Bronze Star Medal Ceremony
Gerald Yamada's speech:
We are here to pay special tribute to the Japanese American soldiers who served in World War II. Their journey started with the federal government denying them the privilege of serving in the armed forces after the attack on Pearl Harbor. They faced prejudice and suspicion about their loyalty. The U.S. Army gave them the opportunity to serve …
Their common bond was the deep, passionate belief that they were Americans, and their willingness to risk all to show their loyalty to America. They wanted to prove that America was not justified in imprisoning 120,000 persons merely on the basis of their Japanese ancestry by putting themselves in harm’s way … Above all else, they brought honor to their families.
Now their incredible journey continues. Members of the 100th Infantry Battalion, the 442nd Regimental Combat Team and the Military Intelligence Service will be awarded the Congressional Gold Medal. With this award our nation salutes your honor, your loyalty, patriotism and valor.
Army Chief of Staff General Raymond Odierno's speech:
Today we are here to honor and present the Bronze Star Medal to 40 incredibly brave veterans of World War II. They were not only members of the greatest generation but have a unique place in our nation’s history, a history that is both tragic and an inspirational story of the American military experience.
From the shock of Pearl Harbor and out of fear and prejudice, 120,000 persons of Japanese ancestry were sent to internment camps. But what’s incredible to me is that many of them did not allow that grave injustice of the internment to stand in their way. They remained steadfast in their commitment to their country and volunteered to serve a nation in combat, a selfless act of devotion.
The 442nd earned over 18,000 individual medals, including 9,000 Purple Hearts, over 4,000 Silver Stars, 560 Silver Stars, 52 Distinguished Service Crosses, 22 Legions of Merit and 21 Medals of Honor.
In one legendary fight, where others failed, the 442nd fought their way through an incredibly complex situation and a determined enemy to save the trapped Texas battalion which later became known as the Lost Battalion. The men from the 100th Battalion and 442nd Regimental Combat Team might be small in stature, but stand above their peers in determination, courage and heart. Together they defined the ethos that we all live by today: never leave a fallen comrade.
In addition to the 442nd, Japanese Americans served in the Military Intelligence Service and helped the Army and Marines in the Pacific Theater to develop actionable intelligence that even led to the raid that killed Adm. (Isoroku) Yamamoto, the architect of the Pearl Harbor attack. After the defeat of Japan, 3,000 Japanese American linguists helped the U.S. build a democratic Japan who is one of our strongest and enduring allies in the world today …
Their actions, along with other groups that faced discrimination, such as the Tuskegee Airmen, provided President Truman with the moral standing to desegregate the armed forces of the United States, and today diversity is the foundation of our strength. The strength of our nation, the strength of our armed forces, and the strength of our army. You all were the foundation of that strength.
The lesson of the Japanese American experience is that fear and prejudice make our country weaker, not stronger. Japanese Americans, like others, have more than earned their place in our country, in our Army and in our society -a melting pot to include African Americans, Hispanic Americans and today, Arab Americans …
I’m proud to stand in front of you today as the 38th chief of staff of the Army because your selfless service, commitment, resilience and simple but powerful values like love of country have set the example for all of us who wear this uniform today. You make us proud to be soldiers.
The 442nd was formed in February 1943 and was a segregated unit composed entirely of men of Japanese ancestry. It is important to note the 442nd was the most highly decorated unit during WW2. Over 1800 medals were awarded including, 21 Medal of Honors, 4000 Purple Hearts, 7 Presidential Distinguished Unit Citations, 18 Silver Stars, and many more. Too many to list!
Upon activation of the 442nd, four thousand men volunteered to join. Over 1,500 of those that served came from Japanese intermittent camps. These brave man that came from these camps were considered “enemy aliens” at home, but were brave and valiant fighters in the Allied campaigns in Europe. The men who served in the 442nd faced prejudice, racism and injustice in America, but still decided to serve and risk their lives to prove their loyalty to their country. Their motto was “Go For Broke!”
“Diversity is the foundation of our strength” said Raymond Odinero, the 38th Chief of Staff of the US Army, in a speech at the ceremony today. He also commented on how the 442nd had “steadfast commitment to country.”
“Tragic but an inspirational story.” is how Gerald Yamada described the story of the 442nd. Yamada is President of the Japanese American Veterans Association.
The ceremony and tribute not only paid homage to the 442nd, but also to those who served in the Military Intelligence Service (MIS). There were 3,000 Army trained linguists that served in the Asia-Pacific theater part of the MIS. These men had a numerous duties which included translating enemy documents, interrogating prisoners of war, and persuading enemies forces to surrender. Some even served in the Special Forces in Burma.
The 100th Infantry Battalion will also be honored as well. The 100th Battalion was absorbed by the 442nd , but initially was a separate unit. It was composed of men from Hawaii who were part of the National Guard.
Tomorrow all those that served in the 100th Battalion, 442nd Combat Regiment, and MIS will be honored at the US Capitol with Congressional Gold Medals, the highest honor that can be bestowed upon civilians. “Long overdue!” said Odinero about the Medals. The respected Congressman John Boehner, the Speaker of the House, and Nancy Pelosi, the Minority Leader of the House will be at the ceremony and gala dinner tomorrow. It is rumored that Barack Obama will be at the Congressional Gold Medal ceremony.
These men were considered “enemies of the state” by many who they served under and fought for, but nevertheless found immense courage and patriotism in a time when our country needed it.
Written by Adam Yamada-Hanff