442nd Veteran’s Club 74th Anniversary BanquetPosted on Mar 30, 2017 in Main
Remarks of Governor David Ige as prepared
March 26, 2017 – Key Note Speech “Because of You – Okagesama De” at Sheraton Waikiki Hotel
Aloha. It is an honor to be here today surrounded by such a legendary group of heroes, truly the greatest generation, and your family and friends.
As Governor of the State of Hawai‘i, I continue to be inspired in your presence. I stand on the shoulders of giants, your shoulders. I know that I would not be Governor today if not for your actions, your courage, and your commitment to this great Nation that started more than 74 years ago and continues until today.
There has been much written and said about how you all individually and collectively changed America and Hawaii. I just returned a few weeks ago from Washington DC. With a new President in the White House, and being able to meet with him, a few members of his cabinet, and the leadership in the Congress, I am compelled to tell the other part of your story that often goes unspoken, part of your legacy that needs to be told today.
On the morning of December 7, 1941, when the bombs fell on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii and the world were changed forever.
More than 50 years of racism against Asian Americans reared its ugly head that day. You were soon reminded that your faces were not like other Americans – you had the face of the enemy, and all that it represented.
There were people calling for the removal and imprisonment of the Japanese community in California and Hawai‘i. These voices of intolerance and bigotry were heard in the halls of Congress and the White House. The U.S. Army, and even the President of the United States, fell victim to the irrational and unjust cries for evacuation, segregation, and internment of Japanese Americans from the West Coast and in Hawaii.
On February 19, 1942 President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, authorizing the removal of any or all people from military areas as deemed necessary or desirable. By June, more than 110,000 people of Japanese ancestry, including more than 1,300 in Hawaii, most of them American citizens, lost their property and were relocated to remote internment camps built by the U.S. military in scattered locations around the country.
At first, the war department classified the Nisei as 4C, “enemy aliens” unfit for service. Even as our country turned its back on Japanese Americans, the Nisei felt a deep obligation and were grateful to the land of their birth, and were eager to prove their loyalty.
Like many others, my dad volunteered and became a member of the100th Infantry Battalion of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team during World War II. 14,000 men volunteered. Some would never return home.
In October 1944, in eastern France, Texans of the 1st Battalion, 141st Infantry Regiment were surrounded and outnumbered by a well-entrenched enemy. Isolated for six days, supplies low and casualties mounting, the situation was bleak. Two attempts to save them were turned back by German forces.
The 442nd had earned a 10-day break after sustained battles to liberate the French towns of Bruyeres and Biffontaine. After the first day of rest, they were ordered to battle to assist the 141st Infantry Regiment. After five days of intense fighting, you broke through with a fierce and fearless “Go For Broke” charge uphill, and fought through to rescue the 1st Battalion of the 141st Infantry. A total of 211 men were rescued while suffering more than 800 casualties.
The rescue of the Lost Battalion in the Vosges Mountains of France is considered one of the greatest battles of the war.
Like many of you, my father rarely spoke about his experiences in the war. But he often celebrated October 29 as his lucky day. He never explained why. It was only after he passed away that I learned that he earned his Purple Heart on October 29, 1944. Although he carried the scars of his injuries to his leg and back for the rest of his life, he felt fortunate to have survived.
The 442nd Regimental Combat Team— remains today one of the most decorated combat units in the nearly 250-year history of our nation. A unit that averaged little more than 4,500 soldiers at any one time, earned seven presidential unit citations—five of them in one month, and an incredible 18,000 plus individual awards, including almost 9,500 Purple Hearts and 21 Medals of Honor.
In 1946 President Truman, at a ceremony awarding the 442nd its seventh Presidential Unit Citation, said, “You fought not only the enemy, but you fought prejudice, and you have won. Keep up that fight, and we will continue to win, to make this great Republic stand for just what the Constitution says it stands for: the welfare of all the people all the time.”
Upon your return home after the war, you continued your commitment to Hawai‘i and America – and directed your energy into ensuring that we always work to create that “More perfect union” that the forefathers of our country envisioned.
A community where differences are acknowledged, respected and celebrated.
A community where the value of education and family were ingrained into our very being.
A community that understands that when we work together we can do great things.
A place that so many of us are proud to call “home.”
This gift lives on as your legacy because of your sacrifices and hard work.
We can realize a vision and move forward to overcome the many challenges that face us today.
These rights govern us and have been our beacon. They have shaped our values and means so much to us especially as descendants of immigrants.
Overcoming adversity is our life story and moving forward not backward is now more important than ever.
Because of you we are educated, experienced and rewarded for our merits no matter the color of our skin, the shape of our eyes or religion we choose.
We travel the world exchanging our thoughts and ideas with others. The same is true of our children.
We are free to make our own choices for our families, lifestyles and professions.
Because of you, we are making changes, affecting not only Hawaii but the world.
Your devotion and unwavering loyalty to country, family, and community changed the world.
I am who I am because of you and because of you, I will never forget.
Aloha and Mahalo.