Thursday, November 11, 1999



By Craig T. Kojima, Star-Bulletin
The Medal of Honor on display at the Gallery
of Heroes at Fort DeRussy.

AJAs may get
Medal of Honor
following review

U.S. may upgrade medals for valor

By Gregg K. Kakesako


A total of 3,408 military members has received the nation's highest award for valor -- the Medal of Honor -- first awarded by the Navy during the Civil War.

Since then, 10 Asian-Pacific servicemen have earned the star-shaped medal that dangles from sky-blue ribbon for deeds of personal bravery or self-sacrifice.

By Ken Ige, Star-Bulletin
Nick Nishimoto, 70, of Pacific Palisades, was a prisoner
of war in Korea for 33 months. He was holding the flag
for American Ex-Prisoners of War, Hawaii Chapter.

The records of about 20 Asian Americans -- many of them members of the 100th Battalion and the 442nd Regimental Combat Team -- are before Pentagon officials for review, a process that began more than three years ago. A Pentagon official this week couldn't say when Defense Secretary William Cohen's review would be completed.

Of the 440 Medals of Honor awarded during World War II, only one went to a Japanese American, Pfc. Sadao Munemori of Los Angeles. Not one African American had received the nation's highest award although 1.2 million blacks were in uniform.

Japanese-American WWII vets
signing noted book today



Japanese-American World War II veterans of the 100th Battalion, the 442nd Regimental Combat Team and the Military Intelligence Service will autograph a book on their wartime experiences at Wal-mart's Kunia and Mililani stores until 4 p.m. today.

The book -- "Japanese Eyes ... American Heart" -- was nominated for best nonfiction book of the year in this year's Hawaii Book Publishers competition. The Oahu Wal-Mart Stores will donate a portion of the proceeds toward the construction of a National World War II memorial in Washington, D.C.

Another group of AJA veterans will be autographing the same book at Barnes & Noble Bookstore in Kahala Mall from 2 to 4 p.m.

That discrepancy was changed in 1996 following a three-year review when President Clinton awarded the medal to seven black Americans, six posthumously.

A similar review was begun by Army historians in 1996 under a law authored by Hawaii Sen. Daniel Akaka who feared that Japanese Americans, many of whom volunteered from mainland internment camps to fight with the 442nd Regimental Combat Team and the 100th Battalion, were denied the Medal of Honor based on race.

James McNaughton, chief Army historian who lead a team of four researchers, said his study was able to confirm that 47 members of the 100th Battalion, the 442nd RCT and the Military Intelligence Service earned the Distinguished Service Cross -- the nation's second-highest medal for valor.

Among those awarded the Distinguished Service Cross was Hawaii Sen. Daniel Inouye, who lost his right arm in a battle in Italy. Also a DSC recipient was Young O. Kim, a Korean American from Los Angeles, who served as a captain with the 100th Battalion and is now on a civilian panel that will advise the military in its investigation of the alleged killing of civilians at No Gun Ri during the Korean War.

By Ken Ige, Star-Bulletin
About 750 people were on hand for the 49th Massing of the
Colors for Veterans Day at the National Memorial
Cemetery of the Pacific, Punchbowl.

The Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center in Monterey, Calif., was contracted by the military in August 1996 to determine if any Asian American, Hawaiian or Pacific Islander American who received a DSC in World War II was eligible for the Medal of Honor.

The institute came up with the names of 104 soldiers, including 47 Japanese Americans. That list was whittled to 20 by a Senior Army Decorations Board and transmitted this summer to Cohen, who will make the final determination before sending it to the president. McNaughton said his search of records and interviews with nisei veterans was finished in September 1998.

"We read through Army documents at the National Archives," McNaughton said, "and every scrap of information written about the 442nd and the 100th ... I think we tracked down every lead that was possible."

According to the Congressional Medal of Honor Society, there have been 10 Asian Pacific Medal of Honor recipients. Six Hawaii residents were awarded the medal posthumously -- one during World War II, two in the Korean War and three in Vietnam.

By Craig T. Kojima, Star-Bulletin
Medal of Honor winners are honored at Fort DeRussy's
Gallery of Heroes, which was being rededicated today.

Asian-Pacific warriors went
above and beyond the call

According to the Congressional Medal of Honor Society, there have been 10 Asian-Pacific recipients of the Medal of Honor. They are:

Bullet Pvt. Jose Nisperos: A member of the 34th Company, Philippine Scouts, Nisperos was born in the Philippines. He received the award on Sept. 24, 1911, during the Philippine Insurrection. Despite being badly wounded -- his left arm was broken and lacerated and he had several spear wounds -- Nisperos continued to fire with one arm until the enemy was repulsed.

Bullet Pfc. Sadao Munemori: He was a member of A Company, 100th Battalion, 442nd Regimental Combat Team on April 5, 1945, near Seravezza, Italy, when his unit was pinned down by German fire. When his squad leader was killed, he took over the unit and made a frontal attack, knocking out two machine guns. He then took shelter in a shell crater occupied by two of his men. A German hand grenade bounced off his helmet and rolled toward his comrades. Munemori smothered the blast with his body.

Bullet Fireman 2nd Class Telesforo Trinidad: Trinidad, also a native of the Philippines, was serving on the USS San Diego on April 1, 1915, when a boiler exploded. Driven out of a fireroom, Trinidad returned and rescued a fellow injured fireman. Another explosion occurred, but Trinidad continued with his rescue, helping another sailor. Blast from the explosions resulted in burns to Trinidad's face.

Bullet Army Sgt. Jose Calugas: He served with Battery B, 88th Field Artillery, Philippine Scouts. When the Japanese bombed and shelled his unit on Jan. 16, 1942, the Philippines native, acting without orders, ran 1,000 yards during the attack to a gun position and put it back into operation.

Bullet Army Cpl. Hiroshi Miyamura: He was assigned to Company H, 7th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Division near Taejon-ni in Korea on April 24-25, 1951, when North Koreans attacked, threatening to overrun his unit's position. In hand-to-hand combat Miyamura killed 10 soldiers with his bayonet. During a second assault, Miyamura remained at his machine gun emplacement until his ammunition ran out. He then took over another machine gun and ordered his soldiers to withdraw while he covered their movement. He killed 50 of the enemy before his ammunition ran out and he was wounded.

Bullet Army Sgt. Leroy Mendonca: He served with Company B, 7th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Division near Chich-on in Korea on July 4, 1951. His platoon had captured Hill 586, but the North Koreans drove to retake the hill. Mendonca, from Hawaii, volunteered to remain behind after his platoon was ordered to withdraw. He continued to fight until his ammunition was exhausted, using his rifle and bayonet until he was cut down. He is credited with killing 37 enemy soldiers.

Bullet Army Sgt. 1st Class Rodney Yano: The Big Island native was a helicopter crew chief with the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment near Bien Hao in Vietnam on Han. 1, 1969, when a grenade exploded in his helicopter. Severely wounded by burning phosphorus and having the use of only one arm, Yano hurled blazing ammunition from the helicopter, which resulted in additional wounds.

Bullet Army Private 1st Class Herbert Pililaau: He was a member of Company C, 23rd Infantry Regiment, 2nd Infantry Division near Pia-ri in Korea on Sept. 17, 1951, when it was assigned to "Heartbreak Ridge." When his unit ran out of ammunition and was ordered back, the Hawaii native volunteered to cover the withdrawal. He continued to fight with his trench knife after he ran out of ammunition. He is credited with killing 40 enemy soldiers.

Bullet Army Staff Sgt. Elemlindo Smith: He served with 1st Platoon, Company C, 2nd Battalion, 8th Infantry, 4th Infantry Division in South Vietnam on Feb. 16, 1967, when his unit was pinned down by enemy fire. Wounded in the shoulder and stomach, the Honolulu native directed attempts to repel the attack. As he crawled he was struck by a rocket, but continued to position troops to beat back the assault until he was killed.

Bullet Army Cpl. Terry Kawamura: He was a member of the 173rd Engineer Company, 173rd Airborne Brigade near Camp Radcliffe in Vietnam on March 20, 1969, when the enemy attacked his unit's quarters. The Honolulu native threw himself on an explosive charge that had been thrown into the room, saving the lives of two soldiers.

Gregg K. Kakesako, Star-Bulletin

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