The Commission of Fine Arts has endorsed veterans’ preferences for
the design of a new congressional gold medal honoring Japanese
Americans who fought in World War II and a separate silver dollar
honoring the U.S. Army Infantry.
Meeting in Washington May 19, the panel endorsed designs for both,
bowing to the wishes of the veterans groups that had lobbied Congress
for approval of the medal and the dollar. Veterans appeared before the
commission, strongly endorsing the designs they said their members want.
Gold medal recommendations
For a new gold medal to honor the thousands of Japanese Americans
who fought with U.S. forces in World War II, the panel endorsed an
obverse design showing a row of soldiers in front of a fluttering U.S.
flag along with an Army color guard. For the reverse they recommended
a design honoring the insignia of the three specific Army
organizations being honored by the medal — the Military Intelligence
Service, the 100th Infantry Battalion and the 442nd Regimental Combat Team.
Pamela Nelson, the commission vice chair and a Dallas artist,
called the selected obverse for the medal “very strong.” She said it
and the proposed reverse “work together very well.”
In response to a commission member’s question, Don Everhart, a
Mint sculptor-engraver in attendance at the meeting, assured the
commission that if they wanted more stars added to the fluttering flag
on the obverse, that easily could be done.
The gold medal honors the Americans of Japanese ancestry,
predominately Nisei or second-generation, who fought for the United
States in World War II.
Some of these soldiers were ordered discharged from military
service after the Dec. 7, 1941, Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, but
were later allowed join the military.
As a group, the 442nd Regimental Combat Team and the 100th
Infantry Battalion received seven Presidential Unit Citations, and its
personnel received 21 Medals of Honor, 29 Distinguished Service
Crosses, 560 Silver Stars, 4,000 Bronze Stars, 22 Legion of Merit
medals, 15 Soldier’s Medals and more than 4,000 Purple Heart medals.
The Military Intelligence Service was composed of about 6,000
Japanese Americans who helped with highly classified intelligence work
in the Pacific Theater, work that remained unknown until 1974 when
documents about their service were made public. These individuals
helped translate and monitor Japanese broadcasts and messages during
The gold medal authorized by the 2010 act will be presented to the
Smithsonian Institution. Three-inch bronze reproductions will be sold
to the public by the U.S. Mint.
Silver dollar recommendations
For the 2012 United States Army Infantry commemorative silver
dollar, which will support the two-year-old National Infantry Museum
and Soldier Center at Fort Benning, Ga., the commission backed a
design based on an iconic statue of a soldier leading his men forward,
for the obverse.
For the reverse the commission endorsed a design showing crossed
muskets, the Infantry’s insignia. The panel also recommended to
Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner that the “$1” denomination below
the muskets be written as “One Dollar,” a change the veterans urged.
Greg Camp, executive vice president of the National Infantry
Foundation, said his organization strongly wants a design on the
silver dollar that would show a soldier leading his unit into combat.
A statue reflecting this theme, originally called The Infantryman and
renamed Follow Me in 1964, stands at the Georgia fort, but Kaarina
Budow, a U.S. Mint marketing official, told the commission that the
Mint could not legally use that exact design on the coin.
As a result, Mint artists came up with nine variations of that
design, using soldiers from World Wars I and II and modern times as
well as a silhouetted solider leading his unit against a flag. Three
additional designs were offered for review as well, one showing four
infantrymen crawling under barbed wire, another depicting a modern
soldier against a silhouetted squad with rifles at the ready and a
third showing two soldiers firing their weapons in different directions.
In all, the panel reviewed 12 obverse designs for the coin and
Several of the reverses feature the Combat Infantry Badge, a
military award given only to those who have served in the infantry in
combat. One features a military boot hitting the ground, another
symbol of the infantry.
Camp said that the soldiers represented by his group want the
“follow me” figure.
He did not seem troubled when Nelson, who led the commission’s
discussion, noted that the coin designs did not have the figure’s hand
as high as the statue’s hand.
“Do you think that would connect to the soldiers?” she asked.
Camp said it would. “That’s the one most closely resembling the
statue,” he said.
If the coin, due to be issued next year, is sold out it could mean
up to $3.5 million to the Georgia-based foundation. It will benefit
from the $10 surcharge to be placed on the 350,000 silver dollars
authorized by Congress in the 2008 law.
The medal and coin designs were to be reviewed by the Citizens
Coinage Advisory Committee on May 25.
Geithner will have the final say on the designs for both the medal
and coin. ■