(Big Island Video News) KONA, Hawaii – 70 years after their legendary acts of valor on a World War II battlefield, five Hawaii Island members of the 442nd infantry’s 100th battalion were bestowed with the French Legion of Honour Award during a ceremony in Kona.
Two of the honorees were on hand to receive the medals at the West Hawaii Veterans Cemetery: Technician Fifth Grade Tokugichi Nakano and Sergeant Iwao Yonemitsu. Recipient Staff Sergeant Kazuma Taguchi was not present, and posthumous awards were given to Private First Class Hidetaka Sato and Private First Class Mitsuo “Benty” Tachibana.
Tracey Matsuyama helped coordinate the event.
The men were part of 442nd’s six-day battle to free over 200 soldiers of the 141st “Lost Battalion” of Texas from behind enemy lines in the mountains of France. It is remembered as one of World War 2’s most famous acts of bravery. The 442nd infantry would go on to become one of the most decorated fighting units in U.S. history.
Iwao Yonemitsu is over 90 years old now. He lives in Naalehu, where used to work at the sugar plantation before the war, and where he returned to work after his honorable discharge in 1945.
He and his wife, Alice, are proud parents of 4 children and blessed with 4 grandchildren.
95 year old Tokugichi Nakano is also a resident of Naalehu. He remembered back to the time of the daring rescue of the 141st in France.
Nakano also remembered the reunion between the 442nd and the rescued Texas Battalion that took place years later.
Created by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1802, the Legion of Honour award represents France’s highest decoration of valor. The Consul General of France in San Francisco, Ms. Pauline Carmona, awarded the medals.
Retired U.S. Army COL Debra Lewis gave the keynote address.
CREDITS: Video by Lynn Beittel of Visionary Video, voice of Sherry Bracken, edited by David Corrigan