History

Eric Saul Speaks To The Veterans

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Honolulu – August 4, 2013. Eric Saul, notable WWII military historian and advocate of the Nisei veterans spoke at a luncheon hosted by the MIS veteran’s organization. A crowd of about 80 veterans, family members and friends gathered for this special presentation. Here is a copy of Eric’s speech:

 

Nisei Soldier’s Legacy 

Speech by Eric Saul

You Japanese Americans had been part of the United States of America since 1885. This year marks the 128year anniversary of Japanese immigration.

            It has now been 72 years since the Japanese language school was founded at the Presidio of San Francisco in November 1941.  It has been 71 years since the 100th Infantry Battalion was created here in Hawai’i.  And it has been 70 years since the 442nd was created on February 1, 1943.

Many of your comrades have left us.  But your legacy of honor, duty and country lives on and will live on forever.  It will live on in the success of Japanese in America, and in the success of your children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren…and forever.

Today, there are more than 700,000 Japanese Americans. This number is small and is only about one half of one percent of the U.S. population.

            Because of the size of your community, your story has often been overlooked or sometimes forgotten. Yet, your story is important and, in many ways, unique.

Your parents’ immigration to the United States was the first time in Japanese history that Japanese had ever been allowed to legally leave the country.

Like most European immigrants, your families came to the United States for economic opportunity. Unlike their European counterparts, they were not fleeing a hostile or oppressive government or king. Yet, your families experienced prejudice and discrimination, perhaps to a higher degree than any other immigrant group.

Your fathers and mothers, the first generation, were called Issei.  They were truly strangers in a strange land.  In the beginning, many Japanese immigrants were sojourners at heart, dreaming of the day that they could return to their small towns and villages with accumulated wealth. 

Your parents came to America almost penniless.  At first it was difficult to save money.  As the years past, your parents’ roots in America deepened.  Many of your fathers chose their wives as picture brides. 

Here in Hawai’i, your parents came as contract laborers (Kanyaku imin), working on sugar plantations.  The work for them was brutal and interminable.  They were little more than slaves, with almost no chance for advancement. 

By 1900, there were some 60,000 Japanese residing in Hawai’i, comprising nearly 40% of the total population of Hawai’i.

On the mainland, in 1900, there were only 24,000 Japanese.  Most decided to settle in California.

Also in 1900, the United States annexed the Hawai’ian Islands, freeing thousands of your parents from their labor contracts on the sugar plantations.  They were now able to start small businesses for themselves.  Others went to the mainland.

From the very beginning, your parents, as Japanese Americans, were deprived of rights that were guaranteed to other immigrants. They were denied Constitutional rights to become citizens, own land, live in certain areas, or enter many professions. Many local, state and Federal laws were passed, excluding them from the opportunities enjoyed by other new immigrants.

The Alien Land Laws of 1913 and 1920 prevented your parents from legally owning land and limited farmland leases to only a few years.  In fact, your parents put the land in your names.

Further, your parents were excluded from American political life by laws, upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1922, that excluded persons of Asian ancestry from becoming naturalized American citizens.

The Asian Exclusion Act of 1924 stopped further Asian immigration to the United States.

Yet, despite the adversities, your parents flourished.  Many of your parents became successful farmers, flower growers, fishermen, and small business owners.

Perhaps the greatest impact of the Japanese on America during the early decades of the Twentieth Century was in agriculture. Your parents reclaimed unwanted land and developed it into rich agricultural areas. By 1900, Japanese American farmers had cultivated some 4,500 acres in California; by 1919, more than 450,000 acres. In 1900, the Issei cultivated only 4 percent of the state’s farmlands, yet produced 50 to 90 percent of fruits and vegetables.

Soon, you were born into America, and your generation was called the Nisei.  You came of age in a country that was enduring a Great Depression.  You learned to live with little and developed a hard work ethic in order to survive.

Your parents spoke Japanese and oftentimes very little English.  They wanted you to speak Japanese and to retain your special heritage, and they sent you to Japanese language school.  Most of you didn’t like it.  You wanted to play baseball, football and basketball.

You wanted to fit in, become Americans.  Yet, in Japanese language schools, you were taught invaluable principles of hard work, honesty, loyalty, endurance and pride.  You were taught the cardinal virtues and ethics.  You took to heart the concepts of giri…sense of duty, on…debt of gratitude, gamman…quiet endurance, gambari…perseverance, kansha…gratitude, chugi…loyalty, enryo…humility, sekinin…responsibility, haji…shame, hokori…pride, meiyo…honor, gisei…sacrifice, oyakoko…love of the family, kodomo no tame ni…for the sake of the family, shojiki…honesty, otagai…reciprocity, shinsetsu…kindness, shigata ganai…it can’t be helped, resignation, okagesama de…all is owed to you, kuni no tame…give your all for the country, kamei ni kizu tsukena…never bring shame on the family, shimbo shite seiko suru…patient endurance brings success.  These Japanese values served you well.  They helped you endure the adversities of your wartime experience.  They taught you to look on the bright side, remain optimistic, and keep your faith.  They encouraged you to honor your country and its principles.

As the years went by, your Japanese parents decided to make the United States their permanent home.  Yet for your parents and yourselves, it was a period of rejection and denial.  You faced almost insurmountable discrimination that existed in employment, housing, public accommodations, schooling and social interactions.  Your parents bore the brunt of this racism for nearly 50 years.

Yet, for your parents and you, there were now deep and permanent roots.

Your parents saw education for you as the chief tool for your success in America.  No sacrifice was too large and no effort was too great in this single-minded effort.

Just before the outbreak of war, most Japanese American families in Hawai’i and the mainland were prosperous members of the lower middle class.

Many of you Nisei were making plans for college when your dreams suddenly collapsed in ruins on December 7, 1941.

Your worst nightmare was realized when the country of your ancestry, your parents’ homeland, attacked the United States.  How could a country that your parents were so proud of have put you in such an incredibly difficult—no impossible—place.  Yet you Nisei knew that America was your country.  There was no choice.

Here in Hawai’i, where the very attack occurred, you Nisei volunteered for combat duty.  Many of you who were in the ROTC were converted into the Hawai’i Territorial Guard.  Soon, however, you were told that you couldn’t be trusted and they took your rifles away and discharged you without ceremony.  It broke your hearts and left you with emotional scars.  Some of those scars are still healing today.

The ultimate insult for you Niseis was being classified by local draft boards as 4C – alien, ineligible for the draft.  You were American citizens.  How dare anyone declare you unfit to defend your country!  You were angry, but not bitter.

In Hawai’i, Niseis of the discharged Territorial Guard volunteered for labor service under the guidance of the US Army.  By your own will and with the help of community leaders such as John A. Burns, School Superintendent, Oren E. Long, McKinley High School Principal, Miles E. Carey, University of Hawai’i Board of Regents, and Charles R. Hemenway, Chairman of the University of Hawai’i Board of Regents, you created the Varsity Victory Volunteers (VVV).  You served for eleven months, toiling in the blazing Hawai’ian sun.  By this simple act of loyalty and faith, you helped convince Army and community officials that perhaps they should take a chance on Japanese Americans.

As a direct result of your service of the VVV, the Army, in January 1943, was moved to change its position.  It authorized the creation of an all-Japanese American combat unit.  It was designated the 442nd Regimental Combat Team.  Its regimental motto was an old Hawai’ian term for “give it your all”—go for broke!

In Hawai’i and on the mainland, women and men of conscience stood against the whims of wartime hysteria and prejudice.  Men like Hung Wai Ching, of the Morale Committee, Robert Shivers, head of the FBI office in Hawai’i, Colonel Kendall Fielder, of Army Intelligence in Hawai’i, Harold Ickes, U.S. Secretary of the Interior, remained steadfast in the knowledge that Japanese Americans were loyal to their country and that the accusations against them were totally unfounded.

On the West Coast of the United States, the worst nightmare for the Japanese American community was realized.  120,000 Japanese Americans were forcibly removed from their homes, businesses and land.  In March 1942, they were sent to ten remote and desolate concentration camps.  These camps couldn’t have been more inhospitable.  Many languished in these camps until the end of the war. 

During this forced exile, your parents lost everything that they worked for and built for nearly 50 years.  They lost it the instant President Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066.  For many, they were unable to fully rebuild their lives after the war.

Yet, despite this unwarranted treatment, your resolve and faith in the United States never wavered.

In Hawai’i, the Army called for 1,500 volunteers for the newly-formed 442nd Regimental Combat Team.  Ten thousand young and eager Niseis volunteered for service.  Those of you who were initially turned down cried because you couldn’t get into the regiment.

From the internment camps and other areas, thousands of you Niseis volunteered for wartime service.  You were defending a country that had not allowed your parents to become citizens.  It was a country that turned its back on you, but ultimately you kept your faith. 

The 100th Infantry Battalion and the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, which were all-segregated units, fought in eight campaigns in Italy and France: Naples-Foggia, Anzio, Rome-Arno, Southern France, the Rhineland, North Apennines, Central Europe and the Po Valley.  You liberated numerous towns and villages throughout Europe, including the Italian port city of Leghorn.

You Niseis of the 100th Infantry Battalion and the 442nd Regimental Combat Team fought the toughest troops the Nazis could throw against them.  They were battle-hardened troops from the Afrika Korps.  SS troops, Panzer brigades, and soldiers from the Hermann Goering Division.  You brave Nisei soldiers fought with the great divisions of the Fifth Army and the Seventh Army, including the 34th, 36th and 92nd Divisions.  You fought courageously alongside the 10th Mountain Division and the 45th and 91st Divisions.  You earned about 4,000 Purple Hearts.  719 Nisei men were killed in action.  You Niseis were awarded 18,143 individual decorations for bravery, including: 21 Congressional Medals of Honor, 52 Distinguished Service Crosses; 1 Distinguished Service Medal; 588 Silver Stars; 22 Legion of Merit medals; 19 Soldier’s Medals; 5,200 Bronze Stars and 14 Croix de Guerre, among many other decorations.

Incredibly, it became the most decorated unit for its size and length of service in the history of the United States Army.  It remains so today.  The 100/442 received eight Presidential Unit Citations.

According to historian Edwin O. Reichauer, “None retained greater faith in the basic ideals of America or showed stronger determination to establish their rights to full equality and justice, even when their fellow Americans seemed to deny them both. None shared greater loyalty to the United States or greater willingness to make sacrifices in the battlefield or at the home front for their country.”

More than 33,000 of you second generation Japanese Americans (Nisei) served faithfully, honorably and with courage in the Armed Forces of the United States. It can be said that you fought a war on two fronts: a war against the enemies in Europe and the Pacific, and the enemy of prejudice at home.

Though you Niseis looked different from other American soldiers, you had the same heart.  You also had strange sounding names, like Inouye, Matsunaga, Tanaka, Tsukiyama, Okamoto, Yoshimura, Nunotani, Aiso, Kubo, Tsukano, Hajiro, Masuda, Tazoi, Doi, Tanabe, Fukuda, Nishimura, Hamada, Fukuhara, Ito, Sato, and Sakato.  You Nisei soldiers were shorter than your American counterparts.  Your average height was 5 foot 4, and weight was 125 pounds.  Your IQ was on average 116.  This was ten points higher than was required to be an officer in the Army.

 

The “Go For Broke” exploits of the Nisei 100th Infantry Battalion and 442nd Regimental Combat Team have been well publicized and recognized, and rightfully so, as the unsurpassed combat record of Japanese Americans who fought as an integral military unit in Italy and France. The Military Intelligence Service story, on the other hand, is one of numerous small units of you Nisei soldiers who operated in teams of ten to twenty men assigned to every combat division, Army corps and every campaign in the war against Japan.  You Niseis were on detached service to the U.S. Navy, Marines and Army Air Corps.  You were assigned to the British, Australian, Canadian, New Zealand, Chinese and Indian combat units.

It is also the story of much larger groups of you who served at intelligence centers at army and area headquarters level. Three main intelligence centers were operated, in the Southwest Pacific Area under General Douglas MacArthur, the Central Pacific Ocean Area under Admiral Chester Nimitz, and the China-Burma-India Area (CBI) under General “Vinegar Joe” Stilwell. The largest of these centers was at MacArthur’s headquarters and known as ATIS (Allied Translator Interpreter Section), which had as many as 3,000 Nisei at its peak. The other centers were JICPOA (Joint Intelligence Center, Pacific Ocean Area) and SEATIC (Southeast Asia Translation and Interrogation Center).

Through it all, as indispensable translators of captured enemy documents, interrogators of enemy POWs and persuaders of enemy surrender, you were superbly effective. You also worked laboriously over tons of enemy documents—maps, battle plans, diaries, letters, records, manuals—at area headquarters, producing voluminous intelligence of all sorts that affected Allied strategy and operations. The men of ATIS, for example, produced 20-million pages of translations.

 

In the Solomon Islands, you MIS men translated an intercepted enemy radio message that revealed that Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, commander-in-chief of Japan’s naval forces, was to arrive at a certain time at Bougainville. The Admiral’s arrival was successfully ambushed and the planes were destroyed. General MacArthur referred to this as the one most singularly significant action of the war.

Prior to U.S. landings in the Philippines in October, 1944, thanks to translation done by MIS men, the Japanese Navy’s master plan for defending the Philippines was known to Allied forces. As enemy fleets responded to U.S. landings on Leyte, the U.S. navy was able to thwart the counter attacks and annihilate the enemy forces.

Another major coup was capture and translation in 1944 of the enemy’s Z-Plan, the Imperial Navy’s strategy for defending the Marianas Islands against the U.S. Navy’s carrier forces. As the U.S. invasion of the Marianas (Guam and Saipan) unfolded, Admiral Raymond Spruance’s carrier fleet and submarines dealt a death blow to the counter-attacking Japanese carrier forces. The Great Marianas Turkey Shoot resulted, a complete debacle for the enemy. Hundreds of enemy planes were swept from the skies, and Japanese aircraft carriers were never again able to fight the war. You MIS Nisei made all this possible.

On Okinawa in 1945, the last and bloodiest battle of the war, lasting over two months, the enemy’s fate was sealed by two vital pieces of intelligence translated by you Nisei. One was the enemy’s final main defense plan, issued a month before the U.S. landings, which accurately predicted the date and site of the U.S. landings and the strategy of the U.S. forces.

The other was a minutely detailed full contour map of Okinawa. The enemy map was translated overnight and 72 hours later 12,000 copies were delivered to Okinawa and distributed to all units. From then on it guided all the U.S. ground action and artillery fire.

 

From the frozen tundra of Attu, to the coral atolls of the Pacific, the jungles of New Guinea, the Philippines and Burma, the lava terrain of Iwo Jima and the bloodied escarpments of Okinawa, you Nisei were everywhere, obtaining intelligence from enemy documents, POWs and enemy communications, and calling upon the enemy to surrender. When needed you operated behind enemy lines and parachuted on assignments without real parachute training. In Burma and elsewhere, you crept to within hearing distance of enemy troops to learn their movements, at times tapping and listening to the enemy’s telephone communications.

Major General Charles Willoughby, G-2, intelligence chief of MacArthur’s command, is credited with stating:

 

“It is appropriate to record the invaluable services rendered by linguists of Japanese ancestry, the ‘Nisei’ from Hawai’i and California (sic); although the Japanese of the Pacific Coast were dealt with harshly in the hysteria following the Pearl Harbor attack, the American-Japanese amply demonstrated their loyalty to the United States in every capacity; indeed there is absolutely no record of sabotage or treason…” 

 

He is also credited with saying that the Nisei shortened the Pacific War by two years and saved possibly a million American lives and possibly billions of dollars.

General MacArthur was able to state with pride, “Never in military history did an army know so much about the enemy prior to actual engagement.”

Major General Frank D. Merrill in Burma said, “As for the value of the Nisei, I couldn’t have gotten along without them.” And he ordered his men, Merrill’s Marauders, to protect with their lives the 14-man team of MIS Nisei under his command.

 

The heroic and resourceful actions of you MIS Nisei were simply myriad. As the war progressed closer to Japan, you further performed an unequalled, compassionate role on Saipan and Okinawa, saving the lives of thousands upon thousands of civilians by calling them out of caves, often at the risk of their own lives.  Sergeant Herbert Yanamura and Sergeant Takejiro Higa saved thousands of Japanese civilians and soldiers on Okinawa from almost certain death.

We remember Hoichi “Bob” Kubo who, on Saipan, successfully thwarted a suicide attack against the Army on July 8, 1944, saving the lives of thousands of Americans.  After the fighting stopped, Kubo helped save the lives of 120 Japanese civilians and soldiers in a cave.  He persuaded them to surrender.  For this, he received the Distinguished Service Cross, the highest decoration awarded to any Nisei in the Pacific War.

Some of your comrades were killed in action, in New Guinea, Leyte, Luzon and Okinawa. The names of three of them, Sergeants Frank Hachiya of Oregon, George Nakamura of California and Yukitaka Mizutari of Hawai’i, appear on three major buildings named after them at the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, California. Mits Shibata died on Ie Shima, near Okinawa, shot in error by a BAR-wielding GI as he sought to rescue some civilians. Eddie Fukui perished in a kamikaze attack on his ship at the Kerama Islands off Okinawa as he intercepted enemy radio communications. Bill Imoto, Shoichi Nakahara, Satoshi Kurokawa, Joe Kadoyama, Joseph Kinyone, Kenneth Omura, George Chibata, and Captain William Laffin are others who died in different places. Eleven ATIS men, including Joe Kadoyama, were killed in a plane crash on Okinawa on August 13, 1945. Their names were Japanese, but they all served and died as American soldiers.

As General “Vinegar Joe” Stilwell said, “The Nisei bought an awfully big hunk of America with their blood.”

Reviewing the exploits of the MIS men, Major General Clayton Bissell, Chief of the Military Intelligence Division of the War Department, told a graduating MIS class: “If you Japanese-Americans are ever questioned as to your loyalty, don’t even bother to reply… Your gallant deeds under fire will speak so loudly that you need not answer.”

 

When the war ended in August of 1945, your work was not over, for now you were needed to bridge the language gap in the Allied Occupation of Japan. You did, performing again an indispensable role.

            The U.S. occupation of Japan was one of the most benevolent and benign in world history. Japanese Americans helped write new laws and create new institutions.  You helped in the institution of the modern Japanese constitution.  You helped institute progressive land reforms and civil rights for Japanese women. One of the reasons Japan is the modern industrial giant that it is today is due to the role of you Japanese Americans in facilitating the transition from a military state to a democratic one.  More than 5,000 Japanese Americans worked in Japan during the occupation, from 1945 to 1952.

Most of you were volunteers. Many of you were Kibei, or “returnees to America,” who had been sent to Japan by your parents to be educated there before the war. Not all of you were bilingually expert, for—as you found out—the Japanese language was exceedingly hard to learn and use. But you teamed up with the Kibei whose Japanese was stronger to do the job.

We remember Nisei linguist Kan Tagami, who was the personal linguist for General MacArthur.  On one occasion, Sergeant Tagami interpreted a private conversation between General MacArthur and Emperor Hirohito of Japan.  On this occasion, the Emperor thanked Tagami for his work and the work of Japanese Americans in bridging the gap between the two nations.  The Emperor told Tagami, “you must have suffered much because of the war between our countries.”  This was the only time that a Nisei had ever spoken directly to the Emperor of Japan.  Before the war, Tagami had studied in Japan as a Kibei and every day he had to bow down before the picture of the Emperor in his classroom.  How ironic that he was now thanked by this singular supreme representative of Japan.

Like the Nisei who served with the 442nd Regiment in Europe, you MIS Nisei fought two wars—one against the military enemy and the other against racial prejudice and distrust toward you at home. By fighting the first, you would overcome the other.

For you Nisei of MIS, further, there was a certain compassionate dilemma to be resolved in your hearts and minds. Being Japanese by blood, whose parents had come from Japan, you would literally be fighting your kin, but your loyalty to country had to be upheld. You had been taught at home, “To thy parents be truly respectful and to thy country be utterly loyal.” For the Samurai of old Japan, the path of loyalty would have been the only honorable one to take, even at the price of warring on one’s own kin. Because you were so resourceful and also loyal, you MIS Nisei have been appropriately called the “Yankee Samurai of World War II.”

You proved, once and for all time, stated in the words of President Roosevelt, that Americanism is a state of mind, and not of race or color.

The wartime heroism of the Nisei soldier paved the way for the return of Japanese Americans to the West Coast after the war.  Dillon Meyer, the head of the War Relocation Authority, sent former officers of the 442nd on speaking tours to West Coast communities.  These officers gave important speeches to encourage the acceptance of the returning Japanese American families.  This was very successful.

So here we are, more than 70 years since you Nisei soldiers entered World War II.  Can we now assess the success, not only on the battlefields, but also in the legacy of the successes of your community?

Even as the war progressed, opinions against Japanese Americans began to change positively because of your wartime service.

Nine American presidents have honored you Japanese Americans for your service in World War II.  They were Presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry S. Truman, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Robert F. Kennedy, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama.

We owe a great debt of honor to you Niseis for what you did for our country and for democracy.

In 1946, President Harry Truman invited veterans of the Third Battalion, the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, to personally receive their eighth Presidential Unit Citation on the front lawn of the White House.  As he pinned the streamer onto the flag that bore the motto “Go For Broke,” he said the following:  “I can’t tell you how much I appreciate the opportunity to tell you what you have done for this country. You fought not only the enemy, but you fought prejudice and you won. You have made the Constitution stand for what it really means: the welfare of all the people, all the time.”  Lastly, he advised the Niseis to keep up that fight.

You took President Truman’s words to heart and built on your wartime legacy to change the legal and civil rights history of this country.  You Nisei veterans were pioneers in the American civil rights movement.  Even before it was called the “civil rights movement.”

The more than 500 laws that were passed against Asians, and in particular against you and your parents’ generation, were repealed as a direct result of your actions.

As a direct result of your loyalty and heroism, your parents could become citizens, vote, own land, become fully enfranchised citizens.  Unlike yourselves, your children can practice any profession, live anywhere they want, without fear.

Because of your humility, and because of the values of enryo, you have not shared the stories of your wartime service with you wives, children, and grandchildren.  You have always said and acted on the principle that actions speak louder than words.  Every time I have interviewed one of your comrades, they have always said to me: I served to honor my parents, my family, and my unborn children.  So many times you have repeated the phrase, giri and on.   Or oyakoko—love of the family—and kodomo no tame ni—for the sake of the children. 

So what are some of the other legacies of your service?

In 1952, a popular feature film was produced, called “Go For Broke,” by a major Hollywood studio.

In 1954, legislation was passed so that your parents could become American citizens for the first time.  You made this possible after they had to wait more than 50 years for this right.  Also this year, Spark Matsunaga, Daniel Inouye and George Ariyoshi were elected to the Hawai’i Territorial Legislature.

In 1959, Hawai’i became a state.  Many argue that this might not have been possible, or would have taken much longer, without your wartime service.

Veterans of the 442nd and the MIS were elected first to the United States House of Representatives, and then to the United States Senate.  We remember Senator Spark Matsunaga, who served in the Senate from 1977 to 1990 and fought tirelessly for civil rights for all Americans.  We remember Dan Inouye, who served in the Senate from 1963 to 2012 and was the second longest serving Senator and third in line of succession to the Presidency of the United States.  He recently passed away and was accorded the honor of lying in state in the U.S. capitol.  This wouldn’t have been possible without your wartime service.  We honor Norm Mineta who, because of the Nisei legacy, could be a mayor of a major American city, serve in Congress, and become a Cabinet officer.

In 1984, the United States Institute of Peace Act was passed by the United States Congress in a bill sponsored by Senator Spark Matsunaga.

In 1987, the National Museum of American History, of the Smithsonian Institution, opened an exhibit examining the Japanese American soldier and the Japanese American community through the perspective of the violation of the US Constitution.  The exhibit was entitled, “A More Perfect Union: Japanese Americans and the U.S. Constitution.”

In 1988, Congress passed the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, which officially apologized for the evacuation and internment of you and your families.  When President Reagan signed the bill into law, he recalled in a White House ceremony how he had honored the memory of Sergeant Kazuo Masuda, a 442nd soldier killed in Italy, by presenting the Distinguished Service Cross to his mother and sister in 1946.  At that time, he had given an eloquent speech that said, “blood that has soaked into the sands of a beach is all of one color.  America stands unique in the world, the only country not founded on race, but a way, an ideal.”  The apology by Congress is unprecedented in American—and perhaps even world—history.

In 1996, the US Army corrected an omission for World War II and awarded 20 Niseis Medals of Honor.  President Clinton, who pinned the medals on the surviving Niseis and their families, said: “Niseis, in the face of painful prejudice, they helped to define America at its best.”  He also said, “It’s long past time to break the silence about their courage…. Rarely has a nation been so well-served by a people it has so ill-treated.”

A monument to Japanese American patriotism was dedicated in Washington, DC, in 2000, near the capitol.  Also in that year, the Military Intelligence Service received its long-overdue Presidential Unit Citation.

One of the most remarkable legacies came after September 11, 2001.  I remember clearly watching the news when President George Bush, standing alongside his Secretary of Transportation, Norman Mineta, assuaged the fears of Arab Americans by saying that we are not going to repeat the mistakes of the past, and that Arab Americans had nothing to fear from their country.

In 2010, the Congress of the United States awarded its highest medal, the Congressional Gold Medal, to you Nisei soldiers of World War II.

So after 70 years, you can be assured that you have earned your place in the Pantheon of American history for your contributions to democracy. 

All Americans owe you a debt of honor and a debt of gratitude.  A debt, as I have said before, that we probably can’t ever repay.

Hawai’ian Nisei veteran of the ROTC, Hawai’i Territorial Guard, Varsity Victory Volunteers, 552nd Field Artillery, and Military Intelligence Service, historian and community leader Ted Tsukiyama said it most eloquently: “We are the beneficiaries of the Nisei soldiers’ wartime history and ultimate sacrifice, represented by 719 white crosses marked with Japanese names standing throughout Europe, the United States and Hawai’i.”  We are forever in your debt.

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