Wellesley man joins Smithsonian’s tour
Sus Ito, now 93 and living in Wellesley, fought for the United States in Italy, France and Germany during World War II.
He is traveling to New Orleans to join the launch of the Smithsonian’s national tour of the Congressional Gold Medal, which he won in 2011 along with other Japanese-American soldiers who fought in the war. They served despite the fact that after Pearl Harbor thousands of Japanese-Americans, including Ito’s family, were rounded up and sent to internment camps across the country.
In the picture, Ito holds his bronze replica of the Congressional Gold Medal in his Wellesley home. Next
A great honor
A bronze replica of the Congressional Gold Medal sits on Ito’s coffee table.
The actual medal will begin a nation-wide tour on Saturday.
According to the Smithsonian, “The Congressional Gold Medal was awarded to the 100th Infantry Battalion, the 442nd Regimental Combat Team and the Military Intelligence Service veterans by the U.S. Congress Nov. 2, 2011, in recognition of their exceptional service, sacrifice and loyalty to America. The Gold Medal represents Congress’s highest expression of national appreciation for distinguished achievements and contributions. A complete list of recipients is available at House.gov.” Next
‘Go for broke’
The medal is inscribed: “Nisei Soldiers of World War II,” and “Go For Broke.”
Nisei means second generation: Nisei soldiers were Japanese-American soldiers who fought in World War II. The regiments that won the medal were commonly known as the “Go For Broke” regiments, according to the Smithsonian.
The Congressional Gold Medal will be displayed at the Boeing Center in New Orleans from Jan. 12 to Feb. 17 before continuing on to six other cities: Honolulu, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Portland, Oregon, Chicago and Houston. Next
A young soldier
Ito was part of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, composed mostly of Japanese-American soldiers.He is pictured above holding a picture of himself as a young soldier.
In the fall of 1944, Ito’s batallion went on a mission to the Vosged Mountains in France to rescue the “Lost Battalion” – Texans from the 36th Division who had been surrounded by German troops. Next
A heart-shield bible
The front of Ito’s pocket bible is scuffed from age but reads “May this keep you safe from harm.”
Throughout the war, Ito carried this bible in his front pocket. It is called a heart-shield bible, and the cover is made of engraved gold-finished steel. It is sized to slip into his breast pocket to protect his heart. Ito’s sister gave it to him. Next
A piece of home
Ito carried with him a thousand stitch belt made of muslin, called a senninbari, that his mother made for him from her internment camp. A senninbari is a traditional Japanese piece that soldiers wore into battle to keep, and is adorned with 1,000 stitches, each sewn by a different woman’s hand.
Ito also carried with him a 35 mm Argus camera, he said, with which he took thousands of pictures.
Pictured: the inside cover of Ito’s heart-shield bible Next
A glimpse of WWII
Ito still has many pictures, including: a shot of captured German soldiers, hands over their heads, marching ahead of him in Bavaria, one of the massive Howitzers that soldiers used to shoot shells in high arcs to fall on their enemies and a photo of himself, young and smiling, with three other soldiers who have since died.
Pictured: Ito with a friend in Rome Next
Soldiers used Howitzers when their target was hidden behind some obstruction. They shot the guns into the air, so the shells came down in an arc and landed on their targets from above.
Pictured: Soldiers in Italy with Howitzer guns Next
Memories of battle
From Italy, Ito traveled to France, where he set off to rescue the Lost Battalion.
Two battalions had tried and failed to rescue the division of Texans from the forest of the Vosges Mountains.
Ito’s division moved slowly through the woods, darting from behind trees during the day under steady fire from the Germans and digging foxholes as the sun set. All night long, he said, the Germans fired shells over their heads into the trees above them.
After five days, Ito’s division reached the Lost Battalion, and the Texan soldiers came up from their foxholes grinning ear to ear at the remaining members of Ito’s division. The Lost Battalion, said Ito, had dug in so far that their foxholes had become elaborate caverns underground. Next
After France, Ito fought in Germany, where he helped liberate two sub-camps of the Dachau concentration camp.
Pictured: German soldiers captured in Bavaria Next
A patriotic opportunity
Ito is pictured holding a picture of himself and three friends. The men with whom he was standing died after the war.
“The Japanese are very proud to have their children or boys in the military. They respect the military very highly,” he said. “I think by and large, not only myself but all my colleagues in the service, really felt that our service was an opportunity to demonstrate that we were Americans.” Next
Internment back home
Ito’s mother sent him letters from an internment camp throughout the war. She begged Ito not to put himself in harm’s way, so he did not tell her that he had seen major battles until after the war was over, Ito said.
After the Pearl Harbor attack, President Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066 on Feb. 19, 1942, which allowed the creation of “military areas… from which any or all persons may be excluded” to protect the country from “espionage” and “sabotage.”
Ito’s mother, father and two sisters were given a couple weeks to dispose of everything that didn’t fit into a few suitcases and were moved to Rowher Internment Camp in Arkansas. They were among around 120,000 Japanese and Japanese-Americans held in these military zones until the war was over.
Pictured: Ito’s mother and two sisters in front of the unpainted sharecropping house they lived in in California. Next
“I’m at a stage in life where every day is a bonus. I’ve done more than I ever expected to do. I’ve lived through a lot of varied experiences. I’m really grateful for every opportunity that’s been given me,” said Ito.
“In a way, I’d like to pay back all the opportunities and things that have been given me. There are so few of us left now, I feel more than fortunate to be still around for the foreseeable future.
This house is much too big for one person. I miss my wife. I still imagine her coming down the stairs.
I have a wonderful family—three children, one daughter-in-law, a grandchild, six years old now. I have many friends, not only locally, but around the country...
I suppose at the moment, I realize that at my age, and seeing all my colleagues go by the wayside, that my days are numbered. I want to make the most of them.”
Pictured: Ito married his wife, Minnie, in 1948. She died in June 2012. Back to the beginning
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