WWII Veteran from the 442nd RCT - the most decorated unit in U.S. military history
Nov 13, 2019
Lawson Sakai
WWII Veteran from the 442nd RCT - the most decorated unit in U.S. military history

Lawson Sakai is a Japanese American, born in Los Angeles, California on October 27, 1923. When he tried to enlist in the military on December 8, 1941, he was denied because of Japanese-American’s newly classified status as 4-C, enemy alien. In 1943, when the government asked for volunteers to form the 442ndRegimental Combat Team (442ndRCT), he quickly joined.

Lawson participated in all major campaigns of the 442ndRCT, most notable being liberation of Bruyeres, France; rescue of the “Lost Battalion, France; and breaking of the Gothic Line (Italy). While recommended several times to be commissioned, including an appointment to the West Point, he elected to remain with the 442ndRCT. Sakai received four Purple Heart Medals and a Bronze Star Medal.

After returning from the war in late 1945, he attended Pepperdine College, Los Angeles. Sakai married Mineko Hirasaki, daughter of the most prominent garlic pioneer in Gilory, California, in 1946 and managed the Hirasaki family’s farming and packing business.  Later he owned a very successful travel agency in San Jose, California.

Lawson Sakai has organized and spearheaded several groups and projects that honor the 442ndRCT and Military Intelligence Service (MIS) veterans:

- Leader of the Northern California Chapter of E Company Association

- Spearheaded a project to honor the 442ndRCT by planting a redwood tree in memory of each 442ndRCT veteran in the Oakland Hills and erecting a monument that serves as the site of the annual memorial service (since 1992) for the veterans of all wars on the Armed Forces Day.

- Founded and serves as the president of the Friends and Family of Nisei Veterans (FFNV)

- Organized and led multi-Company annual reunions of the 442ndRCT (including the Military Intelligence Service – MIS- veterans) in Las Vegas. 

- Created a highly-publicized and acclaimed “Nisei Veterans’ Exhibit” aboard the USS HORNET aircraft carrier museum, Alameda, California.  It is the only exhibit in Northern California solely dedicated to the veterans of the 442ndRCT and the MIS.