Congressional Gold Medal awarded to Nisei vets

Leighton "Goro" Sumida
Leighton "Goro" Sumida

By Jim Mendoza - bio | email

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - President Barack Obama signed a bill Tuesday recognizing Japanese-American veterans for their service during World War II.

It honors the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, the 100th Infantry Battalion and the Military Intelligence Service.

The Congressional Gold Medal is the nation's highest civilian award.

"It's one medal to the outfit," Bernard Akamine said.

Akamine was a staff sergeant with the 100th. He said they never considered themselves heroes. They still don't.

"At that time we didn't think about things like that. They just gave us orders. We followed the orders. That was it," he said.

At 90, Leighton "Goro" Sumida is one of the oldest survivors from the 100th.

"I think we get about 300 yet, still living," he said. "Soon as I went in, 14 days later the war broke out. So I got stuck for four years."

Word of the signing came during a blessing ceremony at the 100th Battalion's clubhouse on Kamoku street. The building is being renovated. Six of the veterans were there, honored to be recognized but a little confused by the recognition.

"Why don't they give us a certificate, individual certificate rather than you get one gold medal for the whole battalion," Sumida said.

The bill President Obama signed said America is forever indebted to the bravery, valor and dedication of these men, who battled an enemy abroad and discrimination at home.

The gold medal is another honor among many for the 100th and 442nd, the most highly decorated regiment in US military history.

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