As Memorial Day approaches it is fitting to recall a local hero. Frank H. Ono (June 5, 1923 - May 6, 1980) fought in World War II as a member of the 442 Regimental Combat Team. This regiment was made up of Nisei - the American-born sons of Japanese immigrants. Their experiences in the military were similar to those that other races have faced; while they fought the Germans in Europe, they also had to fight prejudice in America.
The 442 Regimental Combat Team trained at Camp Shelby in Mississippi and was composed of “Buddaheads” - Hawaii born Nisei - and “Katonk”- Nisei that had grown up on mainland America. Because Japanese-Americans had not been forcibly “relocated” from their homes, businesses and farms and incarcerated in camps, the “Buddaheads” did not understand the attitude of the “Katonk” toward the government. Once a group of Hawaiians were sent to tour Camp Jerome and Camp Rowher in Arkansas and saw the barbed wire fencing and the rough barracks where families were packed together without privacy the “Buddaheads” understood and gained a new respect for the “Katonks.” As a result the men stopped fighting and united like a clenched fist.
The motto of the 442nd was “Go for Broke”, a gambling term that means to risk everything in one great effort to win big. And the men of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team did just that. It was “the most decorated unit for its size and length of service, in the entire history of the U.S. Military. The 4,000 men who initially came in April 1943 had to be replaced nearly 3.5 times. In total, about 14,000 men served, ultimately earning 9,486 Purple Hearts , 21 Medals of Honor and an unprecedented eight Presidential Unit Citations.”
It took the United States government fifty years to recognize that Nisei soldiers were deserving of the Medal of Honor. On June 21, 2000 President Clinton awarded 22 Asian Americans, 20 of them Japanese American WW II veterans. Thirteen of the medals were given posthumously.
- Information from the “Go For Broke National Education Center”