Honoring U.S. Japan Alliance and the Contributions of Japanese Americans
Washington, December 8, 2020, December 8, 2020
Tags: Foreign Relations
Madam Speaker, I rise today to honor the alliance between the United States and Japan and celebrate the extraordinary contributions of Japanese Americans across our country, especially in my home state of Hawai‘i.
Seventy-five years ago, the Second World War finally ended when Japanese and Allied representatives signed the Instrument of Surrender on the deck of the U.S.S. Missouri, the storied battleship that now rests in Pearl Harbor in my district. Three generations hence, Japan has become a crucial ally, economic power and trading partner to the United States and built a dynamic democratic society and vibrant popular culture. Our two countries and peoples stand united as anchors of peace, prosperity and the liberal international order in the Indo-Pacific region.
On November 18, 2020, the House unanimously passed H. Res. 349, reaffirming the vital role of the United States-Japan alliance in promoting peace, stability and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region and beyond, a resolution that I also proudly cosponsored. Amidst this COVID-19 pandemic, renewed great power competition and a world in flux, the alliance and friendship between the United States and Japan remains a pillar of stability. Whatever challenges lie ahead, I am confident that our two countries will stand together and overcome them.
The memory of World War II also evokes one of the most shameful periods of our history as a country: the mass internment of Japanese Americans. Through Executive Order 9066 and other orders, the federal government forcibly relocated and incarcerated about 120,000 Japanese Americans, the majority of whom were U.S. citizens, in concentration camps.
The year 2020 marks 40 years since the appointment of the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians by President Jimmy Carter in 1980. That Commission's report, entitled Personal Justice Denied, affirmed what we already knew: that the mass internment of Japanese Americans was the product of racism and not driven by any actual national security risk. In 1988, Congress passed, and President Ronald Reagan signed into law, the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, which formally apologized and established restitution for the internment of Japanese Americans.
Yet from this dark period in our history emerged great acts of courage and patriotism that helped make our country a more perfect union. Just months after President Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066, thousands of Japanese Americans volunteered to join the war effort to join their comrades who had served earlier in the Hawai‘i National Guard, leading to formation of the 100th Infantry Battalion and the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, later combined. Nicknamed the “Purple Heart Battalion,” the 100th/442nd became the single-most decorated unit of its size in U.S. military history. Thousands more Japanese Americans served in the all-Japanese American 552nd Field
Artillery Battalion and Japanese American Unit of the Military Intelligence Service.
Last year, I had the honor of traveling to the town of Bruyeres, France, liberated by the 100th/442nd in the fall of 1944 at terrible cost, to represent our Congress at the 75th anniversary of liberation. There, I was moved by the powerful memory of these Japanese American soldiers, which included my wife's uncle, PFC Sadao Hikida, their courage and ferocity in freeing this town from Nazi oppression and rescuing the “Lost Battalion” and the enduring friendships they built with the people of Bruyeres.
In Bruyeres, I also recounted the personal impact that two veterans of the 100th/442nd had on my own life and career. It was Journey to Washington, the memoir of Medal of Honor recipient and U.S. Senator Daniel K. Inouye, that first inspired me to consider a career in elected office. After graduating from college, I worked three years for Congressman (and later Senator) Spark Matsunaga, another veteran of the 100th/442nd, who has served as a lifetime role model for me and so many others.
The courage and patriotism of Japanese Americans also extended to the home front. Japanese American citizens fought against the injustice of Executive Order 9066 and challenged it in court, leading to the infamous Korematsu v. United States decision. That decision was only recently reversed by the U.S. Supreme Court.
In the decades since, Japanese Americans have accomplished so much and contributed so greatly to our country through their service and achievements in government, the military, science and technology, arts and culture, business and more. I especially recognize the Japanese Americans of Hawai‘i who help make our home state the wonderfully rich and diverse place it is.
I am proud to join my colleagues in this House in recognizing the U.S.-Japan alliance and commit myself to continued support for the historic friendship and amity between our peoples. And I am equally proud to represent and support the descendants of all those who came to this country from Japan in search of a better life, retaining the best of the rich cultural heritage of their ancestral country in generations of contribution and achievement since.