Matt Matsunaga
Published with Permission

Attorney and former state Sen. Matt Matsunaga addressed attendees at this year’s Joint Memorial Service honoring the Japanese American soldiers who served in the 100th Infantry Battalion, 442nd Regimental Combat Team, Military Intelligence Service and the 1399th Engineer Construction Battalion in World War II. Matsunaga’s father, the late U.S. Sen. Spark Matsunaga, served in both the 100th Battalion and the MIS. The Sept. 25 service at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific at Punchbowl is held annually on the Sunday closest to Sept. 29, the day Sgt. Shigeo “Joe” Takata of the 100th Battalion became the first of the approximately 800 AJAs killed in action in World War II. Takata died outside of Salerno, just a week after the 100th entered combat in Europe. The Waialua-born Takata was a standout baseball player at his alma mater McKinley High School, in the AJA Baseball League and in the 100th’s Aloha team. In 2003, the baseball field at Fort Shafter in Honolulu was renamed “Joe Takata Field” in his memory.

The memorial service adopted the theme of this year’s 75th anniversary commemoration of the bombing of Pearl Harbor: “Honoring the Past, Inspiring the Future.” Also paying their respects with their attendance at the service were Adm. Harry B. Harris Jr., head of the U.S. Pacific Command, and Consul General of Japan Yasushi Misawa.

Ladies and gentlemen, Governor [David] Ige; U.S. Senator [Brian] Schatz; [state] Representative [Gregg] Takayama; other honored guests; members of the Japanese American veterans organizations, including the 100th, the 442nd, the 1399 and the MIS; and friends and family, Good Morning and Aloha. It is indeed an honor to be here with you to remember and to memorialize all who have fallen in service and after service to our great nation and to all those who are still living.

As we approach the 75th anniversary of the Pearl Harbor bombing, I think it’s important to examine and to appreciate the wartime legacy and opportunities that these great American heroes left for us.

As you know, in December of 1941, Japan bombed Pearl Harbor. We were at war. Americans of Japanese descent suddenly found themselves labeled “Enemy Alien.” Over 100,000 nationwide — 100,000 — were rounded up and forced into relocation camps.

And yet, despite this indecency, something remarkable began to take shape.

Out of the despair grew a resolve within the Japa-
nese American community, a desire to prove their loyalty to the United States. From behind the barbed wire, young men volunteered for military service by the thousands. The U.S. Army put them in their own segregated unit, combining them with young men from Hawaii, who also had something to prove. Together they formed the 100th Infantry Battalion — the beginning of what would soon evolve into the 100th, the 442nd, the 1399th and the MIS.

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