When John Hashimoto enlisted in the Army at the age of 20 during World War II, he did so because he didn’t want to be taken to an internment camp with the rest of his family.
“It was like a concentration camp,” Hashimoto, now 91, said of Manzanar, the internment camp in Lone Pine for Japanese Americans, where his parents and siblings were taken in 1942. “I thought maybe I’d do myself a favor, but I didn’t really.”
His family remained imprisoned while Hashimoto was overseas in Italy and France fighting in the war. His brother-in-law served in the 100th Battalion and his two brothers became military intelligence officers and worked as interpreters in Japan.
At the same time the U.S. imprisoned 120,000 American citizens of Japanese descent after the attack on Pearl Harbor, about 26,000 Japanese-Americans joined the war effort. Those who served in the 100th Battalion, 442nd Regimental Combat Team and the Military Intelligence Service will be awarded the Congressional Gold Medal in Washington, D.C., next year.
The 442nd team/100th Battalion became the most highly decorated unit in the history of the U.S. military.