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O
n Thursday,Nov. 3,AFSA had the privilege of celebrating
the conferral of a Congressional Gold Medal, one of the
highest civilian honors, on retired Foreign Service officer
James Iso. Mr. Iso, 87, servedwith theMilitary Intelligence Serv-
ice during World War II, and is a former employee of the De-
fense IntelligenceAgency and anAFSAmember. The reception,
held at the association’s headquarters, included members of his
family, current Foreign Agricultural Service leadership, former
FAS colleagues, Governing Board members and AFSA staff.
A little more than two months after the Imperial Japanese
Navy conducted a surprise attack on the U.S. naval base at Pearl
Harbor,Hawaii, President FranklinDelano Roosevelt signed Ex-
ecutive Order 9066 on Feb. 19, 1942, setting in motion the es-
tablishment of internment camps for Japanese-Americans and
those of Japanese ancestry living on the Pacific coast of the
United States. These camps were operated by various govern-
ment agencies, including the Department of Justice, the U.S.
Army and the Federal Bureau of Prisons.
That year, James Iso and his parents were taken from their
home in San Jose, Calif., and placed in an internment camp in
Heart Mountain, Wyo. They were among more than 110,000
individuals —approximately 62 percent of themAmerican cit-
izens — imprisoned in camps scattered around the country.
After leaving Heart Mountain in 1944, James Iso joined the
Military Intelligence Service to “prove, beyond a shadow of a
doubt, my patriotism.” His brother, Robert Iso, drafted by the
U.S. Army before the war, served
with the distinguished 442nd Reg-
imental Combat Team, for which
he, too, received a Congressional
Gold Medal.
Despite incarceration and prej-
udice, Nisei (second-generation
Japanese-Americans) proved to
be not only fierce and heroic
fighters, but brilliant cryptographers and translators credited
with shortening the war in the Pacific by two years. Their vital
work resulted in U.S. military successes in the region, leading
President Harry Truman to call the Japanese-Americans in the
MIS the “human secret weapon for the U.S. Armed Forces”
against the Japanese in the Pacific.
Proudly displaying his medal to the gathering, James Iso re-
marked, “We had to show our love for this country. We were all
young and vigorous and inspired to do the best we could.” That
they did.
E
very year, I eagerly await the issue of the
Foreign Service
Journal
that announces the winners of the annual dissent
awards. And every year, when the call for nominations goes
out, I consider which of my colleagues I can nominate. I was
gratified back in 2010 when Ambassador Tony Holmes, the
deputy political adviser for civil-military affairs at the U.S. Africa
Command, told me that he had nominated me for AFSA’s
William Rivkin Award for Constructive Dissent. And I was
thrilled when the letter arrived announcing that I had won.
I amknown for my frankness; somemight even call it lack of
tact. I prefer to consider myself honest and not afraid to speak
the truth. But this has gotten me into hot water over the years.
Early in my career at the United States Agency for International
Development, I was admonished a few times for being too blunt
with my local counterparts. I have ruffled the feathers of a few
American colleagues along the way, as well, by not enthusiasti-
J A N U A R Y 2 0 1 2 / F O R E I G N S E R V I C E J O U R N A L
47
American Foreign Service Association • January 2012
AFSA
NEWS
Dissent = Effective Advocacy
BY DIANA B. PUTMAN
Continued on page 59
(L to R) John Beshoar, FAS retiree; Jim Higgiston, FAS deputy administra-
tor, Office of FS Operations; Richard Barnes, FAS retiree; James Iso, FAS
and DIA retiree; Richard Passig, FAS retiree; Suzanne Heinen, FAS acting
administrator; Janet Nuzum, FAS associate administrator for policy; and
David Mergen, AFSA VP for FAS.
James Iso proudly displays his
Congressional Gold Medal.
Retired FSO Receives Congressional Gold Medal
BY DONNA AYERST