Author: Antonio Taguba
At the Third Annual Joint Memorial Service on September 28, 2008
Puka Puka Parades, November 2008, 10/2008
Excerpt of a speech given by Major General Antonio Taguba at the 3rd Annual Joint Memorial on September 28, 2008 (edited For Space)
(From the PPP Technical Editor: Major General Antonio Taguba is a first generation Filipino immigrant and the second Filipino American general in the U.S. Army (Brig. Gen. Edward Soriano is the first). He was born in Sampaloc, Manila in 1950 and moved with his family to Hawaii when he was 11. He graduated from Leilehua High School in 1968 and Idaho State University in 1972. He is also a graduate of the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College, the College of Naval Command and Staff, and the U.S. Army War College. He holds Master’s Degrees in public administration from Webster University, in international relations from Salve Regina College, and in national security and strategic studies from the U.S. Naval War College. Major General Taguba’s father, Tomas, was a staff sergeant in the U.S. Army who had been captured and tortured by the Japanese when they invaded the Philippines in 1941. After Tomas Taguba retired, Major General Taguba was involved in a 20 year campaign to have his father’s service properly recognized by the U. S. Army. Major General Taguba said his father had left the Army “without so much as a retirement ceremony to thank him for those 20 years of hard work and faithful service”. During his over 25 years of military service, Major General Taguba commanded a tank company of a mechanized infantry division in Germany, and was a battalion commander and later executive officer of the combined Republic of Korea-U.S. Forces in Korea. For his services, he has received various decorations including the Meritorious Service Medal [Five Oak Leaf Clusters], Army Commendation Medal [Two Oak Leaf Clusters], the Army Achievement Medal [One Oak Leaf Cluster] and the Army General Staff Identification Badge. Major General Taguba trained as an armored officer and rose up the ranks to become an acting director of the army staff during the Iraq war. He was appointed to inquire into the activities of the 800th Military Police Brigade at Abu Ghraib prison. His report, which he issued in March 2004, accused U.S. soldiers of “egregious acts and grave breaches of international law” and he chronicled a long list of “sadistic, blatant and wanton criminal abuses”. Friends say his actions in exposing such abuses are typical of a man who sees the Army as a noble calling, “If you want the truth, he’s going to tell you the truth,” one U.S. Army General said, “He’s not bullied, he’s a stand-up guy.” [from “Army Appoints its Second Fil-Arm General” by Bert Eljera, Asian Week, August 1-7, 1997 and “Profile: General Antonio Taguba” by Ronan McGreevy, Times Online, May 11, 2004.)
In his book, The Greatest Generation, Tom Brokaw wrote about a generation that was united not only by a common purpose, but also by common values – duty, honor, economy, courage, service, love of family and country, and above all, responsibility for oneself.
The Japanese American soldiers of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, 100th Infantry Battalion, Military Intelligence Service, and 1399th Engineer Construction Battalion personified and embodied these words time and again despite the indignations of their internment and the shameful acts of discrimination most of them endured during the early years of World War II. Even so, they answered the call to duty with their willingness to serve their country in time of war.
While the 442nd Regimental Combat Team with the 100th Infantry Battalion fought in the European Theatre of war – from North Africa to Italy and France, the Military Intelligence Service and 1399th Engineer Construction Battalion served in the Pacific Theatre that spanned from Hawaii all the way to Burma.
These units all have storied histories that recounted the hardships of combat for long periods of time, the high rate of casualties they experienced all while having to prove their loyalty to the American flag. They chronicled their countless acts of uncommon valor with their long months of combat duty and became the most decorated and highly celebrated unit in the U.S. military. They have proven their citizenship and patriotism to this country with their exemplary record of selfless sacrifice and love of country.
Their extraordinary combat service bore acclamation from our nation as the soldiers of these units received 21 Medals of Honor, 29 Distinguished Service Crosses, 560 Silver Stars, 22 Legions of Merit, 15 Soldiers’ Medals, 4,000 Bronze Medals and over 5,000 Purple Hearts. The 442nd also received 7 Presidential Unit Citations. The cost was staggering: 650 killed in action; over 3,700 were wounded; and 67 were listed as missing in action.
Today, we honor the Nisei soldiers, past and present, who served under these four units and their distinguished colors. Though the years have gone by, the nation’s display of gratitude for their exceptional honorable service is timeless. There is never a statute of limitations in recognizing the epic and courageous acts of these soldiers whose famous motto was ‘Go For Broke’. It is their time of honor and remembrance.
Despite the huge adversity these soldiers faced in time of war, it was their unrelenting display of pride to fulfill their sense of commitment as American citizens that continues to resonate even today. They have marked their legacy in this country’s history. Their loved ones who survived them today will sustain this virtue for generations to come. The proud soldiers and veterans of the 442nd, 100th, MIS, and 1399th are entered in the rolls of the Greatest Generation. We and the nation are eternally grateful to them and to their families.
Today, our nation has been in a period of persistent conflict since the end of the World War. Next month, the soldiers of the 100 Infantry Battalion and the 29m Infantry Brigade Combat Team will deploy to Kuwait and Iraq for their second rotation since 2004. They will join soldiers of the 25th Infantry Division who are also deploying to Iraq – their second since coming home from Afghanistan last year.
A new Great Generation has emerged during this period of conflict. They are young Americans of every background and ethnicity, bold and brave, all volunteers marching to the sound of the guns, leaving their loved ones behind to fight in a far away land to secure our freedom here at home. It is about doing their duty – a time honored tradition generated by those seated here this morning.
A member of this new Great Generation is Army Lieutenant Jonathan Brostrom, 2nd Platoon, C Company, 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment He was killed in action on 13 July 2008 in Wanat, Afghanistan along with 8 soldiers of his Airborne Infantry Platoon. They were defending their battle position against some 200 Taliban insurgents. Through outnumbered, Lt Brostrom and his soldiers repulsed the enemy. They fought fiercely and bravely and the cost was high.
Like Sgt. Joe Takata, B Company, 100th Infantry Battalion, who was killed in action neat Salerno, Italy on 29 September 1943, both soldiers were 24 years old and both are Hawaii’s own. They were the faces of the young, eager, bold, and unselfish warriors who fought with raw courage. It is always the young ones who go first and the ones who lead from the front.
Lt. Brostrom’s parents, Colonel (Retired) and Mrs. David Brostrom and their son, Blake, are here with us this morning.
To the families of the veterans, we must recognize them for their contributions. They have sacrificed the comforts of their livelihood and entrusted their loved ones to this nation’s military. They waited for the safe return of their spouses, fathers, mothers, sons and daughters. They welcomed them home. They grieved for the loss of their loved ones. We can only help console and pray for them. This is also their time of honor and remembrance.
I also want to extend out deep gratitude to other veterans who have joined us this morning. To the Philippine Scouts like my father and granduncle who fought at Bataan and endured the Bataan Death March; to the 1st and 2nd Filipino Infantry Regiments; and to thousands who served and fought in Korea, Vietnam, Operation Desert Storm, Somalia, Iraq and Afghanistan – you too are the pillars of inspiration for our nation and we remain indebted to your remarkable service and sacrifice.
Each and every year there will be ceremonies like today held in honor of the 442nd, the 100th, MIS and 1399th. And there will be Taps heard as the Nisei soldiers of these proud units join the others who have given their last full measure. Each year, we will honor and remember them.
A great American General once said that duty is the sublimest word in the English language. I know you will agree with me that the Go For Broke Regiment have done theirs with great admiration. Thank you for allowing me to be a part of your celebration. God bless you, God bless our troops at home and those deployed in harm’s way, God bless America.