The Nisei's Fight For Honor: A Japanese American Veteran's Story

A Japanese American Veteran Story as told by Presidential Citizens Medal Recipient, Terry Shima.“Seventy years ago, when Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, there was mass hysteria in America against people of Japanese ancestry. As Nisei, the children of Japanese-born immigrants, we were given the draft classification 4-C, the designation for alien and unfit for military duty. We were viewed as being disloyal, as collaborators, and saboteurs of imperial Japan. In the US mainland, over 110,000 ethnic Japanese—over one-half of them US citizens—were forcibly removed from their homes on short notice and taken to internment camps. “We did not lose faith in America. We petitioned the government to serve in combat and prove our loyalty. Fortunately, Washington listened. For this and other reasons, Washington announced the activation of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, a segregated Japanese American unit. More than 16,000 Nisei fought in Europe. They racked up an impressive record and was tagged as the ‘Purple Heart Battalion’ in the press. Another 4,000 Japanese American served in the Military Intelligence Service in the Asia Pacific Theater. Some worked behind enemy lines to disrupt the enemy’s maneuvers. Their work saved many American lives. When the war ended, the US Army declared the 442nd RCT combat performance record as ‘unsurpassed’ and that it was the most highly decorated unit for its size and period of combat. They also suffered huge casualties; over 700 Nisei were killed on the battlefields of Italy and France. “We had a mission: to remove the disloyalty accusation for the future generations of Japanese Americans. After the war, President Truman reviewed the 442nd at the Ellipse, the outer south lawn of the White House. He said, ‘You fought the enemy abroad and prejudice at home—and won.’ Truman’s post-WW II reforms created a more level playing field for minorities to compete with the best of the best for any job and rank. No longer constrained by prejudice and discrimination, Japanese Americans served in all branches of service and in the most sensitive war planning positions. Japanese Americans have reached the highest levels in the military, government, US Congress, academia, and business, including General Eric Ken Shinseki who was appointed Chief of Staff of the US Army. When President Reagan issued a formal public apology for the internment, it showed that the US was the only nation in the world to admit to its mistake. “Although I was in the 442nd, I did not serve in combat because my troop ship arrived in Naples, Italy on the day that World War II ended and Germany had surrendered. In 2012, President Barack Obama awarded me, at 90 years old, with the Presidential Citizens Medal. While I was honored to be accorded that kind of distinction, I believe it is for the Japanese Americans as a whole, particularly the men who did not return from the battlefields in Europe and the Pacific. They are the ones who really deserve it and for whom I accepted the high award. “Each generation should do their part in continuing the Japanese American legacy during World War II. We need to know the past so we can build a better future—all Americans, no matter what ethnicity. We need to understand our history: Why did the wars begin and how did they end? And what lessons did we learn from each of them? These points are very important for the building of a stronger America.”NextDayBetter x AARP AAPI celebrates the stories of Asian American Pacific Islander Veterans. Do you have a story to share? Tell us in the comments below. NextDayBetter Storyteller: Candice Quimpo

Posted by AARP AAPI Community on Thursday, November 9, 2017

The Nisei’s Fight for Honor

A Japanese American Veteran Story as told by Presidential Citizens Medal Recipient, Terry Shima.

“Seventy years ago, when Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, there was mass hysteria in America against people of Japanese ancestry. As Nisei, the children of Japanese-born immigrants, we were given the draft classification 4-C, the designation for alien and unfit for military duty. We were viewed as being disloyal, as collaborators, and saboteurs of imperial Japan. In the US mainland, over 110,000 ethnic Japanese—over one-half of them US citizens—were forcibly removed from their homes on short notice and taken to internment camps.

We did not lose faith in America. We petitioned the government to serve in combat and prove our loyalty. Fortunately, Washington listened. For this and other reasons, Washington announced the activation of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, a segregated Japanese American unit. More than 16,000 Nisei fought in Europe. They racked up an impressive record and was tagged as the ‘Purple Heart Battalion’ in the press. Another 4,000 Japanese American served in the Military Intelligence Service in the Asia Pacific Theater. Some worked behind enemy lines to disrupt the enemy’s maneuvers. Their work saved many American lives. When the war ended, the US Army declared the 442nd RCT combat performance record as ‘unsurpassed’ and that it was the most highly decorated unit for its size and period of combat. They also suffered huge casualties; over 700 Nisei were killed on the battlefields of Italy and France.

We had a mission: to remove the disloyalty accusation for the future generations of Japanese Americans. After the war, President Truman reviewed the 442nd at the Ellipse, the outer south lawn of the White House. He said, ‘You fought the enemy abroad and prejudice at home—and won.’ Truman’s post-WW II reforms created a more level playing field for minorities to compete with the best of the best for any job and rank. No longer constrained by prejudice and discrimination, Japanese Americans served in all branches of service and in the most sensitive war planning positions. Japanese Americans have reached the highest levels in the military, government, US Congress, academia, and business, including General Eric Ken Shinseki who was appointed Chief of Staff of the US Army. When President Reagan issued a formal public apology for the internment, it showed that the US was the only nation in the world to admit to its mistake.

Although I was in the 442nd, I did not serve in combat because my troop ship arrived in Naples, Italy on the day that World War II ended and Germany had surrendered. In 2012, President Barack Obama awarded me, at 90 years old, with the Presidential Citizens Medal. While I was honored to be accorded that kind of distinction, I believe it is for the Japanese Americans as a whole, particularly the men who did not return from the battlefields in Europe and the Pacific. They are the ones who really deserve it and for whom I accepted the high award.

Each generation should do their part in continuing the Japanese American legacy during World War II. We need to know the past so we can build a better future—all Americans, no matter what ethnicity. We need to understand our history: Why did the wars begin and how did they end? And what lessons did we learn from each of them? These points are very important for the building of a stronger America.”

 

NextDayBetter Storyteller: Candice Quimpo

NextDayBetter x AARP AAPI celebrates the stories of Asian American Pacific Islander Veterans. Do you have a story to share? Tell us in the comments below.