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Interview: Virgil Westdale

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PROFILE: Virgil Westdale

Virgil Westdale was born in 1918 on a farm in Indiana, the fourth of five children in the Nishimura family. He was born to a Japanese father and an English/German mother. While attending college, Westdale was interested in flying and received his private pilot’s license.

After the outbreak of World War II, his commercial pilot’s license was revoked because of his Japanese heritage. He legally changed his name to Westdale—West (nishi) and dale (mura)—and joined the Army Air Corps, but was demoted and forced to join the 442nd Regimental Combat Team when it was discovered a year later that he was part Japanese. He fought in campaigns in Italy and France, including the rescue of the “Lost Battalion.” Near the end of the war, he was transferred to the 522nd Field Artillery Battalion where he became part of the group of soldiers that liberated Jewish prisoners from the Dachau concentration camp in Germany.

After the war, he earned two university degrees and received 25 patents as well as an international award for his scientific work in research and development. In his retirement, he worked for the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) for 14 years.

He is the co-author of his autobiography Blue Skies and Thunder: Farm Boy, Pilot, Inventor, TSA Officer, and WWII Soldier of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team. He received the Congressional Gold Medal in 2011. (April 2013)

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Virgil Westdale
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Screenshot from an interview with Virgil Westdale by Duncan Williams on August 27, 2012 for the exhibition, Visible & Invisible: A Hapa Japanese American History. A Collaboration with the ... More »


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