22 Asian Americans Inducted into Hall of Heroes
By Rudi Williams
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, June 28, 2000 Twenty-two Asian-American soldiers were finally recognized for their heroism when they received the nation's highest military award -- the Medal of Honor -- during a White House ceremony June 21.
Army Secretary Louis Caldera inducted the soldiers into the Pentagon's Hall of Heroes on June 22.
The men indelibly imprinted their names in the annals of military history nearly six decades ago. But their heroic actions on the World War II battlefields of Italy, France and Germany went unrecognized.
In honoring the 22 heroes, President Clinton said, "It's long past time to break the silence about their courage.... Rarely has a nation been so well-served by a people it has so ill-treated."
The president said immediately following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Americans of Japanese ancestry were classified as "enemy aliens". "More than 120,000 of them were forced from their homes, farms and businesses onto trains and buses and into camps in isolated areas. They were placed behind barbed wire in tarpaper barracks."
Twenty of the Medal of Honor recipients were members of the Japanese American 100th Infantry Battalion or 442nd Regimental Combat Team. The regiment, originally led solely by white officers, amalgamated the 100th battalion in 1944.
Two other recipients were Second Lt. Rudolph B. Davila served with the 7th Infantry Division, and Capt. Francis B. Wai with the 34th Infantry Regiment, 24th Infantry Division.
The 100th and 442nd earned more than 18,000 individual decorations, including 9,486 Purple Hearts and seven Presidential Unit Citations, the nation's top award for combat units.
Many of the Japanese Americans who served in those units volunteered from internment camps where their families had been relocated, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Eric K. Shinseki pointed out.
"Today we are inducting them into the Pentagon's Hall of Heroes, a shrine to the most honored soldiers in our nation's military history," Caldera said during the Pentagon ceremony. "It is fitting that we have such a place, so that the memory of their deeds will be forever enshrined in the long annals of our country's history."
Caldera said eight of the 22 soldiers were killed in action. Seven have died since World War II and seven attended the induction ceremony.
The seven who attended were: 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; Yeiki Kobashigawa of Hawaii; Yukio Okutsu of Hilo, Hawaii; and George T. Sakato of Denver.
The other recipients were: Pvt. Mikio Hasemoto for heroism near Cerasuolo, Italy, on Nov. 29, 1943; Pvt. Joe Hayashi for valor on April 20 and 22, 1945, near Tendola, Italy; Pvt. Shizuya Hayashi for gallantry on Nov. 29, 1943, near Cerasuolo, Italy; Staff Sgt. Robert T. Kuroda for valor near Bruyeres, France, on Oct. 20, 1944; Pfc. Kaoru Moto for gallantry in action on July 7, 1944, near Castellina, Italy; Pfc. Kiyoshi K. Muranaga for heroism on June 26, 1944, near Suvereto, Italy; Pvt. Masato Nakae for heroism near Pisa, Italy, on Aug. 19, 1944; Pvt. Shinyei Nakamine for bravery on June 2, 1944, near La Torreto, Italy; Pfc. William K. Nakamura for heroism on July 4, 1944, near Castellina, Italy; Pfc. Joe M. Nishimoto for heroism on Nov. 7, 1944, near La Houssiere, France; Staff Sgt. Allan M. Ohata for heroism Nov. on 29 and 30, 1943, near Cerasuolo, Italy; Pfc. Frank H. Ono for heroism on July 4, 1944, near Castellina, Italy; Staff Sgt. Kazuo Otani for heroism on July 15, 1944, near Pieve Di S. Luce, Italy; Tech. Sgt. Ted T. Tanouye for heroism on July 7, 1944, near Molino A Ventoabbto, Italy; and Capt. Francis B. Wai for heroism on Oct. 20, 1944, near Leyte, Philippine Islands.
Twenty-one Asian American World War II heroes were originally scheduled to have their wartime Distinguished Service Crosses upgraded to Medals of Honor, but a 22nd man was added.
The 22nd medal was bestowed on James Okubo, who received the Silver Star for his actions in Biffontaine, France in 1944. A separate action in Congress to waive the statute of limitations was required in his case because he didn't receive the Distinguished Service Cross. Therefore, he was ineligible to be considered as part of the original review of records. President Clinton approved the Army's recommendations for the upgrades on May 12.
Before the White House ceremony, only two Asian Americans Sgt. Jose Calugas of the Philippine Scouts and Pfc. Sadao Munemori of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team had received the Medal of Honor for service in World War II.
The 442nd fought in eight major campaigns in Italy, France and Germany. These included the battles of Monte Cassino, Anzio and Biffontaine. At Biffontaine, the unit fought perhaps its most famous battle, the epic "Rescue of the Lost Battalion," in which the Japanese American unit sustained more than 800 casualties to rescue 211 members of the 1st Battalion of the 141st Regiment, a Texas National Guard outfit.
"These quiet men, small in stature, performed unbelievable acts of bravery; they were tigers in battle," Shinseki said. "You and the recipients who are no longer with us, served this nation over 50 years ago, but you are serving it again today. You are serving the nation by accepting this recognition."