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Bud Lilly to honor Japanese-Americans who fought in WWII

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During his boyhood in the Gallatin Valley, Bud
Lilly knew many Japanese-American families
who came to Montana to work on the railroads.
Many of them stayed in his mother’s hotel in
Three Forks. And Lilly, who attended high
school in Manhattan, played against many of
these kids in football and basketball.

“They were very good athletes,” Lilly remembers.
In fact, “in 1940 and ‘41 they were the all
state football champs.”

After the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, all
Japanese-Americans who didn’t enlist were put
in work camps. Lilly himself was deployed to
Italy.

“Battalion 442 was the most famous battalion
in WWII, and they were all from Japanese-
American backgrounds.” Some of Lilly’s friends
from Montana were in that battalion in Italy,
where they “fought their way in the Battle of
the Bulge.”

On Aug. 5 Lilly will host a presentation in the
backyard of the old railroad hotel to dedicate a
permanent memorial honoring six of those warriors.
The memorial will be a several hundred
sq. foot plot with “trees and plants and a rock
monument by [sculptor] Ott Jones.”

Lilly has invited Governor Schweitzer, and
three generals from Virginia, one of whom
grew up in Montana. 91-year-old Yokichi Itoh,
one of the veterans from Battalion 442 and a
retired surgeon from Livingston, will also be
there.

The hour-long dedication starts at 11 a.m. and
is across the street from the Sacagawea Hotel
in downtown Three Forks, at 16 West Birch St.
(the old railroad hotel with white columns).
Lunch will follow, and then Bud plans to take the
governor, the generals and their wives fishing.

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