Gil Asakawa's Nikkei View | 442nd
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Joe Sakato points to the name of his friend Saburo Tanamachi, who died in his arms during the WWII battle to rescue the "Texas Lost Battalion." I was saddened to hear yesterday of the passing of George "Joe" Sakato, a Denver resident who was a World War II hero, a veteran of the famed 442nd Regimental Combat Team/100th Battalion that fought...

President Obama awards the 100th Battalion/442nd regimental Combat Tea, the Congressional Gold Medal President Obama today signed legislation at a White House ceremony to collectively award the soldiers of the 100th battalion/442nd Regimental Combat Team the Congressional Gold Medal. Individual members had been awarded Medals of Honor but as a group, this is the first time the bravery of the mostly Japanese American troops of the 100th/442nd has been acknowledged with such an honor. Outside of Japanese American and Asian American circles, and probably military history buffs, I bet not many people know of these soldiers. The 100th/442nd, nicknamed the "Go for Broke" regiment, is the most highly decorated military unit for its size and length of service in the history of the United States.

For Veteran's Day, 2008: Hoang Nguyen, 37, knew as a kid that he would join the U.S. military. “I wanted to repay back the United States for helping my family after the fall of Saigon,” he says. He remembers the chaos of the end of the Vietnam war in the late ‘70s. “We took a boat from Vietnam to Guam, then flew to the U.S. with the help of American troops,” he says. “The military had a big impact on me at a young age.” That’s a common feeling among younger Asian Americans, he says, if they came out of the Vietnam War experience. Hoang attended the Air Force Academy, earned a Bachelors of Arts & Science, and went into pilots training at 22. “My parents were initially slightly cautious” about his decision to join the military, he says. “My father did not want me to go through the rough times he went through. But my mother was elated.” (He's shown above, with his mother, Hanh Ha, at the ceremony when he was promoted to the rank of Major.) Luckily, the closest he got to combat duty was conducting fly-overs in the Middle East between the two Iraq wars. He left the Air Force in 2000 (the official word is “separated”) and joined American Airlines. After 9/11, he said, his patriotism led him to join the reserves. He’s now a full-time active guard reservist and reached the rank of Major in 2005. AAPIs fighting for America When the subject of Asians fighting in the U.S. military comes up, the first thought is the Japanese American 100th Battalion/442nd Regimental Combat Team during World War II. Many of those soldiers enlisted even though their families were incarcerated in American concentration camps.

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.