Adm. Harry Harris
Commander, U.S. Pacific Command
Nisei Veteran Masayoshi “Masa” Nakamura Recognition
Hawaii Theater, Honolulu, HI
October 8, 2017
As Prepared for Delivery
Before getting to the formalities of recognizing Masa Nakamura – a true American hero – I want to take a moment to acknowledge:
The Inouye and Takai families – what an honor it is to share the room with you. The legacies of our departed Senator and Congressman reach every corner of Hawaii and our nation…
Governor Ige, Governor Ariyoshi and Senator Akaka, it’s great to join you once again to pay tribute to Nisei veterans…
Mayor Caldwell, state and national government leaders…
Members of the diplomatic and consular corps, distinguished guests…
And most of all, a special welcome to the Nisei veterans and their loved ones who are here with us today. Folks, let’s give them a round of applause.
Ladies and gentlemen, the Nisei warriors are all heroes in my book. They’re heroes in any book. So I’m honored to participate in this tribute to our Japanese American World War II veterans, and one in particular: Masa Nakamura.
As I’ve often said, the most important event in my life is World War II – and I wasn’t born until the 1950s.
You see, my father and four of his brothers fought in that war – enlisted men in the Navy and in the Army. Their sea stories and foxhole tales formed some of my earliest memories, and shaped the boy I was and the man I became. Through them, I learned of the tremendous sacrifices of the Greatest Generation. Those who fought for victory helped achieve nothing less than the survival of the free world.
Through them I was inspired to serve.
Everyone who battled in that war suffered, but the Nisei warriors had to struggle with additional challenges – like discrimination, distrust, and outright hostility – from the same country they were fighting to defend.
So it’s no exaggeration to say that I stand on the shoulders of giants. For me to be a Japanese-American 4-star admiral in command of all joint forces across the Indo-Asia-Pacific, well, it’s because of these Nisei trailblazers. The men of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team; the 100th Infantry Battalion; the Military Intelligence Service, or MIS; the 522nd, the 232nd, 1399th; and the 300 Nisei women who joined the Women’s Army Corps.
And it’s because of the great sacrifices and dedication given to our country by men like Staff Sergeant Masa Nakamura.
Folks, heroism doesn’t get more American than taking enemy fire and forging forward to help your fellow Soldiers – and this is exactly what Masa and his 442nd comrades did to find the famous Lost Battalion of Texas.
The rescue of the Lost Battalion in the Vosges Mountains of France is considered one of the greatest land battles of World War II. Masa's unit endured staggering casualties and loss of life, but still managed to rescue 211 men of the Lost Battalion. Masa was awarded his first of three Purple Hearts for his combat wounds. For those who survived this epic battle, like Masa, I know it's still painful to discuss. But this is vital history – history that must be remembered and recognized.
So I was pleased to learn that just last month, Masa was awarded the French Legion of Honor.
Ladies and gentlemen, the French Legion of Honor has been awarded to only a select few of our nation’s military heroes who served in World War II. I’m sure you will recognize some of their names: George Marshall, Omar Bradley, Douglas MacArthur, Mark Clark, and Chester Nimitz. And now the name of Masa Nakamura has been added to that very select group of international heroes, an honor well deserved. Masa and the other Nisei warriors who have received this prestigious honor are heroes who served on the front lines, fought in the battles, bled on the battlefield, and helped liberate a nation.
Masa, your deeds are now the stuff of legends, and we can't thank you and your Nisei teammates enough.
Folks, I can’t thank you enough for letting me be here today to pay tribute to Masa, his family, and his comrades – those who died on the battlefield, those who joined him back home only to face discrimination, those who still walk beside us, and those who cannot.
Masa, without a doubt, you and your fellow Nisei veterans are true Americans! You are what’s best about our country and what makes it the beacon of freedom for the entire world.
I’m certain there are more stories in this audience of American heroes today who deserve our applause – stories of patriotism and courage in the face of adversity.
And there was a lot of adversity.
So let me be candid here. Our country hasn’t always dealt minorities and immigrants a fair shake. Even so, the many cultures resident in the American experience share a common underpinning of honor, pride, and perseverance that has added immeasurably to our strength as a nation.
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.’
Masa and his fellow Nisei warriors volunteered to fight for America and to wear the cloth of our nation, despite our country’s bigotry and prejudice. They were tested at home and in combat on battlefields around the world.
At home, through their deeds and examples, the Nisei veterans continued the fight, this time against the injustice of discrimination. Thanks in part to their efforts, today, our nation and our military embrace diversity – and we are stronger for it. But more than that, Masa and the Nisei veterans left us a lasting legacy of strength, freedom and prosperity.
Ladies and gentlemen, I’ll conclude by saying that the banner of freedom advances in our world only when brave souls take it up. That’s what American heroes like Masa did. For those of us who stand the watch today, we’ll continue to follow in your wake. We won’t let you down.
May God bless those veterans, and the brave men and women of our armed forces, each and every one of our Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines, and Coast Guardsmen – past and present – who have stepped forward to defend our nation. May God bless this beautiful state of Hawaii, and may God bless this land of liberty we call America. Thank you very much.