The U.S. Congress held a ceremony on Capitol Hill on November 2, 2011 to award the Congressional Gold Medal, its highest civilian honor, to more than 1,000 Japanese-American veterans, now in their 80s and 90s, in recognition of their dedicated service during World War II. Japanese-American contributions to the war are even more remarkable since their families were rounded up and confined by their own government. Many Japanese-Americans who fought in World War 2 were “Nisei”, Japanese Americans born in the U.S. Many of them and their families were placed in internment camps after the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, and they were also exempt from the draft. Nonetheless, about 19,000 Japanese-American soldiers volunteered for service.
The award was presented collectively to the Army’s three Japanese-American units that fought in the Mediterranean and European theatres – the 100th Infantry Battalion, nicknamed the Purple Heart Battalion, the “Go for Broke” 442nd Regimental Combat Team, and the Military Intelligence Service (MIS).
Fighting their way through Italy, southern France and Germany, and finally sent to the Pacific Theater to serve as part of the occupation force in Japan, members of the 442nd made the unit the most highly decorated regiment in Army history. All told, the 13,000 soldiers serving in the regiment, received 21 Medals of Honor, 52 Distinguished Service Crosses, 560 Silver Stars, 4,000 Bronze Stars and 9,486 Purple Hearts. One of those distinguished Medal of Honor winners, Senator Daniel Inouye (D-HI) took part in the ceremony.
The 100th Battalion was absorbed by the 442nd , but initially was a separate unit. It was composed of men from Hawaii who were part of the National Guard.
There were 3,000 Army trained linguists that served in the Asia-Pacific theater part of the MIS. These men had a numerous duties which included translating enemy documents, interrogating prisoners of war, and persuading enemies forces to surrender. Because of the nature of their work, MIS achievements have been classified and are just now coming to light.
In 2010 Congress approved a special gold medal for the unit. President Obama signed the bill into law authorizing the award a year ago. A replica of the gold medal is given out to veterans, family members of deceased veterans, next of kin of soldiers killed in action and family members of veterans who took part in the ceremony.
View our photos from the ceremony by clicking on the photo icons below. (All photos by Jeff Malet)