JAVA President Gerald Yamada (on right) thanking LTC Ray Oden, USA (Ret) for presentation on "Japanese American Influence in the Special Forces." Photo: Chris DeRosa.
The mood at the Peking Inn Gourmet on Saturday, August 24th, was celebratory, as JAVA members and friends gathered for the first time since January 2020. The highlight of the busy afternoon was a fascinating talk centered on Japanese American contributions to the U. S. Army's Special Forces by LTC Ray Oden, USA (Ret). The afternoon also included an awards presentation by President Gerald Yamada to honor JAVA members who have made significant contributions to the organization and an overview of the 2021 JAVA Memorial Scholarship Program recipients by Scholarship Chair Mrs. Chris DeRosa.
Although the setting was a new one for JAVA, members were happy to see a return to tradition with the reciting of the Pledge of Allegiance at the start of the luncheon. JAVA Vice President Howard High gave a hearty welcome to all, and Rod Azama took a moment to introduce special guest, Koichi Ai, Minister of Chancery of the Embassy of Japan, who is new to the post. Before the lunch service, Mary Murakami led the group in prayer, calling to mind the many blessing of freedom and democracy in the United States and expressed gratitude to our veterans.
After rekindling friendships and enjoying the delicious fare of the Peking Inn Gourmet, JAVA members and friends heard from by LTC Ray Oden, USA (Ret), who is currently serving as President, Chapter XI, also known as The National Capitol Chapter of the Special Forces Association (SFA). LTC Oden explained the SFA Chapter XI gets together (during normal times) to promote and fortify the bonds of the Special Forces brotherhood. One tradition of the SFA that is especially meaningful is attendance by LTC Oden and often other SFA XI members at Arlington National Cemetery services for Special Forces Soldiers.
LTC Oden's talk began with a primer on who the U.S. Army's Special Forces (SF) are and what they do. Also known as the Green Berets, the SF are elite teams selected and trained as America's primary weapon for waging unconventional warfare. SF Operators receive specialized training in advanced weapons, language, demolitions, combat medicine, military free-fall, and advanced combat tactics. Special Forces operate in autonomous environments and are deployed worldwide in rapid-response situations, whether during peacetime, crisis, or war.
Oden then shared that the SF trace their roots to the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), formed in World War II to gather intelligence and conduct operations behind enemy lines to support resistance groups in Europe and Burma. Oden went on to say that Nisei MIS soldiers were part of the OSS Detachment 101 and underscored that 101 is the OSS element that most closely mirrors the mission and capability of today's Army Special Forces Group. He highlighted the contributions of the 14 Nisei who were hand-picked to support the 5307th Composite Unit (Provisional), best known as Merrill's Marauders. LTC Oden detailed the long and grueling months spent in Northern Burma conducting clandestine operations, leading native and Allied troops in guerilla raids, gathering intelligence, and rescuing downed Allied aviators.
Oden also spoke about two World War II Nisei soldiers, T/4 Richard Y. Hirata and T/4 Seiji Ishii, members of the Alamo Scouts, another legacy unit of the Special Forces. The Alamo Scouts' training was more than arduous. Besides rigorous physical conditioning, rubber boat handling, intelligence gathering, scouting and patrolling, jungle navigation, communications, and weapons training. Officially, the U.S. Sixth Army Special Reconnaissance Unit, the Alamo Scouts, are best known for liberating American prisoners of war from the Japanese Cabanatuan POW camp in the Philippines in January 1945, freeing 516 Allied prisoners. The Alamo Scouts also liberated 197 Allied prisoners in New Guinea. They also captured numerous Japanese soldiers and sailors for interrogation.
Condensing much of the Special Forces legacy history due to time constraints, Oden noted that the OSS was disbanded in 1945. Then in 1952, the 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) and the 1st Special Forces Group, was organized. In the years that followed, the group's motto, De Oppresso Liber (To Free the Oppressed), took shape. As examples of that motto, Oden zeroed in on Japanese American Special Forces during more recent conflicts. Former JAVA Executive Council member and Vietnam veteran CPT Wade Ishimoto, USA (Ret), was praised by LTC Oden for his years of service and excellence in the Special Forces. Oden remarked that Ishimoto thrived in the Army, serving three tours in Vietnam as an operations sergeant with the 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne). Wade's Special Forces intelligence work continued. Oden noted that Ishimoto was part of the roadblock security team leader on the ill-fated 1980 mission to rescue 53 American hostages in Tehran, Iran.
Next, Oden lauded the Special Forces service of LTG Michael K. Nagata, USA (Ret), who in 1990 volunteered and assessed for a Special Missions Unit (SMU). LTG Nagata served at various times throughout his career as a Troop Commander, Operations Officer, Squadron Commander, and SMU Commander. Oden added that from 1999 to 2000, Nagata commanded the 1st Battalion, 1st Special Warfare Training Group, responsible for the Special Forces Qualification Course.
Last, Oden paid homage to Sergeant Major Ernest K. Tabata, Distinguished Member of the Regiment (DMOR). Born on Oahu, HI, in 1930, the son of Japanese immigrants, Tabata began his military career at age 15 in the Hawaiian Territorial Guard. In 1949, he enlisted in the U.S. Army and served in the Korean War. In 1961, Tabata began his Special Forces career. He deployed to Laos with WHITE STAR and had three tours of duty in Vietnam. Tabata retired from active duty after thirty-one years of service. It did not take long for Tabata to become restless. A few years later, he returned to the Special Forces as the first civilian parachute instructor and, for the next 29 years, was an SF engineer and demolitions instructor. Tabata was known for the excellence he demanded of himself and his soldiers. After he died in 2015, the SF training center at Fort Bragg, NC, was named in his honor, SGM Ernest (Ernie) Tabata, Special Forces Engineer Training Complex, ensuring his legacy as a Japanese American SF soldier. By the close of LTC Oden's talk, the audience had a deeper appreciation for those wearing Green Berets and gratitude for the exemplary Japanese American role models found in CPT Ishimoto, LTG Nagata, and SGM Tabata.
COL Kay Wakatake, USA, accepts JAVA's highest honor, the Courage, Honor, and Patriotism Award; JAVA President Gerald Yamada on right. Peking Gourmet Inn, Falls Church, VA. Photo: John Tobe.
William Houston accepts Terry T. Shima Leadership Award; JAVA President Gerald Yamada on right. Peking Gourmet Inn, Falls Church, VA. Photo: Neet Ford.
JAVA Awards Presentation
President Yamada then moved on to the JAVA Awards Presentation. Army COL Kay Wakatake was awarded JAVA's highest honor, the Courage, Honor, and Patriotism Award. Yamada stated JAVA owed Kay a debt of gratitude. Amazingly, she served as editor of the quarterly JAVA Advocate for over twelve years and transformed the newsletter from a black and white mimeographed document to a 20-page color publication. Kay performed this Herculean task while undergoing a tour in Germany and a combat tour in Iraq, among other assignments. COL Wakatake thanked JAVA and said the honor humbled her.
Next, Yamada told members that JAVA was honored to present William Houston with the Terry T. Shima Leadership Award. While the award was originally given in 2020, Houston could not attend the presentation. Yamada recounted Houston was a charter member of JAVA's Board of Directors in JAVA's founding years. During those years, Houston, with his legal expertise, helped establish JAVA as a national organization. Committed to JAVA, Houston served as General Counsel, Scholarship Committee Chair, and took on many other official and unofficial titles. Houston expressed his sincere gratitude for the recognition.
JAVA President Yamada was also pleased to present Wade Ishimoto with the Terry T. Shima Leadership Award. Yamada commended Wade for his steadfast leadership and dedication during his long tenure on the Executive Council. Yamada elaborated that Wade stepped up during a JAVA leadership crisis, developed a plan, and put JAVA back on sure footing. Moreover, when plans got underway to construct a U.S. Army Museum at Fort Belvoir, Wade was instrumental in working with museum officials to ensure JAVA was recognized as a silver oak leaf cluster organization in the Veterans' Hall. Wade gave heartfelt thanks to the group for the honor.
CAPT Wade Ishimoto accepting Terry T. Shima Leadership Award; JAVA President Gerald Yamada on right. Peking Gourmet Inn, Falls Church, VA. Photo: Neet Ford.
Jim Tani accepting JAVA Service Award, a bronze replica Nisei Soldier Congressional Gold Medal on behalf of his late father, Paul Tani. Photo: Chris DeRosa.
Awards Given Earlier and in Absentia
The Veterans' Advocate Award was awarded earlier in the summer to Minister Kenichiro Mukai, Embassy of Japan, for his interest in learning about the Japanese American experience and his sincere desire to build a friendship between the government of Japan and the Nikkei population. Minister Mukai is now serving in Paris.
LTC Mark Nakagawa, USA (Ret), received the Veterans' Advocate Award for his unflagging dedication to JAVA. Mark is a trusted JAVA steward. He has served for many years on the Executive Committee and has held the positions of Treasurer and Vice President. Mark remains an indefatigable promoter of JAVA membership and events. His can-do attitude inspires those around him to pitch in and ensures that the often thankless tasks of audio-visual equipment and flags are in place. The Veterans' Advocate Award also went to Seiki Oshiro and Holly Rotondi. Seiki was a member of the team that worked on a massive project to identify the names of all graduates of MIS Language School from the first MISLS class to the Occupation of Japan. Compiling this list was difficult since MISLS used only surnames and the initial of the first name. Over the years, this team collected 7,000 names, and Seiki continues his research to this day as a project to recognize the contributions of Nisei MIS personnel during World War II. Holly Rotondi, Executive Director of Friends of the National World War II Memorial, has included JAVA speakers to discuss Japanese American experience during WW II in her programs, giving the Nisei soldiers and JAVA a national platform.
Dr. James T. McIlwain, Professor Emeritus of Neuroscience, Brown University, was awarded the JAVA Service Award and received a replica Nisei Soldier Congressional Gold Medal with an inscribed bronze plate. A JAVA lifetime member served on the credentials committee for the Congressional Gold Medal Award ceremony in Washington, DC in November 2011, and verified every individual with questionable credentials to participate in the awards ceremony at the U.S. Capitol. Furthermore, over the last twenty years, he single-handedly created and built a database, "Soldiers and the Camps," a collection of 9,000 names, including 1,000 from Tule Lake, and data of Japanese Americans recruited into the military while confined to internment camps.
The remarkable accomplishments and outstanding contributions of these awardees went beyond the call of duty, and JAVA is indebted to all of them.
Victor and Teru Matsui Memorial Scholarship Winner Micah Katahara and parents at JAVA luncheon. Peking Gourmet Inn, Falls Church, VA. L to R: JAVA member CAPT Michael Katahara, USN (Ret), Loree Katahara, Micah Katahara, and JAVA President Gerald Yamada. Photo: Chris DeRosa.
Pointing to an artful and patriotic display board of the 2021 JAVA Memorial Scholarship Program recipients, Scholarship Chair Chris DeRosa exclaimed that this year's winners were "extremely talented." EC member and Scholarship Committee members Dr. Cynthia Macri and Dawn Eilenberger both echoed DeRosa's statement, adding that the decisions were very difficult with such outstanding candidates. After telling the group that JAVA offered 14 scholarships totaling $24,500 in awards, Chris introduced Micah Katahara, of Great Falls, VA, one of the accomplished scholarship winners who, along with his parents, had joined JAVA for the luncheon. Micah will begin his studies at the College of William and Mary this fall and received the Victor and Teru Matsui Scholarship.
Members of the JAVA Scholarship Committee. L to R: Dawn Eilenberger, Dr. Cynthia Macri, Chris DeRosa. Photo: Neet Ford.
General Membership Meeting
L to R: Michelle Amano, Tyler Franklin, LT Caitlin Takahashi-Pipkin and JAVA President Gerald Yamada, 2021 Day of Affirmation, World War II Memorial, Washington, DC. Photo: Nicole Yamada.
The Japanese American Veterans Association held its second annual Day of Affirmation on July 15, 2021, at the World War II Memorial in Washington, DC. This marked the 75th anniversary of President Truman’s affirmation that all the Japanese American soldiers, men, and women, who served during World War II are America’s heroes, removing any doubt that they are loyal citizens of the United States of America. On July 15, 1946, President Harry S. Truman saluted returning Japanese American soldiers, on the White House Ellipse, by stating that "You fought not only the enemy, but you fought prejudice – and you have won. Keep up that fight, and we will continue to win….”
Opening remarks were given by JAVA President Gerald Yamada (click here to read). As part of the ceremony, JAVA presented a wreath to honor the legacy forged by the valor and patriotism of the Japanese American men and women who served during World War II. The wreath incorporated the image of the Go For Broke: Japanese American Soldiers of World War II Commemorative Stamp that was issued in June. The image was provided by the U.S. Postal Service.
The stamp is our Nation’s way of saying to those who served, “Thank you for your service and devotion to protecting America’s freedoms.”
The military escort for the wreath was LT Caitlin Takahashi-Pipkin. She is the granddaughter of Kazuo and Fusa Takahashi. Kazuo Takahashi served in the Military Intelligence Service during World War II and passed away in 1977.
There were two wreath bearers. One was Tyler Franklin. Like the military escort, he is also related to Kazuo and Fusa Takahashi. He is their grandson.
Fusa Takahashi is one of the original co-founders of the Stamp Our Story Campaign that successfully obtained the U.S. Postmaster General’s approval of the Go For Broke: Japanese American Soldiers of World War II Commemorative Stamp.
Ms. Michelle Amano was the other wreath bearer. Ms. Amano is the granddaughter of Mike Masaoka, whose advocacy work with the government allowed Japanese Americans to serve again in the U.S. military and resulted in the creation, in 1943, of the 442nd RCT, a highly decorated, segregated all Japanese American combat unit. Mike Masaoka was one of the first to volunteer to serve in the 442nd RCT, together with his four brothers, one of whom was killed in action.
After the presentation of the wreath at the Price of Freedom Wall, a moment of silence was observed and the sounding of Taps by SSG John Powlison, U.S. Army bugler was performed.
To watch the slideshow of the 2021 Day of Affirmation, click here or visit https://java-us.org/Day-of-Affirmation.
2021 Day of Affirmation Wreath, Price of Freedom Wall, World War II Memorial, Washington, DC. Photo: Nicole Yamada.
Founding Farmers restaurant gathering, Washington, DC. Clockwise from Front Center: LT Caitlin Takahashi-Pipkin, Tyler Franklin, Howard High, Nicole Yamada, Nancy Yamada, Gerald Yamada, Holly Rotondi, Neet Ford, Michelle Amano, Alex Takahashi, Kyle Popkin. Photo: Courtesy of Gerald Yamada.
In celebration of the Day of Affirmation and to thank the wreath bearers, Michelle Amano and Tyler Franklin, and military escort, Lt Caitlin Takahashi-Pipkin, Gerald and Nancy Yamada hosted a luncheon at the Founding Farmers restaurant in downtown Washington, DC. Yamada thanked Michelle, Tyler, and Caitlin for their participation and presented them with JAVA certificates. The luncheon was also an opportunity to present Holly Rotondi, Executive Director of Friends of the World War II Memorial, with the Veterans' Advocate Award. The award recognizes individuals who have supported JAVA’s perpetuation of the Japanese American World War II legacy. Yamada praised Rotondi's work and noted that she has made it a point to have JAVA members share the story of the Nisei during World War II in her programming. He remarked that she also greatly facilitated the permit approval process with the National Park Service so that JAVA could host the first Day of Affirmation. Rotondi graciously received the award and expressed her desire to continue working with JAVA to remember and honor those who served.
Holly Rotondi, Executive Director of Friends of the World War II Memorial accepting the Veterans' Advocate Award. L to R: Gerald Yamada, Holly Rotondi, Neet Ford. Photo: Courtesy of Gerald Yamada.
JAVA leadership enjoyed a luncheon meeting at Taberna del Alabardero with the newly assigned Minister of Chancery and the Public Affairs Officer of the Embassy of Japan. L to R: Megumi Koike, Public Affairs Officer Embassy of Japan, Howard High, JAVA Vice President, Gerald Yamada, JAVA President, and Koichi Ai, Minister of Chancery of the Embassy of Japan. Photo: Courtesy of Howard High.
For Broke Stamp. Image Credit: U.S. Postal Service.
The White House. PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN issued the following statement on June 3, 2021. It is my honor to recognize the United States Postal Service’s release of the Go for Broke: Japanese American Soldiers of World War II commemorative stamp. Japanese American soldiers who fought for our nation’s freedom during World War II represent the best of who we are as Americans — patriotic, selfless, and courageous. Their service and devotion know no bounds, and our nation owes them a profound debt of gratitude.
Our Japanese American service members served heroically in World War II — in combat, the Military Intelligence Service, and the Women’s Army Corps. They served with bravery and valor and were part of some of the most decorated and distinguished military units in our nation’s history. 18,000 medals, nine Presidential Unit Citations, and 21 Medals of Honor were awarded to members of the all-Japanese American 100th Infantry Battalion and the 442nd Regimental Combat Team.
These patriots fought courageously for our freedom and democracy around the globe even while being stripped of personal liberties and property rights here in America.
This stamp also recognizes the struggle of the Japanese Americans who were immorally and unconstitutionally forced into inhumane incarceration camps. It is a reminder of some of our history’s most shameful and darkest days, and it is why I promise to fight every day for a more just and inclusive America.
Xenophobia still exists in this country, and anti-Asian violence and hate has tragically increased during the pandemic. I signed the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act into law in May to address this crisis, and my administration will continue to stand up against the ugly poison of hate that has long haunted and plagued our nation.
The resilience and determination of Japanese American service members who fought during World War II embody the best of the American spirit, and this stamp is a small but significant way to honor their allegiance and gallantry.
God bless you all, and God bless our troops.
Los Angeles, CA. The Stamp Our Story Committee (SOSC) presented the Los Angeles Go For Broke: Japanese American Soldiers of WWII commemorative stamp dedication program on June 4, 2021, at the Japanese American National Museum's (JANM) Center for Democracy. Representatives of the U.S. Postal Service were in attendance and participated in the unveiling of the new stamp first conceived by Fusa Takahashi on the steps of JANM after seeing an exhibit on the impressive contributions Japanese American veterans made to our nation's victorious efforts during WWII. The program was live-streamed and recorded, however in an effort to make this program accessible to the hearing impaired, SOSC is producing a subtitled version of the entire program, which will be available for viewing starting Wednesday, August 4.
Order of Rising Sun, Gold and Silver Star Award was presented to MG Viet Xuan Luong, USA, Commander of U.S. Army Japan, on behalf of the Emperor by Parliamentary Vice Minister of Defense, Hiroyuki Onishi. Photo: Courtesy of MG Luong.
Toyko, Japan. MG Viet Xuan Luong, Commander of U.S. Army Japan, was awarded Japan’s prestigious Order of the Rising Sun, Gold and Silver Star, on June 22, 2021, at Camp Ichigaya, Tokyo, Japan. This prestigious imperial decoration was conferred on MG Luong by Parliamentary Vice Minister of Defense, Hiroyuki Onishi for Luong’s dedication to the peace and stability of the region as well as for the development of the U.S.-Japan alliance through various efforts such as the Japan-U.S. bilateral exercise.
MG Luong said, “it is a tremendous honor to receive this prestigious award" and recognized the “steadfast support, guidance and cooperation he received from all levels of the American and Japanese sides to execute his mission.”
Luong said “I want to give special thanks to my family, friends, colleagues, NCOs, and Soldiers for their love and support. I am grateful for the opportunity to serve our Great Nation and the U.S. Army. God bless America!”
Luong is the first ethnic Vietnamese promoted to General Officer rank in the U.S. armed forces. He was born in 1965 in Bien Hoa, South Vietnam. When he was nine years old, his parents and seven sisters were placed on the USS Hancock, an Essex-class aircraft carrier. The children asked their father, "Dad, where are we? Dad answered, "you are on a U.S. carrier." They asked, "what does that mean?" Dad replied, “it means nothing in the world can harm you now.” The next day Saigon fell.
Luong graduated from the University of Southern California with a degree in Biological Sciences and was commissioned through the Reserve Officer Training Corps. He subsequently graduated with a Master of Military Art and Science from the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College and was selected as a National Security Fellow, Freeman Spogli Center for International Security and Cooperation at Stanford University.
His army career assigned him to various stateside locations, Afghanistan, Iraq, Haiti, Bosnia, Kosovo, Republic of Korea, and Japan. Luong is slated to retire on October 1, 2021.
Sergeant Major (SGM) Ernest K. Tabata, Special Forces
Sergeant Major (SGM) Ernest K. Tabata, Special Forces WHITE STAR, Vietnam, VSF Engineer Instructor, was born on Oahu, Hawaii, in 1930, the son of Japanese immigrants. He began his military career at age 15 in the Hawaiian Territorial Guard. He enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1949, served with the 1st Cavalry Division during the Korean War, and afterwards with the 11th and 82nd Airborne Divisions.
In 1961, he began his Special Forces (SF) career with the 7th SF Group (SFG) and served extensively throughout Asia. He deployed to Laos with WHITE STAR, served three tours of duty in Vietnam, including Military Assistance Command, Vietnam, Studies and Observations Group (MACV-SOG), and four years in the Republic of China on Taiwan. Tabata had tours of duty with the 1st, 5th, 7th and 10th SFGs, and retired from active duty as an SGM in 1981, after thirty-one years of service. He later became the first civilian instructor on parachute status at the SF Engineer Sergeants Course and was an SF engineer and demolitions instructor for twenty-nine years.
He was named the 2004 U.S. Special Operations Command Bull Simons Award recipient and a Distinguished Member of the SF Regiment. Passing away in 2015, he was honored by having the SF Engineer Training Facility named for him in 2018. SGM Ernest K. Tabata’s legacy lives today in the SF Engineer Sergeant Course and the high standards and excellence that he demanded of himself and his soldiers. Click this link for additional info and photos. https://arsof-history.org/icons/tabata.html.
Military funeral honors with caisson for Colonel Jimmie Kanaya on June 30, 2021, Arlington National Cemetery, VA. Photo: Lynn Kanaya.
Arlington, VA. Arranged by his wife Lynn Kanaya, the U.S. Army accorded COL Jimmie Kanaya, a decorated veteran of WW II, the Occupation of Japan, Korean and Vietnam Wars, a dignified and solemn in-ground burial on June 30, 2021, at Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, DC. The burial ceremony, attended by COL Kanaya’s family, representatives from the American Ex-POW Association, JAVA members including President and Mrs. Gerald Yamada, was officiated by a U.S. Army Chaplain and included a caisson pulled by 6 horses, an escort platoon of soldiers, military band, and bugler. Caissons were used during World War I to haul artillery shells to the front lines and deceased soldiers on their return trip.
COL Kanaya, who served 34 years in the Army, was born in Clackamas, OR. He received a battlefield commission during the Italian Campaign. He was captured by the Germans in France and placed in POW camps in Poland and Germany. He was a POW until the end of World War II at the same time his family was imprisoned unconstitutionally in the Minidoka Relocation Center, ID.
Colonel Jimmie Kanaya, USA (Ret)
Painting of Rescue of Trapped Texas Battalion in Vosges Forest, France by Charles McBarrow. The painting hangs in a hall in the Pentagon.
JAVA Research Team (JRT)
Washington, DC. When Japan attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, the U.S. government declared war against Japan and branded Japanese residents and their U.S.-citizen children in the U.S as spies and saboteurs of Japan. One hundred twenty thousand ethnic Japanese residents of the Pacific coast states were unconstitutionally confined in internment camps and Nisei were prohibited from serving in the U.S. military. Nisei petitioned the government to allow them to serve in combat to prove their loyalty. Washington responded by forming the segregated 100th Battalion, comprised of 1,432 Hawaii Nisei draftees. Subsequently, all Nisei 442nd Regimental Combat Team, comprised of Hawaii and mainland Nisei volunteers were formed and fought in Europe.
Washington had a high priority requirement for thousands of Japanese linguists and their only source for this large number of Japanese linguists was the Nisei from Hawaii and the mainland, many with native-level fluency. As the government needed to know the content of these documents, it had no recourse but to engage the Nisei, who the government had branded as traitors. The government enrolled over 7,000 Hawaii and mainland Nisei in the Military Intelligence Service Language School (MISLS) and sent 3,000 of the graduates to the Asia Pacific theater where many interacted with the enemy. Each Nisei on the front line was assigned a Caucasian bodyguard to protect him and also to report acts of disloyalty. Serving for four years as the “eyes and ears” of U.S. and allied commanders, no Nisei linguist was convicted for collaborating with the enemy and their contributions were recognized. The men from Hawaii and the mainland, adopting the “Go For Broke” spirit, gave everything they had to achieve a single goal: prove their loyalty. As to whether Nisei achieved their goal, let us review the awards and recognition Nisei had received and remarks made about their performance.
Awards and Recognition
- When the war ended, the press reported U.S. Army has judged the 442nd, including the 100th, the best fighting unit in U.S. Army history and the most highly decorated unit in WWII for its size and period of combat. COL Rai Rasmussen, Commandant of MIS Language School, said “Never in military history did the army know so much about the enemy prior to actual engagement.” Dr. James McNaughton provided Rasmussen’s quote.
- In 1944, two hundred eleven survivors of the trapped 141st Regiment, 36th Division, bought and presented to the 442nd a plaque, with words of appreciation, for saving them. This plaque hangs in the 442nd Veterans Hawaii clubhouse.
- On October 21, 1963, Texas Governor John Connally signed a proclamation making members of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team honorary citizens of Texas for saving the trapped 141st Regiment. On June 10, 1997, Iowa Governor Terry Branstad signed an order making members of the 100th Battalion and the 442nd RCT honorary citizens of Iowa for serving with distinction in the 34th (Iowa) Division.
- On July 15, 1946, President Harry Truman reviewed the 442nd at the south lawn of the White House, where he confirmed Japanese American loyalty. Nisei's war record contributed to the climate for the implementation of Truman’s Executive Order 9981, dated July 26, 1948, which abolished discrimination and segregation in the armed forces, thereby leveling the playing field for minorities.
- On July 15, 2020, twenty Distinguished Service Crosses were upgraded to Medals of Honor (MOH), the nation’s highest award for valor, and presented to Nisei in a White House ceremony. Until that event, the 442nd had received one MOH, and that too was obtained by congressional intervention.
- On November 2, 2011, the U.S. Army presented the Presidential Unit Citation (PUC) to members of the MIS for Nisei linguistic achievements in the Asia Pacific theater. The 442nd, including the 100th, received the PUC seven times.
- On November 2, 2011, the U.S. Congress awarded the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest honor Congress can bestow, to the 100th Battalion, 442nd Combat Team, and the MIS for extraordinary contribution to the American people.
- State and municipal legislatures of Hawaii, California, Washington, Utah, Virginia, Maryland have issued proclamations recognizing Nisei contributions during World War II.
- On June 3, 2021, the US Postal Service issued a Forever stamp to honor 31,000 Nisei who served in the armed forces during WW II.
- Nisei war record contributed to the repeal of Anti-Asian discriminatory laws; the passage of the Immigration and Nationality Act which offered U.S. citizenship to the previously proscribed Asian aliens, the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, statehood for Hawaii and others.
Remarks about Nisei Performance.
- In August 1988 President Ronald Reagan offered a national apology for the internment: “Here we admit a wrong. Here we affirm our commitment as a nation to equal justice under the law." This apology is inscribed in the Civil Liberties Act of 1988. It is also engraved on the wall of the National Japanese American Memorial to Patriotism in Washington, DC.
- On June 21, 2000, at the White House, President Bill Clinton, following presentation of 20 Medals of Honor upgrades from Distinguished Service Crosses, told the audience, “These American soldiers made an impact that soars beyond the force of any battle. They left a lasting imprint on the meaning of America. They didn’t give up on our country, even when too many of their countrymen and women had given up on them. Rarely has a nation been so well served by a people it has so ill-treated.”
- President Barack Obama told JAVA veterans at the White House Asia Pacific American Month program on February 18, 2014, “Because of your outstanding bravery, it shines a spotlight on the wrong that was done to Japanese Americans during World War II. And you know that has had a lasting impact on the country as a whole because it reminded us that this country is built not on a particular race or religion or ethnicity, but it is based on creed and ideals that you have all followed. And so you know that what you did was important not only to the world, but it was important to reshaping how America thinks about itself. For that we are very, very thankful.”
- GEN George C. Marshall, Chief of Staff, U.S. Army, when asked by his historian Forrest Pogue to discuss the Nisei, Marshall showed keen insights: “I will say about the Japanese American fighting in these units we had. They were superb! That word correctly describes it: superb. They took terrific casualties. They showed rare courage and tremendous fighting spirit. . .“
- COL Sidney Mashbir, Commandant, Allied Translator & Interpreter Section, an entity of General MacArthur’s headquarters. “The USA owes a debt to these men (Nisei linguists) and to their families which it can never fully repay.”
- MG Frank D. Merrill, Commander of Merrill’s Marauders in Burma, “as for the value of the Nisei, I couldn’t have gotten along without them.”
- Admiral Chester W. Nimitz admitted, “before WW II, I entertained some doubt as to the loyalty of American citizens of Japanese ancestry in the event of war with Japan. From my observation during WW II, I no longer have that doubt.”
- Associated Press photographer Joe Rosenthal, who took the photo of the raising of the Stars and Stripes at the top of Mt Suribachi, Iwo Jima, said Nisei linguists worked “so close to the enemy that along with the danger of being killed by Japs they run the risk of being shot unintentionally by our own Marines. Many have paid with their lives. They have done an outstanding job, and their heroism should be recognized. I saw them in action at Guam, Peleliu and Iwo Jima” (Lyn Crost, Honor by Fire, p. 225).
- Bill Mauldin, Stars and Stripes cartoonist, said “No combat unit in the Army could exceed the Nisei in loyalty, hard work, courage, and sacrifice. As far as the Army was concerned, the Nisei could do no wrong. We were proud to be wearing the same uniform” (Lyn Crost, Honor by Fire, page 303).
- COL William Van Antwerp, Intelligence, 27th Infantry Division said the Makin operation was their [Nisei} first opportunity to operate in combat. Their action and the result of their work reflect high credit on them and Military Intelligence Service Language School (MISLS). We would have been twice as blind as we were without them. Without a doubt they have saved many American lives (MIS Album, page 115).
- When LTG Alexander M. Patch arrived in the Solomon Islands to command the Americal Division his mantra was take no prisoners, kill all Japs. When he saw the value of real-time translations of documents and interrogation reports, he became the champion for Nisei linguists. When he arrived in Vosges, France, as CG of the 7th Army, the intelligence section offered a briefing on the 442nd, Patch declined saying “I know all about them from my previous assignment” (Lyn Crost. Honor by Fire, page 236).
- MG Jacob L Devers, commander of Allied invasion of southern France and later Chief of Army Field Forces, said there is one supreme final test of loyalty for one’s native land – readiness and willingness to fight for and if need be to die for one’s country. These Americans pass that test with colors flying. They proved their loyalty and devotion beyond all question (Lyn Crost, Honor by Fire, page 304).
- BG Ralph Tobin, 7th Army headquarters. They were the most alert soldiers. I never heard of one case of AWOL among them. (Lyn Crost, Honor by Fire, page 236).
- Caucasian soldiers serving alongside Nisei linguists in the combat zone in the Pacific initially had an antagonistic attitude towards Nisei. Calling Nisei “Japs” ignited fistfights. However, when Caucasians witnessed the courage, loyalty, and performance of the Nisei their attitude changed. They became Nisei’s strongest supporters to return to their homes on the Pacific coast.
- German Private Joseph Schwieters, describing his encounter with the 442nd RCT on October 29, 1944, a half a mile from the trapped Texas Battalion. “They (Nisei) took not a single backward step. They were a suicide squad. I assume all died.” Other German soldiers called the Nisei “iron men.”
- Karl Schmid, a German soldier captured by the 100th Battalion at Biffontaine, France in 1944, returned to the Vosges with his family for a goodwill visit. He had high praise and appreciation for the humane treatment he had received (John Tsukano, Bridge of Love, page 349).
- General Eric Shinseki, Chief of Staff, U.S. Army, 1988. “You have taught us what strength and courage and citizenship are all about. Your actions in WW II purchased future opportunities for all Americans but especially for Americans of Japanese ancestry. Today, the members of my generation enjoy the fruits of full citizenship . . . you elected to remove all doubt and prove the loyalty of all Japanese Americans” (source not available),
- GEN Dwight Eisenhower, Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force (SHAEF) declined the 100th assignment to Europe “due to concerns over the loyalty and patriotism of the Nisei”, per Public Law 111-254, 111th Congress (CGM Bill). LTG Mark W. Clark, CG, 5th Army, accepted them. Clark said “Their record in battle has been marked by one outstanding achievement after another. They have written a brilliant chapter in the history of American fighting men.”
- When LTG John DeWitt, Military Governor of the US Western Command testified before a subcommittee of the House Naval Affairs Committee on March 6, 1942, he is reported to have said “A Jap’s a Jap. It makes no difference whether he is an American citizen, he is still a Japanese. American citizenship does not necessarily determine loyalty.” The bottom line at the end of WW II was that no Japanese national resident in the United States or citizen was convicted of espionage or collaborating with the enemy.
- LTG Delos C. Emmons, Military Governor for the Territory of Hawaii, left Washington with orders to place all ethnic Japanese on the island of Molokai. Following his on-the-ground assessment, Emmons announced that mass detention, along with the Pacific coast model, was not necessary. Emmons laid his career and rank on the line and stonewalled Washington, including the President until the threat of land invasion by Japan was no longer possible. Emmons never wavered in his decision and the ethnic Japanese population steadfastly followed Emmons’ orders and supported the war effort.
On right, MIS Tom Miyagi holds a Japanese soldier as he receives medical treatment on Iwo Jima. Photo: U.S. Signal Corps.