Maxwell celebrates Asian-Pacific heritage in May |
by Dr. Robert Kane
Air University History Office
5/17/2013 - MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Al -- In May, the nation and Maxwell honor the contributions of service members from Asia and the Pacific islands with Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, themed "Building
Leadership: Embracing Cultural Values and Inclusion."
The Pacific islands include Melanesia, Micronesia and Polynesia and the state of Hawaii, which is the 50th state of the United States. To celebrate the month, a Taste of the Asian-Pacific food tasting and cultural presentation is from noon-1:30 p.m. Thursday at the Maxwell Event Center.
The dining facilities will offer Asian-Pacific meals on Wednesday, including tempura-battered fried fish, Hawaiian baked ham, barbecue Cantonese ribs, fried rice and egg rolls. In 1978, Congress established Asian-Pacific American Heritage Week to celebrate the achievements and contributions of Asian-Pacific Americans to the historical and cultural richness of this country.
In 1990, President George Bush extended the celebration to the entire month. On Oct. 23, 1992, Congress officially designated May of each year as Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month.
Congress selected the month of May because it includes the anniversaries of the arrival in the United States of the first Japanese immigrants on May 7, 1843, and the completion of the first transcontinental railroad on May 10, 1869, partially by the labor of thousands of Chinese immigrants.
Part of the Asian-Pacific American heritage is the valor and gallantry of the Japanese-Americans of the U.S. Army's 100th Infantry Battalion and the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, who, like the Tuskegee Airmen, fought prejudice and hatred at home, as well as tyranny
overseas, during World War II.
By May 1945, the 442nd RCT had become the most highly decorated U.S. military unit of its size. Along with the 100th Infantry Battalion, the Soldiers accumulated more than 18,000 individual decorations for bravery, including 18 Medal of Honor recipients, 52 Distinguished Service Crosses and 9,500 Purple Hearts, with many soldiers earning multiple awards, and seven Presidential Unit Citations.
The most well-known member of the 442nd RCT was Daniel K. Inouye, the first U.S. congressman of Japanese ancestry and the second longest-serving senator after U.S. Senator Robert Byrd. Inouye served as a U.S. senator from Hawaii from to 1963 until his death on Dec. 17, 2012.
During World War II, he received a battlefield commission and promotion to second l i e u t e n a n t , the Distinguished Service Cross, which President Bill Clinton upgraded to the Medal of Honor in 2000, and other decorations.
He is among 30 Asian-Americans who have received the Medal of Honor, America's highest military award.