JAPANESE AMERICAN VETERANS ASSOCIATION
PRESS RELEASE: June 9, 2004
Contact Points: Terry Shima (301-987-6746;
Students, academicians, military personnel, government workers, tourists and other interested folks viewed the JAVA display that depicted the evacuation and internment, the roles of the Varsity Victory Volunteers of Hawaii, the 100th Battalion and 442nd Regimental Combat Team (RCT), the Military Intelligence Service, Nisei members of the Womenís Army Corps (WAC) and the Presidential review of the 100th/442nd troops.
Items for the display were contributed by various Japanese American
organizations, including the 442nd Veterans Club, Hawaii, the 100th
Infantry Battalion Veterans, Hawaii, the Go For Broke Educational Foundation,
and the Japanese American National Museum, Los Angeles.
JAVA's theme for the Memorial Day weekend was Loyalty: Japanese Americans fought the Axis overseas and prejudice at home. JAVA's efforts complemented President George W. Bush's speech in which he specifically referred to Japanese Americans and the heroism of George Sakato, winner of the Medal of Honor. Japanese American veterans were also conspicuously mentioned by Tom Brokaw and Senator Robert Dole in their speeches, too.
WW II veterans and internees were present to describe their experiences.
The Library of Congress Veterans History Project and JAVA jointly arranged a reunion of the veterans of the 100th/442nd and the 1st Battalion, 141st (Alamo) Regiment, 36th (Texas) Division. Three veterans of the 1st Battalion and ten veterans of the 100th/442nd were present. Marty Higgins, Commander of the encircled 1st Battalion, described his unitís seemingly hopeless situation in October 1944 in the Vosges Mountains of France.
Referred to by the press as the "Lost Battalion" because it faced certain annihilation, Higgins recalled his unitís dire situation in being trapped in an iron encirclement by German forces and the failure of two sister battalions to break through to them.
When the 100th/442nd was then committed to battle, Higgins described his unitís elation on being rescued by the Japanese Americans. He lamented that the 100th/442nd was not publicly credited with the rescue at the time and condemned the internment and loss of homes and possessions of the families of the Japanese American troops that had performed so bravely.
George Sakato, Congressional Medal of Honor awardee, related the fierce fighting over five days in the Vosges and the mounting 100th/442nd casualties that totaled over three times the 211 survivors left in the Battalion when it was saved. Barney Hajiro and Shizuya Hayashi of Hawaii, both Congressional Medal of Honor awardees, also participated in this reunion.
Students and other interested parties seeking material for research projects interviewed the veterans and internees directly. All visitors were provided with literature describing the combat and intelligence contribution of Nisei WW II veterans.
JAVA's 100th/442nd and Military Intelligence Service veterans and internees appeared on the Library of Congress and Smithsonian Institution panels that discussed Japanese American issues such as the Nisei role in fighting the Japanese in the Pacific, experiences as a prisoner of war, internment and enlistment, and dealing with prejudice at home.
At the JAVA Salute to WW II Veterans dinner on May 28th that capped the festivities, JAVA President Bert Mizusawa noted in his opening address that the extraordinary achievements of the veterans and the internees have proved the loyalty of the Japanese Americans. Mizusawa, a native of Honolulu who graduated first in his West Point class of 1979, also mentioned that the extreme sacrifices of the Nisei have been the cornerstone in the earning of the right of Japanese Americans to truly be called Americans.
Bert (Pres) presents Marty with JAVA gift.
Table with Gene Airheart and family
Various members and guests
VIP table with Marty Higgins, Jack and Aiko Herzig, and friends/family
WWII veterans and surviving spouses.
Marty Higgins, the commander of the trapped Texas battalion, was the keynote speaker. He said: "When I visited the Japanese American National Memorial near the US Capitol Building and faced the wall of over 600 Nisei names chiseled into the granite wall, I had the same chill that ran down my spine on two previous occasions. One, when I visited Punch Bowl a few years ago and the other when I saw the Niseis as they broke through the German lines to save us. 211 survived because of you but I grieve every day for the casualties you took. I felt highly respectful and humbled facing the best fighting force in the United States Army."