Of all the stories of valor that have come down to us from the Second World War, the story of the 100th Battalion and the 442nd Regimental Combat Team is among the most powerful, and hardest to explain.
How did these men who had at first been excluded from service by their own country take up arms so valiantly in her defense?
How did men whose families had been rounded up and confined by their own government go on to become the most decorated military unit in U.S. history?
President Clinton put it well, I think, when he said, of these men, that 'rarely has a nation been more well-served by a people it had so ill-treated.' Among them was our friend and colleague Senator Inouye, whose battlefield heroics earned him not only America's highest military honor, but also its eternal gratitude.
And then there's the Military Intelligence Service.
Drawn heavily from the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, the members of the MIS were in many ways America's secret weapon in the war with Japan. Because of them, General MacArthur could later say that "Never in military history did any army know so much about the enemy prior to an actual engagement."
Through their tireless efforts during the war, they hastened its end and therefore ensured that countless more lives were not lost. And through their tireless efforts after the war, they laid the groundwork for the close relationship that the U.S. and Japan has enjoyed, against all odds, ever since.
If you ask those who remain, they'll tell you, like any good soldier, that they were not looking for glory.
Yet taken together, the men of 442nd and the MIS, through their matchless record of bravery and service have secured a permanent place of the highest distinction in our history and in our hearts as Americans. They volunteered to win a war, and they defeated prejudice while they were at it. What a story. Men of the MIS and the 442nd, thank you. Congress honors you with today with this medal. But the honor is all ours.