STATEMENT OF THE
HONORABLE ENI F. H. FALEOMAVAEGA
NATIONAL PEARL HARBOR REMEMBRANCE DAY
Senate Concurrent Resolution 44
|MR. FALEOMAVAEGA. Madam Speaker, I would very much like to commend the chairman of the committee, the gentleman from Georgia, and my good friend, the ranking member, the gentleman from Illinois, for their leadership in bringing this legislation to the floor.
Madam Speaker, I rise in support of Senate Concurrent Resolution 44, which underscores Congress' strong support of National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day and pays tribute to the United States citizens who died in the attack and the surviving American service members, many of whom belong to the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association.
I deeply commend the authors of this important legislation, Senator Fitzgerald of Illinois and Senator SMITH from New Hampshire, and the gentleman from Illinois (Mr. WELLER), who introduced the House counterpart, House Concurrent Resolution 56, which was adopted earlier this year in May.
Madam Speaker, as the resolution properly notes, this December 7th will mark the 60th anniversary of Japan's deadly surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. On that Sunday morning, December 7, 1941, a Japanese force of 353 dive-bombers and torpedo planes attacked U.S. military naval forces on Oahu without warning. Our Nation suffered staggering losses, with over 2,400 servicemen and women killed, another 1,200 wounded, over 320 aircraft destroyed or damaged, and all eight U.S. battleships in Pearl Harbor sunk or seriously damaged. The next day, the United States declared war on Japan and later its Axis partners.
Madam Speaker, in many ways, we prevailed in World War II directly because of the brave and courageous members of our Armed Forces who died and fought at Pearl Harbor. Their sacrifices galvanized and ignited America's fighting spirit as never before, fueling us for years of battle until the forces of tyranny were defeated.
But, Madam Speaker, the term Pearl Harbor also means something vastly different to certain Americans who suffered tremendously under the pretense of the policy of our national security. I am making reference specifically, Madam Speaker, to Americans of Japanese ancestry. Some 100,000 Americans were systematically herded like cattle and placed into concentration camps, with their property confiscated. At the height of tremendous hatred and bigotry and racism, what was very interesting is that we had another fantastic legacy to be shared with every American in our country.
It is important to recognize the contributions of the Japanese-Americans who served in the U.S. Army's 100th Battalion and 442nd Combat Infantry group. History speaks for itself in documenting that none have shared their blood more valiantly for America than the Japanese-Americans who served in these units while fighting enemy forces in Europe during World War II.
The records of the 100th Battalion and 442nd Infantry are without equal, Madam Speaker. These Japanese-American units suffered an unprecedented casualty rate of 314 percent and received over 18,000 individual decorations. Many were awarded after their deaths for bravery and courage in the field of battle.
For your information, Madam Speaker, 52 Distinguished Service Crosses, 560 Silver Stars, and 9,480 Purple Hearts were awarded to the Japanese-American soldiers of the 100th Battalion and 442nd infantry. The 442nd Combat Infantry group emerged as the most decorated combat unit of its size in the history of the United States Army. President Truman was so moved by their bravery in the field of battle, as well as that of African American soldiers during World War II, that he issued an American order to desegregate the Armed Forces.
I am happy to say that after DANIEL AKAKA introduced legislation in 1996 to review the war records of these soldiers, 20 Medals of Honor were awarded to these Japanese American soldiers, including Senator DANIEL INOUYE of Hawaii. The Senator was initially awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for heroism in combat and was an original member of the 442nd Infantry Combat group.
I might say also, Madam Speaker, that for many years I have served as executive officer of B Company of the 100th Battalion and the 442nd Infantry.
Madam Speaker, these Japanese Americans paid their dues in blood to protect our Nation from its enemies. It is a shameful legacy in the history of our country that when the patriotic survivors of the 100th Battalion and the 442nd Infantry returned to the United States, many were reunited with their parents, their brothers, and their sisters who were locked up behind barbed wire fences living in concentration camps.
I recall our former colleague and friend who now serves as Secretary of Transportation, former Congressman Norm Mineta. He said as an 11-year-old, he was in one of these concentration camps. He was told that they had to put all these Japanese Americans in these concentration camps, that it was for their protection. Here was an 11- year-old saying if it was for their protection, why were all the machine guns pointed inside the camps and not outside the camps.
Madam Speaker, the wholesale and arbitrary abolishment of the constitutional rights of these loyal Japanese Americans will forever serve as a reminder and testament that this must never be allowed to occur again. Madam Speaker, as our government deals with the ramifications of the horrific terrorist attacks of September 11, I would hope our Nation would not forget this one basic lesson.
I urge adoption of the resolution before us, which recognizes and honors the sacrifices of our armed services members who died and served at Pearl Harbor, for they inspire all Americans to seek to preserve and protect our great Nation and democracy. By the same token, Madam Speaker, let us not also forget what happened to our fellow Americans, the Japanese Americans. They suffered tremendously and did so without any guilt on their part, simply because they were Americans who happened to be of Japanese ancestry.
Mr. BARR of Georgia. Madam Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.
Mr. DAVIS of Illinois. Madam Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.
I would like to associate myself with the remarks of the gentleman from American Samoa. As a matter of fact, as a child growing up, I lived near one of those concentration camps, a resettlement camp, in Jerome, Arkansas; and so I observed some of what the gentleman speaks about. And having actually seen it, I appreciate the gentleman's remarks a great deal.
Mr. FALEOMAVAEGA. Madam Speaker, will the gentleman yield?
Mr. DAVIS of Illinois. I yield to the gentleman from American Samoa.
Mr. FALEOMAVAEGA. Madam Speaker, I think, in view of the pending celebration of the 60th anniversary of Pearl Harbor, probably two major things have resulted from what has happened. One, I think our country should always remember that Americans are Americans regardless of race, creed or color. And I think the image and the understanding when we talk about Pearl Harbor, though there is no question about what happened and the sacrifices of those fellow Americans who died as a result of the Japanese attack, there is also the other very emotional feeling among many of the Japanese Americans throughout our Nation, because it was not a very happy experience for them when this happened.
More than anything, too, as a result of the courageous efforts by these Japanese American soldiers and our black and fellow African American soldiers, for the first time President Truman, who was so moved by their sacrifices, he then issued an Executive Order to desegregate the Armed Forces. That is a major, major change in our national policy; and I thank the gentleman for his recognition of this.