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Friday, June 23, 2000

Research key
in awarding
Medal of Honor

Ed Ichiyama dug up the
files that led to the awarding
of the medals this week

Actor wants to do film
Special section: Strength and honor

By Gregg K. Kakesako


WASHINGTON -- Like a proud papa, Honolulu attorney Ed Ichiyama stood on the sidelines and watched this week as more than six years of work finally paid off when 22 Asian Pacific Americans were recognized for heroic deeds they committed more than a half century ago.

Like many of his unassuming wartime buddies, Ichiyama plays down his role.

"It was a collaborative effort," said Ichiyama, who has been involved in numerous World War II commemorative events over the past 10 years.

"I was just a gofer ... I am just happy all of our efforts paid off."

Now more recognition awaits the country's newest Medal of Honor recipients, with a three-day celebration contemplated in Hawaii in August.

The seven surviving Asian Pacific Medal of Honor recipients have been invited to participate in island ceremonies scheduled to begin Aug. 25 with a special twilight ceremony at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific.

Medal of Honor Special

Before then, three of the new recipients -- George Sakato of Denver, Rudolph Davila of California and Pearl City's Shizuya Hayashi -- will join 15 other Medal of Honor recipients at a special patriotic celebration at the Congressional Medal of Honor Memorial in Indianapolis on July 1.

In Hawaii, seven of the 22 Asian Pacific Medal of Honor awardees are buried at Punchbowl and special arrangements have been made to refinish their grave markers with a replica of the nation's highest medal for valor. Planners hope to unveil the new headstones Aug. 25.

A banquet will follow Aug. 26 and the concluding event on the following day will be a parade through downtown Honolulu, beginning at Iwilei and ending at Ala Moana Park.

Former state Sen. Joe Kuroda, whose older brother Robert was awarded the medal, said the surviving honorees have been invited to the Sept. 30 University of Hawaii game in Honolulu, where they will be honored at half time.

In Indianapolis next month, Davila, Hayashi and Sakato will be joined by Alfred Rascon, a Vietnam War veteran, who was awarded the Medal of Honor by President Clinton in February.

The recipients will unveil newly engraved panels that carry the names of World War II and Vietnam Medal of Honor awardees. The names of the latest Medal of Honor recipients are on one of the 27 glass walls of the memorial.

Susan Hanafee, spokeswoman for the Indianapolis Power and Light Co., said the utility company built the memorial in the Indiana state park two years ago. "It is one of three national sites approved by Congress honoring recipients of the Medal of Honor," she said.

The other two are in Riverside, Calif., and Charlotte, N.C.

Hanafee said John Hodowal, chairman of the Indiana power company, was inspired to build the memorial -- dedicated in May 1999 -- after reading an article on the Medal of Honor recipients.

"He wanted to show children what true heroes are," Hanafee said.

The memorial, located on the northern bank of the Central Canal in White River State Park, is a group of 27 curved glass walls or sails, each between 7 and 10 feet tall. The walls represent the 15 conflicts, dating to the Civil War, during which participants were awarded the Medal of Honor.

While in Indianapolis the four newest recipients will tell their stories.

Eighty already are on tape and Hanafee said the recordings are played every 15 minutes at the memorial.

"Visitors really enjoy hearing the stories told by the Medal of Honor recipients," she said.

For Ichiyama Wednesday's White House ceremony was the culmination of a search and a campaign that began four years ago.

Following the approval of Sen. Daniel Akaka's legislation, which gave Asian Pacific Americans a second chance at the Medal of Honor, Ichiyama took on the task of researching the files maintained by the 442nd Veterans Club's archivist Kathy Collins.

Other files were made available by attorney Ted Tsukiyama, another 442nd veteran, who asked friends in Washington, D.C., to send him materials from the National Archives.

Wading through the boxes of records maintained by the 442nd Veterans Club, Ichiyama -- a retired Pacific area director for the Social Security Administration -- was able to resurrect the records of 26 of the 52 Distinguished Service Crosses awarded by the Army to soldiers in the 100th Battalion and the 442nd Regimental Combat Team.

"It was not that difficult as it was tedious," said Ichiyama, a member of the 442nd's 522nd Field Artillery Battalion.

"There are times when I would go through a box and find nothing. Other times I struck gold and found one or two files."

The Defense Language Institute also was involved in the search and eventually turned over the records of 104 Asian Pacific Americans who had earned the DSC -- the nation's second highest medal for valor.

Eleven of the 26 records Ichiyama uncovered resulted in the awarding of the medal.

"It started off as my pipe dream," said Ichiyama, who witnessed Wednesday's solemn White House ceremony.

In the end, Ichiyama said that although it's an honor for the individual soldiers, "it's also an honor for us. These guys represent us. They are all part of us. They are part of the AJA community. We're all proud of them; they represent us. I am proud to say they are my heroes."

What's next

Bullet Island ceremony: The seven surviving Asian Pacific Americans who have received the Medal of Honor have been invited to participate in island ceremonies slated to begin Aug. 25 with a special twilight ceremony at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific.

 | | |

Actor wants
to do film about

By Gregg K. Kakesako


WASHINGTON -- To those who love video games and kung fu action movies, he's best known as Liu Kang -- the hero of the "Mortal Combat" movie series.

But Los Angeles actor Robin Shou has another role he would to fulfill -- to tell the story on film of the segregated Japanese American combat unit -- the 100th Battalion and the 442nd Regimental Combat Team.

In particular, Shou is interested in the story of Army Private Barney Hajiro, 83, who in October 1944 led the banzai charge in the French Vosges Mountains that led in the rescue of the 36th Battalion from Texas.

Hajiro is credited with destroying two German machine-gun nests. For his actions on Wednesday he was awarded the Medal of Honor.

Shou -- who was invited by Hajiro's family to this week's Medal of Honor ceremonies -- realizes that he, like the soldiers of the 100th/442nd, faces an uphill battle.

It took nearly six decades for members of the 100th/442nd to be awarded the nation's highest medal for valor despite the fact the unit is the most decorated in Army history.

"It's hard to find anyone who believes there is a market for this type of movie, Shou said.

"But I want to do it. I want to put it together. Hopefully, I will find someone who believes in the story."

Shou has spent nearly two years researching the history of the 100th/442nd, which fought in Italy and France.

"It's going to take a little time," he added. "But I feel it's going to happen."

In the meantime Shou, who has trained in tae kwon do and jujitsu, will begin directing his first movie in Hong Kong this summer about stunt men. There is no title as yet.

"Hong Kong stunt men are the real heroes behind the stars."

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