Nightly News | November 02, 2011
BRIAN WILLIAMS, anchor: Finally tonight, an honor long overdue. They answered the call in World War II , Japanese-American soldiers. They went and fought to save the world and yet back home in the US, their families were often rounded up in camps. Well, today, this heroic fighting unit was finally rewarded by Congress . And NBC 's Tom Costello was there.
TOM COSTELLO reporting: The black and white newsreels can make World War II seem so distant.
Mr. GEORGE SAKATO: This is me here.
COSTELLO: But George Sakato remembers it all as if it were yesterday.
Mr. SAKATO: Tom Kasano, George Funiyama.
COSTELLO: Including the day one of his friends died in his arms.
Mr. SAKATO: I was going to get the guys that shot him or die trying.
COSTELLO: He went on to rush the German line, killing five enemy soldiers, wounding two and capturing four. For that he was awarded the Medal of Honor . Sakato was part of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team , the most highly decorated unit in US history , made up entirely of second generation Japanese-American volunteers known as the Nisei , while back at home, many of their families and friends had been rounded up, declared enemy aliens and thrown into internment camps despite their American citizenship . Grant Ichikawa was 23 when he volunteered for military intelligence , interpreting for American troops in the Pacific .
Mr. GRANT ICHIKAWA: We just wanted to join to prove that we are loyal Americans.
COSTELLO: They were loyal. Nineteen thousand Japanese-Americans served in the Pacific and in Europe. In Italy and France , they saw some of the most horrific fighting, losing more than 700 men in just 10 months. Thousands of Purple Hearts , Bronze and Silver Stars . Among their members, Senator Daniel Inouye , who lost an arm and was later awarded the Medal of Honor .
Senator DANIEL INOUYE: I thank you all for this extraordinary recognition.
COSTELLO: Today he was among the 317 surviving members of the 442nd, the 100th Infantry Battalion and the Military Intelligence Service bestowed with Congress ' highest honor, the Congressional Gold Medal . Their trip to Washington included a stop at the World War II Memorial to remember friends who died. George Sakato came from Denver wearing his Medal of Honor .
Mr. SAKATO: I wear this for those that didn't come home.
COSTELLO: A lifetime later, sadness for those left behind, but the pride of an American soldier . Tom Costello, NBC News, Washington.