Ken Harbaugh tells the stories of service members who have distinguished themselves through an act of valor. These stories feature recipients from the Civil War to present day, including a few who were originally overlooked for the medal.
Welcome to the Medal of Honor podcast, brought to you in partnership with the National Medal of Honor Museum. I’m Ken Harbaugh. In each episode, we’ll learn about a different service member who has distinguished him or herself through an act of valor.
George Sakato was born in California to Japanese immigrant parents in 1921.
After the attack on Pearl Harbor, Japanese Americans living on the West Coast were forcibly detained - sent first to short-term facilities called assembly centers, then to one of ten camps run by the federal War Relocation Authority.
In order to avoid this internment, 20 year old George and his family moved to Arizona.
Wanting to prove his loyalty to his country, George tried to join the Air Force in 1943. But his draft card read 4C - enemy alien.
When George was finally able to enlist, he ended up in the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, a segregated Japanese American unit, that would become the most decorated unit in American history.
In October of 1944, the 442nd was on the frontlines in northern France. A combination of fog, intense weather, disease, and heavy casualties had sapped the Americans’ morale.
Private Sakato’s unit was ordered to take a hill outside Biffontaine and they broke through two German defense lines before being pinned down by heavy enemy fire.
Despite the incoming rounds, Private Sakato charged up the hill alone, killing 12 enemy soldiers and capturing 4 more.
His platoon, inspired by his courage, followed suit - capturing the hill and 30 more soldiers.
Their platoon leader was shot and killed, and Private Sakato stepped up to replace him, continuing the fight and helping his platoon complete their mission.
Private Sakato was recommended for the Medal of Honor, but was instead awarded the Distinguished Service Cross.
55 years later, in June of 2000, Sakato’s award was upgraded to the Medal of Honor, along with 21 other veterans of Asian descent.
The Medal of Honor podcast is a production of Evergreen Podcasts. We are proud to support the National Medal of Honor Museum. To learn more, and to support their mission, go to mohmuseum.org. Thanks for listening.