Advances in Social Behavior Research

Advances in Social Behavior Research

ASBR ICEIPI 2022, 03 March 2023

Open Access | Article

Disparities in the Medal of Honor Why African American Soldiers’ Awards were Delayed, and Japanese American Awards were Immediate

Nicholas Chik * 1
1 Department of History, University of California, Berkeley, CA, 94704

* Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.

Advances in Social Behavior Research, ASBR ICEIPI 2022, 676-687
Published 03 March 2023. © 2023 The Author(s). Published by EWA Publishing
This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Citation Nicholas Chik. Disparities in the Medal of Honor Why African American Soldiers’ Awards were Delayed, and Japanese American Awards were Immediate. ASBR (2023) ASBR ICEIPI 2022: 676-687.


The 442nd Infantry Regiment Combat Team, composed mostly of Japanese American soldiers, is the most decorated division in U.S. military history. As a minority combat team motivated by accusations of disloyalty following Pearl Harbor, they sought to demonstrate their patriotism through excellence in battle. President Harry Truman formally recognized the valuable contribution of the 442nd Infantry Team to the Allied victory and assigned a medal of honor to one of the Japanese American soldiers, Private First-Class Sadao S. Munemori, immediately after the war. African American soldiers similarly demonstrated great loyalty and skill in the 332nd Fighter Group, called the Tuskegee Airmen, and the 761st Tank Battalion, also known as the Black Panthers. However, although both units fought with distinction, the granting of medals of honor for African American World War II service was delayed until 1997. Based on memoirs, interviews, and an Army Report Investigation conducted by the Department of Defense, this paper analyzes the reasons for the decades-long discrepancy in the timeline for the acquisition of medals of honor between Japanese American and African American soldiers. The differing experiences and interpretations of discrimination and segregation, both during and after the war, account for the immense positive attention paid to Japanese American efforts compared to the total lack of national honor assigned to African American soldiers. Through their service, Japanese Americans resoundingly exposed the errors of the federal government’s decision to intern families of Japanese descent and helped promote a narrative of wrongdoing that the federal government has since acknowledged. In contrast, African American victories, no less impressive than those of Japanese American and white soldiers, were overshadowed by the racial discourse of Jim Crow-era politics. Specifically, African American soldiers continued to face systemic discrimination at home and in the armed forces despite their military accomplishments. It delayed the formal acknowledgement of the significance of African American service.


US Military, African American, World War II, Medal of Honor., Japanese American


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Data Availability

The datasets used and/or analyzed during the current study will be available from the authors upon reasonable request.

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