February 19, 2017 marked the 75th Anniversary of the signing of Executive Order 9066 by President Roosevelt. This action was triggered by the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.
History has shown that the decision to incarcerate 120,000 people of Japanese descent living on the west coast of the United States was not justified by military necessity, but was based on "race prejudice, war hysteria, and a failure of political leadership". National security should have never been the prevailing reason to ignore the U.S. Constitution.
Upon the formation of the 442 Regiment Combat Team (RCT) in 1943, President Roosevelt said these words:
“Americanism is a matter of the mind and heart; Americanism is not, and never was, a matter of race or ancestry.”
History has also shown that:
- The young Nisei men, many in their late teens and early twenties, volunteered or were drafted from the American concentration camps.
- They served in the U.S. Army proving their loyalty as Americans with their courage and blood.
- The 4,000 men who initially made up the unit in April 1943 had to be replaced nearly 2.5 times.
- In total, about 14,000 men served; 1,272 were Killed in Action.
- The Nisei who served with the 100th/442 RCT in Europe became the most highly decorated U.S. Military unit for its size and length of service in American history. The combat decorations of the 100th/442 RCT included 9,486 Purple Hearts, 21 Medals of Honor and 8 Presidential Unit Citations.
- The young Nisei men who served with the Military Intelligence Service (MIS) were credited with shortening the war in the Pacific by two years and were also instrumental in helping rebuild US/Japan relationships during the Occupation of Japan after the war.
- 350 young Nisei women stepped up and served as Nisei Cadet Nurses during World War II while their families were also behind barbed wire.
In 2010, the 100th/442 RCT and the MIS were awarded the Congressional Gold Medal. The men of the 100th/442 RCT and the MIS are true “American Samurai”.
For our members and their families, past and present, who experienced the life changing impact of the signing of Executive Order 9066, we need to reassure them that we will not forget what happened to them. We will continue to be united in our efforts to tell their story of bravery, sacrifice and injustice. And we will continue to tell this story to future generations including our neighbors and fellow citizens. Together we will speak as one voice to say, “Let this injustice never happen again!”
It would be remiss for any of us to deny that our country today shares similarities of yesteryear’s fear and prejudice. And although it may not be targeted towards Japanese Americans today like it was in 1942, it is now being cast upon our neighbors, friends and even family. The vessels to ensure that the legacy of the brave men and woman who fought when their country turned on them, are all of us.
Through our membership and our activities, we will continue to not only honor the legacy of the service of World War II NVC members, but also those who continued (and continue) the legacy with their own service to our country. We request that more of our members engage in the NVC’s and the NVCF’s future decisions and efforts by attending our monthly meetings or volunteering for one of our many events.
We also invite all interested people to join the NVC and the NVCF to ensure that our legacy can be shared for the benefit of all Americans….and to secure the reality of President Roosevelt’s words above.