By Brian Day, San Gabriel Valley Tribune
Japanese-American World War II veterans who fought in a segregated regiment their families were incarcerated in U.S. internment camps placed roses Sunday on Alhambra’s 2015 Rose Parade float in, which was designed in their honor, in Alhambra, CA near Los Angeles.
Five veterans of the U.S. Army’s 442nd Regimental Combat Team, the most decorated combat unit of its size in the U.S. military during WWII with 21 Medals of Honor received, will ride the float on New Year’s Day. They will be representing nearly 4,000 men who fought with the regiment.
The float is titled, “Go For Broke,” in reference to the battle cry of Japanese-American warriors during WWII, according to the Go For Broke National Education Center, which partnered with Alhambra on the Rose Paraded Float project. The float is a flower-covered replica of the permanent Go For Broke Monument to Japanese American soldiers in Los Angeles.
The float riders, other veterans and their loved ones took part in decorating the float.
“I am very honored,” said float rider Masao “Mas” Takahashi 90, of Torrance. “I’m just here to represent the guys who passed away.”
Takahashi was drafted into the 100th Battalion, which was later joined the 442nd RCT, after spending a year at the Manzanar internment camp in Inyo County.
“It’s overdue,” added his son, Scott Takahashi. “I wish more of the vets were around to see it.”
Masao Takahashi was accompanied by three generations of family members, some of whom traveled from Iowa.
The Go For Broke float fits well with the 126th Rose Parade’s overall theme of, “Inspirational Stories.”
Joining the veterans on the float will be Alhambra Mayor Gary Yamauchi and his wife.
Being chosen to ride on the float was an extra-special honor for Tokuji “Toke” Toshihashi, 91, of San Gabriel, who was born and raised in Pasadena and grew up watching the Rose Parade. He was drafted into the army at age 21 while incarcerated with his family at the Gila River War Relocation Center in Arizona.
“It’s a little exciting. I never though I’d be on a float,” Toshihashi said.
Prior to being drafted, he recalled filling out a “loyalty questionnaire” in which he was asked if he was willing to fight for the United States. He answered yes.
In addition to the 442nd RCT and its components, other Japanese-American WWII veterans are also honored on the float, including Military Intelligence Service veterans who performed vital translation tasks ranging from interrogating prisoners to intercepting enemy radio traffic.
The 442nd RCT took part in several key European battles. Members helped break the Nazi’s Gothic Line in northern Italy, participated in the march through Germany and helped liberate the Dachau concentration camp.
“It’s so nice to see the city of Alhambra recognize this story that’s still pretty much hidden,” Go For Broke National Education Center President Don Nose said.
“Maybe when 75 million people see the float and hear about it, it will open their eyes to an amazing piece of American history,” he said.