Thursday, April 22, 1999

Nisei veterans praise
Army chief nominee

By Gregg K. Kakesako


Last year, an Army general stood before hundreds of Japanese-American veterans crediting them for giving him the opportunity to rise to one of the highest positions in the United States military.

"He was really speaking from the heart," said retired Lt. Gen. Allen Ono, referring to the speech by Gen. Eric "Ric" Shinseki, a former Kauai resident who yesterday was nominated to lead the nation's 473,000-member Army.

"He gave credit to the fact that everyone needs role models," said Ono, now an executive with American Savings Bank. "You have to have someone to follow."

"And what a finer group to follow than members of the 100th Battalion, or the 442nd Regimental Combat Team or the MIS (Military Intelligence Service)."

Japanese-American soldiers of the Army's 100th Infantry Battalion and the 442nd Regimental Combat Team battled through eight major campaigns in Italy, France and Germany with the highest casualty rate percentage-wise of any Army unit. No other American outfit received more decorations in that war.

Among the 3,000 veterans present at that meeting in the Hawaii Convention Center was Bob Katayama.

"It was his modest contribution that were it not for us he would not be wearing four stars today, let alone be named chief of staff of the Army," said Katayama, a 442nd Regimental Combat Team veteran.

But Katayama said Shinseki's promotion is well-deserved. "We all sort of expected that somewhere down the line he would be elevated because of the way he has been progressing."

Ed Ichiyama, 442nd Regimental Combat Team and 522nd Field Artillery veteran, said Shinseki's appointment is "a great honor for the AJAs (Americans of Japanese ancestry), the 442nd and the 100th."

Ono noted that he and Shinseki are beneficiaries of the sacrifices of the World War II Japanese-Americans.

U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye, who lost his right arm while fighting the Germans as a member of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, congratulated Shinseki "on this extraordinary achievement."

Inouye predicted that Shinseki's nomination would be treated favorably in the Senate.

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