Recognizing Our Soldiers
Remarks by Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi
Good Morning. And a great morning it is when we gather today on this very special day for America, a day when the Congressional Gold Medal is bestowed on American heroes. Congratulations to each and everyone of you and to your families. In accepting this Gold Medal, you bring luster to this award and you bring honor to this Congress.
As a Member of Congress, I am honored to join the House and Senate leadership, our distinguished Speaker, Leader Reid, Leader McConnell and also the other-it is natural that we would have Californians in the lead on the resolution, Senator Boxer and Congressman Schiff. And totally, wonderfully, proudly appropriate that Senator McCain and our House Member, veteran of World War II, Ralph Hall, are co-sponsors of this legislation. You are bringing us all together. It’s an honor to join them to pay tribute to the 100th Infantry Battalion, the 442nd Regimental Combat Team and the Military Intelligence Service.
As a representative of San Francisco, it is a point of pride to me that so many of today’s awardees have San Francisco ties. The Japanese-American community enriches our city and is a source of strength to us. As others have said, the 442nd-the motto of the 442nd was ‘go for broke.’ Today’s awardees were willing to go for broke in the fight against tyranny abroad and, in doing so, fight discrimination here at home.
Again, as others have mentioned, despite the injustices of the internment of Japanese-Americans, today’s awardees rose above being embittered. Indeed, many felt empowered to prove their loyalty and love of our country.
I want to consider some stories of heroism from my own district, but before I do, I want to acknowledge that General Shinseki, now Secretary Shinseki is with us. We’re honored by your presence and your patriotism to our country.
And our former colleague-we called him Chairman when he was here and now Secretary, Secretary on more than one occasion, Secretary Norm Mineta who led us in the repatriation fight in the Congress and he is here.
Now from my own district, Yoshio Wada helped liberate Dachau death camps. When we have the great ceremony in the rotunda of the Capitol, celebrating the liberation of the camps after World War II, at the end of World War II and our Japanese-American patriots are in that march. Imagine, imagine all of that coming together. Imagine Frank Masuoka who helped to negotiate the peaceful surrender of 600 Japanese soldiers to American troops. Imagine that.
And several in my district were part of the effort that rescued the ‘Lost Battalion’ — an effort which had been tried and failed twice before. In that single campaign, the 442nd suffered over 800 casualties. The I Company, which broke through the last German roadblock, went in with 185 men and only eight walked out uninjured.
Simply put, the 100th Infantry Battalion, the 442nd Regimental Combat Team and the Military Intelligence Service saved American lives. They faced deadly combat in Italy, France and Germany, they intercepted radio transmissions, translated enemy documents and interrogated prisoners of war.
Again, it’s another source of pride to me that many of these accomplishments are being memorialized in the Presidio of San Francisco. Thank you Senator Boxer, for your involvement in that. Building 640, as it’s known, is right across from Crissy Field. It was the first headquarters of the MIS. Senator Inouye was there the day we dedicated, we ground broke for it. We’re grateful for the National Japanese-American Historical Society for their efforts to create a museum in San Francisco to honor those who served in the MIS. Consider that an invitation to visit us.
Every Member of Congress could tell stories of heroism from their own districts. Indeed, we have stories of heroism within the Congress itself. Senator Daniel Inouye’s valor and service in the 442nd earned him the Medal of Honor and today, the Congressional Gold Medal. Our colleague in the House, Congressman Mike Honda, will accept the Gold Medal today on behalf of his father Byron. Byron volunteered to serve in the Military Intelligence Unit even though his wife and children were behind barbed-wire fences of the internment camp.
We gather today knowing that this group is not complete, that many Congressional Gold Medals today will be awarded posthumously. We remember those for whom today came too late, and we particularly honor those who never came home. In battle, today’s awardees proved that they were great fighters. In their service, they proved they were great patriots-your cause was not just the end of fascism, but promoted the end of discrimination, the American ideal of equality, which is our heritage and our hope.
Today, as I say, you bring luster to this Gold Medal. You bring honor to this Congress. You have always brought honor to our country. Thank you and congratulations. God bless you and God bless America.