Mercury CenterThis image allows you to access site resources launches

Business & Stocks
Living & Comics

Classifieds & Services
Jobs: JobHunter
Homes: HomeHunter
Entertainment: Just Go
Yellow Pages
Archives: NewsLibrary
News agent: NewsHound
Membership: Passport

Local & State Home
Breaking News
Digital High
Mr. Roadshow

Contact Us
About this page

Local & State News

Published Friday, February 19, 1999, in the San Jose Mercury News

Japanese-American hero gets a posthumous medal

Fremont man saved hundreds of lives in W.W. II

Mercury News Staff Writer

Fremont resident Richard Sakakida died in 1996, even as friends and elected officials were lobbying to win him a medal for World War II exploits that saved hundreds of Allied prisoners in the Philippines.

With the pomp and flourish of a military ceremony Wednesday in Sakakida's native Hawaii, the Army rectified that five-decade-old oversight when a three-star general presented his widow with one of its highest awards -- the Distinguished Service Medal.

``It was a beautiful ceremony, just so impressive,'' said Cherry Sakakida in a phone interview Thursday. ``They had the military standing at attention, with generals and MIS (MIlitary Intelligence Service) there. I wish Dick had been there, but I knew he was watching.''

Among the dignitaries who attended the ceremony at the historic Palm Circle inside Fort Shafter were Sen. Daniel Akaka, who carried legislation to waive the time deadlines that had prevented awarding a medal to Sakakida; Lt. Gen. E.P. Smith, commander of the U.S. Army in the Pacific; Rep. Neil Abercrombie; and Maj. Gen. Edward V. Richardson, the adjutant general of Hawaii, who represented Hawaii Gov. Benjamin Cayetano.

Also in attendance was San Jose resident Harry Fukuhara, a retired Army colonel and part of a group of Japanese-American MIS veterans who worked for six years to get Sakakida a medal.

The Distinguished Service Medal is the third-highest military award. Cherry Sakakida also received an American flag that had flown over Fort Shafter, the USS Arizona Memorial and the USS Missouri.

Sakakida, who spoke fluent Japanese, was an American undercover agent in the Philippines before and during World War II. Captured when Corregidor fell, Sakakida suffered through torture that included the Japanese military police applying cigarettes to his thighs, stomach and genitals. Eventually he was able to convince the Japanese that he was a draft dodger with no allegiance to the United States.

Working as an interpreter, he sent valuable information from the Japanese 14th Army Headquarters to Gen. Douglas MacArthur's headquarters in Australia; helped starving American prisoners by sneaking them food; saved the lives of American and Filipino prisoners by giving them favorable translations during their trials; and assisted in a 1944 prison break that freed 500 Filipino guerrillas from Muntinglupa Prison.

But for decades Sakakida, a career intelligence officer who retired as an Air Force lieutenant colonel, kept his undercover feats a secret from everyone, including his wife. He waited until 50 years after the war began to begin talking about his experiences, which were classified until 1972.

Before he died, the Philippine government awarded Sakakida the Philippine Legion of Honor in 1994. He was a member of the Military Intelligence Hall of Fame and last year was named one of the first members of the Air Force Office of Strategic Intelligence Hall of Fame.

Fukuhara and other veterans had initially lobbied to give Sakakida a Medal of Honor. But the Army said his actions fit the classification of meritorious service, not of valor in action, which is usually the criterion for the Medal of Honor and the Distinguished Service Cross.

Sen. Akaka has said that publicity about Sakakida prompted him to seek a military review of other Japanese-American soldiers who served in World War II. As many as 10 may receive the Medal of Honor later this year, according to Akaka.

Return to topThis image allows you to access site resources

©1999 Mercury Center. The information you receive online from Mercury Center is protected by the copyright laws of the United States. The copyright laws prohibit any copying, redistributing, retransmitting, or repurposing of any copyright-protected material.