Nisei Vets Receive French Legion of Honor in S.F.

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Eight World War II veterans and representatives of two posthumous honorees pose for a group photo with Consul General Pauline Carmona.

Eight World War II veterans and representatives of two posthumous honorees pose for a group photo with Consul General Pauline Carmona.

Rafu Staff Report

SAN FRANCISCO — Consul General of France Pauline Carmona presented the Legion of Honor to 10 local World War II veterans, five of them Japanese Americans, on Feb. 3 at her official residence in San Francisco.

“Today, we are celebrating ten heroes whose courage, faith and dedication contributed – more than 70 years ago – to defend and preserve the independence of France and to save our common values: freedom, tolerance, democracy,” Carmona said.

Consul General Pauline Carmona presents the Legion of Honor to 442nd veteran Masao Kadota.

Consul General Pauline Carmona presents the Legion of Honor to 442nd veteran Masao Kadota.

“I would like to extend the tribute today to all your fellow soldiers during the Second World War, especially to all of those who did not make it back to their country and families … These heroes did all of this far away from their home, from their beloved family, from their friends …

“It is almost impossible for us to imagine how much courage and bravery it must have required to cross the ocean and to fight over Europe as you did … And you saved France and Europe from hell. You saved people you didn’t even know.

“I am here today to tell you that the people of France have not forgotten. Their children and grandchildren have not forgotten. France will never forget.”

Carmona pinned the medals on the men, saying “Merci” to each of them.

Last month, Carmona recognized Nisei veterans in Hawaii during ceremonies held on Oahu, Maui and the Big Island.

Consul General Pauline Carmona presents the Legion of Honor to 442nd veteran Lawson Sakai.

Consul General Pauline Carmona presents the Legion of Honor to 442nd veteran Lawson Sakai.

The Northern California recipients were:

• David Aguilar, who joined the Army in March 1943 at the age of 20. As a rifleman, he participated in several battles against German troops in Central Europe, the Rhineland and the Ardennes, including the Battle of the Bulge, in 1944 and 1945. He received the European Africa Middle Eastern Theatre Ribbon, the Good Conduct Medal, the AT Service Medal, the Bronze Service Star, and the Combat Infantryman Badge.

• William Allen, who joined the Army in December 1942 at the age of 20 and was on active duty in December 1943 as an Air Force pilot. He fought in Italy, southern France and Germany. In the summer of 1944, He was present at Poretta Corsica alongside the 86th group of fighters and participated as a bomber pilot in 24 missions in the south of France in support of the landing in Provence, including the air attack against the Orange Caritat base occupied by the enemy. He received the World War II Victory Medal, the American Campaign Medal, the European Africa Middle Eeastern Campaign Medal with six Battle Stars, the Air Medal with three oak leaves, and the Distinguished Flying Cross.

• John Hockenberry, who joined the Army in March 1943 at the age of 18. As a rifleman of the 66th Infantry Division, he took part in many battles on French territory against the German armies, including those carried out in the north of France from December 1944 until the end of the hostilities in May 1945. He was awarded the Combat Infantry Badge, the American Campaign Medal, the European Africa Middle Eastern Campaign Medal, the Good Conduct Medal, the World War II Victory Medal and the Bronze Star for meritorious service when he participated with his division in containing enemy fire in the Saint-Nazaire and Lorient pockets.

The late George Yasukawa was represented by his wife, Jeane.

The late George Yasukawa was represented by his wife, Jeane.

• Hadley Jenson (posthumously), who joined the Army in June 1941 at the age of 23. As a sergeant technician in the 99th Transportation Battalion of the 474th Infantry Regiment, he participated in battles against the German armies during the major campaigns of Normandy, Northern France, Ardennes, Rhineland and Central Europe. He was awarded the Good Conduct Medal, the American Defense Service Medal, the American Theater Service Medal, the European Africa Middle Eastern Theatre Service Medal, and four Overseas Service Bars.

• Masao Kadota, who joined the Army in June 1944 at the age of 20. As a rifleman in the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, he participated in the Italian campaign, then took part in the fighting in the Vosges in 1944 before participating in the Rhineland campaign. He was awarded the Good Conduct Medal, the Army Occupation Medal, the European Africa Middle Eastern Theater Service Ribbon, and the World War II Victory Ribbon.

• Jake Larson, who joined the Army in November 1938 by lying about his real date of birth; he was under 18. On active duty in February 1941, he was a clerk in the 135th Regiment of the 34th Infantry Division and participated in battles against the German armies in the north of France and Normandy, including the Normandy Invasion (D-Day) on June 6, 1944. He was awarded three Battle Stars, the European Africa Middle Eastern Theater Service Ribbon, the Good conduct Ribbon, the American Defense Service Ribbon, and the Individual Award of the Bronze Service Arrowhead for his participation in the assault that helped secure the beaches during D-Day.

• Royal Manaka, who joined the Army in November 1941 at the age of 21. As a first sergeant in the 442nd RCT, he participated in the Italian campaign, then took part in the fighting in the Vosges in 1944. From Oct. 14 to 30, he participated in the liberation of Bruyeres’ strategic passage, so that the U.S. 36th Division could cross the Vosges from west to east, and compelled the enemy into a hasty retreat. He was awarded the Combat Infantry Badge, the American Defense Service Medal, the American Campaign Medal, the World War II Victory Medal and the Good Conduct Medal.

The Legion of Honor is France’s highest award.

The Legion of Honor is France’s highest award.

• Lawson Sakai, who joined the Army in June 1943 at the age of 19. With the 2nd Battalion of the 442nd RCT, he participated in the Italian campaign, then also took part also in the fighting in the Vosges in 1944. From Oct. 14 to 30, he participated in the liberation of Bruyeres, and he was then posted to the epic rescue of the “Lost Battalion,” the 141st Infantry Regiment, which was surrounded by the enemy in Biffontaine. He was wounded during the military operations and awarded the Purple Heart Medal, the Combat Infantry Badge, the Good Conduct Medal, the European Africa Middle Eastern Theater Medal, the World War II Victory Medal, and the Distinguished Unit Badge.

• Masuo Tsuda, who joined the Army in August 1943 at the age of 19. With the 442nd RCT, he participated in the Italian campaign, then took part in the fighting in the Vosges in 1944. From Oct. 14 to 30, he participated in the liberation of the strategic passage of Bruyeres. Wounded in Europe, he was awarded the Purple Heart Medal, the Combat Infantry Badge, the Good Conduct Medal, the European Africa Middle Eastern Theater Medal, the World War II Victory Medal, and the Distinguished Unit Badge.

• George Yasukawa (posthumously), who joined the Army in July 1943 at the age of 22. With the 3rd Battalion of the 442nd RCT, he participated in the Italian campaign, then took part in the fighting in the Vosges in 1944. He participated in the liberation of Bruyeres and in the epic rescue of the “Lost Battalion” in Biffontaine. Yasukawa was wounded twice during these military operations. He was awarded the Purple Heart Medal with Oak Leaf, the Combat Infantry Badge, the Distinguished Unit Badge with two Bronze Oak Leaf Clusters, the Good Conduct Medal, the Victory Medal, the European Africa Middle Eastern Theater Ribbon, and four Bronze Battle Stars.

Consul General Carmona also presented medals to Nisei veterans in Hawaii in January.

Consul General Carmona also presented medals to Nisei veterans in Hawaii in January.

Yasukawa, a San Jose resident who passed away in October 2013, was represented by his wife, Jeane. He also left behind five children and nine grandchildren.

“Seventy one years after the fact,” Sakai told KTVU. “It’s a long time, but it’s nice.”

Sakai, who grew up in Southern California, recalled that when he tried to join the Navy the day after Pearl Harbor, he was rejected because of his  “enemy alien” status. “All of a sudden, I was not an American anymore.”

He and his family were interned at the Amache camp in Colorado, and he volunteered for the Army from there.

Sakai added, “If we didn’t win the war, we’d either be speaking German or Japanese today.”

Now a resident of Gilroy, he has been active in 442nd reunions and led a group to France for the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Bruyeres.

Photos courtesy of Consulate General of France in San Francisco

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