Parade, Banquet Honor Congressional Gold Medal Veterans

WWII Japanese American Veterans Receive Highest Civilian Award Bestowed By US Congress

 UPDATED 11:54 PM HST Dec 16, 2011
HONOLULU -

The Congressional Gold Medal award recipients being honored this weekend were young Japanese American soldiers in World War II -- some of them teenagers -- who fought bravely for our country while fighting prejudice here at home.

They were members of the 100th Infantry Battalion, 442nd regimental combat team, and Military Intelligence Service. Their courage on the battlefield earned them the distinction of being the most highly decorated unit of its size in American military history.

These Nisei veterans of World War II on Saturday were honored for their service with a parade and banquet as recipients of the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest civilian award bestowed by U.S. Congress.

Patriotism and pride were the themes throughout the parade through Waikiki Saturday morning. Among those in the parade were 450 Congressional Gold Medal recipients from Hawaii. Most of them were unable to attend last month's ceremony in Washington D.C., so the weekend parade and banquet was a time to celebrate here at home.

Herbert Yanamura was 20 years old when he was attached to the Military Intelligence Service as a linguist serving as an interrogator to Japanese prisoners of war. He was among the 60 able to travel to Washington.

"It was something that is beyond imagination," said Yanamura.

During the war, Yanamura and his fellow Nisei soldiers were determined to show their loyalty towards America, even while their families were being held in internment camps.

Little did they expect to join the prestigious list of those honored for outstanding acts of service to the country.

"I saw the list of names of people who received this and it started with George Washington. Gosh, how can we be placed in the same category as that great first president of the United States?" said Yanamura.

The Congressional Gold Medal being awarded to veterans on Saturday is minted with the faces of the soldiers of the storied battalion, with their stories of heroism and bravery etched in history.

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