Japanese-American soldiers will be honored with a private ceremony Monday at Four Rivers Cultural Center. (The Enterprise/Angelina Katsanis).

ONTARIO – The 442nd Regimental Combat Team, the most decorated unit of its size in American military history, will be honored next week in Ontario.

The unit’s Japanese-American soldiers earned more than 18,000 awards, including 21 men decorated with the Medal of Honor, the highest and most prestigious military honor. The unit earned eight Presidential Unit Citations for extraordinary heroism in action against an armed enemy. A Presidential Unit Citation is bestowed to units for extraordinary heroism, gallantry and determination while in action against the enemy.

The unit was made up almost entirely of Japanese-Americans – including many who eventually called Malheur County home – and blazed a bloody trail across Italy, France and Germany during World War II.

Their efforts will be recognized in a private reception from 4 to 6 p.m. Monday, June 14, in the Hikaru Mizu Japanese Garden at Four Rivers Cultural Center.

The ceremony also will celebrate the unveiling of the U.S. Postal Service “Go for Broke” commemorative postage stamp that notes the sacrifice and service of the 442nd Regiment and all men and women of Japanese heritage who served during World War II.

“The guests of honor are families and living relatives of men who served in the 442nd. We want to make sure we are honoring the legacy of these men and women,” said Tanya Navarrete, marketing and development director at Four Rivers Cultural Center.

The 442nd Regimental Combat Team wasn’t distinguished just by its combat record. The Japanese-Americans in the unit came from hundreds of internment camps where they were detained after the Imperial Japanese Navy bombed Pearl Harbor.

“They were incredible. It is crazy they were American citizens but they were not trusted to fight the Japanese so they went to fight in Europe,” said Tom Greco of Ontario, who is one of the organizers of the Monday ceremony.

Greco said the saga of the team is a “great American story.”

“They were magnificent soldiers. They were soldiers whose moms and dads and families were placed in relocation camps. But they didn’t hesitate to serve their nation,” said Greco.

 News tip? Contact reporter Pat Caldwell at [email protected]

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