Republic of Korea awards SoCal Japanese American Korean War veterans Ambassador for Peace Medal

It is estimated 256 Japanese Americans were killed in action in Korea.
Sunday, December 25, 2022
LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- The Korean War began the summer of 1950. It followed World War II and the Japanese occupation of the Korean peninsula. The conflict between North and South Korea is often referred to as the "Forgotten War" in the U.S.

"But the men and women who served, sacrificed and in many cases, gave up their lives in the war to not be forgotten," said James Nakamura, commander Kazuo Masuda Memorial VFW Post 3670.

Among them, many Japanese American veterans; a contrast to the history between Japan and Korea.

"I was drafted in December 1950," said Korean War veteran, Harumi "Bacon" Sakatani. That was roughly five years after Sakatani and his family were released following years of imprisonment in a Japanese internment camp.

The Southern California native served as a combat engineer in the Korean War, as the U.S. supported South Korea against the North.

"I'm glad that I was there," said Sakatani. "To keep democracy over there in the far East."

During a panel discussion this week, Sakatani and other veterans shared their experiences in Korea. More than 70 years after their service, efforts to honor them continue.

At a tribute sponsored by the Veterans Memorial Court Alliance and other groups, the consul general of the Republic of Korea in Los Angeles honored Sakatani and his comrades with the Ambassador for Peace Medal.

"I think it shows some kind of connection between the Republic of Korea and Japanese American society here in Southern California," said Consul General Youngwan Kim. "It shows to them how we put importance to their sacrifice during the Korean War."

Some were awarded the medal posthumously. "It's too bad many of those who served there in combat are gone," said Sakatani.

Four days before the tribute, the Korean War veteran community experienced a big loss. U.S. Medal of Honor recipient Hiroshi "Hershey" Miyamura passed away at age 97.

The former U.S. Army Corporal, who was a prisoner of war for more than two years, had recorded a welcome address for this event presented in conjunction with Kazuo Masuda Memorial VFW Post 3670, Gardena Nisei Memorial VFW Post 1961, Tanaka Farms, and OCO Club.

Miyamura encouraged others to share and listen to veterans' stories, highlighting its impact on younger generations. It is estimated 256 Japanese Americans were killed in action in Korea. Up to nearly five million people died in this war, more than half of them were civilians.

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