Back row, left to right: Yozo Yamamoto, Henry Shiyama (killed in combat), Yoshikatsu Matsumoto, Kaoru Yamamoto, Charles J. Okimoto, Takeshi Lefty Kimura. Front row, left to right: Kunio Fujimoto, Susumu Kunishige, Raymond Yokoyama, Katsumi Jinnohara (killed in combat), Kaoru Yonezawa. Nine received the Purple Heart Medal. These are a few of the 1,400 Nisei in the 100th Bn, an oversized battalion consisting of 6 line companies and a headquarters company when it went overseas. Photo: Signal Corps.
Mark Matsunaga and Isami Yoshihara
Honolulu, HI. The 442nd Regimental Combat Team’s battlefield heroics delivered America’s Japanese populace from the shameful injustice of mass removal and incarceration in World War II. That’s true, but it’s only part of the story. That vindication could not have occurred without the Americans of Japanese ancestry from Hawaii who were in the fight first: pre-war soldiers who became the 100th Infantry Battalion, Territorial Guard members who became the Varsity Victory Volunteers, and two spies in the Philippines. And two-thirds of the 650 soldiers of the 100th and 442nd who were killed in action or died of wounds in World War II were from Hawaii.
In 1940, there were nearly 127,000 ethnic Japanese on the continent, 158,000 in Hawaii. The wartime experiences of the two groups differed dramatically. All of the Nikkei living on the West Coast -- 112,000 -- were forced from their homes and incarcerated in concentration camps. About 2,000 suspect Japanese were removed from Hawaii, where martial law had been imposed on December 7, 1941.
The attack thrust Hawaii’s 450,000 residents onto the front line of America’s new war. Two thousand American soldiers of Japanese ancestry -- of the 298th and 299th Infantry regiments and engineer and service units -- were among the active duty personnel who rushed to defend Hawaii that day. Another 300 AJAs, most of them University of Hawaii ROTC cadets, were called up as members of the Hawaii Territorial Guard. The Nisei soldiers and guardsmen performed faithfully during and after the attack. Despite rampant rumors, thorough investigation concluded there had been no sabotage or subversion by any local Japanese during or since the attack on Pearl Harbor.
Under pressure from Washington, LTG Delos Emmons, the Army’s new commander in Hawaii, ordered all AJAs discharged from the Territorial Guard in late January. But he resisted orders to remove all Japanese to the continent or at least to one of the neighbor islands. Rather than sulk, 169 of the discharged Territorial Guard Nisei offered themselves as a labor battalion. The offer was accepted, and the Varsity Victory Volunteers was born. Soon afterwards, a VVV crew quarrying rocks at Kolekole was visited by the Assistant Secretary of War John McCloy. Fresh from approving the forced removal of Japanese Americans from the west coast, McCloy was in Hawaii to meet with Emmons and inspect units there. The trip changed his attitude toward AJAs. Emmons suggested to McCloy that the Nisei infantrymen from the Hawaii regiments be sent to fight in Europe. This would be a chance to demonstrate their loyalty, Emmons said, and he believed they would acquit themselves well. Meanwhile, reports were filtering back to Washington about the valuable intelligence being produced for General Douglas MacArthur in the Philippines by Arthur Komori and Richard Sakakida, Army spies who had been recruited in Honolulu and served in Manila under commercial cover.
In May 1942, AJA soldiers of the 298th and 299th were reorganized into the Hawaiian Provisional Battalion, which sailed from Honolulu in June 1942. On arrival in Oakland, it was designated the 100th Infantry Battalion (Separate) and sent to Camp McCoy, Wisconsin. The 1,400 Hawaii Nisei would spend another year training. General Dwight Eisenhower refused them for European service. But they impressed other Army officials with their skill and discipline, and their supporters continued to press for their deployment. Approval came in late 1942. In short order, despite opposition from officers such as LTG John DeWitt, who ordered the west coast evacuation, the War Department and President Franklin Roosevelt acceded to pleas from within the Army and the Nikkei community to create a larger Nisei unit of AJAs, a regimental combat team of 4,500 troops. It is unlikely that the combat team would have been approved if any of the trail-blazing Hawaii Nisei soldiers had said or done something disloyal to America.
Some of the new combat team’s slots would be filled by mainland prewar soldiers who had been benched after Pearl Harbor. Because AJAs were no longer being drafted, the new outfit needed volunteers. The call went out in February 1943. The Army initially expected two-thirds of the recruits to come from the continent, but ill feelings about their mistreatment and a flawed loyalty questionnaire resulted in barely 1,000 volunteers from the camps. In Hawaii, nearly 10,000 volunteered, and 2,600 were accepted.
The 100th Battalion and the new recruits crossed paths at Camp Shelby, Mississippi, that summer, but the 100th soon left for the Mediterranean. Assigned to the veteran 34th Division, the 100th Bn entered combat in September 1943 near Salerno. The Hawaii Nisei soon earned the respect of fellow GIs in bloody fighting along the Volturno and Rapido rivers and at Cassino. By the end of March 1944, the 100th Battalion had only 500 men and was being called the Purple Heart Battalion.
War correspondent Lynn Crost wrote in her book Honor by Fire: Japanese Americans at war in Europe and the Pacific: “As years pass, statistics of decorations and the numbers of men killed and wounded may be forgotten. But the record of that original 100th Infantry Battalion and what it meant in the acceptance of Japanese Americans as loyal citizens of the United States must be remembered. If it had failed in its first months of fighting in Italy, there might never have been a chance for other Americans of Japanese ancestry to show their loyalty to the United States as convincingly as they did on the battlefields of Europe.”
Replacements from Shelby bolstered the 100th for Anzio and the drive to Rome. In late June, the 442nd arrived in Italy and the 100th became its first battalion. The combat team foundered in its first battle, at Suvereto and Belvedere, until the 100 th was called out of reserve to save the day.
As the combat team slogged through Italy and France in the months that followed, the initial differences between kotonks and buddhaheads melted away under fire. Neither group had a monopoly on challenges, service or courage. Both earned a place in the story of Japanese Americans in World War II.
[EdNote. Matsunaga and Yoshihara are both Hawaii residents with family members who served in WW II.]
“Following Japan’s surrender, Nisei who had just fought the Japanese, used their language skills now to serve in the demobilization of Japan, also in the War Crime Trials and in the Occupation of Japan. An additional 3,000 Nisei linguists served in every phase of the Occupation from the national to the local levels.” JAVA member and 442nd Veteran Terry Shima at minute 4:10. Screenshot of Interview with Friends of National WWII Memorial.
The Friends of National WW II Memorial, which is responsible for the administration of the Memorial, interviewed JAVA member Terry Shima for its program commemorating the 75th Anniversary of V-J Day, which ended WW II. The Memorial is located on The Mall in Washington, DC, between the Washington and Lincoln Memorials. For Terry's remarks, click here or on this linkhttps://vimeo.com/453870321.
[EdNote: Inspired by the 75th Anniversary of V-J Day, the JAVA Communications Committee, scoured JAVA's current and old website for articles about the role of the Nisei in the rebuilding of Japan. We hope you find the following linked articles as interesting and informative as we did.]
Building a New Japan
Nisei in the MIS Hall of Fame
LTG Thomas P. Bostick, USA (Ret)
Opinion by Thomas P. Bostick | Updated 10:50 AM ET, Fri July 10, 2020
Lt. Gen. (U.S. Army, retired) Thomas P. Bostick, a PhD and graduate of West Point, Stanford University and George Washington University, was Chief of Engineers and Commanding General of the US Army Corps of Engineers (2012-2016). The opinions expressed in this commentary are his own.
(CNN) With images of statues being torn down bombarding our screens, it's hard not to feel, as a minority myself, that America is failing to address the real problem of racism. As I grapple with the wider challenges that racism presents for our country, its national security and myself personally, I continue to be haunted by my memories of a young US Army enlisted soldier named Danny Chen.
He was the only child of first-generation Chinese Americans in New York City. He wanted to join the Army, but he needed parental permission as a 17-year-old. His parents disapproved. Chen had high test scores and received a full scholarship to attend college. In January 2011, at 18 years old, while still in college and against his mother's wishes, he enlisted in the Army as an infantryman.
By October 2011, at a forward operating base in Afghanistan, Pvt. Danny Chen lay dead...
To read the rest of the opinion piece click on the following link: https://www.cnn.com/2020/07/10/opinions/racism-in-the-military-danny-chen-bostick/index.html.
[EdNote. Our thanks to EC member LTC Jason Kuroiwa, USA (Ret) for sending this article to us. We also thank Jason for his editorial and other assistance to publish the e-Advocate.]
JAVA member CPT Wade Ishimoto shared an excellent short film about the often overlooked Hawaiian Internment Camps.
Click here to watch Hawaii's Forgotten Internment Camps, a film produced by ReasonTV featuring Brian Niiya of Densho: The Japanese American Legacy Project.
Mr. Ujifusa maintains a personal website, Scenes From Behind The Scenes(https://www.grantujifusa.com/), dedicated to Redress. Among the articles he has written and talks he has given, two stand out as particularly relevant as we mark the 32nd anniversary on August 10, 2020 when HR 442 was signed into law. Originally a talk given at the JACL Convention in Las Vegas in July of 2015, and then appearing as an editorial in February 27, 2016 edition of Rafu Shimpo, Ujifusa’s article Mike Masaoka: JACL Origins, JA Identity sheds light on the remarkable Masaoka - his dynamic personality, allegiance to the U.S., and extraordinary ability to lead. The second article, Changing Reagan's Mind, was also printed in Rafu Shimpo, July 9, 2016, and was originally a speech Ujifusa gave at his 50th Harvard College Reunion in 2015 and then shared at the New York JACL Chapter annual meeting on May 7, 2016. In Changing Reagan’s Mind, Ujifusa highlights some of the machinations involved in moving Redress forward. Please click on the links below to access the articles.
MIKE MASAOKA: JACL ORIGINS, JA IDENTITY
CHANGING REAGAN'S MIND
President Ronald Reagan addresses the nation after signing the Civil Liberties Act of 1988. In addition to the U.S. Congress' national apology for the internment, Reagan said "HERE WE ADMIT A WRONG. HERE WE AFFIRM OUR COMMITMENT AS A NATION TO EQUAL JUSTICE UNDER THE LAW." On the President's left is U.S.Senator Daniel Inouye and on the President's right is U.S. Representative Norman Mineta. Photo: Screenshot of Speech, Ronald Reagan Library.
On August 10, 1988, President Ronald Reagan signed the Civil Liberties Act, which provided an official apology of the U.S. Government for the internment and token reparations of $20,000 for each living internee. The Act represents an attempt by the US Government to redress the injustice of the evacuation and internment of ethnic Japanese solely on race. The Act embraced the conclusion of the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians that internment was not necessary, that it was caused by war hysteria, racial prejudice, and the failure of political leadership. Click here to watch the speech.
CPT Wade Ishimoto, USA, (Ret). Screenshot at minute 1:32.
Click here to watch segment that aired on August 16, 2020.
Captain Mike Lewis, USMC
CPT Wade Ishimoto, USA (Ret) reported that Captain Michael Lewis, son of Mae Nakamoto and grandson of former JAVA President Bob Nakamoto, was named the aide-de-camp for Major General James F. Glynn. Lewis recently completed the Marine Corps Expeditionary Warfare School at Quantico, VA, before moving his family to Camp Lejeune, NC. Mike is a JAVA Life Member.
U.S. Army Sergeant Shigeo Tanaka. Photo: Courtesy of the Tanaka Family.
Jeff Morita (Hawaii)
Shigeo Tanaka was born on January 20 1917 in Covina, Los Angeles County, California the first child of Shigeki and Yayo Tanaka. Shigeo attended elementary school in Chatsworth and graduated from Canoga Park High School. From 1940 to 1941, Shigeo was employed by the Sand K. Market in San Fernando, California. As manager of the food store, he employed and discharged personnel; took inventory; made daily sales reports; and indispensable store banking. On March 3, 1942, Shigeo Tanaka was inducted into the U.S. Army at Fort MacArthur, San Pedro, California. He completed basic training at Camp Crowder, Arkansas, then assigned to the Army Medical Corps at Fort Lewis, Washington, and served as the Administration Non-commissioned Officer (NCO) for the 210th Station Hospital. Station Hospitals were predominantly located in the U.S. Zone of the Interior and medically served the local community. In more complex medical or surgical cases, patients were transferred to General Hospitals.
Tanaka supervised clerks and typists, the filing of various types of military correspondence, miscellaneous forms and reports. He set-up and maintained the unit filing system for all incoming and outgoing correspondence. Tanaka assisted the company commander in training U.S. Army personnel for overseas shipment and attained the rank of Technician 5th Grade (Tec/5). Tec/5 Tanaka was subsequently assigned to Camp Hale in Colorado where he was placed in charge of the Post Officers' Club. On February 12, 1944, under Headquarters Camp Hale, Special Orders #37, Tanaka was promoted to the rank of Sergeant (Sgt). Currently "Camp Hale Site," Eagle County, Colorado is listed on the U.S. Register of Historic Places. Camp Hale was constructed in 1942 as a U.S. Army training facility for the 10th Light Division (Alpine). On November 6, 1944, this elite U.S. Army unit was redesigned the 10th Mountain Division and to this day (Fort Drum, New York) trains soldiers in mountain climbing, Alpine and Nordic skiing, cold-weather survival, use and employment of various weapons and ordnance. On February 27, 1946, under post World War II demobilization, Sgt Tanaka was honorably separated at Separation Center, Fort Lewis, Washington.
Tanaka worked as an automotive mechanic for Wes McCombs in San Fernando, California, and known as “Lonnie". On May 22, 1948, he married the former Setsuko Sue Motoike and had two children, Jerry (Arlene) and Beverly (Clifford Oyama). For his honorable service Sgt Tanaka was awarded the Army Good Conduct Medal with clasp (2nd award) — American Campaign Medal — World War II Victory Medal — Meritorious Unit Award — Honorable Service Lapel Button-World War II — Expert Marksman Badge with Rifle, Carbine and Pistol bars. On June 4, 2010, Shigeo Tanaka passed away at age 93 and rests honorably at Eternal Valley Memorial Park, Newhall, California. Tanaka’s wife Setsuko, family and five grandchildren — Jeffery, Kellen, Erin, Brianne and Randi all reside in Southern California.
Judge Stephen K. Tamura. Photo Courtesy of Orange County Superior Court.
By Sean Emery, Courtesy Orange County Register / Southern California News Group
PUBLISHED: June 10, 2020
The name of trailblazing Stephen K. Tamura – Orange County’s first Asian American attorney, county counsel and Superior Court judge – will soon adorn a county courthouse in Westminster.
The decision to rename the West Justice Center in honor of Tamura will honor his “legacy of groundbreaking successes” and will “serve as recognition of the contributions of Asian Americans to Orange County and the United States,” Orange County judicial officials said.
Surviving family members hope the renaming, nearly four decades after Tamura’s death in 1982, brings renewed attention to a man they say never lost his connection to the community while remaining devoted to the law.
Click here to read the rest of the article.
[EdNote. Our thanks to JAVA member Major Victor Shen, USA, for sending this article to us.]