May 19, 2012

JA veterans Reflect on WW II Terry Shima

By Rob McIlvaine 
WASHINGTON, D.C. – On Dec. 7, 1941, 5,000 Nisei (second-generation Japanese Americans) had been drafted to serve in the U.S. Army. With Executive Order 9066 in hand, though, Military Governor Lt. Gen. John L. DeWitt decided to discharge all those Japanese Americans on the west coast and send them home. He was also responsible for forcing more than 115,000 persons of Japanese ancestry into relocation camps.
 Terry Shima, a veteran of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, stands beside the World War II memorial on V-J Day 2011. He and other Japanese-American veterans will receive Congressional Gold Medals this week. (Photo Credit: J.D. Leipold)
     “The legacy (of what occurred over the following years of World War II) is very important in terms of present day,” said Terry Shima, executive director of the Japanese American Veterans Association since 2004.
     Shima joined the 442nd Infantry Regiment in 1945 in Italy, where he was assigned to public relations and when the unit returned in July 1946, he continued to handle public relations for the veterans association in New York, in Washington, D.C., and in Honolulu. Following two years in the Army, he worked for the Foreign Service for 30 years.
     “In Hawaii, on the other hand, there were 1,432 Japanese Americans in the Hawaii Territory National Guard. And Lt. Gen. Delos C. Emmons, the military governor, faced more immediate danger or threat of a land attack by Japan.
     “What he did, very smartly, was to send the 1,142 Nisei to Wisconsin, to get them out of the way,” Shima said.
     Subsequently, they were sent to the Italian front, as the 100th Infantry Battalion.
“Army senior leaders then decided to form a larger unit because a battalion-size (unit) did not achieve, I believe, their objective. They wanted a brigade-size, so they formed the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, which was a volunteer unit,” Shima said.
     About 1,500 volunteered from the internment camps and 2,500 volunteered from Hawaii. They trained in Camp Shelby, Miss., and were shipped to Italy, where the 442nd and the 100th merged. 
     The 442nd was Europe, he said, and the Military Intelligence Service was in the Pacific. The MIS performed as important a job, relatively speaking, as the 442nd.
    “On top of all of this would be the legacy,” Shima said. “What does this all mean to the Japanese Americans of the present day? The story is unbelievable. As General George C. Marshall (chief of Staff of the Army, secretary of State and the third Secretary of Defense) said “all of the European commanders had asked for the 442nd to be on their team,” indicating the quality of combat strength that the Japanese Americans provided.”
     On the Pacific side, 60 Japanese Americans were already in training with the U.S. Army Military Intelligence Service, but when war broke out and many of their families were incarcerated, not one of them decided to quit.

     “The Japanese Americans fought against people of their own racial ancestry with everything that they had. They were accused by Japanese officers who were prisoners, as traitors of Japan,” Shima said.
     On the July 15, 1946, President Harry Truman reviewed the 442nd and confirmed their loyalty. “You fought the enemy abroad and you fought prejudice at home and you won,” he said.
      “That, to me, is a signal that the highest authority of the land has confirmed their loyalty because the reason that the Nisei fought with such intensity was for only one reason, and that was to prove their loyalty, because they were accused of being saboteurs and collaborators of the enemy,” Shima said.
     The highest rank of a Japanese American during World War II, he said, was a major and there were only four.
     “But in the Vietnam War, you would find them in every branch of service in the most sensitive war-planning positions, in the cockpits of fighters and bombers as pilots and navigators. During World War II, we had five Nisei serving as gunners in bombers. They were proud of their service,” he said.
     In Vietnam, he said, 35 served in the cockpits of fighters and bombers as pilots and navigators, and five became guests at the infamous “Hanoi Hilton” prison camp.
     After Vietnam, he said, 43 Japanese Americans would be promoted to generals and admirals, while another 60 Asian-Pacific Americans would reach flag rank. All this is a result of what the Tuskegee Airmen and the 442nd helped produce, he said.
     “On the civilian side, there would be equally impressive reforms,” he said. “One was repeal of discriminatory laws, especially along the west coast states. And in 1952 alien Japanese could apply for U.S. citizenship … a great accomplishment.”
     In August of 1988, the Civil Liberties Act was passed and President Ronald Reagan offered the nation’s formal apology for the incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II.
     “And of course, more recently, the U.S. Senate selected from amongst their group a Japanese American to serve as president pro tempore of the United States Senate,” Shima said, adding that’s a position that puts him, constitutionally, third in the line of succession to the presidency, after the vice president and the speaker of the House of Representatives.
     “Only 70 years ago, this same Japanese American (Sen. DANIEL INOUYE of Hawaii) was given draft classification 4-C, which stood for enemy alien, unfit for military duty.      
     So, what I’m saying is that we have come a long way,” Shima said. “This is an American story and it speaks to the greatness of this nation.”


Honor WWII's JA, other heroes in Oakland

By Martin Snapp
     As I mentioned last week, I've been writing this column for 27 years, and in that time I've had the pleasure of meeting more wonderful people than I can count and the honor of telling their stories.
     But if you were to ask me which story is my favorite, it's easy: the men of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, the Japanese-American World War II unit that was awarded more medals, man for man, than any other military unit in American history.
     Put yourself in their position on Dec. 7, 1941. You're a typical 18-year-old American boy, focused on baseball, cars and girls (not necessarily in that order). You hear the news about Pearl Harbor and immediately march down to the recruiting office to volunteer.
     But they turn you down. Suddenly, you're not an American citizen anymore, even though you were born right here. Overnight, you've been reclassified as 4-C -- "enemy alien." The next thing you know, you and your family have been arrested and shipped off to a Godforsaken hellhole euphemistically called a "relocation camp," leaving your home, your business and all your possessions behind, never to see them again.
     But you still want to defend your country, even though it has treated you so shabbily. You keep volunteering, and you keep getting turned down.
     Finally, by 1943, the Army is so desperate for manpower it creates a segregated all-Japanese American unit called the 442nd Regimental Combat Team.
     All the officers are white, of course.   A few of them are decent human beings. But most, especially the general in charge, think of you as nothing better than cannon fodder. So they throw you into the most dangerous battles rather than risk white soldiers' lives. That's partly how you and your buddies got so many medals. A lot of them were purple hearts.
     After the war, you come back, get your parents and your little brothers and sisters out of the camps and begin the process of rebuilding your life. And for the rest of that life, you live in a way that brings honor to the memory of your dead comrades.
     Twenty-five years ago, the veterans of E Company of the 442nd RCT planted a redwood sapling in Oakland's Roberts Park and placed a memorial plaque next to it to honor their buddies who never came back.
     And every year on the third Saturday in May -- Armed Forces Day -- they come back to Roberts Park for a memorial service. Over the years, that service has been broadened to include all the heroes of World War II.
     This year's service will be held May 19. And, as they do every year, the men of Easy Company invite you to join them.


Kenji Sayama donated Congressional Gold Medal

 Alumnus and Japanese-American WW II vet Kenji Sayama donates Congressional Gold Medal to Bancroft
Berkeley —KENJI SAYAMA, a 1942 UC Berkeley graduate and a veteran of the U.S. Army’s Military Intelligence Service, has donated to The Bancroft Library a Congressional Gold Medal awarded to him and some 19,000 other Japanese Americans who served in World War II. They were recruited into all-Japanese-American military units known for the motto “Go For Broke.”  Sayama, 91, presented the medal to Chancellor Robert Birgeneau and Bancroft Director Elaine Tennant on April 20, in a small ceremony at the library. The chancellor accepted the medal, calling Sayama “a hero.”

Congressional Gold Medal issued to Nisei soldiers.
     “I can’t think of any better place to send (the medal) to than this university,” Sayama said after the ceremony.  He noted that he spent many hours at the Bancroft, including on the day he was scheduled to take his Ph.D. oral exams. He said he got so involved in his studies that he forgot the exam until someone asked him about it that night.  Fortunately, he said, his professors allowed him to reschedule.
     Friday’s ceremony was attended by Sayama family members and Bancroft staff, including Bancroft Director Elaine Tennant and Theresa Salazar, curator of Bancroft’s Western Americana Collection. That collection includes the U.S. government’s Japanese American Evacuation and Resettlement records from World War II, which are supplemented by personal papers from Japanese Americans in wartime internment camps. The materials, along with those from seven other institutions, can be found in the online Japanese American Relocation Digital Archives.
     Last November, Sayama was among dozens of Japanese-American World War II veterans who received the medal in Washington, D.C. That medal and the Presidential Medal of Freedom are the nation’s highest civilian honors. The medal proclamation says, in part: “The United States remains forever indebted to the bravery, valor and dedication to country that these men faced while fighting a two-front battle of discrimination at home and fascism abroad. Their commitment demonstrates a highly uncommon and commendable sense of patriotism and honor.”
     “It is such an upbeat new chapter in the story of the Japanese internment that is so richly documented at Bancroft,” said Tennant. “To this point Dr. Sayama is the first member of that group of internees who has brought us another later chapter of that story.” 
 Sayama was attending UC Berkeley when President Roosevelt issued the internment order in February, 1942; after he left school to look after his parents, he was sent to the Rowher War Relocation Center in Arkansas.

Chancellor Birgeneau accepts the Congressional Gold Medal from Kenji Sayama and wife, Sue. John "Jack" Rosteon, Class of '42, looks on.  Photo by Peg Skorpinski. 
      The diploma he had earned (based on his mid-term exams) for his undergraduate work in zoology arrived in the mail while Sayama was interned. That enabled him to teach science classes for youth in the camp, for which Sayama said he earned $9 a month. A black-and-white photo of Sayama in a Rowher classroom was recently uncovered in Bancroft’s Relocation Authorities records and was on display Friday.
During his internment, Sayama enlisted in the U.S. Army and served four years. His time was split between officers’ and Military Intelligence Service training in the United States, and service in Japan. Later, Sayama returned to UC Berkeley on the G.I. Bill, receiving a master’s degree in 1950 and a Ph.D. in 1953, both in zoology.
     It wasn’t until 1992 that Sayama was able to don the traditional cap and gown and formally receive his degrees at UC Berkeley in a special convocation ceremony for all 17 other Japanese Americans who had to leave UC Berkeley before their wartime graduations.  John “Jack” Rosston, the Class of ’42 classmate who gave Sayama his diplomas at that event, also attended Friday’s Gold Medal program.


JA WW II Veteran Faced Tough Choices

by Sonu Munshi
April 22, 2012
Arizona Republic News

     Aug. 22, 1942. On a blazing hot Arizona afternoon with a little dust kicking up, thousands scrambled to find a spot to call home. For MAS INOSHITA’S family of five brothers, four sisters and their mom, it was Block 54, Row 6, Barracks 3 and 4 in the brand-new camp built in the unforgiving desert. Just three months prior, the 22-year-old American citizen was a hardworking California farmer in some ways grateful for the war. He couldn’t hold on to any of the cabbage and carrots he grew on leased farmland. It all went to the Allies in Europe. Inoshita made money “hand over fist.”
     But halfway through World War II, the battle for people of Japanese descent in the country had only just begun. Pearl Harbor had been attacked. Shortly thereafter, some 110,000 Japanese-Americans, including many citizens like Inoshita, were rounded up into 10 internment camps. Inoshita’s new home: Gila River Relocation Camp, 30 miles southeast of Phoenix. It housed 13,348 Japanese-Americans at its peak. Enemy aliens, they were called. But none of it made sense to Inoshita, who thought himself as American as the next blue-eyed blond.
     Three months into a tedious existence, the U.S Army came looking for Japanese translators. Inoshita, who had wanted to join the Army even before internment, volunteered immediately. He and 28 other internees left in the dead of the night, for fear of being physically harmed as they left behind a camp of Japanese-Americans divided over how to deal with their prisoner-like status. The young man didn’t even tell his family. His father, held in a separate internment camp without any contact with his family, wouldn’t have approved.
     Inoshita didn’t question going to fight for the same country that was treating his family as the enemy. “I felt if we paid our price, the country would have no excuse to question our loyalty; then we’d have a legitimate shot at fighting back after the war,” Inoshita said.
     He now is 92 and spends his days tending snow peas, bok choy and strawberries in his daughter’s sprawling Phoenix backyard.
     The loyalty is no longer in question. In November, veterans from the 100th Infantry Battalion, 442nd Regimental Combat Team and Military Intelligence Service, segregated Japanese-American Army units, were honored with the Congressional Gold Medal. This includes Inoshita.
     The Arizona chapter of the Japanese American Citizens League on Sunday honored 25 local veterans. The medal, the nation’s highest civilian honor, also has been bestowed upon Nelson Mandela, Mother Teresa and the Tuskegee Airmen.
     Inoshita said he is grateful. “I see it as the culmination of my belief as a 22-year-old that my country is what’s most important; I’m glad that others also recognize that we were on their side,” Inoshita said.

Receiving honors
     After Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, Japanese-Americans were barred from joining military service. But as the need for trained linguists to translate Japanese documents and interrogate prisoners of war rose, the Army started recruiting, such as from Inoshita’s internment camp.
     Thousands of Japanese-Americans served the nation, attached to numerous Allied combat units. The existence of the Military Intelligence Service, which is what Inoshita joined, was kept secret during the war and for nearly three decades after. In 2000, the intelligence service was honored with the Presidential Unit Citation.
     The 100th Infantry Battalion, mainly comprised of Japanese-Americans from Hawaii, was already participating in the war in Europe. It was later drawn into the 442nd Regimental Combat Team. The battalion remains the most decorated unit of its size and length of service in U.S military history. The Nisei (second generation) soldiers, known for their motto “Go For Broke,” earned 21 Medals of Honor, the nation’s highest military honor, more than 18,000 individual decorations for bravery and about 9,500 Purple Hearts.

The bitter war
     After joining the Army, Inoshita traveled to Australia, Sri Lanka and then India, where the ration of liquor he got each month came in handy. India’s tight regulations in those days about sale of hard liquor heightened demand. Inoshita would walk up to a room of soldiers and ask, “What’s this Scotch worth?”  The anti-malaria pills and Lucky Strike and Camel cigarettes he got in return came in handy for interrogating sickly, war-beaten Japanese prisoners.  “They thought I was the Buddha and gave me all kinds of information just for being treated like a human,” Inoshita said.
     Inoshita still has a worn, brown leather satchel that belonged to a Japanese soldier. The satchels were valuable as they often contained documents and maps. Stationed in Burma, Inoshita had to search bodies for bags like these to ferret out information. Time hasn’t entirely erased the smell of rotting flesh and the sight of untreated wounds.
After he returned, Inoshita wouldn’t eat certain meats that reminded him of those smells. Seventy years later, at times he still screams as he sleeps.

Seeing Hiroshima
     The most haunting memories were formed shortly after Aug. 6, 1945. The atomic bomb had flattened Hiroshima, instantly killing an estimated 75,000 people. A lieutenant curious to know what defenses the city had, if troops had landed, sent Inoshita and another partner to survey the decimated city. They found only men, women and children, flesh hanging from their bodies. “You knew he or she wasn’t going to live long,” Inoshita said with a quiver in his voice.
     He still questions the need for using “Little Boy,” the code name for the atomic bomb dropped on the Japanese city. “It was an overkill,” he continued. “You begin to doubt the mind of a president that says, ‘I had to do it. I had to show Russia what a terrible thing we have. I had to do it to end the war.’
     “To end the war? They could have walked in any place in the whole of Japan because the war was over as far as they (Japanese) were concerned.”
Inoshita, a staff sergeant by then, took early release after that visit. He returned only to be reminded of the battle he had left behind in Arizona. The internment camp was closed. His family took shelter in barracks set up by a local Buddhist temple for families in transition. “When I saw my own people still struggling for justice, I felt, ‘What a stinking situation to be in.’”
     Still, he moved on with regular life, married and had children.
     He remains proud to have served his country, but his relationship with his father, who was upset that he left his family and fought against Japan, was never the same.
It is a lesson he wants to leave behind for future generations: “Sometimes tough choices have to be made.”


Chicago Honors JA WW II Veterans

Mon, May 14 2012

    CHICAGO On a crisp, clear Sunday afternoon, 43 Nikkei veterans of the “Good War” received heartfelt thanks from their community for defending the country that had questioned their loyalty and had put many of their families in detention camps.     
     442nd RCT veteran ENOCH KANAYA receives his personalized handmade quilt from Quilts of Honor Director Gail Belmont.

The occasion was the Nikkei World War II Veterans Tribute. It was 67 years after the war, but the smiles and damp eyes told the story of pride and appreciation from almost 500 family and friends.  The event took place April 22 at the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 399.
    Last November, the prestigious Congressional Gold Medal was awarded to veterans that served in three segregated Army units — the 100th Infantry Battalion, the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, and the Military Intelligence Service. Many others who also served in World War II were ineligible for this award but no less deserving, and the tribute recognized their contributions.
    “As wonderful as the Congressional Gold Medal is,” observed Howard Hieshima, chairman of the tribute, “we wanted to include the many Japanese Americans who served with no less distinction. This includes the first Japanese American hero of World War II.  “That hero was BEN KUROKI, who, as a gunner in the Army Air Corps, flew more than 50 missions over Europe and Japan.”
     The tribute included all Japanese American World War II veterans, male or female, who entered military service by Dec. 31, 1946. Organizers identified 718 living and deceased veterans with ties to the Midwest, and invited all of the veterans or surviving family members who could be located. Although 46 veterans were to be honored in person, three were not well enough to attend.
     The tribute was a great time for hugging, back-slapping and getting reacquainted with old friends. While the Na Kupuna Ukulele Club provided pre-program entertainment, the veterans were presented with hand-made fabric leis donated by Hawaiian Nisei ladies. After a screening of “Gaman: Portraits of World War II Nisei Veterans,” a short video produced especially for the tribute by Daniel Izui, U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) of the 9th Congressional District and Maj. Gen. (retired) James H. Mukoyama Jr. reminded everyone of the good these men and women contributed to U.S. history and the Japanese American community.
     Mukoyama is also part of that history. During his more than 30 years of active and reserve component service in the Army, he was a platoon leader in the demilitarized zone in the Republic of Korea, an infantry company commander in the 9th Division in Vietnam, and the first Asian American to command an Army division. His decorations include the Distinguished Service Medal, the Silver Star, the Legion of Merit, three Bronze Stars, and the Purple Heart. For the VA, he chaired the Advisory Committee on Minority Veterans.
     One moving portion of the program was the presentation of a personalized handmade quilt to each veteran by Quilts of Honor, an organization that is dedicated “to bestowing a universal symbol and token of thanks, solace, and remembrance to those who serve in harm’s way to protect and defend our lives and freedoms.” The group’s director, Gail Belmont, took part in the ceremony.
     The honorees also received a resolution from the Illinois House of Representatives.
The presentation of colors was carried out by the Chicago Army Recruiting Company Color Guard. The national anthem and “God Bless America” were sung by Bruce Mattey, co-writer of the hit ballad “I Will Always Think About You” for Chicago’s own New Colony Six. He and the band were inducted into the Iowa Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for their contributions to Chicago’s musical landscape.
     Serving as emcee was Cheryl Hamada, who hosted “Extreme Homes” on HGTV and “Your Chicago Kitchen” on WTTW, and appeared in such TV shows as “The Chicago Code,” “Chicago Hope” and “Boss” as well as such films as “About Schmidt,” “Losing Isaiah” and “Chain Reaction.”
     The Nikkei World War II Veterans Tribute, a true community-wide celebration, was both joyous and serious. Everyone was mindful of those who were killed in action or who passed away in the intervening years. The tribute’s deeper message may be what the late journalist and author Bill Hosokawa wrote: “The Nisei not only helped win our wars, they brought home afterwards the solemn lesson that we as a nation must live up to the ideals we profess.”
     The tribute was co-sponsored by the Chicago Nisei Post 1183 of the American Legion, the Chicago Japanese American Council, the Chicago Chapter of the Japanese American Citizens League, the Chicago Japanese American Historical Society, the Japanese American Service Committee, and the Tom Arai Bequest of the Japanese American Mutual Aid Society of Chicago.


Fresno-area Vets Honored at CGM Ceremony

CLOVIS, Calif. — Nisei soldiers who served during World War II were honored during the Congressional Gold Medal ceremony for Central California, held Feb. 19, 2012 at the Clovis Veterans Memorial Building with 732 people in attendance.
           Local World War II Nisei veteran honorees
 (Photo by Howard K. Watkins)
    The Congressional Gold Medal was awarded to the 100th Infantry Battalion, 442nd Regimental Combat Team, and Military Intelligence Service at a U.S. Capitol ceremony last November. Japanese American groups across the country are holding regional events for those who were unable to travel to Washington, D.C.
   The veterans are given a standing ovation. JACL Central California District Governor Marcia Chung is front and center; to the right is JACL National President David Kawamoto.
 (Photo by Howard K. Watkins)

 Members of the Joint Services Honor Command give a 21-gun salute.
 (Photo by Howard K. Watkins)
      Bronze replicas of the medal, created by the U.S. Mint, were presented to 46 Nisei veterans and surviving spouses of 59 deceased veterans. The names of those killed in action were read, followed by a 21-gun salute, flag presentation and the playing of “Taps.” The Joint Services Honor Command, composed of former members of all services of the Armed Forces, participated in the ceremony.
     A total of 473 known Nisei veterans, living and deceased, were honored by name and service unit on six pages in the program booklet.
     Distinguished American Awards for public service were presented to Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Pasadena) and Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), who introduced the Congressional Gold Medal legislation that was signed by President Obama in 2010. Neither honoree was able to attend, but the audience saw video messages from both, as well as from Obama.
     The sold-out luncheon also marked the 70th anniversary of Executive Order 9066, which authorized the removal and incarceration of all Japanese Americans living on the West Coast.
   Veteran ROBERT L. YANO recalls his reunion with Sen. DANIEL INOUYE at the Congressional Gold Medal ceremony in Washington, D.C. in November. Both served in the 442nd RCT, 2nd Battalion, Company E. (Photo by Howard K. Watkins)
     CBS 47 sports anchor George Takata served as emcee. The presentation of colors was conducted by Boy Scout Troop 199 and Girl Scout Troop 305, and the invocation by Rev. Kurt Rye of Fresno Buddhist Church.

  Boy Scout Troop 199 and Girl Scout Troop 305 presented the colors.
 (Photo by Howard K. Watkins)
     Officers of JACL’s Central California District Council were sworn in by JACL National President David Kawamoto. The benediction was given by Rev. Akiko Miyake-Stoner of United Japanese Christian Church.
     Special thanks went to the major sponsors: Clovis Veterans Memorial District, VFW Sierra Nisei Post 8499, Nisei Farmers League; Sun-Maid Growers of California, Pacific Gas & Electric, Wells Fargo Bank, and Dale and Debbie Ikeda.

Central Cal WW II JA vets honored

Japanese-American vets honored for WWII service
By BoNhia Lee - The Fresno Bee
Monday, Feb. 20, 2012 

      HARRY NAGATA and his family beamed with joy on Sunday after he received a bronze replica of the Congressional Gold Medal for his service in World War II.  It was the first big award that Nagata has received for his work as an interpreter and interrogator for the Military Intelligence Service between 1943 and 1945. "I am honored to be honored," Nagata, 90, said. "It's something that only happens once in a lifetime."
     Nagata and nearly 50 other Japanese-American World War II veterans and 65 surviving spouses and family members were presented with the medals at the 2012 Day of Remembrance Luncheon in Clovis.

 From left, Japanese-American World War II veterans NOBURU TOGIOKA, 91 (family imprisoned at Poston camp 3), HIRO ISOGAWA, 86, and CLARENCE K. SUZUKI, 86, reminisce during the 2012 Day of Remembrance luncheon. Togioka and Isogawa were members of the 442nd Infantry Regiment, and Suzuki was a member of the MIS (Military Intelligence Service)  Photo: JOHN WALKER / THE FRESNO BEE

     About 700 people attended the event, an observance of the 70th anniversary of Executive Order 9066, issued by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1942. The order led to the forced internment of more than 120,000 Japanese-Americans, mainly those living along the West Coast, after Japan's surprise attack on Pearl Harbor in World War II.
 KAY K. KOBASHI, right, reminisces with ROBERT l. YANO, a fellow 88-year-old member of the 442nd Infantry Regiment in World War II, during the 2012 Day of Remembrance luncheon. Photo: JOHN WALKER / THE FRESNO BEE

The Central California District of the Japanese American Citizens League, which organized the event, used the observance as a chance to honor living and deceased veterans from the central San Joaquin Valley. The medals they presented were modeled after the national Congressional Gold Medal -- considered, along with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, to be the highest civilian award in the United States.
     Dale Ikeda, co-chairman of the luncheon, attended a ceremony in Washington, D.C., in November, where Congress awarded the national gold medal to Japanese-American veterans nationwide for their service. Ikeda, a Fresno County Superior Court judge, was so moved that he wanted to give individual medals to local veterans, too. His father served in the military intelligence service.  The younger generation wished to honor the Nisei, the second-generation Japanese-Americans who fought in World War II, Ikeda said. "Their sacrifice paved the way for a better life for their families," he said.
     MAS NAKAMOTO, 83, of Fresno, sat quietly after the ceremony watching families take pictures and friends congratulate each other. "I don't quite feel I deserve this honor," said Nakamoto, a retired biochemistry professor who was a translator during the war. "I feel uncomfortable because there were others involved in combat. I'm basking in their glory."
      KAY KOBASHI, 88, was reserved as well. The war happened 70 years ago, said Kobashi, who owns a tree fruit farm in Parlier.  "We were honored already," said Kobashi, a staff sergeant who served as a scout. But his daughter, Carol Guerra, disagrees. "It's very nice for all the veterans because they richly deserve this," Guerra said. "I just wish the people who passed were able to see it, too."