Greenspring residents George Nakamura and Yukio Kawamoto were among the Japanese-American World War II Veterans to receive Congressional Gold Medals.
Hundreds of Japanese-American veterans who served in the 100th Infantry Battalion, the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, and the Military Intelligence Service, attended the Congressional Gold Medal Ceremony on Nov. 2.
Both Nakamura and Kawamoto are “Nisei” or second-generation Japanese-Americans who served as part of the Military Intelligence Service during World War II, which was responsible for performing intelligence work against the Japanese military.
Nakamura was born on Nov. 26, 1919, in Reedley, Calif. While in college at San Francisco State University, the war broke out and he joined the U.S. Army in 1942.
Nakamura was recruited for language school a few months later and was sent to Camp Savage in Minnesota. There he studied the Japanese language for six months before being sent overseas to Australia to serve in the ATIS, the Allied Translator and Interpreter Section, an intelligence unit which focused on intercepting and translating Japanese communications and negotiations.
Nakamura participated in the Lingayen Bay landing in January 1945. While there, Nakamura took part in the operations at Dingalan Bay to entice Japanese soldiers to surrender. Some 22 armed Japanese soldiers surrendered during the operations for which Nakamura was awarded a Bronze Star medal.
Nakamura retired from active duty as an U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel in January 1979, but continued working on contract with the service until Sept. 2000. He moved with his wife from his home in Vienna, Va., to Greenspring in April 2010.
Kawamoto was born on Nov. 13, 1919, in Berkeley, Calif. He was drafted into the U.S. Army in Feb. 1942, while attending University of California at Berkeley.
After basic training and Signal Corps camp, he was also sent to Camp Savage for language training. He then spent a year in New Caledonia in the South Pacific, where he helped Navy lieutenants with Japanese translation.
Kawamoto was one of ten men who then served in the 37th Infantry Division in Bougainville, New Guinea, interrogating prisoners and translating communication from captured Japanese soldiers. It was there that the infantry picked up a Japanese deserter who gave the Americans a tip regarding an imminent Japanese attack. The tip forced the unit to call in additional troops and ammunition to protect the perimeter, which was attacked shortly thereafter.
After being sent to the Philippines and serving in the Battle of Manila, Kawamoto was discharged from the U.S. Army in 1945, just as his parents were being released from a Japanese internment camp in Utah.
In 1946, Kawamoto accepted a position as one of the first Nisei interpreters for the U.S. State Department, and worked with President Kennedy and President Johnson. He and his wife moved from his home in Springfield, VA, to Greenspring in February 2007.
The Congressional Gold Medal is an award given by the United States Congress and is generally considered to hold the same prestige as the Presidential Medal of Freedom. The award was first given to General George Washington in 1776, and has since been awarded to notables such as Bob Hope, Roberto Clemente, Rosa Parks, and Pope John Paul II.
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