National Medal of Honor Day
March 25th is designated National Medal of Honor Day, chosen because it was on that day in 1863 that the first six Medals of Honor were awarded.
On 18 March 2014, President Obama awarded 24 Army veterans the Medal of Honor for their service. The medals were a result of an investigation into discrimination in the awarding of the nation’s highest combat award. Regarding the event, President Obama noted, “No nation is perfect. But here in America, we confront our imperfections and face a sometimes painful past, including the truth that some of these soldiers fought and died for a country that did not always see them as equal.” Of those presented with the medal of Honor by President Obama were seventeen Latinos, one African American and one Jewish soldier. Seven of the 24 medals were awarded, all posthumously, for service in World War II to: Private Pedro Cano, Private Joe Gandara, Private First Class Salvador J. Lara, Sergeant William F. Leonard, Staff Sergeant Manuel V. Mendoza, Sergeant Alfred B. Nietzel, and First Lieutenant Donald K. Schwab.
Yeiki Kobashigawa was one of 22 Asian American veterans who had medals upgraded to the Medal of Honor in 2000. Mr. Kobashigawa was one of seven still alive to receive the medal in a White House ceremony with President Clinton. Kobashigawa has since died, in 2005, and his family has generously loaned the Museum his Medal of Honor for our special exhibit From Barbed Wire to Battlefields: American Experiences in WWII. Kobashigawa’s Medal of Honor can be viewed through October 12 along with sixteen pieces from the Smithsonian’s collection; pieces from the Museum of World War II, Boston; and pieces from the private collections of David Furukawa and Jimmie Kanaya.
Post by Curator Kimberly Guise.