Recognizing Our Soldiers

Remarks by Majority Leader Harry Reid

In 1945, a few weeks before Germany’s surrender to Allied forces, the U.S. Army’s 92nd Infantry Division headquarters wrote a letter to its unit commanders. That letter — from the headquarters of the famous all-African American “Buffalo Soldiers” — was titled “Facts concerning 442 Infantry.

This is what the Buffalo Soldiers wrote about the Nisei, an all- volunteer unit of Japanese Americans who had already proven their great valor in battle in the European Theatre:

“They are as thoroughly loyal as German Americans, Italian Americans, or any other American of foreign ancestry. A category, of course, into which all of us fall.”

And of course that was true. Not only were the men of the 442nd just as loyal as the most distinguished American soldiers of every other race or national background, they were also just as sharp of eye, true of aim and stout of heart.

And, in the end, the blood they shed defending American freedom on the battlefields of Europe — while fighting for the only nation they had ever called home — was just as red.

Although they were exempt from the draft, they volunteered to fight for our flag. Many of them joined despite having family living in American internment camps along with 110,000 other people of Japanese ancestry who were removed from their homes.

And 650 of them willingly gave their lives to protect the freedom for which America stands, although they were denied that freedom at home.

Nearly 4,000 more of these first-generation Americans were wounded or missing in combat. My friend, Senator Daniel Inouye, who is one of the finest men I know, fought famously with the 442nd and was grievously wounded in battle.

Bravery like Senator Inouye’s is the reason the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, including the 100th Infantry Battalion, is one of the most highly decorated units in U.S. military history.

Its soldiers earned thousands of Purple Hearts, more than 500 Silver Stars, 21 medals of honor and nine presidential unit citations. And alongside the Military Intelligence Service, which was also honored with a presidential unit citation for indispensible translation and interrogation services, the 442nd helped win the war.

It is for that brave commitment that we award them the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest honor Congress can bestow.

Some say it was a desire to prove that their loyalty and dedication to this country was beyond reproach that made the men of the 442nd such formidable fighters against fascism. But really they just shared the same patriotism that blazed in the hearts of other young, American soldiers.

We owe them much gratitude for their service and pay tribute to their sacrifice.

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