California city dedicates square to WWII Japanese American soldier

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A group of people pose below the Sadao S. Munemori Memorial Square sign in Glendale, Calif.

Kenko Sone (L), Japan’s consul general in Los Angeles, poses for a photo alongside James Nakakihara (2nd from L), a grandnephew of WWII Japanese-American soldier Sadao Munemori, and others at the newly dedicated Sadao S. Munemori Memorial Square in Glendale, California, on Dec. 9, 2023. (Kyodo)

GLENDALE, Calif. — A city in a Los Angeles suburb has dedicated an intersection to the first Japanese American soldier to receive the most distinguished U.S. military medal for his actions during World War II.
Commemorating Sadao Munemori from Glendale, the city office named the location “Sadao S. Munemori Memorial Square” and held a ceremony Dec. 9 attended by his relatives, veterans from Munemori’s infantry regiment and others.

The square is also home to Glendale’s Veterans Memorial, which lists on plaques the names of all of the city’s fallen soldiers, Munemori included.

James Nakakihara, 64, a grand nephew of Munemori, said the dedication of the square makes his family feel “honored, grateful, hopeful and proud,” adding that he hopes Munemori’s memory will inspire “love and good deeds.”

Munemori grew up in Glendale before joining the Army at 19. He served in the 100th Infantry Battalion during the war, which was made up of mostly Japanese American soldiers.

While fighting in Italy in April 1945, Munemori disabled enemy machine gun positions with grenades before jumping on and covering a live grenade thrown by the enemy. He died at 22, sacrificing himself to save the lives of his fellow soldiers.

Munemori was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor in 1946. He was the only Japanese American recipient of the medal from the war until June 2000, when then President Bill Clinton awarded the medal to some 20 additional Japanese American soldiers who had fought in the war.

Munemori’s family, who had owned a vegetable farm in Glendale, were taken during the war to Manzanar, a Japanese American incarceration camp.

Kenko Sone, Japan’s consul general in Los Angeles, said at the unveiling ceremony that he hopes the square will “inspire those who visit with the heroism and self-sacrifice of Mr. Munemori.”

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