Digital History>eXplorations>Japanese American Internment>21 Asian American World War II Vets To Get Medal of Honor
Asian American World War II Vets To Get Medal of Honor
By Rudi Williams
American Force Press Service
from the Department of Defense:
May 19, 2000 -- Twenty-one Asian American World War II heroes
are scheduled to have their wartime Distinguished Service Crosses
upgraded to Medals of Honor during White House ceremonies on June
Seven of the 21 recipients are still living. They
are: Rudolph B. Davila of Vista, Calif.; Barney F. Hajiro of Waipahu,
Hawaii; Shizuya Hayashi of Pearl City, Hawaii; U.S. Sen. Daniel
Inouye of Honolulu, Hawaii; Yeiki Kobashigawa of Hawaii (city
not available); Yukio Okutsu of Hilo, Hawaii; and George T. Sakato
The Distinguished Service Cross was conferred
on 11 of the heroes posthumously. The remaining three have died
since the war.
President Clinton approved the Army's recommendations
for the upgrades on May 12. Nineteen of the 21 veterans were members
of the all-Japanese 100th Infantry Battalion or 442nd Regimental
Combat Team -- for their size, among the most highly decorated
units in U.S. military history.
The 100th, comprised mostly of Japanese American
National Guardsmen from Hawaii, was the first all-Japanese American
combat unit. While the 442nd was being formed in 1943, the 100th
Battalion was already fighting in Italy. The 100th merged into
the 442nd in 1944 and became the regiment's first battalion though
it retained its unit designation.
The upgrading of the medals stems from efforts
by Sen. Daniel Akaka of Hawaii, who authored the provision of
the 1996 Defense Authorization Act mandating a review of the service
records of Asian Pacific Americans who received the Distinguished
"The number of nominations made by the Army
and approved ... by the president underscores the reason I sought
this review: to dispel any doubt about discrimination in the process
of awarding the Medal of Honor," Akaka said in a press release.
He noted that the 100th and 442nd fought with
incredible courage and bravery in Italy and France, well befitting
the unit motto, "Go for Broke!" -- Hawaiian slang for
"shoot the works." Its members earned more than 18,000
individual decorations, including one wartime Medal of Honor,
53 Distinguished Service Crosses, 9,486 Purple Hearts and seven
Presidential Unit Citations, the nation's top award for combat
"Unfortunately, Asian Pacific Americans were
not accorded full consideration for the Medal of Honor at the
time of their service," said Akaka, who praised the Army
and Secretary of the Army Louis Caldera for a "tremendous
job conducting" the records review.
"A prevailing climate of racial prejudice
against Asian Pacific Americans during World War II precluded
this basic fairness, the most egregious example being the internment
of 120,000 Japanese Americans," Akaka said. "The bias,
discrimination and hysteria of that time unfortunately had an
impact on the decision to award the military's highest honor to
Asian and Pacific Islanders."
Many of the Japanese Americans who served in the
442nd volunteered from internment camps, where their families
had been relocated at the outbreak of war.
The 100th and 442nd fought in eight major campaigns
in Italy, France and Germany, including battles at Monte Cassino,
Anzio and Biffontaine.
The best-known of the 21 heroes is Inouye.
"I am deeply grateful to my nation for this
extraordinary award," he said in a brief statement after
learning he had been selected for the nation's highest award for
valor. "The making of a man involves many mentors. If I did
well, much of the credit should go to my parents, grandparents
and the gallant men of my platoon. This is their medal. I will
receive it on their behalf."
According to his Senate biography, Army Sgt. Inouye
"slogged through nearly three bloody months of the Rome-
Arno campaign with the U.S. Fifth Army and established himself
as an outstanding patrol leader with the 'Go-For- Broke Regiment.'"
Inouye's unit shifted from Italy to the Vosges
Mountains in France and "spent two of the bloodiest weeks
of the war rescuing 'The Lost Battalion,' the 1st Battalion, 141st
Infantry Regiment, of the Texas National Guard, which was surrounded
by German forces," according to his biography.
The Japanese American unit sustained more than
800 casualties to rescue 211 Texans. The rescue is listed in the
Army annals as one of the most significant military battles of
"Inouye lost 10 pounds, became a platoon
leader and earned the Bronze Star Medal and a battlefield commission
as a second lieutenant," the bio states.
The regiment went back to Italy, and Inouye was
cited for heroism while leading his platoon against the enemy
at San Terenzo on April 21, 1945. Though hit in the abdomen by
a bullet that came out his back and barely missed his spine, he
continued to lead the platoon and advanced alone against a machine
gun nest that had pinned down his men.
"He tossed two hand grenades with devastating
effect before his right arm was shattered by a German rifle grenade
at close range," according to the senatorial bio. "Inouye
threw his last grenade with his left hand, attacked with a submachine
gun and was finally knocked down the hill by a bullet in the leg."
After 20 months in Army hospitals, Inouye returned
home as a captain with a Distinguished Service Cross, the nation's
second highest award for military valor, Bronze Star Medal, Purple
Heart with oak leaf cluster and 12 other medals and citations.
He became Hawaii's first congressman in 1959 when
he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. Inouye, a
native of Honolulu, was re-elected to a full term in 1960 and
won election to the U.S. Senate in 1962.
The 20 other veterans scheduled to receive the
Medal of Honor are:
Sgt. (later 2nd Lt.) Rudolph B. Davila, 7th Infantry, for actions
on May 28, 1944, at Artena, Italy.
Barney F. Hajiro, 442nd Regimental Combat Team, for actions
in October 1944, at Bruyeres and Biffontaine, France.
Mikio Hasemoto, 100th Infantry Battalion, for actions on Nov.
29, 1943, at Cerasuolo, Italy (posthumous).
Joe Hayashi, 442nd Regimental Combat Team, for actions in April
1945, at Tendola, Italy.
Shizuya Hayashi, 100th Infantry Battalion, for actions on Nov.
29, 1943, at Cerasuolo, Italy.
Sgt. Yeiki Kobashigawa, 100th Infantry Battalion, for action
on June 2, 1944, at Lanuvio, Italy.
Sgt. Robert T. Kuroda, 442nd Regimental Combat Team, for actions
on Oct. 20, 1944, at Bruyeres, France (posthumous).
Kaoru Moto, 100th Infantry Battalion, for actions on July 7,
1944, at Castellina, Italy (posthumous).
Kiyoshi K. Muranaga, 442nd Regimental Combat Team, for actions
on June 26, 1944, at Suvereto, Italy (posthumous).
Masato Nakae, 100th Infantry Battalion, for actions on August
19, 1944, at Pisa, Italy (posthumous).
Shinyei Nakamine, 100th Infantry Battalion, for actions on June
2, 1944, at La Torreto, Italy (posthumous).
William K. Nakamura, 442nd Regimental Combat Team, for actions
on July 4, 1944, at Castellina, Italy (posthumous).
Joe M. Nishimoto, 442nd Regimental Combat Team, for actions
on Nov. 7, 1944, at La Houssiere, France (posthumous).
(later Staff Sgt.) Allan M. Ohata, 100th Infantry Battalion,
for actions in November 1943 at Cerasuolo, Italy.
Sgt. Yukio Okutsu, 442nd Regimental Combat Team, for actions
on April 7, 1945, at Mount Belvedere, Italy.
Frank H. Ono, 442nd Regimental Combat Team, for actions on July
4, 1944, at Castellina, Italy (posthumous).
Sgt. Kazuo Otani, 442nd Regimental Combat Team, for actions
on July 15, 1944, at Pieve di S. Luce, Italy (posthumous).
George T. Sakato, 442nd Regimental Combat Team, for actions
on Oct. 29, 1944, in Biffointaine, France.
Sgt. Ted T. Tanouye, 442nd Regimental Combat Team, for actions
on July 7, 1944, at Molina a Ventoabbto, Italy (posthumous).
Francis B. Wai, 34th Infantry, for actions on Oct. 20, 1944,
at Leyte, Philippine Islands (posthumous).
22nd Medal of Honor was favorably considered for another Japanese
American, James Okubo, under a separate provision of the law.
The decoration can't be formally approved, however, until Congress
waives the statutory time restriction in his specific case, Army
former Army medic, Okubo was originally recommended for the Medal
of Honor but his command gave him the Silver Star Medal in the
mistaken belief that was the highest award allowed. Okubo was
cited for extraordinary heroism in several separate actions near
Biffontaine in October and November 1944 in which he saved the
lives of fellow 442nd soldiers while exposing himself to intense