Face of Defense
Face of Defense: France
Honors World War II Veterans
By Navy Petty Officer 1st Class
David Kolmel, U.S. Pacific Fleet.
Pearl Harbor, Hawaii – (DOD
News) – July 3, 2014 – Seven World War II veterans from Hawaii received the
French Nation Order of the Legion of Honor aboard the French floréal-class
frigate FS Prairial here yesterday.
The honorees were Shiro Aoki, Yasunori Deguchi and Hiroo Endo,
who served with the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, Edward Ikuma, Yoroku Ito and
Shuji Akiyama, who served with the 100th Infantry Battalion, and Albert Brum,
who was from Canada and fought with British and U.S. forces in France.
For more than a decade, the government of France has
presented the Legion of Honor to U.S. veterans who participated in the
liberation of France during World War II. The Legion of Honor is France’s
highest award. This award can only be presented by someone who has received it
and is only given to living recipients.
Rear Adm. Anne Cullere, commander in chief of French forces
in the Pacific, thanked the men for their courageous effort.
“This is a very special day today, we are gathered here to
honor seven men that decided fighting for freedom was worth every effort unto
the ultimate sacrifice,” Cullere said. “Here we are 70 years later honoring the
sacrifice of too many of your comrades. We mourn with you. For what you achieved
in the streets of Bruyeres and the dark woods of Vosges, we very heartily salute
you. Today, I will bestow the French Legion of Honor the highest, honorific
medal in France.”
The award meant a lot to Ikuma, who fought in France from
October 1944 to March 1945.
“This is a great honor. At no point in my life did I ever
expect to receive an award like this,” Ikuma said. “This means more to me than
anything I can express.”
Yasunori Deguchi agreed with the significance of the award.
“There are no words that can express the appreciation and the recognition of the
impact of the Japanese Americans during the war,” Deguchi said.
Navy Adm. Harry B. Harris Jr., commander of U.S. Pacific
Fleet, said the award is well deserved. “This is a significant day and a huge
honor that the government of France is about to bestow on these seven men
sitting in front of me now,” Harris said. “This is about a country saying thank
you, a grateful nation saying thank you to some folks that did amazing things in
defense of that country and liberating that country during World War II.”
The 442nd Regimental Combat Team was composed of Japanese
Americans, most of them from Hawaii.
The 100th battalion fought in the Naples-Foggia campaign from
September 1943 to January 1944 before becoming part of the 442nd Regimental
Combat Team which was also comprised of the 2nd Battalion, 3rd Battalion, 522nd
Field Artillery Battalion and the 232nd Combat Engineer Company. The 442nd RCT
fought in Italy, then in France before returning to Italy.
The 442nd fought their most famous battle in France where
they rescued the “Lost Battalion” breaking through the line to rescue 211 men
that were cut off by German troops. The 522nd FAB also participated in the drive
into Bavaria which freed inmates from Dachau prison that was being marched to
their death. The 442nd, including the 100th, was the most highly decorated unit
in the history of the United States for its size and length of service.
Brum, the lone Canadian honored, fought in France as a member
of 101st Airborne and British 6th Airborne Division. After the war, he served in
U.S. Army, retiring as a colonel. He later became a U.S. citizen and lives in
Kaneohe, Hawaii. The ceremony was held aboard Prairial, which is homeported in
Tahiti, here for the biennial Rim of the Pacific international maritime exercise.
RIMPAC provides a unique training opportunity that helps participants foster and
sustain the cooperative relationships that are critical to ensuring the safety
of sea lanes and security on the world's oceans. RIMPAC 2014 is the 24th
exercise in the series that began in 1971.
Navy Adm. Harry B. Harris Jr.
U.S. Pacific Fleet
Rim of the Pacific 2014
RIMPAC Exercise Emphasizes Cooperation in Maritime Security