Yeiichi (Kelly) Kuwayama and Jimmie Kanaya, combat veterans of
the famous 100th  Battalion/442nd Regimental Combat Team of World War II,
were awarded the Knight of the Legion of Honor  by the French Government on
June 5, 2004  on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of  the Liberation of
France and Europe.    The Nisei veterans were among the 100 selected by the
US Department of Veterans Affairs, on behalf of the French Government, to
receive this prestigious award.

            The awards were conferred on the American veterans by the
French Minister of Defense, Michele Alliot-Marie, at the  Hotel des
Invalides,  a historic building used as a  veterans hospital during King
Louis XV's reign and where Napoleon is interred.

Legion of Honor 005.jpg (205643 bytes)
French military honor guard in Paris where Legion of Honor Medals 
were awarded to 100 Americans who served in France and contributed 
to its liberation 60 years ago, June 5, 2004

            Kuwayama,  a combat medical specialist ("medic") in Company E
and holder of the Silver Star and Purple Heart and a resident of
Washington, D,C., said his thoughts were with his 442nd buddies when the
medal was presented to him.  "My mind was with the 100th/442nd veterans in
Hawaii and the Mainland and with our fallen comrades, many of whom gave
their lives to liberate France.  I was accepting this medal on their
           U.S. Senators Daniel K. Akaka (D-Hawaii) and John Warner
(R-Virginia) witnessed the ceremony.   Senator Akaka, an honorary chair of
the Japanese American Veterans Association (JAVA), remarked that he was
impressed with the goodwill towards the United States by the French
government and people.  He said, "Two weeks ago, I traveled to France to
honor the 60th anniversary of the D-Day landing and the liberation of
Europe.  It was an occasion that I will never forget.   To be able to share
that experience with so many other veterans and to honor those who
participated in that historic event was a very profound moment for me. 

            "It was stirring to witness one hundred American veterans who
fought to liberate France receive the Legion of Honor.  They are noble
representatives of the millions of brave men - true American heroes,
including members of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team and 100th Battalion,
who fought to preserve our freedom and restore liberty to the people of
France,  Akaka said."

           Kanaya is a holder  of the Silver Star, Bronze Star with two Oak
Leaf Clusters, Legion of Merit and Purple Heart and now lives in Gig
Harbor, Washington.  Like Kuwayama, he is also a former medic of the 100th
Battalion/442nd Regimental Combat Team.  Kanaya remarked, "The Legion of
Honor medal is one of the highest French awards presented to  foreigners. 
This award is a recognition of all Japanese American veterans, including
the 100th/442nd, which served in Europe, and the Military Intelligence
Service, which served in the  Asia Pacific theater.  International
reporters sought out  Kelly and me and we were pleased to tell them of  the
Japanese American experience in fighting the Axis overseas and prejudice
at home.  My parents and family were in the Minidoka Internment Camp."

Legion of Honor 008.jpg (230338 bytes)
Jimmy Kanaya, 442nd, being interviewed 
by Swiss newspaper reporter. June 5, 2004.

            The next day, June 6, the American delegation, representing a
cross section of American geographic, ethnic groups and branches of
military service,  participated in a US-French ceremony at the US military
cemetery at Omaha Beach, the scene of the beginning of  the  Allied
invasion of France and where  the US sustained ten thousand casualties of
the 57,000 men committed.  

Legion of Honor 007.jpg (204705 bytes)
Omaha Beach.

            President George W. Bush described the heroism
of American  military personnel and  French President M. Jacques Chirac
thanked the US for its role.   The speeches of the French officials
emphasized their common history, friendship and shared values with the US
and emphasized these qualities should not be destroyed by the recent
divergence of political positions.

Legion of Honor 001.jpg (210053 bytes)
President Bush at Omaha Beach.  
Sitting at left is President of France.  June 6, 2004

Legion of Honor 003.jpg (233528 bytes)
Omaha Beach Ceremony; flags of 15 nations which 
participated in liberation of France, June 6, 2004;

            In the afternoon, at the international ceremony to celebrate
the 60th anniversary of the Normandy landing at Arromanches, Normandy, one
veteran from each of the fifteen allied nations was presented with the
Insignia of the Legion of Honor by President Chirac.   Heads of state of
the allied powers, including President Bush and German Chancellor Gerhard
Schroeder, participated in this event.   Schroeder is the first German
Chancellor to take part in D-Day commemorations.

Legion of Honor 002.jpg (284162 bytes)
Jimmy Kanaya, 442nd, being interviewed by USA 
Today reporter Bill Welch, June 6, 2004;

Legion of Honor 004.jpg (226361 bytes)
US Cemetery at Omaha Beach, June 6, 2004;

 Kuwayama said that "from the reception at the French Embassy in
Washington, D.C, the pinning of the Knight of the  Legion of Honor Medal,
the bi-national ceremony at the US cemetery at Omaha Beach and the
multinational ceremony at Arromanches, to our return home, we were
impressed by the French people's sincere display of gratitude, love and
respect for Americans"  In retrospect, Kuwayama recalled that "the most
poignant statement to me was the cab driver driving us to the airport, when
he stated "if it weren't for you guys, we would still be under the Nazis"



PRESS RELEASE: Terry Shima, 301-987-6746 (ttshima@worldnet.att.net)

Thomas Mukai, 703-751-1550 (tmukai@scitor.com)