Ranger Grant Hirabayashi. Photo: Courtesy of Hirabayashi family.
Reading the October eAdvocate article reporting the passing of the Bill by U.S. House of Representatives awarding of the Congressional Gold Medal to the members of the famed Merrill's Marauders, reminded me of an encounter that Grant Hirabayashi and Roy Matsumoto, two of the unit's Military Intelligence Service translators, shared during their respective Hanashi Oral History Program interviews with the Go For Broke National Education Center.
Following Grant and Roy's stint in the jungles of Burma, Grant and Roy briefly worked with the British Royal Airforce. I said "briefly" because they were quickly transferred out of the unit to avoid a court-martial resulting from their not saluting an officer, a practice they had been conditioned to avoid so as not to identify officers to snipers. While stationed in Chungking, China, Grant went to interrogate a Japanese officer at SINTIC (Sino Translation and Interrogation Center). Per their earlier interrogation with this Japanese Lt., Roy and Lt. Akigi Yoshimura determined that he had been a POW for about eight years and held since the Sino-Japanese War. Roy recalled feeling that this was a waste of their time, thinking he couldn't provide any useful intelligence. While speaking with Grant, the Japanese Lt. pushed a matchbox toward him and told him about a Japanese program to develop a bomb that small that could destroy a city. Grant was both amazed and skeptical as he heard these words, then asked what the bomb was called. The officer said, "Genshi bakudan" (atomic bomb).
This POW had studied at Tokyo University and worked with Professor Yoshio Nishina, who led the project at the University. Grant's original skepticism softened as he heard more details about the research. Challenged by his limited knowledge of scientific terms, he could only refer to an inadequate Japanese-English dictionary. After leaving the POW camp, Grant went to write up his report but met two newly assigned officers who had just completed OCS. Having shared the story of this matchbox size bomb with the power to destroy a city, Grant recalled the officers looking at each other and rolling their eyes as if to say, "he's pulling your leg." They then told him that their training included info on all the latest weapons and that there was no such weapon. Grant thanked them and left to write his report and complete his assignment.
Grant felt his report was incomplete. Though he had been able to describe the general details of the atomic bomb program and its possible viability he realized, that without the clarification of accurate translations for all of the scientific terms, the full gravity of the information couldn't be conveyed. Hoping to secure permission to seek additional help or the resources to complete the report to his satisfaction, Grant made an appointment with Col. John Burden to present his findings in person. The Colonel seemed distracted, only looking at Grant when he mentioned the size of the bomb. Having completed his report, he paused for a moment, waiting to hear a response and hoping to get the assistance of an officer to follow up on this information, but that didn't happen, so he saluted and withdrew.
When Grant got word of the bombing of Hiroshima, he went to see the POW. Upon hearing the news, the Lt. covered his face and said, "The war must be over." Grant expressed his hope that it wouldn't be too much longer. Returning to his post, Grant saw one of the Lieutenants and the Colonel, who both gave him a look of acknowledgment without exchanging a word.
GFBNEC produced a documentary, "A Tradition of Honor," directed by Craig Yahata, which presents an overview of AJAs in military service during WWI, and includes segments with Hirabayashi and Matsumoto. https://www.goforbroke.com/shop/5
Here are links to the GFBNEC Hanashi Oral History Program interviews of this account:
Roy Matsumoto, Tape 3, Timecode: 5:33-7:28
Grant Hirabayashi, Tape 5, Timecode: 7:28-19:09
Vincent Okamoto. Photo by Shane Sato.
Torrance, CA. Superior Court Judge Vincent Okamoto, 76, a Vietnam War hero, community leader and JAVA member died on September 27, 2020 following a heart attack. He is survived by his wife Mitzi and son Darby.
Prior to his appointment as a judge for the Los Angeles County, California Superior Court in 2002, Okamoto completed a three-year military duty, including one year in Vietnam; obtained a law degree; served as a banker; a business executive; elected and civil service official of the California state government; and an attorney-at-law. At the same time he provided pro bono assistance to veterans and others to apply for benefits and to complete legal papers, wrote two books, responded to speaking invitations from veterans and civic organizations from Washington DC to Hawaii, and led the Japanese American Vietnam Veterans effort to memorialize the Nikkei who were killed in the Vietnam War.
A large part of Vince’s year in Vietnam was spent in Company B, 2nd Battalion, 27th Regiment. He was wounded three times. In addition to the three Purple Heart medals, one for each time he was wounded, Vince received the coveted Combat Infantryman’s Badge, Distinguished Service Cross, second only to the Medal of Honor, Silver Star, the 3rd highest medal for valor, three Bronze Stars for Valor, and the Vietnam Cross for Gallantry. Okamoto was honorably discharged with the rank of Captain.
On Veterans Day 1995 JAVVMC dedicated a memorial to honor the 116 Nikkei, who were killed in the Vietnam War. This black granite memorial is located in the courtyard of the Japanese American Cultural and Community Center (JACCC) in Little Tokyo, Los Angeles. A website search noted that “The Japanese American Korean War Veterans (JAKWV) erected a memorial to their around 256 fallen comrades in 1997 and in 2000, the Americans of Japanese Ancestry WWII Memorial Alliance honored the over 800 Nisei soldiers who were killed in WWII. Together with the wall to honor those seven Japanese nationals who served in the U.S. Navy and assigned to the USS Maine which sank in Havana Harbor in 1898 and more recent conflicts in Grenada, Iraq, and Afghanistan the memorials collectively became known as the Japanese American National War Memorial Court,” with a total listing of 1,200 names. The Court “is the only place in the world displaying all the names of U.S. military service members of Japanese ancestry who died in service to our country.” The Court is administered by the Veterans Memorial Court Alliance.
Japanese American National War Memorial Court. Photo by Shane Sato.
The e-Advocate invited some friends of Okamoto to share their views about him. They are:
Gerald Yamada, JAVA President, remembers Vincent Okamoto as coming from a family with a proud military tradition. Okamoto “served as an Army Ranger during the Vietnam War. His two oldest brothers served in the 442nd Regimental Combat Team. All six of his brothers served the United States in various branches of the military.” Yamada also credits “Judge Okamoto as having the vision, planning, and fundraising to build the Japanese American Vietnam Veterans Memorial, which was dedicated in 1995 in Los Angeles.
The Honorable Norman Y. Mineta, Chairman of the Board of Trustees for the Japanese American National Museum (JANM), in a JANM press release, recognized Vince’s substantive contributions to JANM’s program. Mineta is also an Honorary Chair of JAVA since its inception in 1992.
Former Japanese Ambassador to the United States Ichiro Fujisaki (2008 – 2012) was informed of Vince’s passing and was asked if he wished to contribute to this tribute. Responding in the affirmative, the Ambassador wrote “Yoriko and I wish to offer our deepest condolences to Mrs. Mitzi Okamoto, Mr. Darby Okamoto, other members of the Judge Vince Okamoto family and the Japanese American community as a whole. In 2009, Judge Okamoto received and briefed us at the Japanese American War Memorial Court, where we paid our respects to the Nikkei soldiers who were killed in service. We have been very much impressed by Judge Okamoto's leadership and personality. I also respect the Judge for making superior contributions to benefit the community including the establishment of the above mentioned Memorial Court. May Judge’s soul rest peacefully in heaven.” Ichiro Fujisaki, former Japanese Ambassador to the United States, 藤崎一郎.
Ken Hayashi, President of the Veterans Memorial Court Alliance and Japanese American Vietnam Veterans Committee, and a close personal friend of Vince, said “Vince was the inspiration and driving force in the building of the Japanese American Vietnam Veterans Memorial which was the beginning of the Japanese American National War Memorial Court as we know it today. He cared so deeply about those who died, their families, and for all who served. The Japanese American community and our country have lost an inspirational leader. Veterans have lost an exemplary soldier, leader and dear friend.”
Mark Matsunaga, AJA historian in Hawaii, said "Okamoto delivered the keynote address at the 442nd Veterans Club's 66th Anniversary banquet in Honolulu in 2009. He told a packed Waikiki ballroom, "After ten months of prolonged combat, having been wounded several times, I was physically exhausted, afraid and sick at heart. I desperately wanted to live and to go home. At times, I wanted to pull my helmet down over my face and block out the violence and horror around me. I wanted to just give up and quit. But when I began to feel sorry for myself I remembered that in a previous war, other young Japanese American soldiers had it just as tough or tougher than me, and they never gave up. They never quit. Their example of courage and commitment gave me the strength to do what needed to be done because I felt I could not betray that standard. So to the men of the 442nd RCT, I say thank you!" Okamoto also exhorted the next generation to "remember and honor those who fought, bled, and died for you. Remember that the blessings and unlimited opportunities we Japanese Americans enjoy today are ours in large measure because we stand on the shoulders of giants; men small in stature, but titans in courage, the soldiers of the 442nd RCT." A high school JROTC cadet in the audience that night got the message. "It inspires me to want to follow in their footsteps," he told a local newspaper reporter. That student went on excel at the U.S. Air Force Academy and as an Air Force officer.
Rosalyn Tonai, Executive Director of the National Japanese American Historical Society (NJAHS), speaking from its Building 614 Learning Center at the Presidio of San Francisco, said “Judge Okamoto will not only be remembered for his tenure as a Superior Court Judge, but his steadfast efforts in securing a place of honor and respect for the Sansei men who sacrificed their lives in Vietnam War. Building 614, a former airplane hanger, was the location of the first MIS Japanese language school during WW II.
Tim Holbert, Senior Vice President and Executive Director of American Veterans Center, whose mission is to preserve and promote the legacy of all military personnel, veterans and active, located in Arlington, VA, said “Okamoto was an American original. Born in an internment camp for Japanese Americans during World War II, he would become the most highly decorated Japanese American to survive the Vietnam War. His story says so much about America, its ongoing determination to make itself better. And it says so much about Vince, his unconquerable spirit and incredible character. He was a hero in every sense of the word.”
John Tobe, Chairman of the Board of the National Japanese American Memorial to Patriotism, said “I have conveyed the news to members of the Board, who expressed deep regret over our great loss. I only met Vince once but he was very impressive and you could tell he was a strong supporter and advocate for the community. He will be missed.”
Tom Ikeda, Executive Director, Densho, Seattle, WA, said “we are saddened by the news of Judge Okamoto’s passing. He distinguished himself in many ways. His actions and leadership in the Vietnam War were heroic. He helped build the Japanese American Vietnam War Veterans Memorial, was a founder of the Japanese American Bar Association, and mentored young attorneys. Our deepest sympathies to his family and friends.”
Robert M. Wada, Past Commander, Kazuo Masuda Memorial VFW Post 3670 and Charter Past President Japanese American Korean War Veterans said “on behalf of Japanese American Korean veterans and members of the Kazuo Masuda Memorial VFW Post 3670, we extend our very deepest heartfelt condolences to Mitzi Okamoto and her son Darby upon the loss of their beloved husband and father Vincent Okamoto. Vince, as we all knew him, was a truly one of a kind heroic soldier, but not only was he one of the bravest men to serve our nation, he was truly a compassionate and considerate hero. We who were fortunate enough to come in contact with him all agree he was by far the most respected and revered individual in the Japanese American community. He was a very articulate and inspirational speaker treasured by all veterans and the entire Japanese American community as an inspirational leader. Needless to say, the Japanese American community has suffered a tremendous loss. Performing his duty as a soldier, Vince went far beyond the call of duty and as a community leader, he went even further. He will always be our hero. I am proud to be one of the many who can call Vince a friend. May he Rest in Peace and God Bless Mitzi and her entire family.”
Lynn Chiyeko Mikami, classmate of Vince Okamoto said "it was apparent from the first time that I met Vince at Peary Junior High School at Gardena, CA that he was special but the most extraordinary thing about him is that the more honored, celebrated and famous he became, the more he remained the same....a friend to me, my family and friends". Lynn was born in Heart Mountain Internment Camp, is an occupational therapist and is an accomplished multi media artist. She created a collaged personal homage to Vince (see photo below).
Shane Sato and Robert Horsting, who produced The Go For Broke Spirit: Portraits of Legacy, said “we share a high regard for Judge Vincent Okamoto's service in the military and our judicial system. It was our honor to have met and worked with him. Dedicated to honoring the memory of those who died in service, Judge Okamoto inspired others to do the same. The Vietnam War veterans installed the first panel of the present-day Japanese American National War Memorial Court (see photo). The panels now include WWII, Korea, and those lost in conflicts, from the Spanish-American War to the Gulf Wars. RIP, your service is complete.”
"Homage to Vince," Original Artwork by Lynn Chiyeko Mikami.
Wired magazine offers an in-depth look at GEN Nakasone's career and the building up of U.S. Cyber Command. Click the link to read: https://www.wired.com/story/general-paul-nakasone-cyber-command-nsa.
CPT Wade Ishimoto, USA (Ret)
JAVA is pleased to see that the National Museum of the U.S. Army will have its grand opening on Veterans Day 2020, as described in a recent official announcement. JAVA President Gerald Yamada and member Wade Ishimoto opened discussions with the Museum staff and the Army Historical Foundation in 2012 to provide assistance to the museum. There was hope that the museum would open in 2015 at that time. After many delays, with the latest being caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, the long-awaited opening will finally occur.
JAVA will be recognized as a Silver Oak Leaf Cluster organization in the Veterans’ Hall Wall of the museum. JAVA has also contributed through recognizing the 100th Infantry Battalion and 442nd Regimental Combat Team with a Unit Tribute leading to the entrance of the museum that is shown below. In addition, JAVA has recognized the 100th Battalion, 442nd Regimental Combat Team, and Military Intelligence Service with a commemorative paving brick. Our members have also made individual contributions and are among the 1814 Society and the list of Founding Members. JAVA is also working with the museum to have a special event on July 15, 2021.
JAVA Commemorative Paving Brick, National Museum of U.S. Army.
SSG Hiroshi "Hershey" Miyamura
Arlington, VA. Tim Holbert, Executive Director of the American Veterans Center (AVC), an Arlington, VA organization which supports the interests of U.S. military, active duty and veterans, reported recently that Hershey Miyamura, Korean War medal of honor recipient and veteran of the 442nd RCT and Honorary Chair of JAVA, will be featured in the AVC Veterans Day television special, American Valor: We Stand Together.
AVC also arranges seminars for precollege and college level students to discuss military and defense issues. JAVA veterans have been invited to speak at these educational programs.
The Hershey Miyamura story will be televised on ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox stations nationwide during the Veterans Day weekend starting on November 7, 2020. Visit www.avchonors.com for a complete listing of stations and show times
Holbert said AVC’s goal is to get the video posted to its YouTube page around November 1. Meanwhile, a preview of the Hershey story can be accessed at
The AVC YouTube channel has been growing quite a bit, and AVC is now working with DoD on their 75th anniversary of WWII Commemoration to film oral histories with veterans. AVC channel can be seen at: https://www.youtube.com/avcvideos.
The National WWII Museum in New Orleans
Wednesday, November 11, 2020
7 am HST / 9 am PST / 11 am CST /12 noon EST
Hiroshi H. Miyamura
MOH Recipient and JAVA Honorary Chair Hiroshi H. Miyamura, U.S. Army to give the keynote speech at Virtual Veterans Day Commemoration Ceremony on Wednesday, November 11 at The National WWII Museum in New Orleans starting at 7:00 am HST, 9:00 am PST, 11:00 am CST, 12:00, noon EST). Service Salute from the Victory Belles will follow.
For more information on the day's events, as well as the ceremony's full itinerary, please visit nationalww2museum.org/veterans-da.
Miyamura Bio from the National WWII Museum Website:
"Miyamura grew up in New Mexico where his father was a coal miner. Miyamura attended school and worked with his cousin as an auto mechanic until he enlisted in the Army in 1945 volunteering for the 442nd Regimental Combat Team. He was too young to ship overseas and discharged when the war was over but reenlisted in the Army Reserves when he returned home to New Mexico. Sgt. Miyamura was recalled for the Korean War and was serving as a squad leader of a machine gun crew in April 1951 when the Chinese overran their position. Miyamura unhesitatingly jumped from his shelter into close and effective hand-to-hand combat with the enemy. After returning to his position, he administered first aid to the wounded and directed their evacuation. He then, despite being wounded, continued to deliver fire on the enemy while ordering the squad to withdraw until he was captured. Miyamura was held for 23 months. His Medal of Honor was the first-ever classified Top Secret until his release from the North Korean P.O.W. camp. He was presented the Medal by President Dwight Eisenhower."
Key Kobayashi, MIS veteran. Photo: Courtesy of Turner Kobayashi.
Washington, DC. On Sunday, November 15, 2020 at 2:00 PM (EST) at Arlington National Cemetery’s (ANC) Columbarium Courtyard, the JACL DC Chapter, the Japanese American Veterans Association, and the National Japanese American Memorial Foundation will join forces to observe Memorial Day. Due to the pandemic, this event was postponed from its traditional date in May. CAPT Cynthia Macri, MC, USN (Ret) will be the keynote speaker.
Key Kobayashi, MIS veteran and JAVA’s inaugural vice president, began the Memorial Day gravesite decoration program in 1948. When Key passed away in 1992 his family has continued the tradition, with son Turner serving as coordinator. According to officials at ANC, this is the longest, continuous, annual event held at the cemetery.
As in previous years, the Kobayashi family will be headed by Mrs. Kyoko Kobayashi, Key’s widow. This year, several members of the family are attending from Texas and Virginia.
Due to COVID restrictions, in-person attendance will be limited and attendees must submit names by Wednesday, November 13. If you are interested in attending, please contact Turner Kobayashi at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The program will be livestreamed and you are invited to participate virtually. Again, the ceremony will take place on Sunday, November 15, at 2:00 pm EST, 11:00 am PST, and 9:00 am HST. To view the ceremony, please join us on join on JAVA's Facebook feed on the JAVA website www.java-dc.org or visit https://www.facebook.com/Japanese-American-Veterans-Association-201704733192222.
Arlington National Cemetery. Photo: National Archives.
Screenshot from Nisei Veterans Memorial Service film.
The 30-minute Nisei Veterans Memorial Service filmed in Honolulu at the Brothers In Valor Monument is now posted on the Nisei Veterans Legacy (NVL) website. The video which was produced by the NVL was initially broadcast on Olelo on September 27, 2020. Click on the link to watch: www.nvlchawaii.org/news-events.
BG Frank Merrill, Commander, with two Nisei in Burma. Photo: U.S. Signal Corps.
[EdNote: A major portion of this article was printed in the e-Advocate October 2020 issue. We are reprinting it here for two reasons: one, the last paragraph contains more information about the three MISers who are entitled to receive their third CGM, and two, the White House has announced the President has signed the Bill into law.]
JAVA Research Team (JRT)
Washington, DC. The Bill to award the Congressional Gold Medal to the 5307th Composite Unit (Provisional), commonly known as Merrill’s Marauders (MM), was passed by the US House of Representatives on September 22, 2020. It had passed the US Senate on December 9, 2019 and was signed into law by President Donald Trump on October 17, 2020. The nickname Merrill’s Marauders was given by an American journalist after its Commander, BG Frank D. Merrill, USA. Eight living MMs and family members of the deceased are expected to participate in the award ceremony when it is held.
British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and President Franklin D. Roosevelt agreed at the 1943 Quebec Conference to launch a secret, “long-range penetration force” of American volunteers, code-named Galahad, to fight behind enemy lines in Myanmar (Burma). The goal of the mission was to capture the town of Myitkina, which was Japan’s principal supply base in Burma, had an all-weather airport from which Japan interdicted American flights over the hump, and provided access to “Burma Road” needed to transport war material to China. Operating behind enemy lines to reach their objective, MM’s secondary mission was to disrupt enemy activities.
General George C. Marshall, Army chief of staff, who said this was a mission against “large numbers of the enemy with few resources that were unmatched in any theater” issued a call for volunteers. Recruiters told each volunteer “85% of you will not be standing when the campaign is over, do you still want to volunteer.” "Yes!" was the unanimous response. MM total strength was 2,997 officers and enlisted men. This would be the first time since the Boxer Rebellion of 1899 that American combat troops would serve on the Asian continent.
Two hundred Nisei linguists volunteered from which 14 enlisted men were selected, evenly split between Hawaii and mainland Nisei. They were:
SSgt Edward Mitsukado, Team Leader, Hawaii
Thomas K. Tsubota, Hawaii
Herbert Y. Miyasaki, Hawaii
Robert Y. Honda, Hawaii
Roy K. Nakada, Hawaii
Russell K. Kono, Hawaii
Howard Furumoto, Hawaii
Roy Matsumoto, Washington
Ben S. Sugeta, California
Grant Hirabayashi, Washington
Jimmy Yamaguchi, California
Henry Gosho, Washington
Calvin Kobata, California
Akiji Yoshimura, California
1st Lt William Laffin, who was born of a Japanese mother, raised in Japan and who graduated from the MIS Language School, was the leader of the Nisei contingent. The Nisei served in three battalions, First, Second and Third. In February 1944 the MM began its 1,000 miles, five-month trek, with no artillery support and with all supplies and equipment carried on their backs and pack mules. They encountered mountains, valleys, rivers, and jungle infested with malaria-carrying mosquitoes, leeches, snakes, and with diseases such as denge, typhus, and dysentery. Also, due to inadequate resupply by airdrops, the MM suffered from hunger and thirst.
The MM fought the Japanese 18th Army Division in 5 major and 30 minor engagements. In some of their engagements, the MM received flank support from CIA-trained Kachin rangers who knew their native terrain well.
Thirteen hundred MM arrived in the Myitkina area after their 100 mile hike from Nphum Ga and waited for the monsoon rain to end. On May 17, 1944, supported by two Chinese regiments, MM attacked Myitkina airfield that resulted in its and the town’s capitulation on August 10, 1944. With only 200 Marauders left standing, as correctly predicted by Army recruiters, the MM disbanded. The newly arrived American MARS Task Force served in the clean-up operation of the Myitkina-Lashio area which paved the way for the opening of the Burma Road.
In addition to their intelligence duties, Nisei did everything the infantryman was expected to do. While all Nisei survived the mission, none is living today. The team leader, CAPT Laffin was killed in combat. Each MISer received the Combat Infantryman’s Badge and a Bronze Star. In addition, one received the Legion of Merit, fourteen received a second Bronze Star, and seven received 2nd lieutenant commissions. BG Merrill said of the Nisei “I could not have gotten along without them”.
Japanese soldiers spoke freely and loudly in the jungle. Nisei translated and passed to their commanders tactical intelligence information. Vegetation grew so thickly at some locations that Nisei could get up close to the enemy without being noticed. At Nhpum Ga, Roy Matsumoto crawled to the enemy bivouac area, eavesdropped on their conversation and reported to his commander Japanese plans to mount a large attack the next morning. The commander spent the night preparing countermeasures. When the Japanese attacked, the first two waves were annihilated and the third wave withdrew. Without the Nisei intelligence report the result might have been different. Matsumoto also climbed a tree, tapped the enemy’s telephone line and produced intelligence that caused U.S. bombers to destroy the enemy’s ammo dump.
When the MM disbanded, Matsumoto was assigned to OSS for its clandestine operations in Indo China. Another Nisei was assigned to the CIA detachment in Burma to work with the Kachin Rangers, a few remained in Burma to serve with the British Army; a few were sent to stateside hospitals, and others were assigned to Southeast Asia Translation and Interrogation Center (SEATIC) in New Delhi, India, and SINO Translation and Interrogation Center (SINTIC) in China.
When the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) was awarded the CGM in 2018 three Nisei MM were entitled to receive the award: Edward Mitsukado, Robert Honda, and Roy Matsumoto. When the 100th Battalion, 442 RCT, and MIS received the CGM in 2020 these three, received their second CGM. When the MM receive the CGM, families of these three Nisei will be entitled to receive their third CGM, a remarkable feat. Mitsukado and Honda both former 100th Battalion members, were transferred to the MIS due to their Japanese language fluency. Matsumoto graduated from middle school in Japan. When the MM disbanded on August 10, 1944, Mitsukado and Honda volunteered to serve in OSS Detachment 101 in Burma. Honda worked with the Kachin Rangers in north Burma. Matsumoto eventually received a transfer to OSS Detachment 202 and engaged in special operations in Indochina such as dynamiting bridges. JAVA congratulates the three families for this unique achievement.
Mr. Melvin Tsutomu Yamaki. Photo: Courtesy of the Yamaki Family.
Legacy of AJA Military Veteran Who Proudly Served in the U.S. Military
Jeff Morita (Hawaii)
Melvin Tsutomu Yamaki was born on July 19, 1932 in Pearl City, then the Territory of Hawaii. The seventh child of nine born to Denzaburo and Fukumi (Miura) Yamaki. First generation Japanese, or “Issei”, Denzaburo and Fukumi immigrated to ToH from Fukushima Prefecture, Japan. Yamaki graduated from Waipahu High School, Class of 1950, and spent one year at Maunawili College, Maui. On October 15, 1951 Melvin T. Yamaki entered the U.S. Coast Guard Reserve (USCGR) as a Steward Recruit, monthly pay $75.00. He was one of the first American of Japanese Ancestry to serve in the U.S. Coast Guard and a Korean War Veteran. Melvin T. Yamaki’s USCGR service — July 1952 to April 1953 — assigned to USCG Cutter CACTUS (WAGL-270), home port Boston, Massachusetts — April 1953 to January 1954 — USCG Cutter PERSEUS (WPC-114), Fleet Station, San Diego, California — January to October 1, 1954 assigned to USCG Cutter LOWE (WDE-425), home port Long Beach, California.
NOTE: Timeframe encompassing June 3 to 24, 1953; Melvin T. Yamaki and the USCG Cutter LOWE were assigned to Ocean Station VICTOR located midway between Japan and the Aleutian Islands. “Victor” was one of six manned U.S. Coast Guard Ocean Station’s — Nan (N) — Oboe (O) — Queen (Q) — Sugar (S) — Uncle (U) — and Victor (V). The Ocean Stations provided meteorological data and greater search and rescue coverage supporting the increased Korean War trans-Pacific merchant and military traffic. 95% of war material bound for the Republic of Korea was transported by merchant vessels, and half of the personnel traveled by air. Melvin T. Yamaki and many of his USCG brothers-in-arms helped to keep untold numbers of Americans safe from the ever changing conditions of the Pacific Ocean and his personal contribution to victory in the Korean War.
Melvin T. Yamaki attained the USCG final rank of “FN” or Fireman - Engine Department, and honorably separated on October 14, 1954, Honolulu, Hawaii. For his honorable service, FN Yamaki was awarded the Korean Service Medal; United Nations Service Medal; National Defense Medal; Coast Guard Honorable Discharge Button. Post USCGR service Mr. Melvin T. Yamaki graduated from the University of Hawaii in 1963. He was the former co-owner/President of "Leeward Drive In” in Waipahu, Hawaii until July 2007. On December 13, 2019, Mr. Yamaki unexpectedly passed away at the age of 87. Mr. Melvin T. Yamaki’s inurnment took place on January 24, 2020 and rests eternally and honorably at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific (Punchbowl), Honolulu, Hawaii. Mr. Melvin T. Yamaki is survived by son Melvin Jr.; daughters Joy and Kim (Mark) Miyaguchi; two grandsons; brother Roy (Francis); and sisters Gertrude (Joe) Nishida and Marion (Ernest) Yuasa.
Note: Coast Guard Compass (The official blog of the U.S. Coast Guard): “The Long Blue Line: Ocean Station — Coast Guard’s support for the Korean War 70 years ago!”