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Japanese American Citizens League (JACL) WWII Commemoration

By Video remarks as delivered: ADM. HARRY B. HARRIS, JR. | U.S. Pacific Command Public Affairs Office | Sept. 24, 2015

CALIFORNIA - Good evening, JACL.  It’s an honor to have been asked to speak to you on this commemoration marking the end of World War II.  It’s with deep regret that I’m not able to share my thoughts with you in person.  But I send this message to let you know how important groups like the Japanese American Citizens League are to me – both as a citizen and one who wears the uniform of our great nation.

 

Our past serves to inform and shape our future, so it’s no exaggeration when I say that World War II is the most important event in my life.  My Japanese mother survived the devastation of wartime Japan and met and married my father, an American Sailor who served in Japan in the late 1940s and the 1950s.  My father also had four brothers who fought in the war, so I grew up hearing their stories about the exploits of greatest generation from the moment I could form a memory. 

 

All of them are gone now, but I can still hear their stories of duty, sacrifice and courage.  From my mom, I learned about the twin concepts of gimu and giri – duty and obligation.  She told me stories about the heroic deeds of Japanese-American Nisei soldiers who fought so valiantly during World War II.  Theirs is a legacy of service that has a special resonance for me.

 

So, it's no exaggeration for me to say that I stand on the shoulders of giants.  For me to be where I am today – a Japanese American four-star admiral, in command of all U.S. joint military forces across half the earth – is because of trail blazers like the men and women of the Military Intelligence Service … the 100th Infantry Battalion … the 442nd Regimental Combat Team … and the 1399th Engineer Construction Battalion.  In a world erupting with the fires of war, these exceptional people rose above fear and prejudice to defend something greater than themselves.  Their sacrifice blazed a trail towards freedom and justice for all mankind.

 

And the outcome is nothing short of extraordinary.  Our bitter World War II enemies of Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan are now new nations, and staunch allies of the United States – a fact I was reminded of just a few weeks ago when the city of Nagaoka, Japan commemorated the end of World War II by providing a spectacular fireworks display over the waters of Pearl Harbor, the very place where the war tragically began for the United States.  It was a moving, joyful celebration of shared peace.

 

These commemorative events not only mark the courageous efforts of the Nisei warriors and all those who served and supported the war effort, they also mark the 70 years of peace and friendship that have connected Japan and the United States, our defense forces and our people.  The Pacific Ocean – once a fiery tableau of brutal warfare – has become a stable region for our countries to enjoy peace and prosperity.

 

Today, our Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, Airmen, and Coastguardsmen work side-by-side with our Japanese Allies, mutually committed to security throughout the region.  We enjoy the fruits of these prosperous times because of the seeds sown by the men and women who sacrificed so much seven decades ago.

 

Our nation draws her strength from those who served before us, and our nation will continue to draw her strength from those who freely volunteer to serve and defend the United States as members of our armed forces.  Those who serve are part of an unbroken chain, linking Americans, generation to generation.

 

Our strength as a nation also comes from citizens like each of you in the audience today – Americans who are aware of the challenges, the opportunities and the dangers we continue to face.  As the oldest and largest Asian Pacific American civil rights organization, I know that the JACL strives to promote a world that honors diversity by respecting values of fairness, equality and social justice.  As someone who has personally benefited from the important work conducted by the JACL – even before I was born – I can’t thank you enough for promoting and preserving the proud heritage of the Japanese American community.
 
 

When Dr. Benjamin Mays delivered the eulogy at Dr. Martin Luther King’s funeral, he said that Dr. King’s unfinished work on earth must truly be our own.

 

Ladies and gentlemen, that work falls to each of us.  So as we move forward together, I urge you to continue teaching future generations about the treasured prize of freedom that was so dearly won 70 years ago.  Thank you for all you do.



Biography - Admiral Harry B. Harris, Jr., U.S. Navy 

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