Sunday, April 5, 2015

April 5: Only Japanese-American receives Medal of Honor

On this date in History ... April 5, 1945:

The actions of PFC Sadao S. Munemori resulted in him becoming the only Japanese American in WWII to receive the Medal of Honor, the Nation's Highest Honor.

In a battle near Seravezza, Italy, Munemori's unit was pinned down.  When the unit leader was injured, leadership fell on the shoulders of Munemori.  In a one-man frontal attack, he took out 2 machine guns with grenades.  Withdrawing under "murderous fire" from the enemy, he had almost reached safety with his men when an unexploded grenade bounced off of his helmet and rolled toward his comrades.  

Munemori threw his body on top of the grenade, saving his men.  His citation reads that his act of heroism "cleared the path for his company's victorious advance."

Sadao was a second-generation Japanese American, born in California.  He volunteered for the Army one month before Pearl Harbor.  After the Pearl Harbor bombing, Sadao, like other Japanese Americans in the military, was removed from combat training and assigned to menial labor tasks. In the meantime, his parents were incarcerated in one of the internment camps. In March 1943, he was permitted to be reassigned to a combat unit.

Munemori's medal was given his mother and is on display at the Smithsonian Institute.

He is honored in multiple ways for his heroism including:

  • Sadeo S. Munemori Hall, a building located on the grounds of the Captain Nelson M. Holderman U.S. Army Reserve Center in West Los Angeles, California, was dedicated in his honor in 1993.
  • Sadeo Munemori is memorialized by a statue in Pietrasanto Italy
  • Americna Legion Post 321 in Los Angeles is named for Sadeo Munemori

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