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Medals given to Japanese-American WWII vets part of national display

The Congressional Gold Medal — awarded in 2011 to Japanese-American World War II veterans in the 100th Infantry Battalion, 442nd Regimental Combat Team, and the Military Intelligence Service — will be on display at the Oregon Historical Society’s Oregon History Museum in downtown Portland from Aug. 24 through Sept. 29.

The medal is part of a national Smithsonian tour hitting seven cities this year, including Honolulu, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Houston and Washington, D.C., where it will be on permanent display following the tour in “The Price of Freedom” exhibition at the National Museum of American History.

Its only stop in the Pacific Northwest will be at the Oregon History Museum at 1200 S.W. Park Ave., in the park blocks in downtown Portland.

The Gold Medal represents Congress’ highest expression of national appreciation for distinguished achievements and contributions.

Commonly known as the “Go For Broke” regiments, the 100th/442nd is one of the most highly decorated units in U.S. military history, having earned more than 4,000 Purple Hearts, 560 Silver Stars, seven Presidential Unit Citations and 21 Medals of Honor.

The Military Intelligence Service, whose highly specialized contributions helped hasten the end of the war, was honored with a Presidential Unit Citation in 2000.

More than 19,000 Japanese American soldiers served in these units during World War II.

Organized by the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service, the exhibit is in partnership with the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History and the National Veterans Network, a coalition that educates the public about the legacy of Japanese-American World War II soldiers.

To kick off the local exhibit, an opening ceremony is scheduled for Saturday, Aug. 24, at the Oregon Historical Society.

Local Nisei veterans will be invited for a preview tour of the exhibit, and then at 10:30 a.m., the public is invited to a special ceremony where these American heroes will be honored.

Following the ceremony, a luncheon begins at 11:30 a.m. at the Hilton Portland & Executive Tower Grand Ballroom, featuring keynote presentations by Eric K. Shinseki, U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs, and U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden.

Tickets for the luncheon are $50 per seat and can be purchased online at oregonnikkei.org or by phone by calling 503-224-1458.

A screening of “Honor and Sacrifice,” a documentary about WWII Nisei veteran Roy Matsumoto, who will also be in attendance at the event, is at 2 p.m.

In conjunction with the Congressional Gold Medal exhibit, the Oregon History Museum and Oregon Nikkei Endowment will both showcase original exhibits about medal winners and internment camp history.

For details, visit oregonnikkei.org or ohs.org.



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