By Daniel K. Carpenter, Presidio of Monterey Public AffairsMarch 9, 2012
MONTEREY, Calif. -- In a ceremony sponsored by a local organization 35 World War II veterans were recognized March 4 for their truly heroic deeds.
The event, sponsored by the Japanese American Citizens League and the Monterey Peninsula Nisei Memorial Post 1629 Veterans of Foreign Wars and held at the JACL's Monterey Hall, was for Soldiers and family members of deceased members of the Military Intelligence Service, 100th Infantry Battalion and the 442nd Regimental Combat Team to receive their Congressional Gold Medals.
A special law was passed in 2010 awarding members of the unit, and those of the Military Intelligence Service, a Congressional Gold Medal for which a ceremony was held at the White House in October, followed by local ceremonies in California, Hawaii, and other states where unit members had been unable to make it to Washington, D.C.
In front of a standing-room-only crowd of relatives, visitors and at least one member of WWII's "Lost Battalion," the local Soldiers who were unable to travel to the national's Capital last fall to receive their medals were lauded and feted by local dignitaries for their heroism and dedicated service.
Possibly the most poignant moment was when Astro "Al" Tortolano, a member of the "Lost Battalion" that the 442nd Regiment saved in the mountains of France, spoke words of earnest thanksgiving to the members of the regiment and relatives present in the JACL hall.
Tortolano, a member of the 1st Battalion of the 141st Regiment, traveled from Santa Cruz to Monterey to thank members of this group who had saved his unit and enabled him to return to the United States after the war's conclusion to marry and raise a family.
The ceremony concluded with the 35 Soldiers, or family representative when appropriate, receiving the replicas of the gold medal authorized by Congress.
The 442nd is the most decorated unit in U.S. military history for its size and length of service, with its component 100th Infantry Battalion earning the nickname "The Purple Heart Battalion."