Event of the Week: Honoring Our Nisei Veterans
By Gary R. Herbert
I was privileged to honor the Nisei Veterans of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, the 100th Infantry Battalion, and the Military Intelligence Service on Veterans Day. I was overcome with feelings of honor and reverence as we paid tribute to these true American heroes. Their story is one to be remembered.
Official Declaration to Honor the Nisei Veterans: Page 1, Page 2
My Comments from the Event:
I am honored to be with you here this morning, and I’m grateful that you have all come today so that we can express our gratitude for your service to our state and to our nation.
The Veterans of World War II provide us with countless examples of service and sacrifice, examples of answering the call to serve a cause larger than oneself – even the cause of freedom itself.
Nowhere were the selfless traits which we identify with the Greatest Generation more perfectly represented than in the service of the Nisei Veterans. The Nisei of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, the 100th Infantry Battalion, and the Military Intelligence Service, are true examples of valor and honor.
I believe that the United States is the greatest country which now exists – and which has ever existed on the earth. I believe that the United States has been blessed by our Creator to be that “shining city on the hill” – an example for all the world.
However, our country is not perfect, and it has sometimes failed to live up to its ideals and its promise. One of the great blemishes on our country’s history is the forced internment of more than 120,000 individuals of Japanese ancestry – including many American citizens – during World War II.
Utah will forever be scarred by its association with this ugly and unjust policy, having housed one of the internment camps in Topaz. Despite the blatant and official discrimination which Japanese-Americans faced here at home, the Nisei answered the call to serve.
Despite having been declared by the military as “enemy aliens” and “unfit for military service,” the Nisei still willingly put on the uniform. They fought for the ideals of their country in distant lands, even as those ideals were not always being honored here at home.
The 442nd Regimental Combat Team and the 100th Infantry Battalion served in some of the most difficult campaigns of the war in Europe, including the legendary rescue of the Texas First Battalion – known as the “Lost Battalion.” Due to their bravery and valor, these two units were among the most decorated in military history, earning over 18,000 individual and unit citations.
The Nisei Veterans who served in the Military Intelligence Service used their language skills and cultural knowledge to intercept and interpret enemy communications, infiltrate enemy units, and interrogate prisoners to gain intelligence. Their efforts were crucial, both to our country’s success in the Pacific theater and Japan’s peaceful transition to civilian government after the war.
Due to the secretive nature of their work, the Nisei who served in the Military Intelligence Service were not allowed to discuss their wartime activities and their contributions were not known publicly until nearly 30 years after the war ended.
Last week, the 442nd, the 100th, and the MIS Nisei units were awarded the Congressional Gold Medal – the nation’s highest civilian honor. We are honored to have many of the Nisei Veterans here on Veterans Day so that we can also add our voice to the chorus of gratitude which you rightly deserve.
I’d also like to make a personal observation. Among all of the many progeny of the Nisei Veterans whom we are glad to have with us this morning, are three I’ll mention by name: Curt Oda, Sherrie Hayashi, and Claudia Nakano.
- Curt Oda is a member of the Utah House of Representatives who has served for nearly eight years.
- Sherrie Hayashi is Utah’s labor commissioner, and a trusted member of my Cabinet.
- Claudia Nakano is my hand-picked choice to be the director of Utah’s Office of Ethnic Affairs.
Here we have three important state officials from a relatively small subset of Utah’s population. Clearly, your examples of honor and hard work in the face of unimaginable obstacles were not lost on your children.
Again, thank you for being here today, and thank you for your service.