Embassy of Japan
April 29, 2013
On April 29, 2013 (Japan Time), the Government of Japan announced the foreign recipients of the 2013 Spring Imperial Decorations. Among the 40 foreign recipients is Mr. Terry T. Shima, former Executive Director of the Japanese American Veterans Association (JAVA), who received the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold Rays with Rosette, in recognition of his significant contributions to the improvement of the status of Japanese Americans in the United States.
Mr. Terry T. Shima was born in Hawaii in 1923. He was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1944 and joined the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, which is renowned as the most decorated infantry regiment in the history of the U.S. Army, and consisted solely of Japanese American soldiers. After serving in Italy, he was responsible for planning and organizing various events in the U.S. to honor the achievements of the 442nd RCT, as the director for the Public Relations office. In times where anti-Japanese sentiments were still strong in the U.S, Mr. Shima contributed to the improvement of the status of Japanese Americans through promoting the achievements of Japanese Americans of the 442nd RCT. In the ceremony reviewing and presenting citations to the 442nd at the Ellipse in Washington D.C, which Mr. Shima organized, President Harry S. Truman delivered the famous words, “You fought not only the enemy, but you fought prejudice--and you have won.”
After retiring from the Army, Mr. Shima attended Georgetown University School of Foreign Service and Graduate School, after which he served at the U.S. Forces Japan Headquarters and the U.S. Department of State, including the Embassy of the United States in Tokyo. He befriended many Japanese nationals during this time.
After becoming the Chairman of the Oral History Project of the Japanese American Veterans Association (JAVA) in 2001, he subsequently became a Member of the Board of Directors and Executive Director of JAVA in 2004. Mr. Shima actively organized lectures, distributed publication and video teaching aids introducing achievements of Japanese Americans such as the 442nd RCT to educational institutions. He also made efforts in collecting and preserving materials concerning Japanese American veterans through interviews, and promoting the history and contribution of Japanese Americans in Japanese society including prominent dignitaries. His efforts were realized with the 442nd RCT receiving the Congressional Gold Medal.
Mr. Shima also greatly contributed to the strengthening of solidarity in the Japanese American community and created the basis for JAVA to become a support group for Japanese Americans. He promoted efforts such as JAVA strengthening relationships with other Japanese American organizations such as the Japanese American Citizens League (JACL) to make JAVA become nation-wide major Japanese American organization, and moving forwarding projects such as providing scholarships to active and veteran Japanese American members of the military and funding for widows in need.
Mr. Shima actively continues to work on Japanese American youth development and education through such efforts as organizing lectures for younger generations of Japanese Americans and discovering promising Japanese American leaders.
In recognition of these achievements, Mr. Shima was awarded the Presidential Citizens Medal, which is the second highest honor bestowed on a U.S. civilian, by President Obama in February 2013.
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