NEWPORT, Ore. — The Congressional Gold Medal (GSM), awarded to the 100th Battalion, 442nd Regimental Combat Team and the Military Intelligence Service in November 2011, figured prominently in the change-of-command ceremony of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) research ship Bell M. Shimada, R-227.
The ceremony was held on the pier of the ship’s homeport in Newport, Ore. on Jan. 26.
Commander Todd A. Bridgeman, outgoing commanding officer of the Bell M. Shimada, presented a replica of the CGM and the law that authorized it, PL 111-254, to Commander Scott M. Sirois, incoming commanding officer.
Bridgeman said the CGM was awarded to the Nisei units as a “national appreciation for distinguished achievement.”
Congress found that the “U.S. remains forever indebted to the bravery, valor and dedication to country these men faced while fighting a two-fronted battle of discrimination at home and fascism abroad,” Bridgeman continued. “Today, as one of my last official acts as commanding officer, it is my privilege to place in trust Bell Shimada’s CGM replica to the officers and crew of NOAA’s ship Bell M Shimada.”
Bell Masayuki Shimada (1922-1958) was known for his contributions to the study of tropical Pacific tuna stocks. Born in Seattle, he was sent to an internment camp from which he volunteered for the 442nd. In August 1943 he was transferred to the MIS because of his Japanese language skills, trained at Camp Savage, and was assigned to Guam as a communication interceptor.
When the war ended, he was sent to Japan, where he surveyed the atomic bomb damage and later served in the occupation as a fishery biologist. Discharged in 1946, he obtained three degrees from the University of Washington.
On June 2, 1958, he and another scientist were en route to join their research party when their plane crashed, killing both scientists. Shimada Seamount, located on the ocean floor 560 nautical miles southwest of Baja Peninsula, is named in his memory.
The Bell M. Shimada, the fourth in a series of new NOAA fishery research vessels, is designed to conduct both fishery and oceanographic research. The mission of the scientists aboard the ship is to protect, restore and manage living marine resources and better understand the state of marine ecosystem and the valuable fisheries along the West Coast, including salmon, groundfish, sardine, and other pelagic fish populations.
The Japanese American Veterans Association provided a copy of PL 111-254 that was received from the White House following the Oct. 5, 2010 presidential signature ceremony. JAVA President Gerald Yamada received a letter from Bridgeman, who said his tour on the Bell M. Shimada was “enjoyable and rewarding.” He added that he “gained a better understanding of not only the great professional accomplishments of Dr. Shimada but also obtaining a true appreciation of the contribution all Japanese American veterans made to protect the freedom of this nation.”
Bridgeman also reported that “at the change-of-command ceremony, the presentation of the CGM and the law in a frame was a powerful and moving moment. All hands were awed by it and are now immensely proud of their new responsibilities.”
Shimada’s son, Allen, is a fishery biologist at NOAA.