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Day of Affirmation 

JAVA President Gerald Yamada gives address at Day of Affirmation, National WWII Memorial. Photo: Neet Ford


DAY OF AFFIRMATION

July 15, 2020

National World War II Memorial, Washington, DC


Opening Remarks

Gerald Yamada, JAVA President


My name is Gerald Yamada, and I am President of the Japanese American Veterans Association.  Let me call us to order so that we may start.

Let me first begin by thanking the National Park Service, Military District of Washington, and Friends of the National World War II Memorial for their support of this event.  Also, we thank the National Military Veterans Alliance, the National Japanese American Memorial Foundation, the Japanese American National Museum, and the Japanese American Citizens League for helping us to get the word out about this event. 

On this day – July 15th – 74 years ago in 1946 at 12 noon, President Harry Truman reviewed the returning 442nd Regimental Combat Team on the Ellipse of the White House.  He decorated the 442nd with its 7th Presidential Unit Citation.  Over its short history, the 442nd created a combat record that is unmatched. 

President Truman praised the 442nd by stating:

"You fought not only the enemy, but you fought prejudice – and you have won. Keep up that fight, and we will continue to win – to make this great Republic stand for just what the Constitution says it stands for: the welfare of all the people all the time."

This was a historic event because the 442nd was a segregated, all Japanese American combat unit, except for its officers.  The 442nd was activated in 1943, while 120,000 persons of Japanese ancestry were imprisoned, without any administrative due process, in War Relocation Authority confinement camps. 

Volunteers from these camps and Japanese Americans from Hawaii answered the call to form the 442nd in 1943.  For those Japanese Americans who were:

  • forcibly evacuated from their homes,
  • unjustly imprisoned solely because of their ethnicity,
  • branded as “non-aliens” by the Roosevelt Administration, and
  • asked to declare, despite being American citizens, whether they were loyal to the United States,

Joining the 442nd was their opportunity to fight prejudice at home.  The federal government’s harsh treatment and overt prejudice against them would not diminish their belief in the American dream that brought their immigrant parents to this country. 

In his salute, President Truman honored the 442nd‘s valor in fighting America’s enemies abroad.  More importantly, he congratulated them on winning their fight against prejudice at home. 

In doing so,

  • President Truman affirmed that the soldiers standing before him were loyal Americans, thereby removing the stigma of being treated as “non-aliens,” 
  • He affirmed that their decision -- to put country first -- was the way to win the fight against prejudice, and
  • He affirmed that they were entitled to share in America’s opportunities and to receive equal treatment under the Constitution.

President Truman’s salute was the critical turning point for Japanese Americans.  It marks the decisive point that Japanese Americans, by keeping their faith in America, started winning the war against prejudice.  This is why we call today – July 15th -- the Day of Affirmation

In addition to the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, Japanese Americans also served in:

  • the 100th Infantry Battalion from Hawaii, which was activated in 1942 and fought in Italy for 9 months, creating its own exemplary combat record, before being attached to the 442nd in 1944,
  • they served in the Military Intelligence Service which provided linguistic support to American and Allied forces in the Pacific war zone, and
  • they served in the 1399th Engineering Construction Battalion, which served in Hawaii to rebuild Pearl Harbor and completed 54 construction projects that were critical to the defense of the Islands against further Japanese invasion. 
  • ยทJapanese American women also served in the US military.

They all helped to forge the legacy from which Japanese Americans started to benefit and will continue to benefit in the future.

In his 1951 farewell speech, General Douglas MacArthur said that “old soldiers never die; they just fade away.”  This may be said of the Japanese Americans who served in World War II, but we must not allow their legacy to just fade away. 

On this Day of Affirmation, we call on all Americans to embrace their legacy -- by keeping faith in America’s values and its future – especially in the most difficult of times, as did the Nisei soldiers.

We now honor the Japanese Americans who served in World War II and their legacy by laying a wreath at the Price of Freedom Wall. 

Each gold star on the Freedom Wall represents 100 United States soldiers killed in action during World War II.  Eight of these stars are dedicated to the almost 800 Japanese Americans who were killed in action and the over 30 officers who served in the 442nd and who were killed in action.  Their names are inscribed on the granite panels of the “National Japanese American Memorial to Patriotism in World War II,” located in Washington, DC near the Capitol. 

LTC Brett Egusa (US Army Reserve) is serving as the military escort. 

Catherine Luette, daughter of Maj. Orville Shirey, who served with the 442nd, is one of our wreath bearers. 

Turner Kobayashi, son of Key Kobayashi, who served with the Military Intelligence Service, is the other wreath bearer. 

In honor of those who served, I ask you to face the Freedom Wall, bow your heads, and observe a moment of silence.

MOMENT OF SILENCE

For all those who served, thank you for your service. 

SOUNDING OF TAPS

That concludes our program.  Thank you for joining us on this inaugural Day of Affirmation.  

Following the presentation of the wreath at the Price of Freedom Wall, MSG Matthew Byrne, U.S. Army Band, sounded the solemn notes of Taps. Photo credit: Nicole Yamada

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Inaugural Day of Affirmation


By Gerald Yamada, JAVA President

On July 15, 2020, at 12 noon, JAVA will commemorate the return of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team from the bloody battlefields in Europe to Washington, DC. Seventy-four years earlier, on July 15, 1946, President Harry Truman received the military unit at 12 noon at the Ellipse, the south lawn of the White House, following its march down Constitution Avenue. The President presented the 442nd Regimental Combat Team (RCT) with its seventh Presidential Unit Citation.

The 442nd RCT was activated in 1943 as a segregated all Japanese American combat unit with non-Japanese American officers. When recruitment of Japanese Americans from the War Relocation Authority confinement camps initially fell short, 10,000 Japanese Americans from Hawaii volunteered to serve of which 2,600 were accepted for service in 442nd RCT. In June 1944, the 100th Infantry Battalion, originally comprised of 1,400 Japanese Americans from Hawaii, which had been fighting in Italy for the previous nine months was attached to the 442nd RCT. The 100th was allowed to retain its unit designation in recognition of its exemplary performance in combat. A unit of the 442nd RCT not represented at the Review was the 522nd Field Artillery Battalion which was assigned to the 7th Army for the invasion of Germany, where it liberated a Jewish extermination sub-camp at Dachau, Germany.


During the ceremony, President Truman said:

"You fought not only the enemy, but you fought prejudice – and you have won. Keep up that fight, and we will continue to win – to make this great Republic stand for just what the Constitution says it stands for: the welfare of all the people all the time."

In 1943, Japanese Americans were asked by the federal government to declare whether or not they were loyal to America. Those who answered yes showed that they were willing to fulfill their civic responsibilities as American citizens by serving in the US military and, more importantly, that they still believed in the American dream that brought their Issei parents to this country. They made this decision under the most adverse circumstances. Most were being unjustly imprisoned in War Relocation Authority confinement camps, and all faced widespread overt political and racial "prejudice at home" against persons of Japanese ancestry that predated the war against Japan. For those who served in Europe, this decision tested their courage on the battlefields. They responded with the valor that is still unmatched in terms of their military accomplishments. The Nisei soldiers who served in the Asia Pacific war zone provided linguistic support to American and Allied forces, including real time intelligence to front line commanders which won battles and saved American lives.

President Truman affirmed that the decision made by the Nisei soldiers is the way to win the war against prejudice and to support the Constitution and what it stands for. As stated by 442nd RCT veteran Terry Shima, who at the time was Director of the 442nd RCT Public Relations staff and who covered this event: “I believe that President Truman by participating in this unprecedented review of the returning 442nd RCT did three things:  1) he confirmed Japanese American loyalty, 2) he removed the stigma of disloyalty that was the underlying reason for Executive Order 9066 being issued, and 3) he opened the door to put Japanese Americans on the road to seek the opportunities afforded to American citizens.”

The war against prejudice still continues, as shown by current events. But, the battle against prejudice that the Nisei soldiers won by choosing to keep their faith in America was the critical turning point in our history to defeat prejudice against persons of Japanese ancestry and the foundation upon which Japanese Americans started to benefit and will continue to benefit in the future.

At 12 noon (East Coast time) on July 15, 2020, JAVA will have a wreath-laying at the Price of Freedom Wall, National World War II Memorial, which is on Constitution Avenue, near the Ellipse, to show our appreciation for the legacy created by the Nisei soldiers who served in World War II. Turner Kobayashi, son of Key Kobayashi, who served in the Military Intelligence Service, and Catherine Luette, daughter of Major Orville Shirey, who served with the 442nd RCT, will serve as the wreath bearers.

JAVA’s permit application has been approved for this event. JAVA will livestream the commemoration via JAVA's Facebook page. Closer to July 15th, details of how interested persons may view the broadcast will be posted here on JAVA's website.


Presentation of the Wreath, Price of Freedom Wall, National WWII Memorial, Washington, DC, L to R: Turner Kobayashi, LTC Brett Egusa, USAR, and Catherine Luette. Photo: Neet Ford.

Watch a Recording of the Day of Affirmation Here.

Video credit: Howard High.


Watch a Recording of TAPS played during the Day of Affirmation Here.

Video credit: Nakahiro Iwata.

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DC Ceremony at National WWII Memorial


Date: Wednesday, July 15, 2020.

Time: Ceremony will take place at 12 noon.

Location: Price of Freedom Wall, National WWII Memorial,

1750 Independence Ave SW, Washington, DC (on 17th Ave, between Independence and Constitutions. There is no convenient parking near the Memorial.

Note: Please read the COVID Mitigation Plan below. 


National WII Memorial, Washington, DC. Photo: NPS, Victoria Staufffenberg

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Ceremony at Japanese American National War Memorial Court in Little Tokyo, CA

In support of JAVA's inaugural Day of Affirmation, the Veterans Memorial Court Alliance has planned a tribute to the Nisei soldiers whose courage and patriotism opened the doors to America for the next generation and those to come. The Alliance will make a floral presentation and offer a moment of silence at the Japanese American National War Memorial Court located in Los Angeles, CA on July 15, 2020 at 12 noon Pacific Time.  The presentation will be place on their website, memorialcourtalliance.org.  JAVA is grateful to the Veterans Memorial Court Alliance's help in recognizing the sacrifices made by the Nisei soldiers and their recognition by President Truman 74 years ago on July 15th.



Japanese American War Memorial Court, Little Tokyo, CA. Photo: Shane Sato.

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COVID- 19 Mitigation Plan

This COVID-19 mitigation plan was submitted at the request of the National Park Service (NPS) in support of the Japanese American Veterans Association permit application to the NPS on January 14, 2020, for the Day of Affirmation Commemoration to be held on July 15, 2020, at the National World War II Memorial, Washington, DC.

Each participant will be asked to self-disclose whether he or she is or has experienced coughing, fever, headache, new loss of taste or smell, repeated shaking with chills, sore throat, shortness of breath, and muscle pain within fourteen (14) days before July 15 or has been in contact with anyone diagnosed with COVID-19 within fourteen (14) days before July 15. Anyone who has such symptoms or contact will not be allowed to participate in the event.

We will ask that anyone who has any respiratory symptoms to stay home.

We will also ask that anyone who has chronic health conditions that are not well controlled to stay home

The program, to begin at 12 noon, will be no longer than fifteen (15) minutes. The set-up time will be no longer than thirty (30) minutes before the start of the program.

Program Precautions:

• At the start of the program, we will be asking all by-standers who want to stop and watch the program to maintain a social distance of at least six (6) feet from each other.

• All participants in the Day of Affirmation commemoration on July 15, 2020, will maintain a social distance of at least six (6) feet from each other. During the set-up time, we will mark the spots for the participants so they are 6 feet apart.

• All participants in the Day of Affirmation commemoration on July 15, 2020, will wear a face mask, except the speaker while speaking.

• The Military bugler will be asked to wear a face mask except while sounding taps.

The program will be live-streamed via Facebook. We will announce in advance through our media contacts that interested persons are encouraged to watch the program online rather than attending the event in-person and on-site. This should reduce the number of persons who are a part of this event to less than 10 persons.  

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