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American Heroes: WWII Nisei Soldiers

American Heroes: WWII Nisei Soldiers

Portland JACL Newsletter: April 2013 Issue
(click here for the latest issue)

Board Members Message by Lynn Longfellow

American Heroes: Japanese American WWII Nisei Soldiers and the Congressional Gold Medal

Portland JACL, Japanese American Citizens League, Nisei Veterans, 442

This year marks the 70th Anniversary of the formation of the segregated WWII 442nd Regimental Combat Team. They were combined with the 100th Infantry Battalion (formed in 1942), and along with the Military Intelligence Service, fought for their honor and to prove their loyalty to their country while their families were incarcerated and stripped of their civil liberties. To this day, they are the most decorated American military unit in history for its size and length of service. For their heroic and distinguished service, the Nisei veterans were awarded the Congressional Gold Medal in 2010, the highest civilian award Congress can bestow.

This year, the actual Congressional Gold Medal that was awarded to the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, 100th Infantry Battalion and the Military Intelligence Service, is travelling the country on an exclusive national tour, American Heroes: Japanese American WWII Nisei Soldiers and the Congressional Gold Medal. The tour kicked off January 12th at the National World War II Museum in New Orleans and just recently opened at the Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum in Honolulu, Hawaii.

Portland JACL Japanese American WWII Nisei Soldiers and the Congressional Gold Medal

The National Veterans Network (whose local coalition members are Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Oregon Nisei Veterans), is working together with the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES) and National Museum of American History to present the medal and its story. Portland is one of only seven cities to host this historic exhibit. Oregon Nikkei Endowment and the Oregon Historical Society will present the exhibit at the Oregon History Museum from August 24 through September 29, 2013. This will be the first time ever that one of these rare coins will be allowed to tour the country before residing at its permanent home in the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. As precious as the medal is (accompanied by its own Federal Marshall and armed guard), it is the story behind the medal that is more precious than the gold itself.

For this important element of the tour, the National Veterans Network partnered with the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center to present an interactive social leaning experience via the Congressional Gold Medal app/website to teach the character based values exemplified by the veterans. Stories of courage, respect, humility, perseverance, compassion and citizenship are featured to educate and inspire generations to come. The app is available to log onto iPads at the exhibit, but more importantly, can be accessed now at cgm.si.edu.

This exhibit provides a wonderful opportunity for people in the Pacific Northwest to recognize and celebrate the legacy of service, sacrifice and valor of the WWII Japanese American veterans. The tour and its educational app will bring to life the lessons and contributions of these timeless and true American heroes. Local programming and events to share these rich stories and honor the veterans will be held throughout the four-week run of the exhibit in Portland.

The tour has been made possible with the support of the following National Sponsors: AARP, Cole Chemical, Comcast/NBC Universal, Japanese American Veterans Association/Bob Nakamoto, Pritzker Military Library, Shiratsuki Family Trust, Southwest Airlines and Spirit Mountain Community Fund. Tremendous local support to make the tour a reality has come from Portland JACL, Seattle Nisei Veterans Committee, Oregon Nisei Veterans, Sam Naito, the Bill Naito Family, Japanese Ancestral Society of Portland and the Portland Business Alliance.

Stay tuned for upcoming celebrations and events related to the exhibit which will be announced through Portland JACL and Oregon Nikkei Endowment.

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