The Congressional Gold Medal
The Congressional Gold Medal is the highest civilian award given by the United States Congress.
It is awarded to persons who have made a major and long-standing impact on American history and culture.
Congress can decide to award the medal through legislative action.
Founding Father George Washington was the first recipient of the Congressional Gold Medal in 1776.
Since the American Revolution, 158 recipients have received these medals.
Other notable recipients are Major General and President Ulysses S. Grant (1863), the Wright Brothers (1909), Thomas Edison (1928), Jessie Owens (1988), the Navajo Code Talkers (2000), and Martin Luther King, Jr. (2004).
Two-thirds of the members in both chambers of Congress must co-sponsor a bill before it can advance to the floor for a vote in the US Senate and House of Representatives.
The bill to award the medal to the 100th Infantry Battalion, 442nd Regimental Combat Team, and Military Intelligence Service was unanimously passed in both the Senate and House of Representatives on August 2, 2010.
The US Mint, which manufactures American coins, produces a unique design for each Congressional Medal.
The US Mint commissions artists to prepare designs for the obverse (front) and reverse side of the medal. Once a design is selected, the US Mint works with the honoree to review every detail of the medal design to ensure its historical accuracy.
The US Mint presents the final designs to two commissions—the US Commission of Fine Arts and the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee—for their review and recommendation. The final selection is then sent to the Secretary of the Treasury for approval.
The National Veterans Network, a coalition of various Nisei military organizations, was selected to be the single representing entity to coordinate feedback from the 90 living veterans.
Three designs were considered. The network recommended a design based on veterans’ responses. Two government commissions agreed on the same design, with final approval from the Secretary of Treasury.
Once the medal is minted, Congress can hold a ceremony to award the Congressional Gold Medal to the honoree at the US Capitol.
Because the average age of the Nisei veterans ranged from 85 to 90 years of age, time was of the essence. The ceremony for the Japanese American World War II soldiers was planned on November 2, 2010, after the date and venue were approved by Congress.
The National Veterans Network worked closely with the US Army, Japanese American Veterans Association, National Japanese American Memorial Foundation, and organizations nationwide to plan a three-day celebration in Washington, DC.
A total of 2,500, including veterans and family members, attended the celebration.
Events included a Congressional Gold Medal ceremony, a wreath presentation at the National WWII Memorial, a gala dinner, a memorial service at the National Japanese American WWII Memorial, and a belated Bronze Star ceremony for 40 veterans by the US Army Chief of Staff.
The highlight was the presentation of the Congressional Gold Medal at the US Capitol Visitor Center where members of Congress recognized Japanese American veterans' military service. Three World War II veterans—Mitsuo Ted Hamasu, Susumu Ito, and Grant Ichikawa—accepted the medal on behalf of their respective military units. House Speaker John Boehner presented the medal.
These American heroes did defend our freedoms and ideals. Their true heroism lies in how they fought for the values of America—equality, justice, and opportunity—even when those values were denied them at home. |Congressman Adam Schiff |House Sponsor of HR 347
The Nisei soldiers humbly accepted the award as their families and friends looked on with pride. The government, which had once classified them as “enemy alien,” was now declaring these men in their 80s and 90s true American patriots.
The award of the Congressional Gold Medal is testimony of our patriotism, loyalty and achievements. The Japanese American soldier experience is the story of the Greatness of America. |Terry Shima, 442nd RCT veteran
To learn more about the Congressional Gold Medal, visit Resources.
Photographs courtesy of the US Mint, the US House of Representatives, and the White House.