2020 Veterans Day wreath placed before the names of the 800 Nisei soldiers killed-in-action in World War II, National Japanese American Memorial to Patriotism in WWII, Washington, DC. Photo: Nicole Yamada
JAVA Vice President Howard High serves as emcee at the 2020 Veterans Day Ceremony. Photo: Nicole Yamada.
While many traditions have been upended this year, the Japanese American Veterans Association (JAVA), along with the National Japanese American Memorial Foundation (NJAMF), kept to tradition and held its annual Veterans Day Ceremony on Wednesday, November 11th, at the National Japanese American Memorial in Washington, DC. Instead of audience applause, heart and thumbs-up emojis floated over the JAVA Facebook feed, as watchers from far away locales such as Hawaii, Florida, and California signaled their gratitude for the sacrifices made by Nisei Veterans and their families.
Gerald Yamada, JAVA President, Veterans Day Ceremony, November 11, 2020. National Japanese American Memorial to Patriotism in WWII, Washington, DC. Photo: Nicole Yamada.
JAVA Vice President and U.S. Army Veteran, Howard High, served as emcee. He opened the program noting that the JAVA/NJAMF Veterans Day Program was selected by the Veterans Day National Committee from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs as one of the “Veterans Day observances throughout the country to represent a fitting tribute to America’s heroes.” Howard High then introduced Gerald Yamada, JAVA President. Yamada welcomed viewers and noted that the day’s damp weather reminded him of his days in basic training in Fort Lewis, Washington. Yamada then reflected on the “huge debt of gratitude” owed to the Nisei soldiers who served during World War II. He continued,
“They served with valor. They amassed a heroic combat record, which is yet to be surpassed. They left us a legacy, from which we have benefited and will continue to benefit. They are an inspiration for all Americans. Their service kept America safe and free. Their service proved their loyalty, in spite of the prejudice, war hysteria, and distrust that confronted them. They truly are America’s heroes.
Let us also honor the 800 Nisei soldiers whose names are inscribed on the granite panels of this Memorial behind me. They died defending America’s freedoms -- not knowing whether their sacrifice would make a difference.
History would say to those 800 Nisei soldiers, ‘You can rest in peace. Your sacrifice did make a difference.’”
Rhianna Taniguchi, NJAMF Board Member & U.S. Army National Guard Veteran, Veterans Day Ceremony, November 11, 2020. National Japanese American Memorial to Patriotism in WWII, Washington, DC. Photo: Nicole Yamada.
Next, Rhianna Taniguchi, NJAMF Board Member & U.S. Army National Guard Veteran addressed the virtual audience. After thanking veterans for their service, Ms. Taniguchi highlighted the remarkable diversity of the armed services and underscored the Nisei’s contribution to that diversity:
“The story of Japanese American military service during World War II reminds us that no matter what race you may be, what language you may speak, or what religion you may practice - all Americans have a place in our country and in our ranks. Those who know their story are well equipped to serve tomorrow’s veterans because they know that our nation and our military are strengthened by its diversity. It’s our responsibility and honor to share that history.”
Ms. Taniguchi then encouraged listeners to go beyond words and reach out to a veteran. She urged all to consider mentoring a veteran at work, donating money to a veteran organization, and learning about veteran issues like PTSD. Ms. Taniguchi finished by sharing her hope that on this Veterans Day, “each and every one of us can make a difference in the life of a veteran.”
U.S. Coast Guard RDML Andrew M. Sugimoto, Assistant Commandant for Intelligence, Veterans Day Ceremony, November 11, 2020. National Japanese American Memorial to Patriotism in WWII, Washington, DC. Photo: Nicole Yamada.
Taking the podium, U.S. Coast Guard RDML Andrew M. Sugimoto, Assistant Commandant for Intelligence, opened by sharing how personally significant it was for him to finally visit the Memorial. He explained that his father was a camp internee in Arkansas before volunteering to fight in World War II. Other family members also served – an uncle in the 442nd, two uncles in the MIS, and some made parachutes and critical war supplies in camp. For Sugimoto, the “dedication, sacrifice and courage exhibited by those who served in our nation's armed forces” felt particularly personal at the Memorial and offered that the Japanese word “giri” or moral devotion undergirds the sacrifices and spirit of service of those that came before us. The Rear Admiral continued that his sense of duty began when he took the oath of office. He added that the powerful words of the oath have been spoken by “17. 4 million Americans who have paused their personal pursuits, have said goodbye to loved ones…and have done so to ensure that every one of us still has the ability to speak our minds, follow religions of our choice, vote, love those who we want to, and to be secure in our inalienable rights.” Sugimoto emphasized that such liberties, even though they might be taken for granted “were secured by our veterans who chose to serve.”
RMDL Sugimoto suggested the Japanese word for gratitude or “kansha” was also fitting for Veterans Day. He then thanked the 17. 4 million veterans who “selflessly secured” American freedoms. He also thanked military families; “the husbands, the wives, and the kids, [who] each and every day provide the love and foundational support for service members to go out and honor that oath of office.” Sugimoto closed by suggesting the that the Memorial’s sculpture of the entwined golden cranes bound by barbed wire not only “embodies [his] family’s experiences, their need for communal support and interdependence on one another while struggling for freedom” but also represents the service members daily fight for freedom and need for support. Sugimoto told watchers that he is hopeful for the future, and that his “hope was brought by the very service of our nation's Veterans and I am eternally grateful.”
JAVA Executive Council Member LTC Mark Nakagawa, USA (Ret), and RDML Sugimoto observe a moment of silence, Veterans Day Ceremony, November 11, 2020. National Japanese American Memorial to Patriotism in WWII, Washington, DC. Photo: Nicole Yamada.
After the Rear Admiral’s words, JAVA Executive Council Member LTC Mark Nakagawa, USA (Ret), and RDML Sugimoto placed a wreath before the 800 names of Japanese Americans killed in action during World War II. The wreath laying was followed by a moment of silence for the fallen. Before ending the program, Howard High thanked the speakers and JAVA co-sponsor NJAMF for helping us to honor our Veterans and remember the sacrifices they have made to preserve our freedom.
[Ed Note: To watch a recording of the 2020 Veterans Day Ceremony visit the JAVA Veterans Day webpage at https://www.java-us.org/Veterans-Day or click here.]
PFC Takeshi Kazumura (possibly the shortest soldier to serve in the U.S. Army) and Lt. Joseph Lawrence Byrne. Photo: U.S. Signal Corps.
(First printed in Rafu Shimpo, Nov. 5, 2009)
The Sunday before Memorial Day I was listening to the comments of NPR commentator (Cowboy Poet) Baxter Black. He recounted an afternoon sitting with his son and dad (asleep in his chair), having just watched a documentary about the USS Enterprise, in which men stayed with wounded comrades rather than swim to safety. The film reminded him of his dad, "Grandpa" Tommy, who served in the navy. Whenever asked about his service "Grandpa" Tommy would jokingly reply, "I saved the world". With Memorial Day approaching, Mr. Black said he would say, "Thanks Grandpa Tommy, for saving the world.” as soon as he awoke from his nap.
That account brought to my mind one of those men of World War II. Putting thoughts of personal safety aside as he dove into the heated fuel-filled water of Pearl Harbor to retrieve bodies and remnants of sailors floating amid the wreckage of the battleship Arizona. The attempts had the ring of futility to my ears as he expressed that those he pulled to the docks were beyond needing help, but it was a job that needed to be done. This action evoked the image of a statuesque sailor of Hollywood movies (circa the 1940s) or the strong swimmer’s physique of Johnny Weissmuller (Olympic swim champion/Tarzan), so you might be surprised to read that Larry "Shorty" Takeshi Kazumura stood a towering 4'-9".
As the Japanese attack unfurled with the sound of machine-gun fire and the explosions of torpedoes hitting the moored ships, Mr. Kazumura (a member of a civilian work-crew) was busy loading lumber onto a ship, bound for another island. This cargo stayed at Pearl Harbor, quickly fashioned into coffins for the overwhelming body count, which was buried in long trenches by the harbor. Mr. Kazumura was the only man of Japanese heritage left on the base (to his knowledge and for unknown reasons), the others having been escorted off with their arms raised in the air as he watched them march away. Working a 36-hour shift, his prolonged exposure to the fuel and other chemicals in the water resulted in a six-month-long illness.
I had the honor of meeting Mr. Kazumura in 2007 when he agreed to participate in an interview with the Go For Broke National Education Center's, Hanashi Oral History Program. Originally born and raised in Hawaii, he later settled in Seattle, Washington, where he joined the Nisei Veterans Committee (NVC). The NVC arranged our introduction and participated in the interview.
Shocked by the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7th, 1941, and angered by the death of his two friends, Mr. Kazumura felt compelled to volunteer his service at the first opportunity. The 100th Battalion (a segregated Japanese American unit) was formed mainly from members of the Hawaiian Territorial Guard and Hawaii based Nisei (second generation) soldiers already in the service when war was declared. The U.S. Military decided to expand the recruitment of these hard training soldiers to include servicemen and volunteers from the mainland and then returned to Hawaii to fill the additional 1,500 men needed to form the 442nd Regimental Combat Team. Mr. Kazumura seized the opportunity to join the ranks. He was initially turned away with the phrase, “Son, you’re too short”. Overwhelmed by the crush of 10,000 volunteers to fill the 1,500 spots, the initial onsite physicals were dispensed with. He made it past the first station when standing erect, he declared to an officer that his height was 5’ or 5'-2", he didn’t quite remember. The skeptical officer sent him to the next station and the stature of his determination got him into the unit…that and a later discovered clerical error that lists his height at 5'-8".
“Shorty” spoke of how the issued uniform—designed with the average non-Asian in mind—hung off his body, the sleeves reaching the floor. It evoked the image of a boy wearing his father’s uniform on-for-size. Like many of his fellow soldiers, he would have to have the uniform altered. Boots proved to be another challenge, as he was issued a pair of size 8 boots to fit his 2-1/2 EEE feet. His account conveyed both the difficulty of training, as the length of the newspaper-filled boots gave him little traction on a field march and the comical appearance of oversized clown shoes. Our crew found many opportunities for laughter, because he spoke in a light easy manner, with the ability to see a situation as others might and having the gift of being able to laugh at himself.
Despite his height, “Shorty” had a strong physique, which was strengthened by a year-plus of training at Camp Shelby, Mississippi, before the 442nd received orders to ship out and deploy to Europe in May 1944. He also possessed a keen sense of direction, which he proudly proclaimed, won him the first Private First Class rank within his unit, during their first week of training. This ability assured the men of his group that they would find their way back to camp during night-maneuvers training.
“Shorty” was assigned scout and runner (messenger) duties and served as a bodyguard for 1st Lt. (and later, Capt.) Joseph Lawrence Byrne. Shorty's height provided a stark visual contrast to that of Byrne’s 6'-4" frame. The two soldiers got along very well because of the mutual respect for each other's abilities, which resulted in their teaming up to survey the landscape whenever I Company would relocate to a new area. “Shorty” expressed concern that Lt. Byrne’s height would make him an easy target for the Germans to zero-in-on. He quickly concluded that your height really doesn't matter; recounting an incident where he received nicks and bruises from shrapnel, kicked-up rocks, and debris, while Byrne standing next to him was unscathed.
National Museum of U.S. Army, Ft. Belvoir, VA. Photo: Rod Azama.
By CAPT Wade Ishimoto, USA (Ret)
Rod Azama and I toured the National Museum of the U.S. Army on November 23, 2020. The Museum, set adjacent to Ft. Belvoir in Northern Virginia, is striking and impressive both inside and out. The building commands attention, the silent and strong type, as it rises from a grassy expanse. Inside, exhibits, galleries, and films tell the stories of individuals, units, and campaigns from the Nation’s colonial times to current conflicts.
The Nisei WWII story is spread throughout the Museum in different galleries. The 442nd Regimental Combat Team plaque that JAVA purchased is in a prominent position on the wall bordering the parking lot and leading to the museum. JAVA is also recognized on a large wall comprising one end of the Veterans Hall as a Silver Oak Leaf Cluster donor. The experience of Nisei soldiers in WWII is showcased on the third floor. A collection of donated artifacts such as an MIS dictionary and hand prosthetic along with photographs help tell the story of the 100th, 442nd, and MIS. A continuously playing video features interviews with Grant Ichikawa and Terry Shima. Grant is even sporting a JAVA polo shirt in the clip.
Nisei Soldier Experience exhibit, third floor, National Museum of U.S. Army. Photo: Rod Azama.
Innovative displays using touch screens that one can scroll to find in-depth details are stationed throughout the museum. For example, in the display of Colonel Robert Howard, a deceased friend and Medal of Honor winner, the touch screen covered Bob's individual actions and the operation that he was on in great detail. It took me some 10 minutes to scroll through his write-up. The exhibits were equally fascinating. I came across one that caught me quite off guard–an exhibit on Operation Eagle Claw, the 1980 attempt to rescue 53 American hostages in Tehran, Iran. I recognized those in the photo as Dennis Wolfe, Norm Crawford, and Larry Friedman (who perished in Somalia years later). In the middle of the exhibit was an object that I couldn't quite make out. As I got closer to where I could read what was below the object, I was shocked to see that it was the shoulder holster I wore in Iran on the rescue mission. I believe I had given it to John Bianchi, a close friend whose company made the holster. John passed away about 10 years ago, so I have no idea who might have donated the holster to the museum
Rod and I had a great time. Highly recommend a tour of the museum.
Operation Eagle Claw exhibit, National Museum U.S. Army. Photo: Wade Ishimoto.
Operation Eagle Claw Exhibit, Pistol Shoulder Holster. "Capt. Wade Y. Ishimoto wore this holster from 24-25 April 1980 as a member of Delta Force during Operation Eagle Claw, the mission to rescue American embassy hostages held in Tehran, Iran. National Museum of the U.S. Army. Photo: Wade Ishimoto.
[Ed Note: The National Museum of the United States Army opened its doors on Veterans Day, Wednesday, November 11, 2020. To watch the opening ceremony click on this link: https://www.dvidshub.net/webcast/25129.
Tickets are free but must be reserved in advance. Click this link to make a reservation, https://www.thenmusa.org/timed-entry-ticketing/.
Visit the Museum’s website at theNMUSA.org or take a video tour of NMUSA by clicking this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wo-yEf4HF-s.]
In a multi-episode series, David Ono, Channel 7 ABC News Los Angeles explores racial stereotypes and history in “FACEism. Episode 3 features Japanese American and Army veteran Roger Shimomura and his art, Episode 8 covers President Reagan's apology for the U.S. internment of Japanese Americans during WWII, while Episode 13 highlights 442nd veteran Lawson Sakai and his experience fighting in France and his return visit in 2019. Click on the links below to watch.
Episode 3: Click on this link to watch Roger Shimomura confronts racism, stereotypes with art
Episode 8: FACEism: Click on this link to watch President Reagan's apology for the US internment of Japanese Americans during World War II
Episode 13: Click on this link to watch Japanese-American veteran receives a hero's welcome in French village he helped liberate in WWII (Lawson Sakai)
"With this commemorative stamp, the Postal Service recognizes the contributions of Japanese American soldiers, some 33,000 altogether, who served in the U.S. Army during World War II. The stamp, printed in the intaglio method, is based on a photograph. “Go for Broke” was the motto of the all-Japanese American 100th Infantry Battalion/442nd Regimental Combat Team and came to represent all Japanese American units formed during World War II. The stamp was designed by art director Antonio Alcalá."
[Ed Note: JAVA President Gerald Yamada has formally addressed the oversight that the stamp’s description does not include the contributions of the Nisei soldiers who served in the Pacific during World War II in a letter to the Postmaster General & Chief Executive Officer Louis DeJoy. We are awaiting the Postmaster General’s response.]
French Chevalier Charles Masuo Murakami and Family (l to r) Kerry Murakami (nephew), Linda Murakami (niece), Katelyn Murakami (Kerry's daughter), Kenji Murakami (Kerry's son), Yoshiko Murakami (our mom, Charles' sister-in-law) and the little guy is Nicolas Dajani (Linda's son). Photo: Courtesy of the Murakami Family.
By Jeff Morita, Hawaii
October 12, 2020 (Columbus Day) — The Carriage House Gracious Retirement Living in Oxford, Florida — On a picture perfect day, Mr. Charles Masuo Murakami (98) was conferred the rank of French Chevalier (Knight) for his personal sacrifice and gallant “Go for Broke” military service to help liberate France from oppression in World War II. With COVID-19 Pandemic health and safety concerns on the minds of all, Mr. Laurent Gallissot, Consul General of France in Miami and staff made a special trip to personally and officially confer the French Chevalier (Knight) Medal. Chevalier Murakami, a heavy weapons (caliber .30 machine-gun) section leader was assigned to 2nd Platoon, H “How” Company, 3rd Battalion, 442nd Regimental Combat Team. Murakami was wounded in the neck by artillery shrapnel during the combat assault and liberation of Bruyères. Also present for the historic event, Dr. John “Jack” Wyland, Mr. Murakami’s VA primary care physician who took it upon himself to contact Ms. Claire Mitani, Executive Secretary, 442nd Legacy Center and Veterans Club (Hawaii) to nominate Mr. Murakami for France’s highest decoration. Morita then compiled a strong and compelling nomination that successfully competed with other nominations submitted to the French Government. Mr. Murakami is Morita’s 30th successful induction into the prestigious “Chevalier dans l’Ordre national de la Légion d’honneur” (Knight in the National Order of the French Legion of Honor). Much appreciation for the many other individuals and staff at the Mr. Murakami’s retirement living facility who helped coordinate this historic event.
Consul General of France in Miami, Mr. Laurent Gallissot and a very nice showing of Chevalier Charles Masuo Murakami’s co-residents, staff and guests at The Carriage House Gracious Retirement Living in Oxford, Florida. Photo: Courtesy of the Consulate General of France in Miami.
For Veterans Day 2020, the Veterans Memorial Court Alliance honored all Veterans, Kirk T. Fuchigami Jr., and Judge Vincent Okamoto with floral presentations at the Japanese American National War Memorial Court in Little Tokyo, CA. The videos were filmed and edited by Robert Horsting. Watch below or visit the website, https://www.memorialcourtalliance.org/veterans-day-2020
Veterans Memorial Court Alliance's 2020 Veterans Day Tribute, Japanese American National War Memorial Court, Little Tokyo, Los Angeles, CA.
Click here to watch.
Veterans Memorial Court Alliance's tribute to CW2 Kirk T. Fuchigami, Jr., U.S. Army. Japanese American National War Memorial Court, Little Tokyo, Los Angeles, CA.
Veterans Memorial Court Alliance's tribute to Judge Vincent Okamoto. Japanese American National War Memorial Court, Little Tokyo, Los Angeles, CA.
RDML Andrew M. Sugimoto, USCG, to Speak
JAVA's Veterans Day Livestream Program
Wednesday, November 11, 2020
2:00 pm EST / 11:00 am PST / 9:00 am HST
RDML Sugimoto, USCG, Assistant Commandant for Intelligence
In keeping with its long tradition, JAVA will hold a Veterans Day Program on Wednesday, November 11th at the National Japanese American Memorial to Patriotism in WWII in Washington, DC. The National Japanese American Memorial Foundation will co-sponsor the program again this year. RDML Andrew Sugimoto will be the distinguished speaker for the Veterans Day Program. He serves as the U.S. Coast Guard’s Assistant Commandant for Intelligence and leads the efforts of more than 1,100 intelligence professionals who conduct the service’s intelligence programs, including collection activities, analysis and production, geospatial intelligence, counterintelligence, cryptology, and critical IT and security functions. Rhianna Taniguchi, an Army National Guard veteran, is a member of the National Japanese American Memorial Foundation board and will also speak. Ms. Taniguchi works as a digital marketing and public relations strategist at iQ 360.
The Ceremony will start at 2:00 pm EST / 11:00 am PST / 9:00 am HST rain or shine. Due to COVID-19 concerns, the program will be livestreamed via Facebook. Viewers can go to the JAVA website at JAVA-US.org and watch from JAVA’s Facebook page feed or click on the Veterans Day Program webpage,https://java-us.org/Veterans-Day. In light of COVID-19 challenges, members, friends, and interested persons are encouraged to watch the program online via Facebook rather than attending in person.
JAVA’s Veterans Day Program has been selected by the Veterans Day National Committee, which is a part of the Department of Veterans Affairs, as one of the “Veterans Day observances throughout the country that represents a fitting tribute to America’s heroes.” You can find the listing of all 2020 Veterans Day Regional Sites on the Department of Veterans Affairs athttps://www.va.gov/opa/vetsday/docs/2020-Veterans-Day-Regional-Sites.pdf. The VA has also created a Veterans Day Teachers Guide, click here to read.
Veterans Affairs letter notifying JAVA of NJAM designation as Regional Site.
National Japanese American Memorial to Patriotism in WWII Regional Site Designation.
Michael Omatsu is a retired Coast Guard Commander (CDR) with 22 years of active duty service.
CDR Omatsu was born and raised in Honolulu, Hawai’i. He earned his Bachelor’s degree from the University of Hawai’i, where he claims he majored in Surfing and minored in Zoology.
CDR Omatsu spent one semester as a graduate student at Arizona State University, then joined the Coast Guard from Phoenix, Arizona. Upon successfully completing Coast Guard Officer Candidate School, he was commissioned an Ensign and embarked on a career that took him to places he never dreamed about while growing up in Hawai’i.
While in the Coast Guard, CDR Omatsu’s assignments included service on two ships and a wide variety of shore units. He earned his master’s degree while assigned to the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California. While in the Coast Guard, he has been in 47 of our nation’s 50 states – yet to be visited are Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont – and has lived on all four of the Nation’s coasts (East Coast, West Coast, Gulf Coast, and Great Lakes) as well as enjoying two tours in his home state of Hawai’i.
Today, CDR Omatsu is fully retired, which allows him to decide for himself what he wants to do each day. His interests include archery, martial arts (Kendo), and playing ukulele (pronounced ooh ku lé lé, not you kuh lé lé). He has completed five Honolulu Marathons, but is uncertain if there’s one more left in him (the incentive is he has six grandchildren; he’d like to give a finishers’ shirt to each one).
[EdNote: We have the highest regard and are deeply indebted to our former Treasurer Ruby Ellis. Ms. Ellis brought her astute accounting skills and professionalism to JAVA and in very little time updated our practices and ensured we were in good stead. We wish her the best.]
MAJ Kay Izumihara is a native of Cerritos, California and currently resides in Honolulu, Hawaii with her husband and two cats. She received her Bachelor of Arts from UC Irvine, California. She then received her Master of Science from Columbia University, New York with a clinical license in occupational therapy.
MAJ Izumihara has been in the Army Reserves for 16 years. She began her career as an enlisted soldier, then transitioned to the officer corps about ten years ago. Her overseas tours include Guantanamo Bay, Iraq, and more recently, Africa and Italy. She is currently assigned to USINDOPACOM and performs her reserve duty at Camp Smith, Hawaii.
MAJ Izumihara recently started working as a civilian at US Army Pacific headquarters as an executive assistant at Fort Shafter, Hawaii.
Her husband is an active duty U.S. Coast Guard officer currently in command of a unit on Sand Island, Hawaii. In their free time, they enjoy hiking, reading, cooking, and preparing for the Honolulu marathon (hoping it does not get canceled).
[EdNote: Our thanks and appreciation go to Lt Col Linda Bethke-Cyr, USAF (Ret) who served on the Executive Council and most recently as Secretary. A move to Florida and an intense new job, left Linda with new responsibilities and no extra time. We wish much luck in her new home and position.]
[EdNote: Update on Honolulu Marathon...https://www.honolulumarathon.org/]