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Monday, May 8, 2000

vets up for
Medals of Honor

By Gregg K. Kakesako


U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye, who lost his right arm fighting the Germans in Italy as a member of the 442 Regimental Combat Team, is believed to be among the Asian-American World War II veterans who will be awarded the Medal of Honor at a White House ceremony tentatively set for June 21.

Forty-seven members of the 100th Battalion, the 442nd Regimental Combat Team and the Military Intelligence Service earned the Distinguished Service Cross -- the nation's second highest combat medal -- during World War II.

The records of at least 20 of these soldiers were sent to Clinton in December with a recommendation by Defense Secretary William Cohen that the soldiers' awards be upgraded.

Of the 440 Medals of Honor awarded during World War II, only two Asian Americans received the honor -- Japanese-American Private 1st Class Sadao Munemori and Jose Calugas of the Philippine Scouts.

A review of the records of Asian and Pacific-Island Americans was begun in 1996 by military historians under a law authored by Sen. Daniel Akaka, who feared the feats of these soldiers may have been overlooked because of their race.

Akaka's bill was patterned after a 1993-96 Army study that resulted in Medals of Honor for seven black World War II soldiers.

In the assault that won Inouye the Distinguished Service Cross, Inouye, wounded twice, killed 25 Germans and captured eight others, knocking out two machine-gun emplacements.

Also on the list are Capt. Francis Wai, the only Chinese American to be awarded the DSC, and Col. Young O. Kim, the only Korean-American DSC recipient.

Wai was killed in 1944 while serving in the Philippines, and Kim was a member of the 100th Battalion.

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