WASHINGTON – Japan honored a U.S. veteran on Wednesday for his contribution to a fledgling parachute squad after World War II by awarding him a specially-made Japanese paratrooper’s badge to replace an earlier one he had lost.
William LaRou, 82, began training paratroopers in what is now called the Ground Self-Defense Force after its establishment in 1954 at a U.S. military base in Fukuoka as a corporal in the 187th Airborne Regimental Combat Team.
The chief of the Japanese ground force had awarded squad badges to all 15 U.S. trainers in acknowledgement of their work, but LaRou, who lives in Tennessee, later lost the memento.
His daughter Amy Watson, 55, asked the Japanese Embassy in Washington if it would be possible to make up for the loss in some way, according to the embassy.
Masashi Yamamoto, a GSDF colonel attached to the embassy, presented LaRou with a Japanese paratrooper’s badge during a ceremony the embassy organized at Arlington Cemetery.
LaRou, a Korean War veteran, was deeply moved by the gesture and expressed his gratitude.
The U.S. Army’s 187th Infantry Regiment calls itself “Rakkasans” after the Japanese word for a parachute.