WASHINGTON — A ceremony to award Japanese-American veterans with one of the highest honors in the United States for their service during World War II was held Nov. 2 at the U.S. Capitol.
Former members of the 100th Infantry Battalion, 442nd Regimental Combat Team and Military Intelligence Service received the Congressional Gold Medal in front of at least 1,000 attendees, including veterans and family members.
The recognition of their loyalty to the United States came more than 65 years after the end of the war, during which Japanese Americans were considered “enemy aliens” and were forcibly incarcerated.
Eichi Oki, 86, who volunteered in 1943 at age 18 while he was a high school student in Hawai‘i, said he could not even imagine an honor like this back when Japanese Americans were called enemies of the state. He said many of his friends died during the war but their death was not in vain.
Sent to the front lines of Germany and Italy, the Japanese American units suffered heavy casualties. The MIS was in charge of duties including intercepting Japanese military communications. The battle feats of Japanese American units have been highly recognized, with many receiving accolades including the Medal of Honor and Silver Star.
In October last year, U.S. President Barack Obama signed a bill to honor the veterans after a congressional approval. The sponsors of the bill, submitted last year for the 65th anniversary of the war’s end, included lawmakers from California, a state which has a sizeable Japanese American population.