List of Asian American Medal of Honor recipients

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The Medal of Honor was created during the American Civil War and is the highest military decoration presented by the United States government to a member of its armed forces. The recipient must have distinguished themselves at the risk of their own life above and beyond the call of duty in action against an enemy of the United States. Due to the nature of this medal, it is commonly presented posthumously.[1]

Of the 3,464 Medals of Honor awarded as of September 17, 2009,[2] 30 have been awarded to Asian-American recipients. The first Asian American to receive the Medal was José B. Nísperos, who received it for his actions in the Philippine–American War.[3]

In 1996, a study determined that Asian Americans were discriminated against in the awarding of medals during World War II; consequently, 22 had their medals upgraded to the Medal of Honor.[4] Except for those awarded during the 1996 discrimination study the most recent Asian-American recipient of the Medal of Honor was Rodney Yano, who received it for his actions during the Vietnam War.[5]

Philippine–American War and peacetime[edit]

The Philippine–American War[n 1] was an armed military conflict between the United States and the First Philippine Republic, fought between 1899 and least 1902, which arose from a Filipino political struggle against U.S. occupation of the Philippines. Although the conflict was officially declared over on July 4, 1902,[6][7][8] American troops continued hostilities against remnants of the Philippine Army and other resistance groups until 1913, and some historians consider these unofficial extensions part of the war.[8]

During this conflict one Asian American, José Nísperos, received the Medal of Honor for continuing to fight after being seriously wounded and was the first person of Asian descent to receive it.[3]

Telesforo Trinidad received a Medal of Honor after rescuing two men from a boiler explosion and is the only Asian-American sailor to receive the Medal during peacetime.[9]

Image Name Service Rank Date of action Place of action Unit Notes
Nísperos, José B.José B. Nísperos Army Private September 24, 1911 Lapurap, Basilan Philippine Scouts Although seriously wounded, continued to fight until the enemy was repulsed[3]
Middle aged Filipino American male wearing a white suite with a neck order medal, and two other medals on the lapel. Trinidad, TelesforoTelesforo Trinidad Navy Fireman Second Class January 21, 1915 aboard USS San Diego USS San Diego Rescued two men after a boiler explosion despite being injured.[9] Ensign Cary received a Medal of Honor for the same event.[10][11]

World War II[edit]

World War II, or the Second World War, was a global military conflict, the joining of what had initially been two separate conflicts. The first began in Asia in 1937 as the Second Sino-Japanese War; the other began in Europe in 1939 with the German invasion of Poland. This global conflict split the majority of the world's nations into two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis powers. It involved the mobilization of over 100 million military personnel, making it the most widespread war in history, and placed the participants in a state of total war, erasing the distinction between civil and military resources. This resulted in the complete activation of a nation's economic, industrial, and scientific capabilities for the purposes of the war effort. Over 60 million people, the majority of them civilians, were killed, making it the deadliest conflict in human history.[12] The Allies were victorious, and, as a result, the United States and Soviet Union emerged as the world's two leading superpowers.

During this conflict 464 United States military personnel received the Medal of Honor, 266 of them posthumously. By the end of the war, only two Asian Americans had been awarded the Medal of Honor, Sergeant Jose Calugas of the Philippine Scouts and Private Sadao S. Munemori of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team.[13] A 1996 study commissioned by the United States Army by order of Congress investigated racial discrimination in the awarding of medals during World War II.[4] The Command History Office at the Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center at the Presidio of Monterey, California was tasked with identifying affected service-members and reviewing the records.[4] After performing a review of the files, the study recommended that several Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders who received the Distinguished Service Cross during World War II should be upgraded to the Medal of Honor.[4] On June 21, 2000, President Bill Clinton awarded the Medal to 22 Asian Americans, 21 from the aforementioned study,[14] in a ceremony at the White House.[4]

Of the 24 Asian-American awardees, 21 earned the Medal while serving with the 442nd Regimental Combat Team or its component unit, the 100th Infantry Battalion, making the 442nd the most decorated regiment-sized unit of the war.[15] Only two Asian-American officers received the Medal of Honor during World War II:[n 2] Captain Francis B. Wai who received it for drawing enemy fire to himself to reveal their positions and Second Lieutenant Daniel Inouye who received his medal for destroying two machine gun nests and continuing to fight after being wounded. Inouye became the first U.S. Representative for Hawaii and the first Japanese American congressman; he served as one of Hawaii's U.S. Senators from 1963 continuously until his death in 2012.[16]

      This with the * indicates that the Medal of Honor was awarded posthumously

Image Name Service Rank Date of action Place of action Unit Notes
A middle aged man in a military uniform wearing a hat. He has a mustache and is stairing up and to the right and frowning. Calugas, JoseJose Calugas Army Sergeant January 16, 1942 Culis, Bataan Province, Philippines 88-00-0088th Field Artillery Regiment, Philippine Scouts Under heavy fire, organized and led a gun crew after the original crew had been killed or wounded[17]
A young man in his army dress uniform with no hat. He appears to be in a seated position and is smiling. Davila, Rudolph B.Rudolph B. Davila Army Staff Sergeant May 28, 1944 Artena, Italy 07-03-007th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division Led his unit by example and, although wounded, single-handedly attacked an enemy-held house[18]
A young man in his army dress uniform. He is sitting and staring forward towards the camera with and he is not smiling. He has a high brimmed hat. Hajiro, Barney F.Barney F. Hajiro Army Private October 19, 1944,
October 22, 1944,
and October 29, 1944
near Bruyères and Biffontaine, eastern France 442-00-00442nd Regimental Combat Team Assisted an attack on a house, captured a numerically superior force, and single-handedly silenced two machine gun nests[18]
The head and shoulders of a young man in his Army dress uniform. He is standing and staring forward towards the camera with his hat cocked to the side. Hasemoto, MikioMikio Hasemoto* Army Private November 29, 1943 Cerasuolo, Italy 00-00-100100th Infantry Battalion With his squad leader, destroyed an enemy force despite having to run through heavy fire twice to retrieve new weapons[18]
Head and shoulders of a smiling young man wearing a garrison cap and a military jacket with chevrons on the upper sleeve over a shirt and tie Hayashi, JoeJoe Hayashi* Army Private April 20, 1945
and April 22, 1945
Cerasuolo, Italy 442nd Regimental Combat Team Led an attack on strongly defended positions and single-handedly silenced three machine guns[18]
Head of a man with ruffled hair wearing a light colored shirt and tie. Hayashi, ShizuyaShizuya Hayashi Army Private November 29, 1943 Cerasuolo, Italy 00-100-00100th Infantry Battalion Single-handedly silenced a machine gun nest and an anti-aircraft gun[18]
An older man wearing a suit with an American and Hawaiian flag in the background. He is seated and is staring forward toward the camera. Inouye, DanielDaniel Inouye Army Second Lieutenant April 21, 1945 near San Terenzo, Italy 442-00-00442nd Regimental Combat Team Single-handedly destroyed two machine gun nests, continued to fight and lead his platoon after being wounded[18]
Head of a man wearing a garrison cap and a tie and shirt with a crossed-rifles pin on the collar. Kobashigawa, YeikiYeiki Kobashigawa Army Technical Sergeant June 2, 1944 near Lanuvio, Italy 00-00-100100th Infantry Battalion Led successful attacks on four machine gun positions[18]
Head of a man wearing a garrison cap and a light colored shirt and tie. Kuroda, Robert T.Robert T. Kuroda* Army Staff Sergeant October 20, 1944 near Bruyeres, France 442-00-00442nd Regimental Combat Team Single-handedly destroyed two machine gun emplacements[18]
An older man in his military uniform with a hat on. There is a house and a tree in the background. He is looking forward at the camera. Moto, KaoruKaoru Moto* Army Private First Class July 7, 1944 near Castellina, Italy 00-00-100100th Infantry Battalion Single-handedly attacked two machine guns and, although wounded, captured a third[18]
Head and shoulders of a smiling young man wearing a garrison cap and a shirt and tie, the bottom of the tie tucked into the shirt between the buttons. Munemori, SadaoSadao Munemori* Army Private First Class April 5, 1945 near Seravezza, Italy 00-00-100100th Infantry Battalion, 442nd Regimental Combat Team Single-handedly attacked two machine guns before smothering a grenade blast with his body[19]
Head and shoulders of a young man looking directly at the camera and wearing a garrison cap and dark colored military jacket over a shirt and tie. The outer half of his left eyebrow is missing. Muranaga, KiyoshiKiyoshi Muranaga* Army Private First Class June 26, 1944 near Suvereto, Italy 442-00-00442nd Regimental Combat Team Engaged an artillery gun alone, using a mortar[18]
Head of a man with a subdued smile wearing a garrison cap tilted over his left ear and a military jacket over a shirt and tie. Nakae, MasatoMasato Nakae* Army Private August 19, 1944 near Pisa, Italy 00-00-100100th Infantry Battalion, 442nd Regimental Combat Team Held off an enemy attack and continued to fight after being wounded[18]
Head and shoulders of a young man standing erect, wearing a garrison cap and a military jacket over a shirt and tie. Nakamine, ShinyeiShinyei Nakamine* Army Private June 2, 1944 near La Torreto, Italy 00-00-100100th Infantry Battalion Single-handedly destroyed a machine gun nest and led attacks on two others[18]
Head of a smiling young man wearing a peaked cap with a round medallion on the front and a military jacket over a shirt and tie. Nakamura, WilliamWilliam Nakamura* Army Private First Class July 4, 1944 near Castellina, Italy 442-00-00442nd Regimental Combat Team Silenced a machine gun nest and stayed behind to provide covering fire as his unit withdrew[18]
Head and shoulders of a smiling young man with dimples and round wire-framed glasses wearing a garrison cap and a military jacket over a shirt and tie. Nishimoto, Joe M.Joe M. Nishimoto* Army Private First Class November 7, 1944 near La Houssiere, France 442-00-00442nd Regimental Combat Team Single-handedly neutralized three machine gun positions[18]
Ohata, Allan M.Allan M. Ohata* Army Sergeant November 29, 1943 –November 30, 1943 near Cerasuolo, Italy 00-00-100100th Infantry Battalion Together with a rifleman, held back an attack by a numerically superior force[18]
Head and shoulders of a young man with a bright smile and neatly combed hair wearing what appears to be a graduation gown over a shirt and tie. Okubo, James K.James K. Okubo* Army Technician Fifth Grade October 28, 1944 –
October 29, 1944
and November 4, 1944
Foret Domaniale de Champ, near Biffontaine, France 442-00-00442nd Regimental Combat Team Repeatedly exposed himself to intense fire to treat and evacuate wounded men[18]
Head and shoulders of an elderly man wearing a white button shirt with an emblem on the left breast Okutsu, YukioYukio Okutsu Army Technical Sergeant April 7, 1945 Mount Belvedere, Italy 442-00-00442nd Regimental Combat Team Single-handedly silenced three machine gun positions[18]
Head and shoulders of a young man with a garrison cap tilted over his right ear wearing a scarf tied around his neck and a military jacket with three ribbon bars and a pin on the left breast. Written over the lower right of the photo are the words "Your pal always, Frank". Ono, Frank H.Frank H. Ono* Army Private First Class July 4, 1944 near Castellina, Italy 442-00-00442nd Regimental Combat Team Held an advance position alone, treated wounded men, and remained behind to provide covering fire as his unit withdrew[18]
Head and shoulders of a young man wearing a garrison cap and a military jacket with three chevrons on the upper left sleeve and a whistle hanging from a chain attached to his right shoulder. In the top left corner of the photo is written "To Mom & Dad" and in the lower right "your son! Kazuo". Otani, KazuoKazuo Otani* Army Staff Sergeant July 15, 1944 near Pieve Di St. Luce, Italy 442-00-00442nd Regimental Combat Team Drew fire onto himself so his platoon could reach cover, killed while rescuing a wounded man[18]
Head and shoulders of a smiling young man wearing a peaked cap and, over a shirt and tie, a military jacket with a round pin on each lapel. Sakato, George T.George T. Sakato Army Private October 29, 1944 Hill 617, near Biffontaine, France 442-00-00442nd Regimental Combat Team Charged an enemy strongpoint, took command of his platoon and led it in defense of their position[18]
Head and torso of a serious faced man wearing a garrison cap and a military jacket with bright buttons and a patch and stripes on the upper sleeve. Tanouye, Ted T.Ted T. Tanouye* Army Technical Sergeant July 7, 1944 near Molino A Ventoabbto, Italy 442-00-00442nd Regimental Combat Team Although wounded, single-handedly attacked a series of enemy positions[18]
Head of a young man wearing a peaked cap with a large, shiny emblem on the front and a dark military jacket. Wai, Francis B.Francis B. Wai* Army Captain October 20, 1944 Leyte, Philippine Islands 34-00-0034th Infantry Regiment Took command of four assault waves and led by example, drew fire onto himself to reveal enemy positions[18]

Korean War[edit]

The Korean War was an escalation of border clashes between two rival Korean regimes, each of which was supported by external powers; each tried to topple the other through political and guerilla tactics. In a narrow sense, some may refer to it as a civil war, though many other factors were at play.[20] After failing to strengthen their cause in the free elections held in South Korea during May 1950[21] and the refusal of South Korea to hold new elections per North Korean demands, the communist North Korean Army moved south on June 25, 1950 to attempt to reunite the Korean peninsula, which had been formally divided since 1948. The conflict was then expanded by the United States and the Soviet Union's involvement as part of the larger Cold War. The main hostilities were during the period from June 25, 1950 until the armistice was signed on July 27, 1953. In the early stages of the war, President Harry Truman sometimes described the conflict under the aegis of the United Nations as a "police action" rather than use the term war.[20][22]

One Asian American received the Medal of Honor for his actions during the Korean War. Hiroshi H. Miyamura was captured by Chinese forces and held as a prisoner of war for 28 months. For his protection, news of his Medal of Honor award was classified until his release from captivity.[23]

      This with the * indicates that the Medal of Honor was awarded posthumously

Image Name Service Rank Date of action Place of action Unit Notes
Young man in military uniform, standing with his arm resting on his raised knee. Miyamura, Hiroshi H.Hiroshi H. Miyamura Army Corporal April 24, 1951 –April 25, 1951 Taejon-ni, Korea 7th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division Fought in close quarters combat, stayed behind to provide covering fire while his unit withdrew[24]

Vietnam War[edit]

The Vietnam War, also known as the Second Indochina War, and in Vietnam as the American War, occurred from 1959 to April 30, 1975. The term Vietnam Conflict is often used to refer to events which took place between 1959 and April 30, 1975. The war was fought between the Communist-supported Democratic Republic of Vietnam and the United States supported Republic of Vietnam. It concluded with the defeat and failure of the United States foreign policy in Vietnam.[25][26] On April 30, 1975, the capital of South Vietnam, Saigon fell to the communist forces of North Vietnam, effectively ending the Vietnam War.[27] Over 8.7 million U.S. forces participated in the Vietnam War; of whom slightly over 47,000 were killed in battle and almost 11,000 more died of non-battle causes.[28]

During the Vietnam War three Asian Americans received the Medal of Honor, all of them posthumously. Elmelindo Smith, although wounded multiple times was killed while fighting with his unit.[5] Terry Kawamura sacrificed his life by jumping on an explosive charge, saving the lives of two other soldiers, and Rodney Yano sacrificed his life by throwing burning ammunition off of a helicopter after a grenade exploded prematurely.[5][29]

      This with the * indicates that the Medal of Honor was awarded posthumously

Image Name Service Rank Date of action Place of action Unit Notes
Head and shoulders of a young man wearing a peaked cap, black thick-rimmed glasses, and a military jacket with a round pin on each lapel over a shirt and tie. Kawamura, Terry TeruoTerry Teruo Kawamura* Army Corporal March 20, 1969 Camp Radcliff, Republic of Vietnam 173rd Engineer Company, 173rd Airborne Brigade Smothered the blast of an explosive charge with his body[29]
A young man in his in his military uniform looking forward towards the camera. He has a slight smile and his head is down and to the left. Smith, ElmelindoElmelindo Smith* Army Staff Sergeant February 16, 1967 Republic of Vietnam 2nd Battalion, 8th Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Division Continued to organize his unit's defense after being repeatedly and mortally wounded[5]
A young man in a shirt, tie and sweater. He is looking forward towards the camera and is smiling. Yano, RodneyRodney Yano* Army Sergeant First Class January 1, 1969 near Bien Hao, Republic of Vietnam Air Cavalry Troop, 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment Grabbed burning ammunition and threw it from the aircraft after being seriously wounded in a premature grenade explosion aboard a helicopter[5]

Footnotes[edit]

  1. ^ This conflict is also known as the Philippine Insurrection. This name was historically the most commonly used in the U.S., but Filipinos and some American historians refer to these hostilities as the Philippine–American War, and, in 1999, the U.S. Library of Congress reclassified its references to use this term.
  2. ^ In the United States military an enlisted rank is below a commissioned officer and warrant officer and in most cases perform specific jobs. The warrant officer ranks are between enlisted and commissioned officers and are usually highly skilled, single-track specialty officers. Although warrant officers can serve at varying levels and in many jobs the warrant officer's primary task as a leader is to serve as a technical expert, providing skills, guidance, and expertise to commanders and organizations in their particular field. Commissioned officers are typically the only persons, in a military environment, able to act as the commanding officer of a military unit. They generally receive training in leadership, managerial skills and general skills training in career field. Commissioned officers are typically assigned as leaders in a given field with a general title such as infantry officer.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

 This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the United States Army Center of Military History.
  1. ^ "A Brief History — The Medal of Honor". Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ). Department of Defense. August 8, 2006. Retrieved February 9, 2010. 
  2. ^ "Frequently Asked Questions". Medal of Honor. United Staters Navy. Retrieved September 9, 2009. "There have been 87 African-American, 41 Hispanic-American, 31 Asian-American and 22 Native-American MOH Recipients." 
  3. ^ a b c "Medal of Honor recipients - Philippine Insurrection". United States Army Center of Military History. June 8, 2009. Retrieved June 8, 2009. 
  4. ^ a b c d e "Asian-Pacific American World War II Medal of Honor recipients". United States Army Center of Military History. August 3, 2009. Retrieved August 25, 2009. 
  5. ^ a b c d e "Medal of Honor recipients - Vietnam (M-Z)". United States Army Center of Military History. August 3, 2009. Retrieved October 5, 2009. 
  6. ^ Delmendo, Sharon (2004). The Star-Entangled Banner: One Hundred Years of America in the Philippines. Rutgers University Press. p. 47. ISBN 0-8135-3411-9. .
  7. ^ Agoncillo, Teodoro (1960 (Eighth edition 1990)). History of the Filipino People. Quezon City: Garcia. ISBN 971-10-2415-2. 
  8. ^ a b Constantino, Renato (1975). The Philippines: A Past Revisited. Tala Pub. Services. ISBN 971-8958-00-2. 
  9. ^ a b George J., Albert. "The U.S.S. San Diego and the California Naval Militia". The California State Military Museum. California State Military Department. Retrieved June 22, 2009.  and
    "Medal of Honor recipients - Interim Awards, 1915-1916". United States Army Center of Military History. August 3, 2009. Retrieved June 22, 2009. 
  10. ^ Captain George J. Albert. "The U.S.S. San Diego and the California Naval Militia". California State Military Museum. California State Military Department. Retrieved 28 March 2012. 
  11. ^ "USS San Diego". Commander Naval Surface Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet. United States Navy. Retrieved 28 March 2012. 
  12. ^ Dunnigan, James (1994). Dirty Little Secrets of World War II: Military Information No One Told You About the Greatest, Most Terrible War in History. William Morrow & Company. ISBN 0-688-12235-3. 
  13. ^ Williams, Rudi (June 28, 2000). "22 Asian Americans Inducted into Hall of Heroes". American Forces Press Service (United States Department of Defense). Retrieved August 22, 2009. 
  14. ^ Williams, Rudi (May 19, 2000). "21 Asian American World War II Vets to Get Medal of Honor". American Forces Press Service. Retrieved November 11, 2007. 
  15. ^ Owens, Ron (2004). Medal of Honor: Historical Facts and Figures. Paducah, Kentucky: Turner Publishing Company. p. 113. ISBN 1-56311-995-1. 
  16. ^ Brokaw, Tom (2004). The Greatest Generation. New York: Random House. pp. 354–355. ISBN 978-1-4000-6314-7. 
  17. ^ "Jose Calugas". Features. United States Army. Retrieved August 22, 2009. 
  18. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v "Asian Pacific American Medal of Honor recipients". United States Army Center of Military History. August 3, 2009. Retrieved August 25, 2009. 
  19. ^ "Medal of Honor recipients - World War II (M-S)". United States Army Center of Military History. August 3, 2009. Retrieved October 5, 2009. 
  20. ^ a b "The Korean War, 1950-1953". United States Army Center of Military History. July 10, 2006. Retrieved August 20, 2007. 
  21. ^ Hermes, Jr., Walter (1966). Truce Tent and Fighting Front. Center of Military History. pp. 2, 6, 9. 
  22. ^ The President's News Conference of June 29, 1950
  23. ^ Owens, Ron (2004). Medal of Honor: Historical Facts and Figures. Paducah, Kentucky: Turner Publishing Company. p. 144. ISBN 1-56311-995-1. 
  24. ^ "Medal of Honor recipients - Korean War". United States Army Center of Military History. August 3, 2009. Retrieved October 5, 2009. 
  25. ^ The landmark series Vietnam: A Television History, first broadcast in 1983, is a special presentation of the award-winning PBS history series, American Experience.
  26. ^ "Vietnam War". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved March 5, 2008. "Meanwhile, the United States, its military demoralized and its civilian electorate deeply divided, began a process of coming to terms with defeat in its longest and most controversial war" 
  27. ^ "1975: Saigon Surrenders". On This Day (BBC). April 30, 1975. Retrieved November 15, 2009. 
  28. ^ "U.S. Military Operations: Casualty Breakdown". Globalsecurity.org. Retrieved November 15, 2009. 
  29. ^ a b "Medal of Honor recipients - Vietnam (A-L)". United States Army Center of Military History. August 3, 2009. Retrieved October 5, 2009.