Wednesday, February 22, 2006

The UW MOH Memorial: Let's make sure they get it right

I admit my last blog about this was fairly angry. I was very upset about the events that had transpired, and I decided to show it. I was, and I still am fairly disgusted with the editors of the Seattle PI for trying to make a silk purse from a sows ear.

But it occurred to me today that this, like so many things is life, has all the ingredients of an opportunity to make it right.

I decided to look up the details of the 5 men who earned the Medal Of Honor (MOH), and I discovered they all had unique stories worthy of telling. I remarked to Kirby Wilbur via email that I doubted any of the students had even bothered to do the 5 minutes of google searching it took me to find all five citations. While that may be true of some of them, it is not true of all, because I found that the new resolution introduced to the Senate contains the details of all five men. The resolution, R-12-26 - A Resolution Calling a Memorial for UW Alumni awarded the Medal of Honor can be read here:

http://senate.asuw.org/legislation/12/R/R-12-26.html

I will post it below in a moment.

I am blogging this tonight to say that while I think the original resolution had merit, this one can be just as good, if a few things are done to ensure it doesn't fall prey to correctness. The new resolution was written by the same person as the original, so I am fairly confident he has the intention of making this a sober, respectful and comprehensive memorial. I am also, however, cynical enough that I do not trust that his peers will not try to "PC" it, and dumb it down to make it more generic, as they did his original resolution.

This must not be allowed to happen.

If these men are to be honored they should be honored in the full context of their achievement and valor, which to me requires nothing less then the full citation that accompanied their award, and a brief historical bio and context for each one, in separate steles.

In the case of one soldier, this to me is particularly important: PFC William K Nakamura, the only non graduate, and the only enlisted person as well, as fate would have it. The PI noted that he had his studies interrupted by the interment camps in 1942. What they glossed over was that he enlisted in the army and became a member of what would become one of the most highly decorated regiments in U.S. history, the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, 34th "Red Bull" Division, U.S. 5th Army. He was the first Army volunteer from Minidoka Relocation Center to be killed in action.

And he was the only one of the 5 whose medal was not awarded until June 21, 2000 because his original recommendation for the MOH had been downgraded to the Distinguished Cross, arguably due to his being Japanese.

Additionally, on September 19, 2000, the King County Council passed a resolution urging Congress to name a planned new Federal Courthouse in Seattle after Nakamura. The Seattle City Council passed a similar resolution. Congress responded in November 2000 by renaming the existing courthouse (at Madison Street and 5th Avenue) in his honor.

(source: http://www.historylink.org/output.cfm?file_id=2767)

Is his tale not one that should be told, and be told in it's full context? And can less truly be said about any of the others?

If the Senate makes this a simple 5 names on a plaque with a pretty ribbon, lacking any details and context, who will tell the full story of these men, why they are honored and what their sacrifice represents?

Please join me in encouraging all parties to put aside agendas and ideologies and do the right thing.

It's ironic that the PI was right, but for the wrong reasons. Yes, the debate can lead to a greater more meaningful monument, but only if the students, with our encouragement and support do the right thing.

Here is the link to their contact information:

http://senate.asuw.org/membership/membershipdb.cgi

Write them and ask for their support in making this a memorial all can be proud of.

It's time to get this right.


A Resolution Calling a Memorial for UW Alumni awarded the Medal of Honor

WHEREAS the Medal of Honor is the highest award an American can receive, which is awarded for "for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of life, above and beyond the call of duty, in actual combat against an armed enemy force.", and,

WHEREAS the University of Washington has produced five men who have been awarded the Medal of Honor, two of those awards being at cost of their lives, these men are:

- Col. (then Maj.) Gregory Boyington, USMC (Class of 1934) who during the period 12 September 1943 to 3 January 1944 as commander of Marine Fighting Squadron-214 in the Central Solomons area, the highest scoring Marine fighter ace of World War II, did consistently outnumbered throughout successive hazardous flights over heavily defended hostile territory, Maj. Boyington struck at the enemy with daring and courageous persistence, leading his squadron into combat with devastating results to Japanese shipping, shore installations, and aerial forces and, by his forceful leadership, developed the combat readiness in his command which was a distinctive factor in the Allied aerial achievements in this vitally strategic area.

- 1LT Deming Bronson, USA (Class of 1914) - who during the period 26-27 September 1918 near Eclisfontaine, France, while repeatedly wounded, refused treatment and evacuation multiple times, and while so doing affected the capture of many enemy prisoners in capturing an entrenched position, engaged in the capture of Eclisfontaine, France, and After the capture he remained with Company E and participated with it in the capture of an enemy machinegun, he himself killing the enemy gunner. Shortly after this encounter the company was compelled to retire due to the heavy enemy artillery barrage. During this retirement 1st Lt. Bronson, who was the last man to leave the advanced position, was again wounded in both arms by an enemy high-explosive shell. He was then assisted to cover by another officer who applied first aid. Although bleeding profusely and faint from the loss of blood, 1st Lt. Bronson remained with the survivors of the company throughout the night of the second day, refusing to go to the rear for treatment. His conspicuous gallantry and spirit of self-sacrifice were a source of great inspiration to the members of the entire command.

- Brig. Gen (then Maj.) Robert Galer, USMC (Class of 1935) who from May 1942 to March 1943 as commander of Marine Fighting Squadron-224 in the Central Solomons area, did demonstrate conspicuous heroism and courage above and beyond the call of duty as leader of a marine fighter squadron in aerial combat with enemy Japanese forces in the Solomon Islands area. Leading his squadron repeatedly in daring and aggressive raids against Japanese aerial forces, vastly superior in numbers, Maj. Galer availed himself of every favorable attack opportunity. His superb airmanship, his outstanding skill and personal valor reflect great credit upon Maj. Galer's gallant fighting spirit and upon the U.S. Naval Service.

- 2LT Robert R. Leisy, USA (Class of 1968) who on 2 December 1969 in the Phuoc Long province, Republic of Vietnam, did demonstrate For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty. 2d Lt. Leisy, Infantry, Company B, distinguished himself while serving as platoon leader during a reconnaissance mission. One of his patrols became heavily engaged by fire from a numerically superior enemy force located in a well-entrenched bunker complex. As 2d Lt. Leisy deployed the remainder of his platoon to rescue the beleaguered patrol, the platoon also came under intense enemy fire from the front and both flanks. In complete disregard for his safety, 2d Lt. Leisy moved from position to position deploying his men to effectively engage the enemy. Accompanied by his radio operator he moved to the front and spotted an enemy sniper in a tree in the act of firing a rocket-propelled grenade at them. Realizing there was neither time to escape the grenade nor shout a warning, 2d Lt. Leisy unhesitatingly, and with full knowledge of the consequences, shielded the radio operator with his body and absorbed the full impact of the explosion. This valorous act saved the life of the radio operator and protected other men of his platoon who were nearby from serious injury. Despite his mortal wounds, 2d Lt. Leisy calmly and confidently continued to direct the platoon's fire. When medical aid arrived, 2d Lt. Leisy valiantly refused attention until the other seriously wounded were treated. His display of extraordinary courage and exemplary devotion to duty provided the inspiration and leadership that enabled his platoon to successfully withdraw without further casualties. 2d Lt. Leisy's gallantry at the cost of his life are in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit on him, his unit, and the U.S. Army.

- PFC William K. Nakamura, USA (non-graduate, left the UW in 1942) who on 4 July 1944 near Castellina, Italy, During a fierce firefight, Private First Class Nakamura's platoon became pinned down by enemy machine gun fire from a concealed position. On his own initiative, Private First Class Nakamura crawled 20 yards toward the hostile nest with fire from the enemy machine gun barely missing him. Reaching a point 15 yards from the position, he quickly raised himself to a kneeling position and threw four hand grenades, killing or wounding at least three of the enemy soldiers. The enemy weapon silenced, Private First Class Nakamura crawled back to his platoon, which was able to continue its advance as a result of his courageous action. Later, his company was ordered to withdraw from the crest of a hill so that a mortar barrage could be placed on the ridge. On his own initiative, Private First Class Nakamura remained in position to cover his comrade's withdrawal. While moving toward the safety of a wooded draw, his platoon became pinned down by deadly machine gun fire. Crawling to a point from which he could fire on the enemy position, Private First Class Nakamura quickly and accurately fired his weapon to pin down the enemy machine gunners. His platoon was then able to withdraw to safety without further casualties. Private First Class Nakamura was killed during this heroic stand. Private First Class Nakamura's extraordinary heroism and devotion to duty are in keeping with the highest traditions of military service and reflect great credit on him, his unit, and the United States Army.

BE IT RESOLVED BY THE ASSOCIATED STUDENTS OF THE UNIVERSITY OF WASHINGTON:

THAT we consider these men to be a prime example of the excellence that this university represents and strives to impart upon its students, and,

THAT we desire for a memorial, consisting of stele, for these men be commenced by the University of Washington as quickly as funding can be secured, and the design, arrangement & placement of stele have been agreed upon, which will be publicly displayed, so that all who come here in future years will know that the University of Washington produced five of this country's bravest men, and that we as a community hold this fact in the highest esteem, and

THAT for all future instances of a UW alumnus being awarded the Medal of Honor, that the addition of a stele for that person should be commenced without delay and added to the memorial.