Congressional Gold Medal Ceremony

Emancipation Hall, Washington DC November 2, 2011

View the entire ceremony at:

Songs played: “Battle Hymn of the Republic,” and “God Bless America.” 
Accompanied the U.S. Army chorus with “The Star-Spangled Banner” and “The 442nd Song.” 

House Speaker John Boehner:
Aloha!  Legislation was signed by President Obama last year which authorized the Congressional Gold Medal award to the Japanese American warriors who made our victory in World War II possible. It is my privilege to welcome all the recipients on behalf of every American and we are humbled by your presence today.

Senate Chaplain, Dr. Barry Black's invocation:
May their exemplary service inspire us to cultivate in our lives their courage in danger, their steadfastness in triumph, their perseverance in difficulty … their love, which nothing can change, and their joy, which nothing can take away.

Congressman Adam Schiff's speech:
Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. Today we award the Congressional Gold Medal, the nation’s highest civilian honor to the “Go For Broke” regiments and the veterans of the Military Intelligence Service for their dedication to our country during World War II.
  These remarkable men left a segregated nation to fight and defend an America with no guarantee that their own freedom would be defended in return. There are no words more eloquent, more revealing of what these men endured and the legacy they left behind, than their own words, words like these:
   "On February 19, 1942, President Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066 . . .  That was the blackest moment of my life – being treated as an enemy alien."  Grant Ichikawa, veteran of the MIS.’
“‘I wanted to prove that I was a loyal American and wanted to fight for my country during a time of war."  Joe Ichiuji, veteran of the 442nd (deceased).’
“‘Here I was a Corporal, in a U.S. Army Uniform, not allowed to visit my family in the internment camp."  Jimmie Kanaya, 442nd Regimental Combat Team.’
“‘I felt that we had to fight, and to go forward.  I was scared going up to the lines, and thought to myself, 'Well, this is it.'  . . .  After we were hit, I became so engaged in what we were doing that despite the shells, mortars, and machine gun fire coming in, I was no longer scared.  I was too busy, and in combat, you learn to obey orders and push forward."  Kelly Kuwayama, medic, 442nd.’
“‘This [Japanese] prisoner was brought in to us on a stretcher after he was wounded. . . . And when I inquired how his treatment was, he looked me in the eye and said, 'You are a traitor.'  'Traitor?' I said.  'You can see that I am an American.  I'm an American soldier fighting for my country.  You are Japanese – a loyal Japanese soldier fighting for your country.  If you were to cut our veins, the same blood would flow.  But don't you call me a traitor.'"  Grant Hirabayashi, veteran, Military Intelligence Service.’
            “‘I told the others to watch out for the incoming fire, when one of my buddies stood up and got shot.  I crawled over and picked him up, and he died in my arms.  I just lost it then, and picked up the Thompson and charged the hill."  George Joe Sakato, veteran of the 442nd, Medal of Honor recipient.’ 
            “‘There have been 35 Japanese Americans promoted to the rank of general and admiral since Vietnam – a remarkable record when compared to World War II when the highest rank held by a Japanese American was that of major.  This demonstrates the greatness of America – a nation that recognized it had made mistakes, corrected them, and moved on to become a stronger country.  And we are proud to defend the freedoms and ideals that this country represents."  Terry Shima, veteran of the 442nd.’
  These American heroes did defend our freedoms and ideals.  Their true heroism lies in how they fought for the values of America – equality, justice, and opportunity – even when those values were denied them at home.  And they paved the way for millions of other Americans to proudly wear the uniform today. 
     Members of the 442nd, 100th and MIS, it is an honor to be in the same room with you.  Thank you, and congratulations.    

Representative Ralph Hall (Texas)
Senator John McCain (Arizona) , Vietnam veteran speech:
..." did everything that was ever asked of them and more. What is most remarkable is that they did so despite the fact that our nation at times fell short of its responsibilities to them and Americans like them....It’s not every day that the leaders and members of Congress have an opportunity to put aside our usual differences over the pending business of the day to join together in bipartisan unanimity to pay tribute to fellow citizens who have served a just cause greater than their own self-interest. This is therefore a special day.”
Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi's speech:
     Good Morning. And a great morning it is when we gather today on this very special day for America, a day when the Congressional Gold Medal is bestowed on American heroes. Congratulations to each and everyone of you and to your families. In accepting this Gold Medal, you bring luster to this award and you bring honor to this Congress.
     As a Member of Congress, I am honored to join the House and Senate leadership, our distinguished Speaker, Leader Reid, Leader McConnell and also the other—it is natural that we would have Californians in the lead on the resolution, Senator Boxer and Congressman Schiff. And totally, wonderfully, proudly appropriate that Senator McCain and our House Member, veteran of World War II, Ralph Hall, are co-sponsors of this legislation. You are bringing us all together. It’s an honor to join them to pay tribute to the 100th Infantry Battalion, the 442nd Regimental Combat Team and the Military Intelligence Service.
     As a representative of San Francisco, it is a point of pride to me that so many of today’s awardees have San Francisco ties. The Japanese-American community enriches our city and is a source of strength to us. As others have said, the 442nd—the motto of the 442nd was ‘go for broke.’ Today’s awardees were willing to go for broke in the fight against tyranny abroad and, in doing so, fight discrimination here at home.
     Again, as others have mentioned, despite the injustices of the internment of Japanese-Americans, today’s awardees rose above being embittered. Indeed, many felt empowered to prove their loyalty and love of our country.
     I want to consider some stories of heroism from my own district, but before I do, I want to acknowledge that General Shinseki, now Secretary Shinseki is with us. We’re honored by your presence and your patriotism to our country.
    And our former colleague—we called him Chairman when he was here and now Secretary, Secretary on more than one occasion, Secretary Norm Mineta who led us in the repatriation fight in the Congress and he is here.
     Now from my own district, Yoshio Wada helped liberate Dachau death camps. When we have the great ceremony in the rotunda of the Capitol, celebrating the liberation of the camps after World War II, at the end of World War II and our Japanese-American patriots are in that march. Imagine, imagine all of that coming together. Imagine Frank Masuoka who helped to negotiate the peaceful surrender of 600 Japanese soldiers to American troops. Imagine that.
     And several in my district were part of the effort that rescued the ‘Lost Battalion’ – an effort which had been tried and failed twice before. In that single campaign, the 442nd suffered over 800 casualties. The I Company, which broke through the last German roadblock, went in with 185 men and only eight walked out uninjured.
     Simply put, the 100th Infantry Battalion, the 442nd Regimental Combat Team and the Military Intelligence Service saved American lives. They faced deadly combat in Italy, France and Germany, the intercepted radio transmissions, translated enemy documents and interrogated prisoners of war.
     Again, it’s another source of pride to me that many of these accomplishments are being memorialized in the Presidio of San Francisco. Thank you Senator Boxer, for your involvement in that. Building 640, as it’s known, is right across from Crissy Field. It was the first headquarters of the MIS. Senator Inouye was there the day we dedicated, we ground broke for it. We’re grateful for the National Japanese-American Historical Society for their efforts to create a museum in San Francisco to honor those who served in the MIS. Consider that an invitation to visit us.
     Every Member of Congress could tell stories of heroism from their own districts. Indeed, we have stories of heroism within the Congress itself. Senator Daniel Inouye’s valor and service in the 442nd earned him the Medal of Honor and today, the Congressional Gold Medal. Our colleague in the House, Congressman Mike Honda, will accept the Gold Medal today on behalf of his father Byron. Byron volunteered to serve in the Military Intelligence Unit even though his wife and children were behind barbed-wire fences of the internment camp.
     We gather today knowing that this group is not complete, that many Congressional Gold Medals today will be awarded posthumously. We remember those for whom today came too late, and we particularly honor those who never came home. In battle, today’s awardees proved that they were great fighters. In their service, they proved they were great patriots—your cause was not just the end of fascism, but promoted the end of discrimination, the American ideal of equality, which is our heritage and our hope.
     Today, as I say, you bring luster to this Gold Medal. You bring honor to this Congress. You have always brought honor to our country. Thank you and congratulations. God bless you and God bless America. 

 Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (Nevada) speech

House Speaker John Boehner's speech:  
     Since our Founding, Americans have believed that our liberties, our Constitution, our way of life, …even our flag are things worth fighting and dying for.  We have also believed these ideas are not limited to one race or people… that the struggle for these ideas can unite all our people.
      But for Japanese-Americans, the days and months after Pearl Harbor must have seemed like a giant and painful step backward.  Removed from their homes and placed in camps, these loyal Americans endured years of discomfort and disgrace.  But out of this story of prejudice comes another story that reaffirms America’s worth and exceptionalism.
      Today we honor the thousands of Japanese-Americans who served in the U.S. Army’s 100th Infantry Battalion, the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, and the Military Intelligence Service… most of whom were recruited during their internment.
     Their baptism of fire began in the mountains of Italy when the 100th Battalion was attached to the Fifth Army.  The overlooked Italian campaign was brutal; it cost the Allies 320,000 casualties between 1943 and 1945.  In Italy, the 100th fought the rain and bitter cold; they fought sickness; they fought trench foot… all while fighting the Germans, uphill.
     In November of 1943 the 100th joined the attack on the Germans’ ‘Winter Line.’  The Nisei soldiers quickly established a reputation as some of the best combat soldiers on the front.  This reputation was sealed early on by men like Allan Ohata and Mikio Hasemoto.  On November 29, 1943, they were attacked by 40 Germans.  Things turned out very badly for those Germans: 38 were killed; one was wounded; one was captured.
      Private Hasemoto gave his life later that day, but that ‘two-man army’ earned Medals of Honor for their extraordinary heroism.  Their bravery and selfless dedication were reflected by all Nisei fighters, wherever they engaged the enemy.  They fought hard for this nation and they held fast to their motto: Go For Broke!
      “Together the 100th and 442nd became the most highly decorated outfit in U.S. Army history.  They received more than 9,000 Purple Hearts.  They earned thousands of Bronze and Silvers Stars.  They earned 52 Distinguished Service Crosses and 21 Medals of Honor.  They even won medals from the Italians and the French.

     These units, plus the Nisei of the Military Intelligence Service distinguished themselves in every operation in nearly every theater of World War Two.  On behalf of my colleagues and the American people, thank you for fighting to make this the greatest nation on earth; and God bless you all for defending our flag.

Republican Senator Leader  Mitch McConnell' s (Kentucky) speech:
      Of all the stories of valor that have come down to us from the Second World War, the story of the 100th Battalion and the 442nd Regimental Combat Team is among the most powerful, and hardest to explain. 
     How did these men who had at first been excluded from service by their own country take up arms so valiantly in her defense? 
     How did men whose families had been rounded up and confined by their own government go on to become the most decorated military unit in U.S. history?
     President Clinton put it well, I think, when he said, of these men, that ‘rarely has a nation been more well-served by a people it had so ill-treated.’ Among them was our friend and colleague Senator Inouye, whose battlefield heroics earned him not only America’s highest military honor, but also its eternal gratitude.
    And then there’s the Military Intelligence Service.  Drawn heavily from the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, the members of the MIS were in many ways America’s secret weapon in the war with Japan. Because of them, General MacArthur could later say that ‘Never in military history did any army know so much about the enemy prior to an actual engagement.’
    Through their tireless efforts during the war, they hastened its end and therefore ensured that countless more lives were not lost. And through their tireless efforts after the war, they laid the groundwork for the close relationship that the U.S. and Japan has enjoyed, against all odds, ever since.
     If you ask those who remain, they’ll tell you, like any good soldier, that they were not looking for glory.
     Lord, may the hands and hearts of this nation be raised in prayer and praise for these heroic members of the United States Army, who served our nation and the hope of freedom for all of the world.  Our nation was defending itself from the attack of dangerous foes, yet these veterans chose to serve while they themselves, and their families were under domestic attack because of their ancestral roots.
     Though never able to be remembered without considerable embarrassment, may the people of this nation now rise to celebrate the units we honor this day, who bore no small rejection by their fellow Americans, yet proved to be the most highly decorated unit in the history of the United States Army.
      May the breath of God uphold their noble and heroic story.  May it carry to other generations and even to other nations, a message to inspire citizens everywhere to serve the mighty cause of public service while always seeking equal justice.
     May those who made the ultimate sacrifice, those who etched out historic victories, those who earned Medals of Honor, and those who suffered personally the pain of rejection in those dark days of our world and our nation, be rewarded with success and find peace.
      Bless all women and men in military service, no matter their racial, cultural or religious heritage, and their families.  God bless America, and grant us peace both in the present and with You forever.    AMEN


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