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Chu Details Asian-Pacific Americans' Service in Highest Positions

By Rudi Williams
American Forces Press Service

ARLINGTON, May 11, 2004 – The senior-ranking Defense Department civilian of Asian descent used the Abu Ghraib prison abuse scandal to shed positive light on a fellow Asian-Pacific American during a speech here May 10.

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David S.C. Chu, undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, told short stories about heroic Asian Pacific Americans when he addressed attendees at the third annual Asian Pacific American Federal Career Advancement Summit at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Arlington, Va. Photo by Rudi Williams

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David S.C. Chu, undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, pointed out that Asian-Pacific Americans serve in all sorts of positions in today's armed forces, including some of the most senior positions in the military. "That includes Maj. Gen. Antonio M. Taguba, who has written a decisive report on the terrible issue of abuse of Iraqi prisoners," he noted.

Chu recounted how Taguba was born outside Manila in the Philippines and came to Hawaii when he was 11 years old. Taguba's father was a sergeant in the Army. After graduating from Idaho State University, the younger Taguba became an Army officer and rose to his present position as deputy commanding general for support, Coalition Forces Land Component Command in Iraq, Chu said. Taguba, the second-highest ranking Filipino-American officer in the Army, testified May 11 on his report about the prison abuse before the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Chu talked about other Asian-Pacific Americans serving in the nation's armed forces and DoD's civilian workforce. He told nearly 900 participants at the third annual Asian Pacific American Federal Career Advancement Summit that this contrasts to the earlier periods in U.S. history when "Asian-Pacific Americans were not allowed to serve" in the military or defense civilian work force.

He noted that when World War II broke out, large numbers of Japanese Americans were interned. "It wasn't until 1943 that the units in Hawaii were formed and Japanese Americans were allowed to join the armed forces," Chu said.

He said large numbers of Japanese Americans joined the 442nd Regimental Combat Team. "Although there were never more than 4,500 men in the ranks of this unit, it earned 18,000 decorations for individual bravery," Chu noted. "It was the most highly decorated unit of any American unit in the second world war." According to military historians, on July 15, 1946, the 442nd "Go for Broke" Regimental Combat Team received the Presidential Distinguished Unit citation from President Truman in Washington. The unit was the most decorated for its size and length of service in U.S. military history. From 1943 to 1945, members received seven presidential unit citations and more than 18,000 individual awards, including one Medal of Honor, 52 Distinguished Service Crosses, 560 Silver Stars, 4,000 Bronze Stars and 9,486 Purple Hearts. Chu said an even larger number of Japanese Americans served in World War II as translators, interrogators and interrupters in the Army's military intelligence service. Almost 4,000 served in combat units on the front line.

"One of the most amusing stories is that they had their own guards to be sure that they were not mistaken for Japanese troops by American soldiers," Chu told the gathering. "One of the stories of the contributions of these individuals involves Master Sgt. Roy H. Matsumoto. He served with the 5307th Composite Unit, 'Merrill's Marauders.'

"He infiltrated the Japanese positions and listened to their conversations. After one such mission, he returned to the American lines and warned of an impending Japanese attack, which began to take place." Chu said that Matsumoto, impersonating a Japanese officer, directed the Japanese attackers to move against the American positions, where they met "the American guns, thereby turning the tide of the battle."

Chu noted that Matsumoto was inducted into the U.S. Army Ranger Hall of Fame at Fort Benning, Ga., on July 19, 1993, "for extraordinary courage and service with Merrill's Marauders" in the jungles of Burma during World War II.

The undersecretary said another service member, Army Master Sgt. Kazui E. Yamane, played a major role in the defeat of Japan. After more than 50 tons of Japanese documents were captured in the Pacific theater, Yamane went through the documents and found one that turned out to be inventory of the storeage locations in Japan for the imperial army ordnance.

"You can understand how valuable that discovery was, and how essential it was for the prosecution of the war effort," Chu said. "It became the source of the target list for American bombers that was launched against Japan."

"Perhaps the most distinguished Asian Pacific American is (Army) Gen. Eric K. Shinseki," Chu continued. "Gen. Shinseki was born in Hawaii of Japanese ancestry. He was nominated by Sen. Daniel K. Inouye (from Hawaii and a World War II Medal of Honor recipient) to his West Point appointment, from which he graduated in 1965. He went on to earn a master's in English literature from Duke University."

Noting that Shinseki served two tours of duty in Vietnam, Chu said, "as he was commanding a cavalry regiment on his second tour, he stepped on a land mine and lost a major part of his foot." He said Shinseki overcame that disability, passed the Army's physical fitness test and rose to the rank of four-star general. He served as commander of the Army's forces in Europe and as the Army chief of staff before retiring in 2003.

"That's one indication that Asian Pacific Americans have truly arrived in the American military today," Chu said.

He said perhaps nothing better epitomizes the extraordinary service of Asian- Pacific Americans than the event some years ago when a young man just elected to the Congress from a brand new state walked into the House of Representatives and faced the speaker of the House.

"The House was about to witness, not only the first congressman from Hawaii, but the first American of Japanese descent to serve in either house of Congress," Chu said.

"When the speaker said, 'Raise your right hand and repeat after me,' the young congressman raised not his right hand, but his left," Chu said. "He'd lost his right hand in combat in the second world war. That young man is Daniel Inouye, winner of the Medal of Honor. He summed up the dedication of Asian-Pacific Americans to service to their country with a very simple statement, 'I wanted very much to demonstrate that we were prepared to defend America's ideals.'"

The May 10 summit was hosted by Secretary of Labor Elaine L. Chao. Federal government partners for this year's summitt included the Departments of Defense, Agriculture, Justice, Treasury and Housing and Urban Development.

In an earlier statement, Chao, the first American woman of Asian descent to be a Cabinet head, noted that, "May is Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, a time to recognize and celebrate the many accomplishments and contributions of Asian Pacific American to our country. Asian Pacific Americans are an underrepresented minority in the federal government.

"We host training sessions and workshops for other population groups," Chao pointed out. "This summit with its many interactive workshops, mentoring sessions and panel discussions is meant to reach out and help Asian Pacific Americans gain additional skills to advance to leadership positions within the federal government."

Sworn in as undersecretary on June 1, 2001, Chu is the defense secretary's senior policy adviser on recruitment, career development, and pay and benefits for 1.4 million active duty military personnel, 1.3 million National Guard and Reserve personnel and 680,000 DoD civilian employees.

Contact Author

Undersecretary of Defense David S.C. Chu
Secretary of Labor Elaine L. Chao
Sen. Daniel K. Inouye

Related Sites:
Office of the Undersecretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness
U.S. Department of Labor
U.S. Senate

Click photo for screen-resolution imageDavid S.C. Chu, undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, chats with U.S. Public Health Service' Dr. (Cmdr.) Joannie Shen before delivering his remarks at the May 10 third annual Asian-Pacific American Federal Career Advancement Summit in Arlington, Va. Shen works for the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md. Photo by Rudi Williams  
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageAsian-Pacific Americans were not allowed to serve in the armed forces until after the outbreak of World War II, David S.C. Chu, undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, told the audience at the third annual Asian-Pacific American Federal Career Advancement Summit May 10 in Arlington, Va. Photo by Rudi Williams  
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