Holidays & Special Occasions
Veterans Day (Nov. 11) honors those who have served the United States of America in all wars, fighting to protect freedom and democracy.
Originally known as Armistice Day, Nov. 11 was initially selected in 1926 by Congress to honor the ending of World War I, then idealistically called “the War to end all wars.”
Several wars later and mindful of current global tensions, America now respectfully continues its annual tradition by recognizing the courage of its veterans.
While Japanese Americans have served with supreme bravery in all of America’s conflicts from the Spanish-American War to the Gulf War, they are most famous for their contributions during World War II. Even as many of their families were imprisoned in American concentration camps, thousands of young Japanese Americans demonstrated their loyalty to the United States by volunteering for military service.
The 100th/442nd Regimental Combat Team—comprised of racially segregated Japanese American units consolidated into a single team in 1944—became the most decorated unit in U.S. military history for its size and length of service. The unit received over 18,000 individual decorations for bravery, 9,500 Purple Hearts, seven Presidential Unit Citations, and 20 Congressional Medals of Honor. Other Japanese Americans served in America’s Military Intelligence Service (MIS) and played an invaluable dual role as both Japanese language translators and soldiers.
The sacrifices of America’s veterans are an important chapter of American history—a chapter the Japanese American National Museum continually seeks to make known through research, exhibitions, educational activities and public programs.
With the opening of the National Museum’s new sister institution next spring, the National Center for the Preservation of Democracy, American veterans’ stories and experiences will play an ever greater role in educating future generations.
The items below offer a sampling of some of the remarkable tales and lessons of heroism.