Judge Okamoto Saluted as ‘Hero of America’

  • Level 3 - Captain

    Judge Okamoto Saluted as ‘Hero of America’

    WASHINGTON — Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Vincent Okamoto was honored as one of the “Heroes of America” by the American Veterans Center during an awards ceremony on Nov. 6.

    Over 500 people, including veterans and their families, generals, admirals, celebrities Kevin Spacey and Julianne Moore, and cadets from West Point and the Air Force Academy, gathered to honor the veterans.

    TV personality Pat Sajak, via CCTV, introduced Okamoto, recognizing his extraordinary heroism in the Vietnam War, for which he received the Distinguished Service Cross, the nation’s second-highest award for valor.

    The citation reads, in part: “On Aug. 24, 1968, his unit’s night perimeter was hit by an intense barrage of mortars, RPGs (rocket-propelled grenades) and small arms fire, followed by a ground attack by three companies of Viet Cong and North Vietnamese infantry. The initial attack destroyed a strategic section of the perimeter, destroying two bunker positions, three armored personnel carriers, and a tank, creating a gap in the barbed wire through which the enemy could enter and overrun the American position.

    “Lt. Okamoto, under heavy enemy fire, with complete disregard for his own safety, left his bunker and led five of his men to restore this vital position. Realizing the need for suppressive counter-fire, he ran to a partially destroyed armored personnel carrier and manned its machine gun, firing on the North Vietnamese until it ran out of ammunition.

    “He then ran to a second APC and manned its machine gun, continuing to pour fire into the advancing enemy until the weapon malfunctioned. Lt. Okamoto then ran to a third APC and manned its machine gun and continued pouring out withering suppressive fire, blunting the enemy assault.

    “Spying another group of North Vietnamese soldiers maneuvering toward the American perimeter, Lt. Okamoto crawled under heavy AK-47 and RPG fire to within ten meters of the North Vietnamese and destroyed them with fragmentation grenades. Returning to the perimeter, he resumed directing the defense, holding back the attacking enemy infantry.

    “Although wounded, he refused medical aid and kept fighting until the enemy was forced to withdraw. Lt. Okamoto’s extraordinary heroism kept the American position from being overrun, thereby saving dozens of American lives, and reflects great credit on himself, the Rangers and the U.S. Army. Several eyewitnesses recommended Okamoto for the Medal of Honor.”

    In addition to the DSC, Okamoto received 14 combat decorations, including the Silver Star, the Bronze Star, Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry, and three Purple Hearts. After three years of active duty, Okamoto left the Army with the rank of captain.

    Okamoto was born in a “relocation center” during World War II, the tenth child and seventh son of Japanese immigrants. All six of his older brothers served in the military, the two eldest with the Army’s famed 442nd Regimental Combat Team, a racially segregated unit that went on to become the most decorated unit for its size and length of service in U.S. military history. Another brother volunteered for the Marine Corps and fought in the Korean War.


Log in to reply

Looks like your connection to AsianSoul was lost, please wait while we try to reconnect.