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BLACKFOOT â€” Idaho's Senator Mike Crapo, veterans, families and friends honored Congressional Gold Medal winners Kazuo Endow and Agie Harada at the Blackfoot Senior Citizens Center Friday afternoon.
The two WWII veterans were part of Army 442nd Regiment that was the most decorated and most decimated unit of its size and length of service during the war. The unit served in Italy the last 11 months of WWII.
Every member of the battalion received a Congressional Gold Medal.
Many veterans from the 442nd received their medals in a ceremony in Washington, D.C., on Nov. 2, 2011.
Endow and Harada were unable to attend the D.C. ceremony.
"My legs are bad," Endow said.
"These medals are long overdue," said Senator Crapo.
"I think it's nicer to have the recognition here," said Endow's sister, Mid Tsukamoto. "It makes it more personal."
Endow, 89, served in the Army 442nd Regiment, 3rd Battalion, Company G. He was born in Soldier's Summit, Utah, and graduated from Pocatello High School in 1941.
He tried to attend Utah State after graduation but they didn't accept Japanese students at the time.
Endow entered the service in the fall of 1941. After his training, he served in France and Italy, earning two Purple Heart Medals and a Bronze Star. He was discharged honorably after his return home.
He attended electrical school in Chicago but couldn't find work as an electrician because he was Japanese so he began working at an auto body shop.
Endow married Mae Kanomata of Pocatello in 1954. They raised four children.
Endow farmed in Blackfoot until he retired.
Harada, 88, served in the Army 442nd Regimental Combat Team, 100th Battalion, Company A. He was born in Grant, Idaho, attended grade school in Fairview and graduated from Ucon High School.
Harada entered the service in June 1944 when he was drafted and sent to basic training until Dec. 1944. He was shipped to Le Harve, France, where he served a short time.
He was then shipped to England and back to France where he stayed a month until the French troops replaced his company. In Italy, the unit did most of the direct fighting.
Harada was presented with the Bronze Star, two Presidential Unit Citations and ribbons for various campaigns.
He came home to Ucon and returned to farming with his brother. He moved to Ririe and California before returning to Idaho.
He married Violet Lucille Shipley of Shelley. The couple raised three children.
Harada moved to Shelley in 1973 and retired after 18 years as an inspector for the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture. He worked until he was 70 years old.
Veteran Hero Shiosaki spoke about growing up as a Japanese-American.
"When I heard the Japanese had attacked Pearl Harbor, I had mixed emotions," Shiosaki said. "I was wondering what other Americans thought of us.
"On Feb. 12, 1942, I was declared an enemy of the U.S. because I was Japanese," he said. "In March , I was sworn in to defend the nation at Fort Douglas, Utah.
"The military was an eye opening experience for me," Shiosaki said. "When the Army asked for Japanese volunteers, it expected about 300. Ten thousand volunteered.
"I think we did all right," he said.
The 100th Battalion and the 442nd Regimental Combat Team received 7 Presidential Unit Citations, 21 Medals of Honor, 29 Distinguished Service Crosses, 560 Silver Stars, 4,000 Bronze Stars, 22 Legion of Merit Medals, 15 Soldier's Medals and over 4,000 Purple Hearts, among numerous additional distinctions.
"We fought like good Americans," he said. "No one deserted although two snuck out of the military hospital to get back to the unit."
Shiosaki said his only regret was not thanking his father for all he had done for the family. His father died in December 1944.
"When I was leaving for Europe, my dad told me, 'If you must die for America, so be it,'" said Shiosaki.
Senator Crapo encouraged people to take part in the WWII History Project housed in the Library of Congress.
"We need to record the histories of WWII veterans before their generation passes away," said the senator. "Anybody can record history. Get a recorder and ask the individual about his/her life and his/her memories of the war.
"I've recorded three Idahoans histories," Crapo said. "It was a touching experience that changed me. They made me proud to be an American."