Lawson Sakai, a Nisei-American veteran who fought in World War II as a member of the 442nd Infantry Regiment, will receive his Congressional Gold Medal from the United States Congress on November 2nd at the Capitol in Washington DC. He is one of the Japanese American soldiers who will be recognized for their 442nd Regiment services during World War II, including those who participated in the 100th Infantry Battalion and the Military Intelligence service.
The 442nd Infantry Regiment primarily consists of Nisei-Americans from Japanese concentration camps fighting in Europe, a squad known for their heroic and lengthy services in United States military history.
“It’s very good to be recognized by the government,” said Sakai. “This means somebody or some people have recognized that this was not done ago, and even though it’s quite late at least they’re doing it.”
Japanese Americans were not recognized for their World War II services by the US government because they suffered racial discrimination during that time period. “We lost our citizenship,” recalled Sakai. “They took away our rights to serve in the military, and called us aliens.”
This racial discrimination left Japanese Americans with few options: to volunteer as a member of the 442nd regiment, the 100th Infantry Battalion, the Military Intelligence service or stay in Internment camps. Lawson Sakai chose to volunteer in the 442nd regiment.
“This [was] the only way the US government will recognize the Japanese people,” he said.
After World War II, the US government decided to close down the Japanese concentration camps and release all of the Japanese prisoners, after realizing the 442nd regiment displayed such an impressive record of service.
“It was a huge turn around for the Japanese born, and the civilians recognized this,” said Sakai. “[The US government] restored our liberty, they gave us back our citizenship and left our parents out of it.”
Although Nisei Americans in the 442nd regiment were not immediately recognized for their World War II services, Sakai is content that his service was eventually recognized by the US government.
Before Sakai receives his Congressional Medal, he wants to impart a message to future Japanese Americans—sansei, yonsei, gosei—about receiving this award: “if they do the right thing [by being a good citizen], they will be rewarded. If [they are] not a good citizen, [they] do not deserve it.”
For more information about Nisei veterans and their services to this country, visit the WWII Nisei Veterans exhibit at the USS Hornet Museum in Alameda, CA.