|Letters and Messages|
Remarks by Consul-General Nozomu Takaoka
at the Reception in Celebration of the Opening
of the World War II Japanese-American Soldiers
and the Congressional Gold Medal Exhibit
at the Holocaust Museum Houston on December 18, 2013
December 18, 2013
Thank you all very much for your gracious attendance today. I especially would like to thank the esteemed veterans of the 100th Infantry Battalion, the 442 Regimental Combat Team and the Military Intelligence Service, as well as their sons, daughters and relatives who have traveled here to kindly share their precious time with us, some of who live here in Houston, and others who have traveled long distances, as far as from Utah, California and Massachusetts.
I would also like to personally greet and thank the former Commander of the Pacific Fleet, Admiral Patrick Walsh for visiting Houston to give us his valuable words from a highly respected military rank.
I also appreciate the gracious presence of Mr. Floyd Mori, former president of the National Japanese American Citizens League, the esteemed organization which has been active in the forefront of the American political scene. From the League, I would also like to recognize Ms. Priscilla Ouchida, the executive director, and Mr. Gary Nakamura, the president of the Houston chapter.
There are many honored guests I’d also like to recognize and thank for their presence tonight. They include Mr. Allen Greenberg, regional director of the Department of State, Mr. David Sawyer, representing Senator Ted Cruz, and Ms. Alice Chen, representing Congressman Al Green. I believe these policy makers’ presence is a testimony to the political importance that today’s event carries.
And not the least, I’d like to pay special respect to those precious efforts made, without which this Congressional Gold Medal would have never taken existed. By Christine Sato-Yamazaki, the chairperson of the National Veterans Network, for leading the nationwide campaign to realize the Congressional resolution, by the representatives of the Smithsonian, as well as the Asia Society and by Ms. Donna Cole, whose invaluable contribution made today’s event possible.
And not the least, I should thank Mr. Mark Mucasey, Chair of the Board of the Holocaust Museum Houston and Ms. Kelly Zúñiga, Executive Director for assuming the important and respectable role of hosting the exhibition of Congressional Gold Medal here in Houston starting tomorrow.
This is an important and historic moment for all of us present here today, and all of the others who are no longer with us, as the Congressional Gold Medal, the bestowment of which was unanimously adopted by the U.S Senate and Congress in 2010, has just arrived in Houston at its last stop on its journey of nationwide display which has spanned this whole year. In the next five weeks, the heroic bravery of the former members of the 442nd regiment and MIS will be revisited and remembered in this city.
Here, I would like to recognize what President Harry Truman said to these Japanese American veterans in 1946 shortly after the end of the Second World War. He declared “You fought not only the enemy, but you fought prejudice and you’ve won.” Profound words from the U.S. President.
In 1993, another epoch-making message from President Bill Clinton was contained in his letter, delivered to the unjustly interned, evacuated or relocated Japanese Americans during the Second World War. Then, President Clinton offered sincere apology and swore to renew the American spirit of equality and people’s love of freedom. That was the milestone which was reached after a long battle which began fifty years ago by the heroes of the 442nd and MIS, representing both, I believe, their victory and the great strength of American democracy. And now we are witnessing yet another important milestone here.
Today, I would like to recognize two other great feats that the esteemed veterans have achieved nearly seventy years ago. The first one was the great saga of the miraculous rescue of the “Lost Battalion” from Texas. Without the unwavering valor and dedication of these Japanese American soldiers, 200 Texans encircled by Nazi soldiers could have lost their lives. I am personally wondering if it is at all possible to locate the former members of the Texas Battalion or their relatives to complete this great story of heroism. If anyone in the audience here tonight has any piece of information about this, please let me or my staff know, later.
The second feat of the 442nd was the liberation of the Dachau concentration camp in Germany in 1945. I understand that both the Jewish captives and Japanese American soldiers were very much surprised to see each other’s faces. The exhibition of the Congressional Gold Medal at the Holocaust Museum therefore has an important significance, highlighting the historical irony and fact that the interned were liberated by former internees.
I should not fail to acknowledge, as Consul-General of Japan, that 70 years after this most difficult and painful campaign began on the European continent, the Japan-U.S alliance is stronger than ever. I personally believe that the heroic and honorable acts by the 442nd and MIS have in a certain, not straightforward but deep way contributed to the positive undercurrent of our present Japan-U.S relations. I also believe that their heroic and humane dedication added another dimension to the friendship and sentiment among Japanese, American and Jewish people. I am of the view that it is incumbent upon our generation and beyond to carry this torch of great history and friendship into the next generation.
In seeking your invaluable support for these noble causes, I would like to thank you very much for attending this precious opportunity to honor the 442nd and MIS for their amazing accomplishments.