WASHINGTON — The Congressional Gold Medal awarded in 2011 to Japanese American World War II veterans in recognition of their extraordinary accomplishments will travel to seven cities across the country beginning in January 2013.
The Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES) has partnered with the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History and the National Veterans Network to share the inspiring story of these men who fought with bravery and valor on the battlefields of Europe and Asia, even while many of their family members were held in American internment camps back in the U.S.
The planned tour will bring the Nisei Congressional Gold Medal to some of the top museums in the country:
• National World War II Museum, New Orleans — Jan. 12–Feb. 17, 2013
• Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum, Honolulu — March 9–April 14, 2013
• Japanese American National Museum, Los Angeles — May 4–June 9, 2013
• De Young Museum, San Francisco — June 29–Aug. 4, 2013
• Oregon History Museum, Portland — Aug. 24–Sept. 29, 2013
• Chicago History Museum, Chicago — Oct. 19–Dec. 8, 2013
• Holocaust Museum, Houston — Dec. 26, 2013–Jan. 24, 2014
The medal will be accompanied by an educational package with an iPad application, social-learning website and curriculum developed by the National Veterans Network in partnership with the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Program. Centered on the character values associated with Japanese American veterans — courage, respect, humility, perseverance, compassion and citizenship — these materials will provide users with a constantly growing, social-learning community.
Rep. Doris Matsui (D-Sacramento), Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Pasadena) and Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) held a ceremony on Thursday kicking off the national tour. They were joined by representatives from the Smithsonian Institution, the steward of the medal, and the National Veterans Network.
“For adults who may have some connection to World War II and children who have only studied it in their history books, the Congressional Gold Medal tour is an invitation to dig further and learn about the personal stories and experiences behind the medal,” said Matsui. “The men of the 442nd, 100th and MIS are heroes. By sharing their stories we can ensure their legacies live on and that their sacrifices, as well as the sacrifices of their families that were forced into internment camps, were not in vain.”
“I was proud to play a role in providing the Congressional Gold Medal to these extraordinary veterans,” said Schiff. “And I am thrilled that the gold medal will tour the country, helping to tell the story of these remarkable men who fought for this country while their own families were being interned. No group is more deserving of the accolade and this is a story that must be told.”
“On Dec. 7, 1941, Pearl Harbor was bombed by Imperial Japan, and everything changed,” said Inouye, who witnessed the attack. “Soon thereafter, the government of the United States issued a directive designating all Japanese, citizens of this nation and immigrants as 4-C … the designation for an ‘enemy alien.’
“We were designated ‘enemy aliens’ of the United States; however, we did not sit by and do nothing. We petitioned the government to give us the opportunity to demonstrate our love of country and our patriotism. hat opportunity was granted and thousands of men rushed to the draft boards to volunteer for military service.
“The 442nd Regimental Combat Team was formed in 1943. The men of the 100th Infantry Battalion were those in service prior to Dec. 7, and the MIS was also established in 1943. When the war ended, the men of the 100th Battalion, the 442nd, and the MIS went home and found themselves declared to be members of the most decorated military unit in the history of the United States.
“Seventy-one years ago we were ‘enemy aliens,’ but now this great nation has honored us with the Congressional Gold Medal. We are all proud Americans, and grateful to our nation for giving us the opportunity to serve our nation as loyal, patriotic citizens. And we will never forget the sacrifices of our brave brothers who did not return from the war.”
The Congressional Gold Medal was awarded to 100th, 442nd and MIS veterans by Congress on Nov. 2, 2011, in recognition of their exceptional service, sacrifice and loyalty to America. The medal represents Congress’ highest expression of national appreciation for distinguished achievements and contributions. A complete list of recipients is available at House.gov.
Commonly known as the “Go for Broke” regiments, the 100th/442nd is one of the most highly decorated units in U.S. military history, having earned more than 4,000 Purple Hearts, 560 Silver Stars, seven Presidential Unit Citations and 21 Medals of Honor (including one for Sen. Inouye). The MIS, whose highly specialized contributions helped hasten the end of the war, was honored with a Presidential Unit Citation in 2000. More than 19,000 Japanese American soldiers served in these units during World War II.
The national tour of the Nisei Congressional Gold Medal is made possible by the support of AARP, Comcast/NBC Universal, Cole Chemical, Southwest Airlines and Pritzker Military Library.
The National Veterans Network (www.nationalveteransnetwork.com) is a coalition of Japanese American veteran and civic organizations, representing eight regions in the U.S., that advocates on a national level to educate and enlighten the public about the experience and legacy of the Japanese American World War II soldiers.
Founded in 1846, the Smithsonian Institution is the world’s largest museum and research complex, consisting of 19 museums and galleries, the National Zoological Park, nine research centers, and numerous educational and cultural programs. To learn more about the collaborating Smithsonian offices involved in this project, visit http://sites.si.edu, http://americanhistory.si.edu and http://apa.si.edu.