The city of Glendale in Los Angeles has dedicated an intersection to Pfc. Sadao Munemori, the first Japanese American soldier awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions during World War II.
Commemorating a hero: Unveiled during a dedication ceremony on Dec. 9, the new “Sadao S. Munemori Memorial Square” now stands as a testament to Munemori’s valor and selfless sacrifice. Munemori’s family, who faced internment during the war at Manzanar, witnessed the event, along with veterans from his infantry regiment and other community members.
Munemori’s legacy: Born in Glendale on Aug. 17, 1922, Munemori’s journey started on a vegetable farm in the Los Angeles suburb and ended on the front lines in Italy as part of the 100th Infantry Battalion, the only infantry unit in the U.S. Army Reserve.
During a battle, Munemori displayed extraordinary courage by disabling enemy machine gun positions with grenades and covering a live grenade thrown by the enemy, sacrificing himself to save his fellow soldiers.
The Purple Heart Battalion’s Hero: Primarily composed of Nisei soldiers (second-generation Japanese Americans) who were former members of the Hawaii Army National Guard, the unit played a crucial role in World War II. The battalion earned the nickname “Purple Heart Battalion” due to its heavy combat involvement, starting in September 1943. The unit, attached to the Nisei 442nd Regimental Combat Team in June 1944, embodied the motto “Remember Pearl Harbor.”
Legacy of pride and honor: During the ceremony, Munemori’s grandnephew, James Nakakihara, was quoted by Kyodo News as saying that the square’s dedication makes his family feel “honored, grateful, hopeful, and proud.” He also hoped that Munemori’s memory would inspire acts of “love and good deeds.”
Kenko Sone, Japan’s consul general in Los Angeles, expressed hope that the square would serve as an inspiration for visitors.
Other tributes: Posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor in 1946, Munemori’s act of heroism inspired President Bill Clinton to recognize additional Japanese American soldiers in June 2000.
The U.S. Navy renamed a troop ship in his honor, and the U.S. Army Reserve Center in West Los Angeles bears his name. In 2000, Pietrasanta, Italy, dedicated a sculpture in Munemori’s likeness as a token of gratitude for the actions of the entire 442d Regimental Combat Team in liberating Italy.