Category Archives: 100th Infantry Battalion/442nd Regimental Combat Team

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The 100th Infantry Battalion celebrates its 70th anniversary. Find out more about the “One Puka Puka” in this special issue.

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America’s Congressional Gold Medal Heroes

Editor’s note: This story ran in our recent Congressional Gold Medal of Honor issue, which recognizes the 100th Infantry Battalion, the 442nd Regimental Combat Team and the Military Intelligence Service. Due to popular demand, we will be featuring several articles from that commemorative edition of the Herald online.

AMERICA’S CONGRESSIONAL GOLD MEDAL HEROES
In the Twilight of their Lives, America’s AJA Veterans Still Shine
Karleen C. Chinen

They now belong to an elite group of world citizens — honored by the Congress of the United States with the nation’s high civilian award for service — the Congressional Gold Medal. Past awardees had included U.S. presidents, astronauts, the Dalai Lama, baseball great Jackie Robinson, Pope John Paul II, and Dr. Martin Luther King and Coretta Scott King, among others. Google “Congressional Gold Medal” on the Internet and you will find their names — the 100th Infantry Battalion, 442nd Regimental Combat Team and the Military Intelligence Service — America’s newest Congressional Gold Medal heroes.

The Hawai‘i Herald was not able to send a writer to Washington, D.C., to cover the presentation of the Congressional Gold Medal to the World War II Nisei veterans, but, fortunately for us, a few of the many friends we have made in the course of publishing the Herald, willingly shared their eyewitness accounts, thoughts and feelings as they watched the veterans receive the Congressional Gold Medal.

Most of the Hawai‘i veterans departed Honolulu on Sunday afternoon, Oct. 30. Among them was 92-year-old MIS veteran Frank Tanabe, who was accompanied by his wife Setsuko and daughter Barbara Tanabe, former KHON news anchor/reporter and now a partner with her former KHON colleague, Jim McCoy, in their firm, Ho‘äkea Communications. Barbara narrated the Hawai‘i veterans’ send-off from Honolulu International Airport in this e-mail to the Herald.

“We had a wonderful send-off, with Delta giving the veterans the VIP treatment. When the veterans appeared at the gate, an announcement was made about their trip to Washington to receive the Congressional Gold Medal. All the waiting passengers applauded — some men stood up and gave the veterans a standing ovation.

That was just the beginning. After the over eight-hour flight to Atlanta, and another two hours to Washington, D.C., everyone was travel-weary. But what a welcome! A fire truck greeted the plane as it neared the gate and sprayed the aircraft with a congratulatory shower. Everyone inside cheered. The veterans were asked to remain inside the aircraft until everyone disembarked. I knew there would be a grand welcome, so I deplaned early. Waiting for the veterans was a huge Delta contingent of employees and customers; the gate was decorated with flags and patriotic bunting. Tammy Kubo and Gen. Bob Lee were there with Congresswoman Colleen Hanabusa and other National Veterans Network organizers, who passed out flags. As the veterans came off the flight, the crowd burst into cheers and applause. Even a french horn player struck up a tune! The veterans weren’t aware of what was happening until they came off the plane, one by one. Their puzzled and surprised expressions gave way to smiles as well-wishers shook their hands and waved American flags. They looked so frail and humble, almost embarrassed by all the attention.

I spotted my dad, who was among the last to deplane. He was tired from a lack of sleep. But as soon as he saw everyone cheering, he broke out in a wide grin. As we walked to baggage claim, passengers stopped and clapped, and clerks came out of their stores, holding signs saying, ‘Thank you for your service.’ It was a memorable welcome to Washington, D.C.

It’s going to be very busy, but the weather is wonderful — clear, sunny and just cool enough to feel the autumn winds.”

Neatly packed in each veteran’s suitcase just for the Congressional Gold Medal ceremony was a handsome new navy-blue blazer with the patch of the unit in which the veteran had served sewn onto the breast pocket, along with a white dress shirt and a matching blue tie. And what was the cost to each veteran? Absolutely nothing, thanks to the generosity of a several Hawai‘i businesses and individuals — and the “go for broke” spirit of Tammy Kubo, niece of several uncles who served in the 442nd and MIS and mother of Spec. William Lurbe, a member of the 100th/442nd U.S. Army Reserves.

Kubo said she got the idea of dressing all of the Hawai‘i veterans in identical blue blazers after researching previous Congressional Gold Medal ceremonies on the Internet. Impressed with how distinguished the Tuskegee Airmen looked in their identical red blazers when they received their medal in 2007, she pitched her idea to retired U.S. Army Gen. Robert Lee, asking if he would co-chair a fundraising effort with her. Lee signed on immediately. Within two weeks of e-mailing appeals for donations, the two had surpassed their goal of raising $7,000 to purchase blazers for all of the veterans planning to go to Washington. The project sold itself, she said.

“It was so self-explanatory, because these boys are local heroes.” There was also enough money to purchase a clip-on necktie for each veteran. Kubo said only U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye, a 442nd veteran, received a “real” tie. Each veteran also received a three-strand red, white and blue lei which Violet Kagawa and her group of crafters hand-made and donated to each D.C.-bound veteran.

Kubo worked with Celebrity Tuxedoes, which discounted the cost of the blazers and waived the fitting and alterations charges. Celebrity also coordinated with seamstresses on the neighbor islands so those veterans would not have to fly to Honolulu for a fitting. Within two months, the veterans had their new blazers.

“Everything’s been fast and furious,” Kubo said. All total, 70 veterans received blazers.

“I think that when you wear something new, it just feels so good. I just want this day to be all theirs and I wanted them to be identified when they’re there at the Capitol,” she said just days before leaving for D.C.

Kubo and Ann Kabasawa, a travel agent and the daughter of 100th Battalion veteran Raymond Nosaka, assisted the veterans with their travel plans. Kubo decided to attend the celebration to accept the medal on behalf of her late uncle, who was in the 442nd. After the ceremony, she e-mailed this message to the Herald:

“Today is a day I will never forget for the rest of my life! It began with a police-escorted 6 a.m. bus ride to the U.S. Capitol — 27 buses were scheduled to go to the Capitol. Lucky me got on the first bus. The ceremony at the Capitol started at 11 a.m.

At first I wanted to grumble — 6 a.m., are you kidding me?! Why do I have to show up five hours early for a ceremony?! And then I thought about the men we were honoring. They didn’t question what they were told; they believed in the mission and followed instructions.

The bus ride took about an hour and 15 minutes. For some reason, we drove around as if to wait for the go-ahead to park and unload. We finally got to the Capitol at 7:15 a.m., passed through security and saw the beautifully decorated Emancipation Hall.

As we waited, we saw the veterans coming in, one by one. Slowly, they took their seats. Our Hawai‘i boys looked stunning in their blue blazers, ties and lei. There was lots of photo-taking and hugging old buddies on the floor as we waited for the ceremonies to start.

I saw my son William, who, as a member of the 100th Battalion, 442nd Regimental Combat Team U.S. Army Reserves, was part of the honor guard for the ceremony. How proud I was of him! I wish my late uncles could have seen him, wearing the same patch they wore in battle, the same patch he wore while deployed in Iraq and Kuwait. How proud they would be of him and this event. William joined the U.S. Army because of 9/11. My uncles joined because of Pearl Harbor — they all volunteered, knowing they were going to be deployed to a combat situation.”

Barbara Tanabe was among the approximately 1,000 relatives and friends who watched a video feed of the Congressional Gold Medal presentation at the Washington Hilton. The ceremony included remarks by Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio), House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Senate President Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). Sen. Daniel Inouye spoke on behalf of the Nisei veterans.

Also present on-stage was U.S. Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) who, in 2009, introduced the bill to award the Congressional Gold Medal to the World War II Nisei veterans.

Barbara and her sister Irene watched the video feed at Washington Hilton, the Congressional Gold Medal headquarters, because there was room in the Emancipation Hall for only the veterans and one guest, so Setsuko Tanabe accompanied her husband to the presentation. Barbara sent this e-mail soon after the ceremony.

“The ceremony ended at noon and it will take another several hours for all the buses to make it back, so the veterans will be very tired — plus we have the big banquet tonight. My dad has been looking for buddies, but so far only connected with one, whom he hasn’t seen for nearly 50 years. My sister and I are spending a lot of time looking for names Dad remembers.

The veterans are really stoic and humble. They have endured long waits and crowds, making it difficult for many to see or hear highlights of the events. But no one has complained. As one veteran said, ‘This isn’t going to happen again.’ They are just appreciative of this honor. However, my dad is totally not used to all this attention and is quite weary. I’m sure he just wants to hurry up and go home.”

For 100th Infantry Battalion daughter Pauline Sato, the number of people in attendance was more than she expected. “Everyone was happy to be there and so proud of the veterans,” said Sato, who also is the first daughter of a 100th Battalion veteran to serve as president of the 100th Infantry Battalion Veterans Club.

“I’ve known about my dad and all this [history] for some time, so it’s not like it’s new information. But I think for a lot of people who aren’t connected, this is the first time they heard of this, what the veterans have done and, realizing that they’re in their 80s and 90s, gave them more respect, I think, for their accomplishments. So it’s good to share that story — it is a true American story, not one you would expect, but it is.”

Sato said she was especially moved by Sen. Inouye’s speech at the banquet held the evening of the presentation. Calling it “a glorious day,” Sato recalled Hawai‘i’s senior senator saying that the veterans were all made “patriots and heroes” that day, something they did not feel almost 70 years ago.

“Even on the plane ride back, when they announced on the loudspeaker that we have some veterans from Hawai‘i and the Congressional Gold Medal, folks were coming by to my dad and saying ‘Thank you so much. We’re so proud to meet you. I saw you on the news . . .’ Word’s getting out, so that’s a good thing. People are learning about what they did.”

Sato’s father, 94-year-old Robert T. Sato, did not articulate much, except to tell his family that the awarding of the medal was a good thing and that he was glad he had come. “We wanted him to go, because it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity.”

It was indeed a once in a lifetime opportunity for 93-year-old 100th Battalion veteran Kenneth Higa. “Oh, it was wonderful. I’m really glad that I went,” he said.

From the moment the Hawai‘i group arrived in Washington, to the ceremony and the evening banquet, Higa felt on top of the world.

“There were a lot of people there, congratulating us, shaking our hand,” said Higa of their arrival at Reagan National Airport. “So many people. I felt really good. Most of them were haoles — it was really nice of them to greet us and welcome us.”

Higa took the early morning wake-up calls; the long, snaking lines and long waits in stride, saying he had anticipated those conditions. What impressed him most is the elite group of previous Congressional Gold Medal recipients the AJA World War II veterans now join — the Tuskegee Airmen and the Navajo Code Talkers, among them. “That made me kinda proud of all the Japanese people,” he said.

In spite of all the excitement, as he watched the ceremony, he said his thoughts drifted back to the comrades the 100th lost in battle. “You feel a little sad. But I’m glad I went; it was real terrific.”

And how about the replica medal he brought home? “You know, I thought this was going to be a small thing, but this is a pretty good size . . .”

A week before the ceremony, Charles Moriyama of Mililani and his wife Helen made a spur of the moment decision to fly to Washington. Moriyama said his main purpose was to accept the medal on behalf of his brother, Corp. Toshio Moriyama, who served with Anti-tank Company of 442nd Infantry Regiment. Toshio died two years ago.

But Moriyama, who grew up in Wahiawä, is himself a veteran of the Military Intelligence Service, in which served in the Counterintelligence Corps. He received a call from Congressman Ralph Hall’s (R-Texas) staff, informing him that he had two tickets to the presentation — they were his if he wanted them. Moriyama didn’t have to think twice. Within days, he had his blue blazer and was set to go. “Wonderful,” he said of the ceremonies. “It was emotional . . .”

For 442nd veteran Yasunori Deguchi of Kona, the Congressional Gold Medal ceremony “was really a humbling kind of experience.” “The opportunity to be there at such a gathering to honor our exploits, it was such an honor.”

Deguchi, who at age 87, is one of the younger 442nd veterans, volunteered for the unit just after turning 18 years old. In his high school years, he worked part-time at the Manago Hotel, where he came into contact with soldiers in the 106th Infantry who shared their experiences with the impressionable young man. Excited about the possibility for new adventures away from sleepy Kona — and because he was a middle child in a family of nine kids — he volunteered in February 1943 and was inducted the next month. A week after volunteering, Deguchi learned that his brother, too, had volunteered.

Deguchi, who retired as vice president of the Kona Community Federal Credit Union after almost 40 years, attended the ceremony with his son, Wesley, a Honolulu architect and president of the Sons and Daughters of the 442 RCT.

Yasunori Deguchi said he felt a “deep sense of humbleness and honor,” that he was also there for those who were not able to attend the ceremony. “I was proud to represent them,” said Deguchi.

Retired Gen. Robert G.F. Lee was already in Nisei veteran “mode” by the time he arrived in Washington, D.C., after having traveled to Bruyeres, France, with a group of 100th/442nd veterans and the 100th Infantry Battalion/442nd Infantry U.S. Army Reserves to commemorate the 67th anniversary of the town’s liberation by the Nisei soldiers. As the state’s adjutant general, he had passed on several invitations to visit the small town the 100th and 442nd liberated in the fall of 1944. Retired since January, Lee was determined to see Bruyeres and Biffontaine with his own eyes and to try to envision the military mission the Nisei soldiers had faced. From France, he flew to Washington, D.C., with the 100th/442nd Reserves for the Congressional Gold Medal presentation. The Reserve soldiers had been tapped to serve as the color guard for the ceremony.

Lee was at Reagan National Airport to greet the weary veterans when they arrived in D.C. He was also in Emancipation Hall in the U.S. Capitol to witness the presentation of the Congressional Gold Medal.

“I was extremely proud of not only the accomplishments by the soldiers, but more so the recognition by America,” he told the Herald. “In the military, especially in the Army, you have individual awards for your performance of duty. But it is astonishing and heartwarming to see this award going to every soldier that served, no matter how you served in the 100th Battalion, 442nd Regimental Combat Team and the Military Intelligence Service. It’s a great recognition by America and especially of their service during some very trying times for Japanese Americans.”

Lee said he felt a tinge of regret that more veterans could not have been present to witness the historic presentation. He said he was grateful that the Congress allowed “the Go For Broke soldiers to jump over other awardees. They realize that we have to do this quickly.”

Although the medal remained in Washington for presentation to the Smithsonian Institution, there were no unhappy veterans in Emancipation Hall. He said everyone got to see the medal and, at least for the veterans who traveled to Washington, come home with a bronze replica of the Congressional Gold Medal.

“I’ll tell you what — the replica is really good,” emphasized Lee. “The replica is like, outstanding. It is like the real thing. You gotta know that it’s not gold.”
Carolyn Morinishi, who creates the Herald’s “Culture4Kids” page, attended the Congressional Gold Medal events with her mother Marian Kubota and her aunts, several of whom, like Kubota, were married to Nisei veterans. Upon arriving in Washington, Carolyn noticed that the attendees included families who, in some cases, spanned four generations.

“The youngest attendees — grandchildren and great-grandchildren of the World War II AJA vets — added a fresh energy to the event, and their words leave no doubt that the veterans’ legacy will live on for generations to come,” e-mailed Carolyn, who decided to collect comments from the children.

“I’m just proud of my grandpa that he got this award,” said 13-year-old Kiana Noda of Torrance, Calif. Her grandfather, Osamu Fujikawa of Los Angeles, played an important role in the ceremonies, having presented a wreath at the Bronze Star Medal ceremony on Nov. 1. “He really deserves it (the Congressional Gold Medal) because he helped save our country during World War II,” Kiana said.

“I’m glad that my Jiichan (grandfather) was getting the gold medal, but I’m sad that he wasn’t there,” said 9-year-old Kiara Kubota Stromberg of San Jose, Calif., about her late grandfather, Hilo-born MIS veteran, Yoshio “Mike” Kubota. “I thought it was brave of all those soldiers going into war, so I feel proud that I’m Japanese American.”

Thirteen-year-old Nick Yano of Vienna, Va., related an interesting story he learned from his great-granduncle, 442nd veteran Robert Lee Yano. “My great-uncle told me that he was part of the unit with Dan Inouye when he was injured.” Nick’s sisters, Carina, 9, and Laurel, 11, thought “the ceremony was cool!” Even though their late grandfather, Max Yano, was not there to share in the celebration, the impact was nevertheless felt by the Yano family. “The ceremony made me proud to be Japanese American,” said Laurel.

As Barbara Tanabe reflected on the veterans’ whirlwind week in their nation’s capital, she pulled out her iPad during the long flight home and recorded what she was feeling.

“This was truly an historic occasion, a proud moment for our nation, as it honored soldiers who asked only to serve their country.

During the three days of Congressional Gold Medal events, we saw photographs and video of them as young soldiers. Many had not seen their comrades since the war ended and the gathering at the Washington Hilton was often punctuated with shouts of recognition and laughter: ‘The last time I saw you was when you climbed on the troopship going home.’ Witnesses to these heartwarming reunions clapped and cheered as the old soldiers hugged and slapped each other on the back, just like old times. There were joyous and poignant moments as the past 65 years seemed to melt away.

My dad, Frank Tanabe, is now 92 years old. He, like others, searched the crowd for familiar faces. He finally found Leo, a fellow interpreter with the MIS who was assigned to the 77th Infantry in Hokkaidö. Leo and Dad had not seen each other for over 50 years. As they talked about their lives since the Occupation, they were joined by a woman who was searching for someone to tell her what her father might have gone through in the MIS. The MIS missions were classified, so for decades after the war, the men never spoke about their experiences during the war, not even with their families.

Naomi’s father had died without sharing his story, so she listened to Dad and Leo, trying to imagine what her father might have done. There were many other Sansei and Yonsei like Naomi, seeking information about their father, uncle or grandfather. A makeshift bulletin board covered the walls of the ballroom, with ‘Did you know . . . . please contact us,’ or letters from youngsters: ‘Did you serve with my uncle and grandpa . . . we’d like to hear your story.’ Some put up photographs of kin who died in combat, asking those who served to tell them about their loved one’s final days.

As the events came to a close and we bid farewell, the veterans were still smiling, though weary and ready to go home. They had received America’s highest honor for service to country, despite the sting of discrimination and racial hostility. And they had proven that they were loyal Americans with a deep sense of honor, duty and humility. They have left us a legacy that will be unmatched in American history. We stand on the shoulders of ‘the Greatest Generation,’ and we owe them a debt of gratitude and a promise to do our best to carry forth their spirit and resolve.”

Congratulatory Messages

Editor’s note: These congratulatory messages ran in our recent Congressional Gold Medal of Honor issue, which recognizes the 100th Infantry Battalion, the 442nd Regimental Combat Team and the Military Intelligence Service. Due to popular demand, we will be featuring several articles from that commemorative edition of the Herald online.

Resources on Nisei Soldiers

Editor’s note: This story ran in our recent Congressional Gold Medal of Honor issue, which recognizes the 100th Infantry Battalion, the 442nd Regimental Combat Team and the Military Intelligence Service. Due to popular demand, we will be featuring several articles from that commemorative edition of the Herald online.

RESOURCES ON NISEI SOLDIERS
LEARN MORE ABOUT AMERICA’S NEWEST HEROES

There is much more to the story of America’s newest Congressional Gold Medal heroes than men simply going off to war in a foreign land. In order to truly understand and appreciate the significance of the awarding of the Congressional Gold Medal — the nation’s highest civilian award — to the Japanese American soldiers of the 100th Infantry Battalion, 442nd Regimental Combat Team and the Military Intelligence Servies, one has to understand the adversities the men and their families faced in their own country. Towards that goal, The Hawai‘i Herald has compiled a list of books, films and websites that can help you put World War II and the Nisei soldiers’ accomplishments in a historical perspective, including a few titles for younger readers. Most of these titles can be found in local libraries.

FILMS
“442: Live With Honor, Die With Dignity,” (2010) directed by Junichi Suzuki. Suzuki, a Japanese national, shares his unique perspective on the Japanese American 442nd Regimental Combat Team.

“Citizen Tanouye,” (2005) directed by Robert Horsting and Craig Yahata. History comes alive for students at Torrance High School in California while researching the life and times of school alumnus and Medal of Honor recipient Ted Tanouye, who was killed in action while serving with the 442nd RCT.

“Conscience and the Constitution,” (2001) directed by
Frank Abe. A documentary on the so-called “No-No Boys,” young Japanese American men who refused to be drafted unless they and their families were released from internment camps.

“Go For Broke!” (1951) directed by Robert Pirosh. Van Johnson stars in the first movie version of the story of the 442nd, from training to their battles in Europe.

“Honor Bound: A Personal Journey” (1995). Television journalist Wendy Hanamura’s award-winning documentary on her father’s 442nd unit — L Company, First Platoon.

“Only the Brave” (2006). An independent feature film about the 100th/442nd — written, directed and starring Sansei Lane Nishikawa.

BOOKS
“Ambassadors in Arms,” by Thomas D. Murphy; 1954, University of Hawai‘i Press. Murphy profiles the 100th Battalion from pre-birth to their performance in the European theater.

“Americans: The Story of the 442nd Combat Team,”
by Orville C. Shirey; 1946, Washington Infantry Journal Press. Shirey follows the 442nd Regimental Combat Team through the battlefields of Europe.

“And Then There Were Eight: The Men of I Company, 442nd Regimental Combat Team,” published in 2003 by Item Chapter of the 442nd Veterans Club. The veterans of I Company recall the events that took place between Oct. 15, 1944, and Nov. 8, 1944, when the 442nd battled German soldiers in the Vosges Mountains of France.

“Boyhood to War: History and Anecdotes of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team,” by Dorothy Matsuo; 1992, Mutual Publishing Company. Through oral histories, Matsuo tells the story of the 442nd soldiers.

“Bridge of Love,” by John Tsukano, a 100th/442nd veteran; 1985, Hawaii Hosts. A comprehensive look at the AJA soldiers, the forces that shaped them and how they were viewed within the military community

“Combat Chaplain: The Personal Story of the World War II Chaplain of the Japanese American 100th Battalion,” by Israel A.S. Yost; 2006, University of Hawai‘i Press. The memoirs of the 100th’s beloved wartime chaplain.

“Go For Broke: A Pictorial History of the Japanese American 100th Infantry Battalion and the 442nd Regimental Combat Team,” by 442nd RCT member Chester Tanaka; 1982, Go For Broke, Inc. An historical overview on the prewar conditions for Japanese Americans, followed by descriptions of the major campaigns and battles waged by the 100th/442nd RCT.

“Honor by Fire: Japanese Americans at War in Europe and the Pacific,” by Lyn Crost; 1994, Presidio Press. This comprehensive book by Crost, who covered the 100th/442nd in Europe as a war correspondent for the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, weaves together the history and exploits of the three Congressional Gold Medal military units.

“I Can Never Forget: Men of the 100th/442nd,” by Thelma Chang; 1991, Sigi Productions. A story of the Nisei soldiers — their upbringing, values and impressive record in World War II.

“In Freedom’s Cause: A Record of the Men of Hawaii Who Died in the Second World War,” by the Hawaii War Records Committee; 1949, University of Hawai‘i Press. Biographical sketches and photos of the Hawai‘i soldiers who were killed in World War II; also includes information on the medals and decorations they received.

“Japanese Eyes . . . American Hearts: Personal Reflections of Hawaii’s World II Nisei Soldiers,” compiled by the Hawaii Nikkei History Editorial Board; 1998, Tendai Educational Foundation. In their own words, veterans of the 100th, 442nd and MIS reflect on their World War II experiences.

“Just Americans: How Japanese Americans Won a War at Home and Abroad,” by Robert Asahina; 2006, Gotham Books. An extensive look at the 100th Battalion and the 442nd RCT, complete with interviews with veterans, maps and photographs.

“Nisei Linguists: Japanese Americans in the Military Intelligence Service During World War II,” by James C. McNaughton; 2006, Department of the Army. A comprehensive history of the MIS soldiers’ work in the Asia Pacific theater.

“No Sword to Bury: Japanese Americans in Hawai‘i During World War II,” by Franklin Odo; 2004, Temple University Press. One of the few books on AJA involvement in World War II that includes an extended section on the Varsity Victory Volunteers, the volunteer labor battalion whose patriotism contributed greatly to the formation of the 442nd.

“Remembrances: 100th Infantry Battalion 50th Anniversary Celebration, 1942-1992,” edited by 100th veteran Ben Tamashiro; 1992, 100th Infantry Battalion Publication Committee. 100th Battalion veterans share their memories of their war years.

“Secret Valor,” compiled and published by the MIS Veterans Club; 1993. Hawai‘i MIS veterans recall the various campaigns in which they were involved.

“The Japanese in Hawaii: A Century of Struggle,” by Roland Kotani; 1985, Hawaii Hochi, Ltd. This detailed history on the Japanese in Hawai‘i includes personal accounts of how World War II affected the lives of Japanese Americans and Hawaiian society.

“Unlikely Liberators: The Men of the 100th and 442nd,” by Masayo Umezawa Duus; 1987, University of Hawai‘i Press. Initially published in Japan in serialized form, “Unlikely Liberators” follows the AJA soldiers through the battlefields of Europe. The book is based on extensive research in War Department archives and interviews with the 100th and 442nd veterans.

FOR YOUNGER READERS
“Fighting For Honor: Japanese Americans and World War II,” by Michael L. Cooper; 2000, Clarion Books. A young adult-level book on the heroism of Japanese Americans during World War II.

“Nisei Regiment,” by R. Conrad Stein; 1985, Chicago Children’s Press. This book is a primer for schoolchildren on the role the Nisei soldiers played in World War II.

“Under the Blood-Red Sun,” (1994) and “Eyes of the Emperor,” (2005) by Graham Salibury. Published by Wendy Lamb Books, a division of Random House, Inc. These historical novels relating to the World War II Japanese American experience that have been recognized by the American Library Association.

WEBSITES
442nd Veterans Club (Hawai‘i): www.442.us.com

Go For Broke National Education Center:
 www.goforbroke.org

Japanese American National Museum: www.janm.org

Japanese American Veterans Association:
 www.javadc.org

National Japanese American Historical Society:
 www.njahs.org

Nisei Veterans Memorial Center: www.nvmc.org

100th Infantry Battalion Veterans Club: www.100thbattalion.org

Sons and Daughters of the 442 RCT: www.442sd.org

The Hawai‘i Nisei Story: Americans of Japanese Ancestry During World War II: 
www.nisei.hawaii.edu/page/stories

Lt. Gen. Francis Wiercinski: “Thank You, Nisei Veterans”

Editor’s note: This story ran in our recent Congressional Gold Medal of Honor issue, which recognizes the 100th Infantry Battalion, the 442nd Regimental Combat Team and the Military Intelligence Service. Due to popular demand, we will be featuring several articles from that commemorative edition of the Herald online.

LT. GEN. FRANCIS WIERCINSKI: “THANK YOU, NISEI VETERANS”
Those Who Survived Helped Secure Freedom For All, Says U.S. Army Pacific Top General

In the peaceful setting of the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific at Punchbowl, Lt. Gen. Francis J. Wiercinski, commander of the U.S. Army Pacific at Fort Shafter, delivered a stirring speech to veterans of the 100th Infantry Battalion, 442nd Regimental Combat Team, Military Intelligence Serve and the 1399th Engineer Construction Battalion. The occasion was the sixth annual Joint Memorial Service, sponsored by the Oahu AJA Veterans Council and hosted this year by the 442nd Veterans Club.

Lt. Gen. Wiercinski assumed command of the U.S. Army Pacific at Fort Shafter in March of this year. In that capacity, he leads over 62,000 active duty and reserve soldiers, including 6,700 who are currently deployed overseas. Wiercinski served as commanding general for the U.S. Army-Japan and “I” Corps Forward at Camp Zama from 2008-2010. He also served in Iraq and Afghanistan. Among the numerous decorations he has received are the Distinguished Service Medal, Bronze Star with “V” and the Order of the Rising Sun – Gold and Silver Star from the government of Japan.

The Herald is pleased to share Lt. Gen. Wiercinski’s message with you.

Aloha, and good morning to all of our distinguished guests . . . . and most especially to all of our fellow veterans, your families and your friends here both physically and in spirit . . . .”

“It’s always humbling and a distinct honor to address any gathering of our greatest generation. But this occasion, it’s even more special, as today we set aside a day to recognize some of our greatest heroes in our history — the veterans of Americans of Japanese ancestry. I cannot even begin to hope to add to the volumes already written of Japanese American valor at places like Salerno (Italy), Cassino (Italy), Anzio (Italy), Foret Dominial du Champ (France) — better known to most of us as the rescue of the “Lost Battalion.” But I do hope to capture some of that essence because that’s what resonates for our newest generation — those who are still defending us on battlefields in foreign lands, far away in places like Baghdad (Iraq), Mosul (Iraq), Kandahar (Afghanistan), Mazar-e Sharif (Afghanistan).

Valor is a universal, unchanging language that is passed between soldiers. It’s very difficult to explain. It’s very difficult to define. But as a soldier, as many of you who have been deployed in harm’s way and served in the company of heroes, you know it when you see it.

My father-in-law, Sgt. William A. Mussari (of the 85th Infantry Division who served in North Africa, Sicily and Italy with the 100th/442nd), served in Italy. He was fond of talking about the members of the 100th Battalion and the 442nd Regimental Combat Team. When they were on his side, he knew he had seen valor.

Although the Japanese American soldiers of World War II, Korea, Vietnam and the Middle East fought vastly different battles in extremely diverse environments, they were highlighted by a common thread: They were far from home and family and they were there to serve their nation. The personal courage and commitment of every generation of Japanese American soldier — it bridges the divide; it links each man and woman together in this community, a community of sacrifice and of service. The 100th Battalion veteran of Italy may not have served in Iraq, but he immediately has an unseen bond and uniquely appreciates the sacrifices of his fellow 100th Battalion veterans today.

Those that have followed 60 years later in their footsteps — the modern veteran and all of us still serving in uniform today — owe a vast debt of gratitude to you who have set the standard high long before us. You served our nation so valiantly in its darkest hour and while under intense pressure and strain back here at home. Ladies and gentlemen, please join me in a round of applause for these magnificent veterans.

As I sat down and started to think about what I would say to a gathering like this, a couple of things come to mind. Today is the 68th anniversary of the first Japanese American soldier’s death in World War II. I was struck by that fact this very morning, because as any visitor to Fort Shafter knows, one of the first things you see when you come out of the guard shack and you go down and up that long hill is a huge sign commemorating our stadium — the Joe Takata Field. I think that’s an important analogy here today. We may not realize it, but so much of our everyday lives here in Hawai‘i, and nationally, are touched by your accomplishments, both on and off the field of battle. Although we come here to remember the fallen, we cannot lose sight of the fact that the living — those who survived this war — did just as much after it to secure freedom as those who perished defending it.

The fruits of freedom enjoyed today by all Americans here at home were, in great part, bought and paid for by your time in uniform. As much as anyone, the service and sacrifice of the 100th Battalion, the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, the 1399th Engineer Construction Battalion and the American Japanese members of the Military Intelligence Service paved the way for President Harry Truman’s 1948 executive order integrating the United States military and ultimately led to the freedom and equality for all Americans. It’s no exaggeration to say that those of you here today saved our nation, not once, but twice.

After the war, AJA veterans of the greatest generation went on to serve as senators, government leaders, local officials, businessmen, educators, advocates and authors, building the modern United States. Most importantly, they became fathers, raising families imbued with the twin values of service and sacrifice. Your legacies — your children — are among your greatest feats.

I’d like to take the opportunity to say a few words to the often-overlooked pillars of your success — your families. As you battled tyranny in far off places, wives, girlfriends, children anxiously awaited news of your well-being. In an age before instant communication — the Internet, e-mail, mobile phones — all those waited back here, torturously, for word of your well-being. And, like today, relief only truly arrived when you came home. On behalf of a truly thankful nation and a grateful nation, thank you to all the families for your support from the home front; and even more importantly, thank you for all of your love and support since those days. Our veterans’ success and the modern world they created could not have happened without you.

A Congressional Gold Medal ceremony honoring Japanese American troops for their bravery in World War II will be held on Nov. 2 this year in Washington, D.C. As he watched President Obama sign the bill of authorization in the Oval Office, [U.S.] Senator Inouye, Medal of Honor recipient, severely wounded combat veteran and another of the many heroes of the 100th/442nd Regimental Combat Team, he noted that this gold medal will be shared with the families, loved ones and our friends. Just last week I had the honor to sit with Senator Inouye in the Capitol of his Washington, D.C., office. You can’t help but be drawn to the medal of honor pin that he wears very proudly on his coat jacket every day. And I can’t help but realize that he wears that also to remind us all of the great sacrifice borne of 13,000 Nisei soldiers and their families. In his words, “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 grateful to this nation for remembering us.”

I’d like to close by saying that each of you gathered here today, either physically or in spirit, provide an example — an inspiration, an inspiration to those of us who have chosen to voluntarily, also at war, wear this uniform and take up your work of defending liberty, of defending our home. It’s impossible not to be humbled reading the citations of 21 Medal of Honor winners from the 100th Battalion and 442nd Regimental Combat Team. It’s also humbling to talk to each and every one of you — a decorated living veteran of an AJA unit. I can personally attest that the soldier serving today in the Pacific, the Hawai‘i Army National Guard and Reserves and especially the 9th Mission Support Command in our unit — we value your interest, your support and all that you do for our armed forces.

May you continue to live in peace, freedom and security that you fought to maintain and may you live in happiness and honor all the days ahead. You have certainly earned it, and the greatest gift that you can ever receive is not a medal or a citation — it is the freedom that you provide, the freedom that you gave your sons and daughters, and as an American son who grew up free, thank you, Nisei veterans.

Thank you allowing my wife Jeannine and I to be a part of this this morning — one team, Army strong, Go for Broke.

Hawai‘i CGM Celebration

Editor’s note: This story ran in our recent Congressional Gold Medal of Honor issue, which recognizes the 100th Infantry Battalion, the 442nd Regimental Combat Team and the Military Intelligence Service. Due to popular demand, we will be featuring several articles from that commemorative edition of the Herald online.

HAWAI‘I CGM CELEBRATION
Hawai‘i Congressional Gold Medal Celebration Set For Dec. 17 and 18

The public will have an opportunity to congratulate America’s newest Congressional Gold Medal heroes during the “Hawai‘i Salute to the Congressional Gold Medal Veterans” celebration set for Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 17 and 18, in Honolulu. The national presentation was held Nov. 2 in the Emancipation Hall of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C.

The “Hawai‘i Salute to the Congressional Gold Medal Veterans” will be highlighted by a Saturday “Victory Parade” through Waikïkï, followed by a banquet at the Hawai‘i Convention Center, where veterans of the 100th Infantry Battalion, 442nd Regimental Combat Team and the Military Intelligence Service, along with their Nisei “brothers” who served on the homefront, the 1399th Engineer Construction Battalion, will be feted. The Hawai‘i celebration will conclude on Sunday with a memorial service at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific at Punchbowl.

The “Victory Parade” will begin at 10 a.m. at Fort DeRussy. The procession will travel down Kaläkaua Avenue, ending at Kapiolani Park — no activities are planned at the park. The procession will stop briefly in front of the Royal Hawaiian Shopping Center, where Honolulu Mayor Peter Carlisle will issue a proclamation.

Veterans from throughout the state who served in either of the four units are invited to participate in the parade, accompanied by an attendant or two, if necessary. The participants will be picked up in trolleys at the Hawai‘i Convention Center at 9:30 a.m. After the parade, they will be transported back to the convention center in time for the banquet.

U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs and retired U.S. Army Chief of Staff Gen. Eric Shinseki, a Kaua‘i native, will be the keynote speaker at the banquet. Veterans of the three Congressional Gold Medal units (100th, 442nd, MIS) in attendance at the banquet will be presented with bronze replicas of the medal by the banquet’s title sponsor, BAE Systems. Also on the banquet agenda is the showing of a special tribute video commissioned by the BAE Systems.

Veterans of the 100th, 442nd, MIS and 1399th and a guest of their choice will be hosted at the banquet. Tickets for all others are $75 per adult and $50 for children under 10 years of age. Those wishing to attend the banquet or purchase sponsor tables can contact either the 100th or the 442nd veterans clubs to reserve their seats. The 100th Infantry Battalion Veterans Club can be reached at (808) 946-0272 or by e-mail at club100vets@gmail.com; the 442nd Veterans Club can be reached at (808) 949-7997 or by e-mail at 442veterans@hawaiiantel.net.

Table sponsorships (for 10 people) are also available at the following levels: $10,000 Platinum (3 tables), $7,000 Gold (2 tables), $5,000 Silver (1 table), $3,000 Bronze (1 table) and $1,000 Family (1 table).

The Sunday memorial service at Punchbowl will honor the country’s newest Congressional Gold Medal recipients as well as the comrades they lost in battle and those claimed by the cycle of life. The service, which begins at 9 a.m., will additionally honor the 100th Infantry Battalion/442nd Infantry of the U.S. Army Reserves, which traces its lineage to the World War II 100th/442nd. The service is open to the public.

“Hawai‘i Salute to the Congressional Gold Medal Veterans” is being co-chaired by recently retired state adjutant general, Maj. Gen. Robert Lee; former television journalist and now communications executive Barbara Tanabe, who is the daughter of MIS veteran Frank Tanabe; and James Kuroiwa of the Go for Broke Association.

Sister Cities

Editor’s note: This story ran in our recent Congressional Gold Medal of Honor issue, which recognizes the 100th Infantry Battalion, the 442nd Regimental Combat Team and the Military Intelligence Service. Due to popular demand, we will be featuring several articles from that commemorative edition of the Herald online. 

SISTER CITIES
Bruyeres-Honolulu Ties Reaffirmed

The 50th anniversary of the sister-city relationship between Honolulu and Bruyeres, France, was celebrated with a reaffirmation ceremony held in the courtyard of Honolulu Hale on Oct. 6.

Thirty-eight people from Bruyeres, which is located in the Vosges Mountains of northeastern France, near the French-German border, attended the ceremonies, including deputy mayor Ludovic Durain. The delegation was the largest from Bruyeres to visit Hawai‘i since 1976.

The relationship between the two cities — located more than 7,000 miles apart — dates back to October 1944, when Bruyeres was liberated from Nazi occupation by soldiers of the 100th Infantry Battalion and the 442nd Regimental Combat Team.

In 1960, the late Wilbert “Sandy” Holck, a 442nd veteran and future Honolulu city councilman, returned to Bruyeres as a tourist, where he met Bruyeres resident Gerard Deschaseaux for the first time. The story of how Honolulu and Bruyeres came to be united as sister-cities is detailed in the accompanying piece written by Holck’s son-in-law, Eric Nemoto, following the family’s trip to Bruyeres in October 2009.

In his City Hall remarks, Sandy Holck’s son Willard, chair of the Honolulu-Bruyeres 2011 Committee, paid homage to his father for his role in fostering the international friendship.

“Like many of the veterans who searched for meaning and purpose to the death and destruction they endured, he was determined never to forget,” Willard said.

“The sister-city relationship would become more than a gesture of goodwill; it would become a platform to educate future generations of the impact of the 100th/442nd Regimental Combat Team on the history of Hawai‘i, the rest of the United States and Europe.”

The Holck family has maintained ties with the Deschaseaux family through the years — Willard even refers to Deschaseaux’s widow, Marcelle, as his “French mother.” Marcelle, a former kindergarten teacher who attended the ceremony, taught her students to sing the state song “Hawai‘i Pono‘i” out of gratitude for the Nisei soldiers.

The younger Holck and his family got to witness that spectacle on their trip to Bruyeres in 2009.

“It was like a chicken-skin moment,” he said. “Not only did she teach her students to sing ‘Hawai‘i Pono‘i,’ she taught them to sign it like Hawaiians.”

Honolulu Mayor Peter Carlisle delivered his message to the audience in both French and English, declaring that he will visit Bruyeres “as soon as possible.” Carlisle pledged to continue the relationship between the two cities, saying, “We hope to be able to keep this tradition going as long as humanly possible.” He and deputy mayor Durain then signed the reaffirmation document.

Although the 33-year-old Durain was born more than three decades after the 100th/442nd liberated his town, he was nevertheless well-versed in Bruyeres’ World War II history. Durain honored the AJA soldiers who lost their lives in the liberation of Bruyeres.

“Along with freedom, peace, and a blow to Nazism and its procession of inhumanities, they brought us a friendship which will live for a long time across the land and sea,” he said.

Following an exchange of gifts and the signing of the reaffirmation document, honorary French Consul Patricia Lee presented France’s highest military honor, the Legion of Honor, to Masao Tamura of Kauai. The 88-year-old 442nd veteran was wounded in the Vosges during the rescue of the “Lost Battalion” in October 1944.

In lieu of an extended speech, Tamura, a bookkeeper for over 40 years at Kauai Veterans Express, left the crowd with a simple message: “I would like to say to the French people, ‘Merci beaucoup.’” (“Thank you very much.”) — Joe Udell