Friday Harbor's Roy H. Matsumoto, WWII Nisei Veteran, receives Nation's Highest Civilian Honor

Thirty-three World War II Japanese American veterans from Washington state received the highest civilian award in the United States November 2, 2011. The Congressional Gold Medal Ceremony took place in the U.S. Capitol Visitor Center's Emancipation Hall where hundreds of Nisei veterans from across the country were honored. Roy H. Matsumoto of Friday Harbor received a medal.

Read about Matsumoto's war experiences at www.pacificcitizen.org/node/900.

The ceremony honored members of the 100th Infantry Battalion, 442nd Regimental Combat Team and the Military Intelligence Services of the United States Army. The 442nd Regimental Combat Team was one of the most decorated units in military history, bringing home 21 Congressional Medals of Honor, 33 Distinguished Service Crosses, 559 Silver Stars, 22 Legions of Merit, 4,000 Bronze Stars and 9, 846 Purple Hearts.

"In the face of grave injustice during WWII, the Nisei veterans fought to preserve America's free democracy," said Senator Maria Cantwell. "In fact, they went on to become one of the most highly decorated group of veterans in United States military history. These soldiers fought for what this country could be, even while their families lived in internment camps. In the process, they paved the way to victory in WWII and a brighter future for all."

The list of honorees from Washington state, along with their hometowns, follows.

Daniel E. Takehara – Auburn, WA

Robert Y. Handa – Bellevue, WA

Shigeru Momoda – Bellevue, WA

Yukio B. Yoshihara – Bellevue, WA

William T. Yasutake – Bothell, WA

Masaru H. Odoi – Edmonds, WA

Roy H. Matsumoto – Friday Harbor, WA

(Photo of Roy in 2010 Friday Harbor 4th of July parade - pnoto by Sharon Kivisto )

Jimmie Kanaya – Gig Harbor, WA

Roy H. Inui – Issaquah, WA

Frank T. Matsuda – Issaquah, WA

Mitsuru Hayashi – Kent, WA

Sakae S. Aoyama – Seattle, WA

Roy N. Fujiwara – Seattle, WA

Francis M. Fukuhara – Seattle, WA

Hiroshi H. Hirano – Seattle, WA

Tsuguo Ikeda – Seattle, WA

George Iwasaki – Seattle, W

Thomas T. Kobayashi – Seattle, WA

Frank K. Nishimura – Seattle, WA

Toshikazu Okamoto – Seattle, WA

Matthew M. Seto – Seattle, WA

Ted T. Yasuda – Seattle, WA

Art S. Yorozu – Seattle, WA

Mitsuru Takahashi – Seattle, WA

Saburo Tsuboi – Seattle, WA

James T. Suzuki – Shelton, WA

Stanley S. Segawa – Silverdale, WA

Charles T. Furumasu – Spokane, WA

George A. Minata – Spokane, WA

Fred A. Shiosaki – Spokane, WA

George T. Yamada – Spokane, WA

Eisaku Hiromura – Vancouver, WA

Teruo Yamashita – Vancouver, WA

Earlier this year in May, Cantwell met with Nisei veterans in Seattle while speaking at a memorial service to honor fallen Nisei heroes at Lake View Cemetery. On that occasion, Cantwell personally thanked and congratulated Washington state's Nisei veterans on being awarded the Congressional Gold Medal.

Over the years, Cantwell has worked to grant National Park Service (NPS) status to the Bainbridge Island Japanese American Memorial to ensure its permanent protection as an important part of history.

In 2006, Senator Cantwell and U.S. Representative Jay Inslee (D-WA-1) spearheaded the Bainbridge Island Japanese American Memorial Bill, which finally passed in 2008 and gave the NPS site status to the Japanese American Memorial at the Eagledale Ferry Dock on Bainbridge Island. The Memorial on Bainbridge is a satellite unit of the Minidoka Internment National Historic Monument in Jerome County, Idaho, which marks the place where many of those forcibly removed from Bainbridge Island were eventually sent.

In June 2010, Cantwell visited the Japanese-American Memorial on Bainbridge Island to celebrate the legacy of the Nisei veterans and the federal grant awarded to the memorial's education wall.

The stone and cedar wall tells the story of the 227 Bainbridge residents of Japanese ancestry who were rounded up and sent to internment camps in California and Idaho. In all, 12,892 residents from Washington state were sent to internment camps. The investment came from the NPS's Japanese American Confinement Sites grant program, which was established in 2006 to preserve and interpret the locations where Japanese Americans were incarcerated after the bombing of Pearl Harbor.