George Okamoto Recalls Santa Ana Ugliness Before Congressional Gold Medal Trip
Tonight, he is scheduled to receive the Congressional Gold Medal.
The 87-year-old related the Santa Ana story for the newspaper in his new hometown of Munster, Indiana.
He spent the last two years of his service in military hospitals enduring nearly 20 operations.
Okamoto sounds quite patriotic today--explaining he never spoke Japanese and got kicked out of a Japanese school as a child because he refused to bow to the emperor--but he concedes in the interview that he initially joined the service after being told his family would be repatriated back to Japan if he didn't.
He is being honored at a Congressional Gold Medal gala dinner ceremony along with other Japanese-American veterans who served. Each will actually receive a bronze replica of the highest civilian award given by the U.S. government. The original medals will be showcased at the Smithsonian.
Okamoto is actually making his third trip to Washington, D.C.
"My first two trips there were horrible," he recalls in the interview. "A group of us (Japanese-American) soldiers went to hotels and were told there was no room. It was all full up. Then a group of Caucasian soldiers went right in and got rooms. I asked one of them if they had reservations. He said, 'Hell no.' That's when I knew then it was racial."