Feb. 13 Meeting Update
Once again, they came from everywhere – San Francisco, Sacramento, Turlock, Monterey. It was another gathering of Friends and Family of Nisei Veterans (FFNV) in Morgan Hill, on Feb. 13. About 100 attended the “membership meeting” filled with warmth and camaraderie. Even several “strangers” came from Visalia and Fresno after hearing the radio announcement about this meeting. The annual potluck lunch gathering was enjoyed by all.
The program began with a presentation by Consul General Jun Yamada of Consulate-General of Japan, San Francisco, of a prestigious Certificate of Commendation by Minister of Foreign Affairs of Japan to Lawson Sakai. The Certificate recognized Sakai’s dedication to promoting mutual understanding and friendship between Japan and the United States. Specifically, the award recognized Sakai’s service with the famed 442nd Regimental Combat Team (442nd RCT), his tireless effort to preserve the proud legacy of Nisei veterans, and his dedication as eloquent speaker to promote understanding of Japanese American history. Introductory remarks stated: “With unselfish, dedicated and far-reaching accomplishments, Sakai has become a true and proud legend among all Japanese Americans and legitimately among all Americans.”
The second part of the program took the audience back 72 years into Vosges Mountains in France where enduring and amazing history was unfolding. Four speakers shared their knowledge of the epic battle in late October 1944 when the 442nd RCT successfully rescued the encircled Texas “Lost Battalion.” Tom Graves, professional photographer/author moderated the program and gave an overview of the battle. Franz Steidl, historian, showed a Department of Defense newsreel coverage of this rescue and introduced the regional military situation that resulted in an American battalion being trapped by retreating German forces. Al Tortolano, a soldier of the “Lost Battalion,” was not able to attend the meeting due to illness. However, Tom Graves summarized Al Tortolano’s emotional speech he gave to another group of 442nd RCT veterans in 1999 in which he repeatedly thanked the 442nd RCT for its valiant effort despite taking heavy casualties. In conclusion, Lawson Sakai presented an inspiring account of his personal role during the rescue and that of his fellow 442nd RCT soldiers. Attendees were treated to truly informative and heart-warming stories of the rescue of the “Lost Battalion.”
Consul General Yamada thoughtfully stayed for the entire program and expressed his appreciation for our Nisei soldiers’ contributions of the 442nd RCT in Europe and of the Military Intelligence Service in the Pacific. The presentation of the Foreign Ministry Award to Lawson Sakai added the extra dimension of significance and importance to this gathering.