Above, the Sadao Munemori memorial is inscribed with his Medal of Honor citation.
In an emotional ceremony honoring a “true hero,” a memorial was dedicated Thursday to Medal of Honor recipient Sadao Munemori, a Japanese American soldier who graduated from Abraham Lincoln High School in 1940 and was killed in battle in World War II.
The polished black marble memorial is prominently displayed in front of the Lincoln High School auditorium, engraved with the Medal of Honor citation describing Munemori’s heroic actions in Seravezza, Italy, in 1945.
The memorial says that when a grenade thrown by Nazi troops bounced off Munemori’s helmet and rolled toward two of his comrades, the 22-year-old “arose into the withering fire, dived for the missile and smothered its blast with his body. By his swift, supremely heroic action, Pfc. Munemori saved two of his men at the cost of his own life and did much to clear the path for his company’s victorious advance.”
“It was a very emotional ceremony that honored one of our own,” said Lincoln High Principal Jose Torres. “Sadao Munemori personified the principles we try to insill in our students today – respect, responsibility and honesty. He was a true hero.”
Munemori had enlisted in the Army in November 1941, just a month before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Like other Japanese-American soldiers, Munemori was reassigned from combat training to menial labor. His parents and siblings were removed from their home in Lincoln Heights and sent to the Manzanar internment camp in the Owens Valley. When Japanese American soldiers were allowed to return to active service, Munemori volunteered for the 442nd Regimental Combat Team (RCT), a segregated Army unit composed entirely of Japanese Americans. He later joined the 100th Battalion and fought in France and Italy before his death on April 5, 1945.
Among those participating in Thursday’s ceremony were former members of the 442nd RCT, and officials from Go For Broke National Education Center, which honors Japanese Americans who served in World War II. The Lincoln High Alumni Association, Lincoln Heights Neighborhood Council and AARP collaborated in organizing the tribute and raising private donations for the memorial.
Torres said some of Lincoln’s history students who had the opportunity to talk to the World War II veterans before the ceremony and were “in awe” of the stories they told.
“Students need to learn history,” Torres said. “And, this was truly a teachable moment.”
Click here to watch a video of the Sadao Munemori memorial ceremony.