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Saturday, May 13, 2000

By Craig T. Kojima, Star-Bulletin
At Club 100 on Kamoku Street, Martin Tohara puts up seven
flags for the seven living Medal of Honor recipients.

heroes also get
Pentagon honor

Besides Medals of Honor,
the Asian Americans will be
honored with brass plaques
in the Pentagon

By Gregg K. Kakesako


America's newest heroes -- 21 World War II Asian-American soldiers -- will not only be honored at a White House ceremony next month but also will be inducted into the Pentagon's Hall of Heroes.

Lt. Col. Russ Oaks, Army spokesman, said brass plaques with the names of the 19 Japanese-American, one Chinese-American and one Filipino-American Medal of Honor recipients will be added to a special alcove on the second floor of the innermost ring of the Pentagon.

The Japanese-American warriors were members of the 100th Battalion and the 442nd Regimental Combat Team -- one of the Army's most highly dedicated World War II units.

Oaks said the 200-square foot exhibit is off MacArthur corridor and heavily visited by people going to the Pentagon. The names of the 3,411 recipients of the Medal of Honor, ranging from the Civil War to the Somalia conflict, are displayed, along with photos.

The induction is expected to occur after the White House ceremony on June 21, over which President Clinton will preside.

Lt. Col. Dave Stockwell, White House spokesman, said the presidential ceremony will be the "single largest award event" since seven Black Americans were honored with the Medal of Honor three years ago.

"It's a solemn ceremony," Stockwell added, "recognizing and honoring contributions of an individual or individuals who truly went beyond the call of duty or lost their lives ... it's a very solemn and moving ceremony. It's very touching and makes me proud to be an American."

Fifteen of the 21 Medal of Honor recipients are believed to be from Hawaii and also will be featured in the U.S. Army Museum of Hawaii at Fort DeRussy. Museum officials said at this point it's hard to determine the hometown of some of the Japanese Americans who were killed early in the war.

Tom Fairfull, museum director, said only eight of the 15 honorees have their pictures and their Distinguished Service Cross citations hung in the museum's Gallery of Heroes in Battery Randolph at Fort DeRussy.

Annually, the museum adds local military service members -- who have earned the Distinguished Service Cross, the Air Force Cross or the Navy Cross -- to its gallery.

However, pending the Pentagon's decision to upgrade the Distinguished Service Cross earned by Asian Americans during World War II to the Medal of Honor, the museum decided to postpone last year's ceremony, Fairfull said.

The task will be to move the eight Distinguished Service Cross recipients, including Hawaii Sen. Daniel Inouye, to the museum's Medal of Honor section. That display now houses six local Medal of Honor recipients.

Besides the Medal of Honor holders, the Army museum displays the photos and citations of 41 recipients of the Distinguished Service Cross, the Navy Cross and the Air Force Cross.

Fairfull said he expects a local ceremony to honor the newest Medal of Honor awardees will take place later this summer.

"It will take us awhile to get the information and reproduce the photos," Fairfull added.

Sen. Daniel Akaka introduced legislation in 1996 requiring a study to identify Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders who had received the Distinguished Service Cross to determine if their awards should be upgraded.

He said he sought the review to dispel any doubt about discrimination in awarding the Medal of Honor. A prevailing climate of racial prejudice prevented fair consideration of heroism of the Japanese Americans, he said.

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