The Army awarded Technical Sgt Shinyei "Rocky" Matayoshi, the nation's second highest military honor for valor, the Distinguished Service Cross, today at the Pentagon. The 87-year-old Japanese-American veteran joined the army during World War II after his immigrant father was placed in an internment camp in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
"I felt if I volunteered and proved to them I was a good American soldier, they would send my Dad home, but that never happened," Sgt Matayoshi said. He was a senior in high school when Pearl Harbor was attacked and his father interned, leaving 6 children at home to fend for themselves.
"Rocky" Matayoshi joined the all-Japanese segregated unit called the ‘Nisei.' The 442nd Regimental Combat team became one of the most decorated units in US military history, receiving 7 Presidential Unit Citations, 21 Medals of Honor, 29 Distinguished Service Crosses, approximately 400 Silver Stars and over 4000 Purple Hearts for their service during World War II. Journalists dubbed them the "Purple Heart Battalion."
President Obama awarded the 442nd unit the Congressional Gold Medal on October 5, 2010 for their service and for laying the groundwork for the eventual desegregation of the armed forces.
"What we did in he service opened the door for everyone, not only the Japanese - the white, the black, the blue, anybody," Matayoshi told interviewers.
His initial Distinguished Service Cross citation was lost in a fire in 1973 at the Army's National Records facility. Today he received the award at an induction ceremony at the Pentagon's Hall of Heroes. The award is for valorous actions taken on April 7, 1945 in Italy when he led his platoon to assault and destroy 3 machine gun nests as they took Mt. Belvedere. Fifteen enemy were killed as a result. Much of the fighting was done at close range.