Lawson Sakai is a Veteran of the 100th Infantry Battalion, 442nd Regiment, and served in the European Theater of World War II. His unit is remembered as the “Purple Heart Battalion,” and is the most decorated unit in United States military history. The 442nd Regiment was composed almost entirely of second-generation Japanese-Americans known as Nisei.
The Nisei soldiers achieved many victories during World War II but at a great cost. In October 1944, the 442nd liberated Bruyères, France after many days of heavy fighting. Immediately following, and with little to no rest, the 442nd then attempted the rescue of the 141st Regiment, known as the “Lost Battalion.” Previous attempts to rescue the unit had failed, but the 442nd successfully reached the “Lost Battalion” on October 30, 1944. Their efforts saved the remaining 211 soldiers of the 141st from being further cut-off by the enemy. By the end of the fighting, the Nisei soldiers had suffered hundreds of casualties.
The Nisei soldiers served with honor despite the discrimination that they faced in America at the time. In February 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, forcing the relocation of Japanese immigrants and Japanese-Americans to internment camps. While the Nisei soldiers of the 442nd fought in Europe, many of their families and loved ones remained segregated and confined to these camps.
Today, several Nisei soldiers are interred at Golden Gate National Cemetery in San Bruno, California. In 2017, NCA’s Veterans Legacy Program partnered with San Francisco State University to conduct research on Veterans at local national cemeteries. During their research, students and faculty discovered the stories of the Nisei soldiers. They produced a short film that tells their stories through an interview with Lawson Sakai.
In honor of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, please join us in recognizing the service and sacrifice of the Nisei soldiers.
To find out more about the Veterans Legacy Program, please visit the website located here: https://www.cem.va.gov/legacy/
NCA is proud to support local filmmakers, storytellers, and students engaging with the stories of Veterans in their local national cemeteries. They may raise issues of local interest or even controversy. We hope this encourages all viewers to learn more about the Veterans and their circumstances. The views expressed by parties in the films are not those of NCA, but presented as part of the plurality of perspectives and views surrounding the life and service of American Veterans.