Gil Asakawa's Nikkei View | Honoring Japanese American veterans for the 4th of July
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Honoring Japanese American veterans for the 4th of July

The Japanese American National Museum is sponsoring a conference in Denver over the Fourth of July weekend, called “Whose America? Who’s American? Diversity, Civil Liberties, and Social Justice.”

Erin and I are helping out the conference, and one of Erin’s main projects has been contacting and inviting Colorado Japanese American veterans to the conference’s Welcome Ceremony on July 4, during which the vets will be honored for their service. Many of them are elderly veterans of the 100th Battalion/442nd Regimental Combat Team, who fought in Europe during WWII even though many of them had family members living behind barbed wire in U.S. concentration camps.

These men, as well as their lesser-known Pacific campaign counterparts, the Military Intelligence Service (MIS) who fought in the Pacific, for the country that imprisoned them at the start of the war just to prove their patriotism, remain today the most highly-decorated combat unit for its size and length of service in U.S. military history. In one celebrated battle, the men of the 442nd, whose motto was “Go for Broke!,” suffered over 800 casualties to save 211 men of a Texas “Lost Battalion” in the Vosges mountains of France towards the end of the war.

It should be a moving tribute to these men, and the veterans will include both Hawai’i Sen. Daniel Inouye, who lost an arm as a member of the 442nd, and former Transportation Secretary Norm Mineta, who served in the Army during the 1950s.

They’ll join over two dozen Colorado veterans as well as JA veterans from all over the country who are attending the conference.

The veterans will follow an honor guard into the Hyatt Ballroom, and then be acknowledged for their patriotism, bravery and contribution to their country.

After the Welcome Ceremony and the tribute to the vets, the conference will present a panel, Fighting for Democracy, featuring Edward Ichiyama, one of the soldiers of the 442nd RCT who liberated Jews at Dachau death camp; and two Japanese American Medal of Honor recipients, Hiroshi Miyamura of Gallup, New Mexico and George “Joe” Sakato of Denver.

Sakato fought during World War II and was recognized belatedly in 2000 by President Clinton. (Joe is the second soldier on the left in the photo above). Miyamura served during the Korean Conflict and his Medal of Honor was held in secret while he was a prisoner of war. The panel will be moderated by historian and author Mitchell Maki.

In conjunction with this panel, the there’ll be a display, “Beyond the Call of Duty: Honoring the 24 Japanese American Medal of Honor Recipients,” at the conference in the Centennial Ballroom Foyer of the Hyatt Regency Denver.

I’ll post updates about the conference often on Twitter, and those updates will alo show up on my Facebook page.