WASHINGTON — Sen. Daniel K. Inouye (D-Hawaii) issued the following statement on Pearl Harbor Day.
In 1941, the date Dec. 7 was a day that evoked anger, fierce patriotism and dangerous racism. Soon after that day, I suddenly found myself, pursuant to a decision by the government and along with thousands of Japanese Americans declared 4C, enemy aliens. It was a difficult time. I was 17.
I joined many of my classmates and sent petitions to the government, pleading for the opportunity to fight. We wanted to affirm our loyalty and pride of citizenship. The request was granted in the final days of 1942.
The government decided to form a combat team made up of young Americans of Japanese Ancestry (AJA), the 442nd Regimental Combat Team. In Hawaii, they asked for 1,500 volunteers. About 10,000 signed up, more than 85 percent of the eligible Japanese American males in Hawaii.
The day I rushed down to the draft board to volunteer, I was a freshmen in college. I was a pre-medicine major. There were 36 AJAs in my class, 34 volunteered, and all were wounded or killed. As a result, after the war, there were very few AJA doctors in Hawaii.
During one of our first fights, my best friend, Jin Hatsu Chinen, was killed in an artillery barrage. We were to open a clinic in Honolulu together after the war. He was teaching me to play the guitar. His death, reminded me, reminded all of us, of the magnitude and cost of the war we were fighting.
The 442nd went on to become the most decorated unit of its size in the history of the United States Army, but we suffered horrific losses and those of us lucky to survive the fight swore we would live life for our brothers who did not come home. I shall always be grateful to President Roosevelt for giving us the opportunity to demonstrate our love of country.
On this day, let us remember all those who have had the courage to put on the uniform and sacrifice for our great nation. Our way of life has always, and will always be, protected and preserved by volunteers willing to give their lives for what we believe in.
I thank each of you for your service to the nation, I thank you for your many sacrifices, and I thank you for being an American patriot.
Rep. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) added, “On the 71st anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, we remember those who fought and lost their lives, including civilians, on Dec. 7, 1941. The memory of their sacrifice and courage will forever leave its mark on the history of Hawaii and America. We recognize the contribution of those at Pearl Harbor and Hawaii’s families as they came together during this time of great conflict and uncertainty. While we remember those who fought for America in our past, let’s not forget the brave men and women serving our country around the world today who protect our nation and our freedom.”