2018 Grand Marshal

Grand Marshal – The Honorable Vincent Okamoto

Vincent H. Okamoto was born in a federal internment camp during World War II; the 10th child and the seventh son born to Japanese immigrants. All six of his older brothers served in the U.S. military. The eldest two fought in Europe during World War II with the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, a racially segregated unit of Japanese Americans that went on to become the most decorated unit in the annals of US military history for its size and length of service. Another brother volunteered for the Marines and fought in the Korean War.

Okamoto graduated from the University of Southern California’s School of International Relations in 1967. He received his commission as a 2nd Lieutenant of Infantry from UCLA ROTC, where he rose to the rank of Cadet Colonel, was the first Japanese American to command the Bruin Rangers and was designated Distinguished Military Graduate in 1967.

He completed officer infantry school, ranger school and airborne training at Fort Benning, Georgia, and served with the 82nd Airborne Division before volunteering for duty in the Republic of South Vietnam.

In Vietnam he served as an infantry platoon leader, company commander and intelligence officer. Wounded in action three times, he received 14 combat decorations that included the Distinguished Service Cross, our nation’s second highest award for valor in combat. His other decorations include the Silver Star, Bronze Star, Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry, Army Commendation and three Purple Hearts.

After three years of active duty, Okamoto left the Army with the rank of captain. He attended the University of Southern California School of Law and served as a Los Angeles County deputy district attorney for five years before entering private practice. Okamoto has been active in community and served on various boards and government. He was elected to the Gardena City Council, was on the founding board of the Japanese American Bar Association and served on the board of directors for the California Veterans Affairs Commission.

In addition, Okamoto was chairman of the budget and finance committee for Blue Cross of California, and a member of the Los Angeles County Vietnam Veterans Affairs Board. In 2000, he was selected as the Japanese Cultural Institute “Man of the Year.”

In 2002 he was appointed by the governor to the California Superior Court. Judge Okamoto was designated UCLA ROTC Alumni Veteran of the Year in 2006. In 2007, he was inducted into the Army “Ranger Hall of Fame,” the first Japanese American so honored since World War II.

In 2016, Judge Okamoto was named “Hero of America” by the American Veterans Center in Washington, DC. In 2017, he was featured in the Ken Burns documentary on the Vietnam War. He authored a novel about the Vietnam War, “Wolfhound Samurai,” and wrote “Forged in Fire,” a biography about Japanese American Medal of Honor recipient Hiroshi “Hershey” Miyamura. Judge Okamoto resides in Torrance, California.