Event, General APA, Japanese American

Congressional Gold Medal – Event Recaps

Nisei Veteran George Joe Sakato and Senator Dan Inouye

From left: Nisei Veteran and Medal of Honor recipient George Joe Sakato of Denver and Senator Dan Inouye at the Gala dinner on November 1, 2011 (Washington Hilton Hotel). Photo by Kris Ikejiri.

Congressional Gold Medal

Ceremony program and the Congressional Gold Medal

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Members of the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Program attended events celebrating the Congressional Gold Medal awarded to the Japanese Americans who served in the 100th Infantry Battalion, 442nd Regimental Combat Team, and Military Intelligence Service. Their Congressional Gold Medal, the highest civilian honor in the U.S., was donated to the National Museum of American History.

Here is our recap of key events: 

On the morning of November 2, more than 1,250 veterans and family representatives gathered at Emancipation Hall in the Capitol for the Congressional Gold Medal (CGM) Ceremony. House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) gave the opening remarks followed by: Majority Leader of the United States Senate Harry Reid (D-NV); Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell (KY); Democratic House Leader Nancy Pelosi (CA); Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA); Representative Ralph Hall (R-TX); Representative Adam Schiff (D-CA); Senator John McCain (R-AZ); and Senator Daniel Inouye (D-HI) who also served in the 442nd Regimental Combat Team. Inouye stated:

70 years ago we were enemy aliens, but today, this great Nation honors us in this special ceremony. We, gathered here this morning, are all proud Americans, and grateful to our nation for giving us the opportunity to serve our nation as loyal, patriotic citizens.

That evening in the International Ballroom of the Washington Hilton Hotel, close to 2,500 people gathered for the gala dinner program featuring General Eric K. Shinseki, Secretary of Veterans Affairs, as the keynote speaker. Shinseki stated:

I know that today’s ceremony brings with it some deep and complex emotions for the Veterans here tonight. Those who survive war know that others, those who fought and died, whose stories are known only to God, never received their deserved recognitions. The Congressional Gold Medal corrects those oversights of history.

The Smithsonian is honored to host this symbol of honor, sacrifice, and freedom.  The Congressional Gold Medal will be on display in the near future.  Replicas of the Congressional Gold Medal are available for purchase from the U.S. Mint.

Congressional Gold Medal White House Briefing

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Honorees attending the Congressional Gold Medal Celebration were invited to the White House for a briefing on November 3, 2011, at the Dwight D. Eisenhower Executive Office Building. Eisenhower served as commander of the Allied forces in Europe during WWII, thus the venue was especially fitting for this occasion. Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Program  and Japanese American Citizens League staff joined in recognizing the Japanese American Army veterans of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, the 100th Infantry Battalion, and the Military Intelligence Service (MIS) of the United States Army for their distinguished service during WWII.

These veterans received the Congressional Gold Medal in a ceremony hosted by the U.S. Congress on November 2, 2011. The Congressional Gold Medal represents the highest expression of national appreciation for their sacrifice in combat and for battling racial prejudices against Japanese Americans during imprisonment. Their victory abroad was a victory at home because their legacy has continued to touch future generations of Japanese Americans.

Invited speakers included:
Shin Inouye, Director, Specialty Media
David Mineta, Deputy Director, Demand Reduction
Danielle Gray, Deputy Assistant to the President for Economic Policy
Chris Lu, Cabinet Secretary, Assistant to the President
Ronald Sagudan, Program Analyst, Center for Minority Veterans
Earl S. Newsome III, Deputy Director, Center for Minority Veterans

While the Congressional Gold Medal recipients never asked for this recognition, it has been long overdue. The valiant service of these men stands as a punctuation point in history.

Recaps provided by Noriko Sanefuji, Curatorial Assistant, National Museum of American History and Krista Aniel, Program Assistant, Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Program.

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