Thirty-four Japanese-American veterans were honored Friday with France’s highest award.
Members of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team and the 100th Infantry Battalion during World War II received the Légion d’Honneur at the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawaii.
The awards were approved by the President of the French Republic in gratitude for the veterans’ key participation in liberating France.
“These are names and numbers that have moved mountains, so I’m humbled to be in your presence and thankful to play a small part in your ceremony today,” said Adm. Harry B. Harris Jr., commander, U.S. Pacific Fleet, who delivered the keynote address. “Each of you are heroes who served on the front lines, fought in the battles, blood on the battle field and helped liberate a nation. Gentlemen, your deeds are the stuff of legend.”
“The life of a soldier in a war zone is this: We work dawn to dusk, 24 hours a day,” said veteran Harold Kudo, 442nd RCT and president of Maunalani Veterans Club. “But we don’t complain, because when you see wounded and dead soldiers, you realize the seriousness of war.”
The recipients were: Hideo Arakawa, Kenji Ego, Isamu Furuya, Hiram Hagiwara, Masayuki Higa, Mitsuo Honda, Michael Ide, Robert Kishinami, Harry Kiyabu, Yoshikatsu Maruo, Blake Mitani, Jack Seitoku Nakamura, Frank Nomura, Ronald Oba, Charles Okazaki, Takashi Okemura, Stanley Sakuma, Ronald Sakai, Takayuki Sasaki, Robert Tomiya Sato, Satoru Shikasho, Kazuto Shimizu, Leighton Goro Sumida, Masaharu Suzuki, Isamu Takayesu, Kiyoshi Denis Teraoka, Yoshio Teruya, Kazuo Tomasa, Ralph Tomei, Rikio Tsuda, Tetsuji Umetsu, Tajiro Uranaka, Shiroku Yamamoto and James Yanagida.
Each veteran was honored as “Chevalier dans l’Ordre national de la Légion d’honneur” (Knight in the National Order of the French Legion of Honor). They ranged in age from 90 to 96 and a few have since passed away since the award was approved. For health reasons, Kudo received his medal on Veterans Day last November.
Veterans on the Big Island and Maui were recognized in ceremonies held earlier this week.
The Légion d’Honneur was created by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1802.