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AJA Heroes
February 21st, 2013

American Heroes

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During its 6-week visit to Honolulu, March 9-April 14, Bishop Museum’s Castle Memorial Building will become the home of the Congressional Gold Medal (CGM). Exhibits from the 100th Infantry Battalion, 442nd Regimental Combat Team, Military Intelligence Service, and other related organizations will also be on display. Weekly panel discussions and film screenings will also be presented during this historic exhibit.

The Congressional Gold Medal is a tribute to valor in combat and there is no more deserving and worthy recipients than the thousands of Japanese-Americans of the 100th Infantry Battalion and the 442nd Regimental Combat Team (the “Go For Broke” regiments), and the Military Intelligence Service (MIS) who dedicated their lives to the United States during WWII. This Congressional Gold Medal commemorative event is designed to celebrate these citizens and soldiers, and to educate today's youth as to a history they may not know.

After the Pearl Harbor bombing in 1941, Americans of Japanese ancestry became victims of discrimination and negative stereotypes. Over 120,000 Japanese and Japanese-American citizens were held in internment camps throughout the United States. These families faced myriad challenges. While they were held captive, most of them lost their businesses, their careers, their homes and farms, and their loved ones. While they suffered at home their sons, fathers and brothers, all loyal Americans, were soldiers at war, becoming some of the most highly decorated citizens in U.S. military history.

Partnering to share their stories of valor and sacrifice are Bishop Museum, the National Veterans Network, the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center, the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES), and the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History.

The 100th Infantry Battalion was a unit within the U.S. Army’s 34th Infantry Division. Compromised mostly of Americans of Japanese Ancestry (AJA) from the Hawaii Army National Guard, the 100th Infantry Battalion also included volunteers from Japanese internment camps, which were then located throughout the United States during WWII. With the “Remember Pearl Harbor” motto, the 100th Infantry Battalion were consistently motivated to prove their loyalty to the United States. During their 20 month combat term in Europe, the unit became known as the “Purple Heart Battalion” for the number of casualties. They fought in six war campaigns in Italy and France, and garnered four Presidential Unit Citations.

Considered to be one of the most decorated combat units in United States military history, the 442nd Regimental Combat Team consisted of a share of enlisted soldiers, as well as volunteers who fought in Europe during WWII. Two-thirds of their original unit were Americans of Japanese Ancestry, or Nisei, from Hawaii. Others were Nisei soldiers from the Mainland.

The “Go For Broke” motto means to risk everything in order to win. Activated under the command of Colonel Charles W. Pence, the 442nd worked closely with the 100th Infantry Battalion. Over 14,000 men served in the 442nd Regimental Combat Team. Their values of service, loyalty and sacrifice earned the unit over 9,000 Purple Hearts, eight Presidential Unit Citations, 21 Medals of Honor, and 560 Silver Stars.

The Military Intelligence Service, or MIS, was a group of smaller units consisting of Nisei soldiers during WWII. Their average unit size was between 10-20 men. Playing a vital role in the U.S. military tactics during WWII, the MIS units used linguistic skills to gather intelligence, decipher captured enemy maps and documents, and conduct translations and interrogations. MIS unit members were at heightened risk because they could be confused for enemy troops by their own U.S. military personnel. MIS servicemen provided indispensible assistance during Japanese war crime trials, in the repatriation of Japanese prisoners of war (POWs), and in establishing positive relations between U.S. military forces and Japanese civilians. Working most often with classified orders, the MIS units have not receive the recognition other units and battalions have received during and post war.

Recognized throughout the world for scientific research, educational programs, and extensive collections which give voice to the stories of Hawai‘i and the broader Pacific.

National World War II Museum, New Orleans, LA: Jan 12 – Feb 17, 2013
Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum, Honolulu, HI: March 9 – April 14, 2013
Japanese American National Museum, Los Angeles, CA: May 4 – June 9, 2013
De Young Museum, San Francisco, CA: June 29 – August 4, 2013
Oregon Historical Society, Portland, OR: August 24 – Sept 29, 2013
Chicago History Museum, Chicago, IL – Oct 19 – Dec 8, 2013
Houston Holocaust Museum, Houston, TX – Dec 21, 2013 – Jan 24, 2014

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