Japanese American Internment Remembrance Day

Friday 19 February was the anniversary of the signing of Executive Order 9066 by President Franklin Roosevelt in 1942. Following closely on the heels of the attack on Pearl Harbor and other US military facilities on the island of Hawaii, EO 9066 provided for the deportation of Japanese Americans from designated US “military zones” to various internment camps.

The anniversary of EO 9066 has been celebrated as the Day of Remembrance since 1978. Today I’d like to remember US Army Staff Sergeant Kazuo Otani of the all-volunteer 442nd Regimental Combat Team.

Staff Sergeant Kazuo Otani, US Army
Staff Sergeant Kazuo Otani, United States Army

The 442nd was comprised almost entirely of Japanese American volunteers. And yet,

The 442nd Regiment was the most decorated unit for its size and length of service in the history of American warfare. The 4,000 men who initially made up the unit in April 1943 had to be replaced nearly 2.5 times. In total, about 14,000 men served, earning 9,486 Purple Hearts. The unit was awarded eight Presidential Unit Citations (5 earned in one month). Twenty-one of its members were awarded Medals of Honor. Its motto was “Go for Broke”.

Staff Sergeant Otani earned his Medal of Honor in Italy, where he was killed in action rallying his men and rendering aid to a wounded comrade…while his family was interned at the Gila River War Relocation Center (internment camp) in Arizona.

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