesy of Collin Ikeda

Photo courtesy of Eugene Tagawa

January 14, 2012, University of Washington – Meany Hall

January 14, 2012

Northwest Nisei soldiers honored for WWII service

Posted in 442nd RCT, Congressional Gold Medal, Japanese American Incarceration tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , at 10:55 pm by minidokapilgrimage

http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/localnews/2017242879_goldmedal15m.html

Northwest Nisei soldiers honored for WWII service

On Saturday, in a ceremony with speeches, music and other tributes, 90 Nisei soldiers from the Pacific Northwest were given honors for their World War II service.

By Nancy Bartley

Seattle Times staff reporter

William Yasutake was a prisoner, along with his parents, when he decided to fight for the country that held them merely because they were Nisei — Japanese Americans.

Other Nisei were shot in battle, charged through minefields, translated documents and performed such wartime heroics as part of the U.S. Army 100th Infantry Battalion, 442nd Regimental Combat Team, and the Military Intelligence Service that they became legendary — a fighting force sought throughout the war.

On Saturday, in a ceremony with speeches, music and other tributes, 90 Nisei soldiers from the Pacific Northwest were given honors for their World War II service.

Eighteen were awarded the Bronze Star for valor and all 90 received the Congressional Gold Medal, the nation’s highest civilian award.

The awards came more than a year after President Obama signed legislation to collectively honor the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, the 100th Infantry Battalion, and Japanese Americans serving in the Military Intelligence Service.

Sporting burgundy caps with Nisei emblems, they sat solemnly on the stage at Meany Theater at the University of Washington, some clutching canes, all now in their 80s and 90s.

The auditorium was packed with family and friends who rose for a standing ovation as Army Gen. Peter Chiarelli introduced the group, and U.S. Reps. Adam Smith, D-Tacoma, and Jim McDermott, D-Seattle, called them heroes who changed the course of history.

“Most of us can’t imagine the bigotry following the attack on Pearl Harbor,” Chiarelli said. The Nisei “were under a heavy cloud of suspicion, yet … they volunteered to serve not knowing if their country would accept them again.”

After the Dec. 7, 1941, attack by Japan on Pearl Harbor, suddenly friends and neighbors — especially on the West Coast — considered those with Japanese ancestry as possible enemies. In the name of national security they were rounded up and imprisoned in camps. Yasutake and his family, from Seattle, were among them.

At first, Japanese Americans weren’t allowed to join the military. That later changed, and some Nisei — a Japanese word meaning “second generation” — were drafted from the internment camps, while others volunteered. Yasutake was one of the volunteers.

Now 89, and a Bothell resident, he speaks about the war days reluctantly. He was a medic who was wounded but still cared for others. He received two Bronze Stars for combat in Italy and France.

“You don’t think much of it at the time. It came naturally. You worry more about the others than you do yourself,” he said after the ceremony.

Some of the veterans had already been honored in a November ceremony in Washington, D.C., but the majority had not. So Seattle’s Nisei Veterans’ Committee sponsored the ceremony, not just for the veterans but so the local community could be made aware of their accomplishments, said Stanley Shikuma, a committee member.

For family members, the ceremony was a moving tribute.

“I’m just very proud,” said Steven Chihara, who saw his grandfather, Tosh Chihara, receive a gold medal. “I had heard about the things they had to go through back then. It’s hard to imagine it today.”

Nancy Bartley: 206-464-8522 or nbartley@seattletimes.com. On Twitter @BartleyNews.

November 2, 2011

Congress honors Japanese American soldiers

Posted in Congressional Gold Medal, Honor Roll, Japanese American Incarceration tagged , , , , , at 2:47 pm by minidokapilgrimage

http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/politics/2016666286_apusjapaneseamericansoldiers.html

November 2, 2011

Congress honors Japanese-American soldiers

Thousands of Japanese-Americans who fought in the fiercest battles of World War II and became some of the most decorated soldiers in the nation’s history were given an overdue thank-you from their country Wednesday when Congress awarded them its highest civilian honor.

By KEVIN FREKING

Associated Press

WASHINGTON —Thousands of Japanese-Americans who fought in the fiercest battles of World War II and became some of the most decorated soldiers in the nation’s history were given an overdue thank-you from their country Wednesday when Congress awarded them its highest civilian honor.Nearly seven decades after the war’s beginning, Congress awarded three units the Congressional Gold Medal. In all, about 19,000 Japanese-Americans served in the units honored at a ceremony Wednesday: the 100th Infantry Battalion, the 442nd Regimental Combat Team and the Military Intelligence Service.

“This has been a long journey, but a glorious one,” said Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii., who lost his right arm fighting with the 442nd and was one of the honorees Wednesday.

About 1,250 people attended the award ceremony at the Capitol. About a quarter of those present were former soldiers, now in their 80s and 90s. Hiroshi Kaku, originally from Hawaii, served in the 442nd and his older brother, Haruo, served in the 100th. He said he volunteered for the Army because he had something to prove.

“We wanted to show American citizens that we loved our country,” Kaku said. “We were born and raised here.”

After Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor, Japanese-Americans were viewed with suspicion. Nearly 110,000 were sent to internment camps. Lawson Sakai learned how much the world had changed when he drove with some of his buddies to the local Navy recruiting station and tried to enlist. While his white friends were quickly accepted, Sakai was considered an “enemy alien” and could not join.

Sakai then watched as the FBI rounded up Japanese-American leaders in Los Angeles. When the federal government authorized the relocation of people with Japanese ancestry, a sister and some of his friends were sent to internment camps.

“We were blackballed,” Sakai said. “Basically, they took away our citizenship.”

Sakai’s story is similar to thousands of other “Nisei,” or second-generation Japanese-Americans. Even as they fought in Europe, many Japanese-American troops had family members who would spend much of the war in U.S. internment camps. American officials, citing concerns that those of Japanese ancestry could be security risks, sent men, women and children to camps around the country.

Sakai served in the 442nd, which consisted of volunteers, about two-thirds from Hawaii and the rest from the mainland. The 442nd experienced some of the most horrific fighting in Europe and became the most decorated unit in U.S. military history for its size and length of service. In just 10 months of combat, more than 700 were killed or listed as missing in action.

Sakai, 88, was wounded four times and received a Bronze Star and Purple Heart. He said the years following the war were difficult and that he often drank to deal with his memories. Now, he said, he’s able to take pride in his peers’ accomplishments and the subsequent congressional recognition.

“We certainly deserved the record that we produced. It was done by shedding a lot of blood. As far as I know, we didn’t give up an inch of ground. We were always attacking and the Germans were always on the higher ground,” he said.

The 442nd fought in eight major campaigns in Italy, France and Germany. One of the units attached to the 442nd was the 100th Infantry Battalion, which was comprised exclusively of Japanese-Americans from Hawaii who had been drafted prior to Pearl Harbor. They received the nickname the Purple Heart Battalion because of the tremendous number of casualties they endured.

While undergoing training, Susumu Ito would visit his parents and two sisters 200 miles away at the Rohwer Internment Camp in Arkansas. Despite the injustice of being forced to relocate from Stockton, Calif., Ito said, his parents took great pride in their son fighting for the U.S. military. However, he ignored his mother’s request in her weekly letters to avoid hazardous duty. He said he wanted to be on the front lines, as did his peers. The motto of the 442nd was “go for broke.”

Ito said that mentality reflected the mindset of Japanese-Americans in general.

“This spirit of overcoming any objection was ingrained in my mind,” Ito said.

About 6,000 Japanese-Americans served in the Military Intelligence Service, on the front lines and behind the scenes, translating cables and interviewing prisoners of war. Many also served during the postwar occupation of Japan, providing a bridge between Japanese and American officials.

Rep. Mike Honda, D-Calif., accepted the medal on behalf of his father, Byron. Honda said his father was recruited from an internment camp in Colorado and worked stateside as a language instructor for the Military Intelligence Service. He said his father, who was a civilian member of the intelligent unit, taught him how to go about proving doubters wrong.

“He doubled down. He said, `Oh yeah, watch this,'” Honda said. “I think that was the prevailing attitude of a lot of the veterans.”

President Harry Truman welcomed home many of the Japanese-American soldiers in 1946: “You fought not only the enemy, but you fought prejudice, and you have won.”

George Washington was the first recipient of the Congressional Gold Medal, in 1776. In recent years, Congress has honored athletes, astronauts and civil rights trailblazers. Lawmakers have also granted the award to the Tuskegee Airmen and to Native American code talkers who transmitted secret messages sent during World War II. The House also voted last month to give the first black Marines the Congressional Gold Medal.

Sen. Barbara Boxer and Rep. Adam Schiff, both Democratic lawmakers from California, were the original co-sponsors of the legislation honoring the Japanese-American soldiers. The legislation was signed into law last year.

“You served our country despite being subjected to hurtful slurs and deep suspicions from many of your fellow citizens,” Boxer said. “While we can never repay the debt we owe you, we can and we must recognize your valor and your patriotism.”

Inouye was the final speaker. He already received the nation’s highest medal for valor, the Medal of Honor. He described the latest honor as heartwarming.

“More importantly, I’m certain those who are resting in cemeteries are pleased with this day,” he said.

442nd legacy takes Soldiers from ‘enemy aliens’ to heroes

Posted in Congressional Gold Medal, Honor Roll, Japanese American Incarceration tagged , , , , , , at 8:07 am by minidokapilgrimage

http://www.army.mil/article/68392/442nd_legacy_takes_Soldiers_from__enemy_aliens__to_heroes/

442nd legacy takes Soldiers from ‘enemy aliens’ to heroes

October 31, 2011

By Rob McIlvaine

Editor’s note: Japanese-American veterans of the 100th Infantry Battalion and 442nd Regimental Combat Team will receive Bronze Stars Nov. 1 and Congressional Gold Medals Nov. 2 for their contributions during World War II. Three of these veterans tell their story:

WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Oct. 28, 2011) — On Dec. 7, 1941, 5,000 Nisei (second-generation Japanese Americans) had been drafted to serve in the U.S. Army.

With Executive Order 9066 in hand, though, Military Governor Lt. Gen. John L. DeWitt decided to discharge all those Japanese Americans on the west coast and send them home. He was also responsible for forcing more than 115,000 persons of Japanese ancestry into relocation camps.

TERRY SHIMA

“The legacy (of what occurred over the following years of World War II) is very important in terms of present day,” said Terry Shima, executive director of the Japanese American Veterans Association since 2004.

Shima joined the 442nd Infantry Regiment in 1945 in Italy, where he was assigned to public relations and when the unit returned in July 1946, he continued to handle public relations for the veterans association in New York, in Washington, D.C., and in Honolulu. Following two years in the Army, he worked for the Foreign Service for 30 years.

“In Hawaii, on the other hand, there were 1,432 Japanese Americans in the Hawaii Territory National Guard. And Lt. Gen. Delos C. Emmons, the military governor, faced more immediate danger or threat of a land attack by Japan.

“What he did, very smartly, was to send the 1,142 Nisei to Wisconsin, to get them out of the way,” Shima said.

Subsequently, they were sent to the Italian front, as the 100th Infantry Battalion.

“Army senior leaders then decided to form a larger unit because a battalion-size (unit) did not achieve, I believe, their objective. They wanted a brigade-size, so they formed the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, which was a volunteer unit,” Shima said.

About 1,500 volunteered from the internment camps and 2,500 volunteered from Hawaii. They trained in Camp Shelby, Miss., and were shipped to Italy, where the 442nd and the 100th merged.

The 442nd was Europe, he said, and the Military Intelligence Service was in the Pacific. The MIS performed as important a job, relatively speaking, as the 442nd.

“On top of all of this would be the legacy,” Shima said. “What does this all mean to the Japanese Americans of the present day? The story is unbelievable. As General George C. Marshall (chief of Staff of the Army, secretary of State and the third Secretary of Defense) said “all of the European commanders had asked for the 442nd to be on their team,” indicating the quality of combat strength that the Japanese Americans provided.”

On the Pacific side, 60 Japanese Americans were already in training with the U.S. Army Military Intelligence Service, but when war broke out and many of their families were incarcerated, not one of them decided to quit.

GRANT ICHIKAWA

During World War II, 6,000 Nisei (second-generation Japanese Americans) served in the Military Intelligence Service, performing secret intelligence work against the Japanese military. Their work dispelled any doubt that as Americans the Nisei were willing to fight an enemy with whom they shared a similar ancestral background.

“It was in November when the recruiters from MIS came (to Gila River, Ariz, Internment Camp) and they tested my language. I guess I passed because they asked me if I wanted to volunteer for the Army and I said I sure would but I should get my parents’ approval. I ran back and twisted their arm and got their approval,” said Ichikawa, who’s now 92 years old.

Ichikawa had recently graduated from the University of California at Berkeley with a degree in accounting when Japan bombed Pearl Harbor.

“I trained as an accountant, but in California nobody was hiring a Japanese-American accountant, so I decided to be a fruit farmer with my father. He had years and years of experience, so we found a very good lease, but this farm did not have any equipment, so we had to borrow money and invest in a tractor and truck, spray wagon, and we started pruning the trees,” he said.

When Japan bombed Pearl Harbor, his parents, who were Japanese citizens, assumed they would be interned.

“I didn’t even give it a thought because I was an American. Why should I be interned? So I went merrily on my way and then in the following year around April or May, I learned that I would have to go too, so I had to get rid of the farm.

“I was mad . I was very disappointed, it hurt me quite a bit because here I was a college graduate, I was a loyal American, I had never been to Japan, and for them to treat me like an enemy-alien was devastating,” Ichikawa said.

He considers his generation to be the greatest generation of Japanese Americans.

“We were initially labeled enemy-aliens and many of us volunteered to fight for the U.S. Army and we offered our lives to prove we are loyal American citizens,” he said.

During World War II, he said, about 800 Japanese Americans gave their lives to prove they were loyal Americans.

“We have turned whatever discrimination people had against us, by our service in the Army, so at the end of World War II, there was no more discrimination. Today, our kids have no problem finding any job they want. Like my son, Bryan, he’s a pretty high official in his company. Those things did not happen in my generation, so it was our service that erased discrimination for not only us, but all Asian Americans,” he said.

Ichikawa was discharged in 1947 as a second lieutenant with the infantry, but was recalled during the Korean War.

“When the Korean War started, they were recalling all inactive infantry officers, so my name was in there, but I told them I’m not an infantry officer, I’m an intelligence officer. I know nothing about infantry. They said to do as the Army ordered.”

Ichikawa did as the Army ordered, but said he still felt discriminated against.

While serving, though, he worked with some members of the CIA and was asked to join.

“When I joined the CIA, they treated me like anybody else. Early in the game they gave me jobs that were supervisory. I felt very comfortable with their organization, so I was able to get good promotions,” he said, and continued to serve in a variety of assignments up through Vietnam.

“In 1975 when Vietnam fell, and I was evacuated from the embassy rooftop, I went and got on an aircraft carrier and saw the tremendous 7th Fleet in the Pacific,” he recalled. “We lost about 50,000 Americans who died for Vietnam and for the United States to give up when we had that huge Navy just sitting outside of Vietnam while communists were coming down from the north, and for us to do nothing … ”

“The Marines were lined up, ready to shoot the enemy, but they were never given the go-ahead to do so,” he said. “They were itching to do something. They saw the enemy out in the open, streaming toward Saigon and we just didn’t do anything.”

As a result, he said, the Vietnamese suffered a lot, some couldn’t evacuate, and many stayed behind and spent years in jail.

“I was so disgusted that I came back and found out I could retire without losing anything, so I did. I was mad at the U.S. government at that time,” he said. “But I’m retired now, there’s no reason to me mad.”

MITSUO TED HAMASU

On Dec. 10, 1940, a year before Pearl Harbor, Mitsuo Hamasu received his draft notice.

“I was working as a carpenter’s helper with my Uncle George Tashiro on the Big Island of Hawaii at the time.”

His uncle laughed, saying, “You’re only five feet tall. You’re too short to become a G.I.”

He went to Honokaa Hospital for his physical and passed with flying colors.

“Doctor Okada pronounced me in A-1 shape, and I was in the Army. My identification number was 30100598. My friends and neighbors congratulated me for being among the first to be a Soldier. I congratulated my friends who had also joined.”

The Army shipped them to Schofield Barracks on Oahu for basic training. Upon completion, the recruits were shipped back to Kamuela on the Big Island as part of the 299th Hawaiian Infantry Regiment. Hamasu became a rifleman in Company F of the Hawaii National Guard. They trained on the Big Island and carried out guard duty at the Hilo Airport.

“It was morning on Dec. 7, 1941,” he said. “I was on guard duty at the airport. We received a phone call saying that Pearl Harbor was attacked, bombed by Japanese planes. At first, I did not believe it. Another phone call confirmed the fact.”

“Mainland troops replaced us as guards at the airport three months later. Our Company deployed to a defensive position along the Hilo coast. We erected a gun opposition on South Point in case the enemy tried another attack,” he said.

In April 1942, Company F received new orders. The riflemen of Japanese ancestry were to turn in all arms and ammunition, and assemble in the Company area. The announcement came down that they would be shipped to an unknown destination and without being allowed to tell anyone, not even family.

“Quietly, about a month later, our segregated group of Nisei Soldiers embarked on a ship from Hilo to Honolulu and Schofield Barracks, then again in June from Honolulu to Oakland. We did not know it at the time, but we were headed to Camp McCoy, Wisconsin. We were 1,432 men, A,B,C,D,E & F companies of infantrymen, one battalion and two extra companies strong. They named our outfit the “100th Infantry Battalion,” or “One Puka Puka” in Hawaiian,” he said.

At Camp McCoy, they lived in tents until it became cool. As winter approached, they were moved to barracks with heated quarters, running water and hot showers. When the first big snow fell, “we all ran out barefooted, making our first snow balls and throwing them at each other,” he said.

“In February 1943, we were moved to Camp Shelby, Mississippi. We thought the Army was moving us to be in a warmer climate. Instead, we were being tested in the Louisiana Maneuvers. The maneuvers lasted for months. When we returned to Camp Shelby, we met our younger brothers of the 442nd,” Hamasu said.

TERRY SHIMA ON 442nd LEGACY

“The Japanese Americans fought against people of their own racial ancestry with everything that they had. They were accused by Japanese officers who were prisoners, as traitors of Japan,” Shima said.

On the July 15, 1946, President Harry Truman reviewed the 442nd and confirmed their loyalty.
“You fought the enemy abroad and you fought prejudice at home and you won,” he said.

“That, to me, is a signal that the highest authority of the land has confirmed their loyalty because the reason that the Nisei fought with such intensity was for only one reason, and that was to prove their loyalty, because they were accused of being saboteurs and collaborators of the enemy,” Shima said.

The highest rank of a Japanese American during World War II, he said, was a major and there were only four.

“But in the Vietnam War, you would find them in every branch of service in the most sensitive war-planning positions, in the cockpits of fighters and bombers as pilots and navigators. During World War II, we had five Nisei serving as gunners in bombers. They were proud of their service,” he said.

In Vietnam, he said, 35 served in the cockpits of fighters and bombers as pilots and navigators, and five became guests at the infamous “Hanoi Hilton” prison camp.

After Vietnam, he said, 43 Japanese Americans would be promoted to generals and admirals, while another 60 Asian-Pacific Americans would reach flag rank. All this is a result of what the Tuskegee Airmen and the 442nd helped produce, he said.

“On the civilian side, there would be equally impressive reforms,” he said. “One was repeal of discriminatory laws, especially along the west coast states. And in 1952 alien Japanese could apply for U.S. citizenship … a great accomplishment.”

In August of 1988, the Civil Liberties Act was passed and President Ronald Reagan offered the nation’s formal apology for the incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II.

“And of course, more recently, the U.S. Senate selected from amongst their group a Japanese American to serve as president pro tempore of the United States Senate,” Shima said, adding that’s a position that puts him, constitutionally, third in the line of succession to the presidency, after the vice president and the speaker of the House of Representatives.

“Only 70 years ago, this same Japanese American (Sen. Daniel Inouye of Hawaii) was given draft classification 4-C, which stood for enemy alien, unfit for military duty. So, what I’m saying is that we have come a long way,” Shima said.

“This is an American story and it speaks to the greatness of this nation.”