June 22, 2000
General Eric K. Shinseki
"Many of the Japanese-Americans
who served in those units volunteered from
The 442nd fought in eight major
campaigns in Italy, France and Germany.
"These quiet men, small in stature,
performed unbelievable acts of bravery; they
"I am deeply grateful to my nation for this extraordinary award," he said in a brief statement after learning he had been selected for the nation's highest award for valor. The making of a man involves many mentors. If I did well, much of the credit should go to my parents, grandparents and the gallant men of my platoon.This is their medal. I will receive it on their behalf."
According to his Senate biography,
Army Sgt. Inouye "slogged through nearly
Inouye's unit shifted from Italy to the Vosges Mountains in France and "spent two of the bloodiest weeks of the war rescuing 'The Lost Battalion,' the 1st Battalion, 141st Infantry Regiment, of the Texas National Guard, which was surrounded by German forces," according to his biography.
The Japanese-American unit sustained more than 800 casualties to rescue 211 Texans. The rescue is listed in the Army annals as one of the most significant military battles of the century.
"Inouye lost 10 pounds, became a platoon leader and earned the Bronze Star Medal and a battlefield commission as a second lieutenant," the bio states.
The regiment went back to Italy,
and Inouye was cited for heroism while leading his
platoon against the enemy at San Terenzo on April 21, 1945. Though hit
in the abdomen by a bullet that came out his
back and barely missed his spine, he continued
to lead the platoon and advanced alone against a machine gun nest
"He tossed two hand grenades with
devastating effect before his right arm was shattered
by a German rifle grenade at close range," according to the senatorial
After 20 months in Army hospitals, Inouye returned home as a captain with a Distinguished Service Cross, the nation's second highest award for military valor; the Bronze Star Medal; a Purple Heart with oak leaf cluster and 12 other medals and citations.
He became Hawaii's first congressman in 1959 when he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. Inouye, a native of Honolulu, was re-elected to a full term in 1960 and won election to the U.S. Senate in 1962.
Senator of Hawaii
The upgrading of the medals stems from efforts by Sen. Daniel Akaka of Hawaii, who authored the provision of the 1996 Defense Authorization Act requiring a review of the service records of Asian-Pacific Americans who received the Distinguished Service Cross.
"The number of nominations made by the Army and approved ... by the president underscores the reason I sought this review: to dispel any doubt about discrimination in the process of awarding the Medal of Honor," Akaka said in a press release.
He noted that the 100th and 442nd fought with incredible courage and bravery in Italy and France, well befitting the unit motto, "Go for Broke!"-- Hawaiian slang for "shoot the works."
All-Japanese 100th Infantry
The 100th, comprised mostly of Japanese-American
National Guardsmen from
When the 100th arrived in Europe,
the unit was almost twice the size of a normal
Its heavy casualties earned it another
nickname -- "Purple Heart Battalion."
In two years of fighting, the 100th
and 442nd earned more than 18,000
Army and Secretary of the Army Louis Caldera for a "tremendous job conducting" the records review.
"A prevailing climate of racial prejudice against Asian-Pacific Americans during World War II precluded this basic fairness, the most egregious example being the internment of 120,000 Japanese-Americans," Akaka said. "The bias, discrimination and hysteria of that time unfortunately had an impact on the decision to award the military's highest honor to Asian and Pacific Islanders."