Guest Column: A WWII veteran reflects on the meaning of the Medal of Honor

The MEDAL OF HONOR is the highest and most prestigious award medal designed to honor and give recognition to the nation’s soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, and Coast Guard who distinguished themselves conspicuously by gallantry in combat.


The first medal was awarded during the four years of the American Civil War.

The Navy Medal of Honor was the first to be designed in 1861 that includes the Navy, Marine Corp and the Coast Guard.

The Army created their design in 1862.  (The Air Force had been part of the U.S. Army until they designed their own version in 1965.)

March 25th is the date naming this date as National Medal of Honor Day and this year 2018 was the 157th Anniversary of the day when the Medal was first awarded.

There have been 3,400 recipients ever since the Civil War.

“Due to its prestige and status, the Medal of Honor is afforded special protection under U.S. law against any unauthorized adornment, sale, or manufacture, which includes any associated ribbon or badge.”

For service during World War 2, of the multi-millions of men and women who served in our military services, 464 of the personnel received the Medal of Honor.

Two hundred 66 medals were awarded posthumously.

Sadao Munemori was the first Japanese American to be posthumously honored to receive this great honor.  Sadao was born in California.   He had been with the Army’s 442nd Infantry Division that consisted of Japanese Americans that were deployed to fight in Europe.

He died in 1945 while in combat, fighting the German army in the mountains in Italy.

The 442nd Division became the most highly award-decorated unit in history.

Their slogan, “GO FOR BROKE” proved their determination they were true Americans.

The Army sought 1,500 volunteers and 10,000 came to enlist.

As our 938th Artillery Battalion drove up a road in Southern Italy to a new firing position to support the 45th Infantry Division, we saw many soldiers of the 442nd Infantry Division “slogging up” the same road to their position in mid-December, 1943.

Their Division fought in some of the same areas as our Battalion did, namely our attacks on Monte Cassino and later on the Anzio Beachhead in western Italy.  These were some of our bloodiest battles.

Our Battalion suffered more than a 40 percent loss.

We fought against heavy enemy resistance for about six months until we freed Rome on June 4th, 1944.

We were all happily greeted with freshly-picked flowers and numerous bottles of wine.  (The infantrymen received the women’s hugs and kisses as they walked.  We artillerymen rode in trucks.)

After WW 2 ended, I learned the 442nd had earned an excellent reputation as a combat fighting unit.

Almost immediately in their first encounter with the enemy, they earned three Distinguished Service Crosses and nineteen Silver Stars that are all highly honored awards.

Their casualty rate was high with the death of three officers and 75 other soldiers. In 1952, I saw a movie named, “Go For Broke” that showed the story of the 442nd Infantry Division.  The movie was so well done, it was almost completely true to life but a little too “dramatized.”

I’m lucky to have lived through WW 2 without the MEDAL OF HONOR but with the “Purple Heart” for my facial wound.

Bill Thomas of Rowntree Gardens in Stanton, CA is a Veteran of World War II, and Past Commander of VFW Post 4048, and American Legion Post 857. Contact Bill at