*Update: May 2016 - Kazuo Masuda is one of twelve Nisei soldiers featured in the Smithsonian Institute's 2016 digital exhibit, The Nisei Soldier: Congressional Gold Medal, http://cgm.smithsonianapa.org/. He was awarded posthumously both the Distinguished Service Cross in 1945 and, more recently, the Congressional Gold Medal. He is honored each year at the Kazuo Masuda Memorial VFW Post 3670, Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States Memorial Day Service at Westminster Memorial Park, Orange County, California.
In a remarkable moment of personal history, the Masudas were remembered by an American president when he signed the Civil Liberties Act of 1988.
RIGHT: Company F, 2nd Battalion, 442nd Regimental Combat Team, holding a section of the front lines near St. Die Area, France, 13 November 1944. Kazuo Masuda was killed in action in Italy, defending fellow soldiers at the crossing of the Arno River, August, 1944.(WikiCommons)
After basic training, both Kazuo and Takashi were assigned to the 442nd Regimental Combat Team--known for their regimental slogan, "Go For Broke"--one of the most highly decorated units in military history.
Kazuo was awarded posthumously in 1945 the Distinguished Service Cross "for extraordinary heroism in action...On 6 July, 1944, while his advanced observation post was the target of heavy mortar and artillery barrages, Staff Sergeant Masuda crawled 200 yards to the mortar section, secured a mortar tube and ammunition, and returned to the observation post.
Using his helmet as a base plate, Staff Sergeant Masuda single-handedly directed effective fire upon the enemy for 12 hours, inflicting heavy casualties and repulsing two major enemy counter-attacks.
Realizing that he was trapped, he ordered his men to withdraw while he boldly engaged two enemy automatic weapons. At the sacrifice of his life, he enabled his comrades to escape with valuable information which materially aided the successful crossing of the Arno river."
LEFT: Kazuo Masuda, 442nd Regimental Combat Team, posthumously awarded the Distinguished Service Cross in 1945. (Photo, www.the442nd.org)
A father imprisoned, a family interned
I cannot believe that my father has done any act of disloyalty towards the United States. He has been a resident of this country for over 40 years...He has been a farmer for over 35 years...
In all the 23 years I have lived with my father, he has never uttered a single word against the United States. He has always considered this nation his country, and I believe he has done his part in making it the great nation that we are. He did not, as so many others have done, send any of his children to Japan for any part of their education. He wanted his children to be Americans....
I believe sincerely that his arrest and his subsequent imprisonment and internment was based on mistaken facts..."
After Gensuke was released from Fort Missoula, the Masudas were sent to the Gila River Relocation Center in Arizona in 1944, until 1945.
The War Relocation Authority (WRA) took action. A Washington news bulletin reported at the time, that the WRA "took steps to end threats against an American girl of Japanese ancestry who has four brothers with honorable army service records.
The WRA announced it is prepared to turn over to law enforcement officials the names of five men who have threatened Mary Masuda of Talbert, Orange County, California, with bodily harm unless she moves out of the county in which she resides with the Caucasian Family named Trudeau."
LEFT: Mary Fumi Masuda, after the war, at home in Talbert. (Photo courtesy of Masao Masuda and Susan Shoho Uyehara, Japanese American Living Legacy/Nikkei Writers Guild) © ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
Hearing of the incident, General Joseph "Vinegar Joe" Stillwell arranged a personal honor for the Masudas. On Dec. 9, 1945, on the front porch of their farmhouse in Talbert, Gen. Stillwell presented Mary Masuda with the Distinguished Service Cross in honor of her brother, SSgt. Kazuo Masuda. Mary, in turn, pinned the medal on her mother.
Gen. Stillwell later spoke at a rally in honor of Kazuo Masuda at the Santa Ana Municipal Bowl (now Eddie West Field at 6th and Flower Streets in Santa Ana), "The Nisei bought an awful big hunk of America with their blood. Those Nisei boys have a place in the American heart, now and forever. We cannot allow a single injustice to be done to the Nisei without defeating the purpose for which we fought...Who, after all is a real American? The real American is the man who calls it a fair exchange to lay down his life in order that American ideals may go on living. And judging by such a test, Sergeant Masuda was a better American than any of us here today..."
RIGHT: Gen. Joseph Stilwell pins the Distinguished Service Cross on Mary Masuda for her late brother, Kazuo Masuda, on the front porch of the Masuda family's Newhope Street farmhouse in Talbert on Dec. 9, 1945. (Photo courtesy of Masao Masuda and Susan Shoho Uyehara, Japanese American Living Legacy/Nikkei Writers Guild) © ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
When the family approached the Westminster Memorial Cemetery to make burial arrangements, they were told Kazuo could not be buried in a desired location, with trees and grass. The cemetery manager told them "restrictive covenants" barred persons who were not of Caucasian ancestry.
At the signing ceremony for H.R. 442, the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, Aug. 10, 1988, President Ronald Reagan (photograph below left as a young Army captain) remembered the Masuda family:
"And now in closing, I wonder whether you'd permit me one personal reminiscence -- one prompted by an old newspaper report sent to me by Rose Ochi, a former internee. The clipping comes from “The Pacific Citizen” and is dated December 1945.
RIGHT: Future U.S. president, Ronald Reagan, an Army captain when he visited with the Masuda family in 1945. (WikiCommons)
Other show business personalities paid tribute -- Robert Young, Will Rogers, Jr., and one young actor said: 'Blood that has soaked into the sands of a beach is all of one color. America stands unique in the world, the only country not founded on race, but on a way -- an ideal. Not in spite of, but because of our polyglot background, we have had all the strength in the world. That is the American way.'
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