Aratani and Terasaki Foundations Donate $50,000 Each
May 9, 2011 The National Veterans Network (NVN) has begun a fundraising campaign to support a two-day celebration event in Washington, DC in late fall 2011. The celebration commemorates and takes place around the awarding of the Congressional Gold Medal to the 100th Infantry Battalion, 442nd Regimental Combat Team, and Military Intelligence Service members from World War II (WWII), three groups composed entirely of Japanese American soldiers. The funds raised during this campaign will. help to underwrite the expenses for both the veterans and the events that will recognize their service at a memorial service and a national gala dinner.
As the May 2011 National Asian Pacific American Heritage Month kicks off, it’s especially important to remember those who served in the US Armed Forces. After the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor in 1941, the U.S. segregated 120,000 Japanese Americans and placed them in internment camps. Yet, even with families and friends living in these camps and suffering under wrongful suspicion, more than 20,000 Japanese Americans served loyally in the U.S. military.
With the exception of a few of its officers, the 100th Infantry Battalion (Separate) was the first combat unit in U.S. Army history to be comprised exclusively of Japanese Americans from Hawaii. They came to be known as “The Purple Heart Battalion” for the tremendous casualties it suffered during the Battle of Monte Casino.
The 442nd Regimental Combat Team was organized on March 23, 1943, in response to the War Department’s call for volunteers to form the segregated Japanese American combat unit in the U.S. Army. Over 12,000 Japanese American volunteers answered the call to duty from the internment camps and Hawaii. Together with the 100th, they became one of the most decorated U.S. military units for their size and length of service.
During WWII, 6,000 Nisei (second-generation Japanese Americans) served in the Military Intelligence Service, performing secret intelligence work against the Japanese military in the Pacific. Their work dispelled any doubt that as Americans the Nisei were willing to fight an enemy with whom they shared a similar ancestral background.
Since the American Revolution, Congress has commissioned 141 gold medals as its highest expression of national appreciation for distinguished achievements and contributions. The Congressional Gold Medal is one of the highest civilian awards and is awarded to an individual or unit who performs an outstanding act or service that contributes to the security, prosperity, and national interest of the United States. This year, Congress will bestow the award upon the 100th Infantry Battalion, the 442nd Regional Combat Team and the Military Intelligence Service from WWII. Past recipients of the award have included past Presidents such as George Washington and Ronald Reagan, the Tuskegee Airmen, the Wright Brothers and the Navaho Code Talkers.
Two title sponsors George and Sakaye Aratani of the Aratani Foundation and Dr. Paul and Hisako Terasaki of the Terasaki Foundation have donated $50,000 each to support this event. A third sponsor, the Bank of Tokyo Mitsubishi, has donated $25,000. In addition, NVN is partnering with Honor Flight to sponsor the 100th, 442nd and MIS veterans’ travel to Washington DC. NVN’s Blue Ribbon Committee, which is responsible for this fundraising effort, is co-chaired by Lt. General Joseph Peterson (Ret.) and Major Gen. Antonio Taguba (Ret.). Interested parties can make general donations or become Event Sponsors for the Washington DC events.
“Community support will ensure that we can deliver a first-class national celebration that honors the extraordinary service of these units, comprised almost entirely of persons of Japanese ancestry, who fought with uncommon bravery and valor in the battlefields in Europe and Asia, even while many of their parents and kin were held in internment camps,” said Christine Sato-Yamazaki, Chairperson, National Veteran Network. “Their record demonstrates an abiding faith in the American dream, and provides an indelible testimonial to the meaning of American patriotism.”
The NVN is a coalition of 25 Japanese American veteran and civic organizations whose mission is to serve the interests of Japanese American World War II and subsequent war veterans. Veterans and their families can register on the National Veteran Registry on the National Veterans Network web site.
If you are interested in donating, would like to register with NVN, and get additional information about the upcoming celebration activities, visit the National Veterans Network web site at www.nationalveteransnetwork.com, or contact Christine Sato-Yamazaki, Chairperson of the National Veteran Network, (310) 418-4692, firstname.lastname@example.org . The National Veterans Network’s fiscal sponsor is the National Japanese American Memorial Foundation, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization based in Washington DC.
Media Contact: Diane Tanaka