Fox APEX and Vets honor Japanese American WWII veterans of 442nd Regimental Combat Team

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21CF Colleague Network & Resource Groups commemorate Asian Pacific American Heritage Month

APEX (Asian Pacific Entertainment Connection) and Vets, two 21CF Colleague Network & Resource Groups (CNRGs), commemorated Asian Pacific American Heritage Month by profiling the 442nd Regimental Combat Team who fought in WWII and screening the documentary “Unknown Warriors of WWII.”

Vets chair Annelle Despaignes and APEX chair James Choi welcomed veterans of the 442nd Don Seki, Tokuji Yoshihashi, Fernando Sosa and Ken Akune, who spoke with 21CF colleagues in a packed theater at the Fox Lot on May 23. The veterans shared compelling and inspirational stories about their experiences during the war and revealed the anguish brought about by Executive Order 9066, which forcibly placed any person of Japanese heritage in internment camps.

The Japanese American soldiers of the 442nd Regiment fought and died for their country despite facing oppression and prejudices; even while many of their families were unjustly imprisoned in internment camps. The 442nd Regiment is the most decorated unit of its size in the history of American warfare.

442nd Regimental Combat Team veteran Don Seki

The panel discussion also included photographer Shane Sato, who featured portraits of these veterans in the book “The Go for Broke Spirit: Portraits of Courage.” Go for Broke National Education Center President Mitch Maki moderated the conversation and spoke about why the 442nd enlisted in the U.S. Army.

“They had to prove their loyalty,” he explained. “It was loyalty demonstrated in blood.” He quoted one veteran’s words to represent the reason given by many others: “This is the only way I knew my family could have a chance to be American.”

The event was personal to APEX board member Tricia Tsu, who read from a letter her uncle sent the family while he was on a tour of duty with the 442nd. It was also significant to longtime Fox colleague Jonathan Tsunehishi who shared with the audience an original posting of Executive Order 9066.

Original posting of Executive Order 9066

Following the panel discussion, APEX executive sponsors Keith Feldman, 20th Century Fox’s Worldwide Home Entertainment President; and Mike Nelson, 20th Century Fox EVP, Finance and CFO, thanked the veterans for their service and presented a 21CF donation to the Go for Broke National Education Center. They also announced that the nonprofit organization, which is dedicated to raising awareness of WWII Japanese American veterans, was selected as the beneficiary for a 21CF Social Impact colleague matching campaign.

Maki closed the event with a story about President Reagan’s signing of the Civil Liberties Act in 1988 to compensate more than 100,000 people of Japanese descent who were wrongly incarcerated in internment camps. Prior to deciding whether to sign the bill (fittingly named H.R. 442), President Reagan recalled how someone had sent him an old newspaper clip dating back to 1945 with a highlighted quote from a young actor (given after the funeral honoring a 442nd fallen soldier named Kazuo Masuda): “Blood that has soaked into the sands of a beach is all of one color. America stands unique in the world: the only country not founded on race but on a way, an ideal. Not in spite of but because of our polyglot background, we have had all the strength in the world. That is the American way.”

Maki said the quote from that young actor the president noted was himself. “And yes, the ideal of liberty and justice for all – that is still the American way,” President Reagan said as he signed the bill.

Caption for the group photo above:
Front: 442nd Regimental Combat Team veterans Don Seki, Ken Akune, Fernando Sosa and Tokuji Yoshihashi; Back: Go for Broke National Education Center President Mitch Maki; Fox APEX co-founder and board chair James Choi; Fox APEX board member Tricia Tsu; TCF Worldwide Home Entertainment President Keith Feldman; “Portraits of Courage” photographer Shane Sato; Fox Vets co-chair Annelle Despaignes; and TCF EVP, Finance and CFO Mike Nelson.