[EdNote. Wade Ishimoto arranged for the printing of this article by Call of Duty, a publication of the US Army Museum, Fort Belvoir, VA.]
Kenneth Higashi in uniform, Fassbender Studios, Deadwood, SD, (ca.1948-52).
Kenneth Higashi receives prestigious medal for his service.
Reprinted ABC KOTA TV
RAPID CITY, S.D. (KOTA,TV)- The community gathered at Black Hills State University to honor 97-year-old life long Spearfish resident and World War ll Veteran Kenneth Higashi.
Honor, sacrifice, and hero were just a few of the words used to describe World War ll Veteran, Kenneth Higashi.
"Take this opportunity to properly recognize someone for all that he has done for our nation and the nation of France," says master of ceremonies, Gregory Dias.
Higashi was a member of the 100th Infantry Battalion, 442nd Regimental Combat Team who served in Europe during World War ll.
"Most highly decorated unit of all time in United States history. And he was being honored with a bunch of United States awards and Frances highest honor," says Dias.
Higashi received a dozen awards including such prestigious honors as the French Legion of honor and the Bronze Star Medal.
"It was really overwhelming and quite emotional," says a friend of Higashi, Lauren Harris.
Many describe him as an understated, quiet, and reserved individual, so to have a crowd of people honoring him was quite an experience.
"Sacrifices that he made, and his generation made for them for the ones that were to come without really making a big deal out of it," says Harris.
"There are honor and selflessness, and he was willing to put everything on the line," says Dias.
But the awards weren't the most crucial part for Higashi; it was making sure the younger generation learns from history.
"Some things happened to Kenneth and people like him that probably shouldn't have happened and those are lessons that we need to learn and not repeat," says Dias.
Video of award: https://www.kotatv.com/content/news/World-War-ll-veteran-honored-for-his-service--558048061.html
R- Kenneth Higashi holds his replica Congressional Gold Medal, a gift from Jeff Morita of Hawaii; L -Lauren R. Harris, author of a book for children based on Higashi's life, coming 2021 (2018). Courtesy of Lauren R. Harris.
Nevada City Filmmaker Produces Series on Incarceration of Japanese During World War II
Reprinted courtesy of The Union, Nevada County, CA
“We the People..,” a seven-part documentary series about the incarceration of the Japanese during World War II is now available online, free at https://wethepeopleseries.com.
Nevada City award-winning filmmaker Catherine Busch has recently completed “We the People …,” an educational documentary series about the incarceration of the Japanese during World War II and its relevance today.
Seven years in the making, the filmmaker says this project is by far her best and most powerful work.
Clearly a labor of love, Busch says the seven part series was designed as “thought- provoking educational material for classroom and small group discussion — for the purpose of inspiring people to become informed and politically involved in decision-making that effects our communities, and our country; for the opportunity for discussion between Americans with differing views.”
Sponsored by the California Museum, the series and accompanying photos are a part of the Sacramento museum’s “Time of Remembrance” student field trip presentation and tour. A recipient of a California Civil Liberties Grant, the recently-released project has already received national recognition, including Videographer Awards’ “award of distinction” for writing, a Hermes Gold Creative Award for creativity and a dotCOMM Award for web design.
LABOR OF LOVE
Busch took on this massive project alone, including operating the camera, conducting interviews, accessing archival footage and photos, researching, editing and selecting music. But it’s all been worth it, she said, especially given the current fear-driven, divisive political landscape that hasn’t reared its head so powerfully since World War II. Determined to see the project through to its completion, she never stopped seeking grants and donations until the final cut.
Among Busch’s biggest champions throughout the arduous filmmaking process was Scott Lay, Nevada County Superintendent of Schools.
This fall, not only is Lay distributing the teachers’ guide for “We the People” to all principals in the county, he’s also spreading the word to other superintendents and colleagues in the greater foothills region. But the series’ reach goes far beyond the foothills — in the short time since its release it has already been confirmed for use in Catholic schools throughout San Jose, Sacramento and Fresno.
“When Catherine came to me with the idea, I wanted to help in any way I could,” said Lay. “As a former history teacher, learning about Japanese internment is critical. We need to learn from the past so we don’t make mistakes like this in the future. I love the way the series is broken up into 15-minute snippets with discussion guides for each segment. I was thrilled when I heard the series was ready for release. Catherine is an amazing woman.”
Part 1, “Uprooted,” documents the shocking upheaval of families who were forced to evacuate the West Coast, leaving their jobs, schools and businesses, regardless of citizenship. Due to President Roosevelt’s Executive Order 9066, these families were scattered among 10 guarded “internment” camps located in Idaho, inland California, Utah, Arizona, Wyoming, Colorado and Arkansas.
Part 2, “Incarceration Camps” tells the story of life inside the camps, including powerful first-hand accounts of abhorrent and cramped conditions, such as the Santa Anita Racetrack, where more than 8,500 Japanese Americans lived in converted horse stalls.
Part 3, “Go For Broke,” is the motto of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, an Army unit made up of Japanese Americans from the mainland U.S. and Hawaii. As Nisei (second-generation Japanese Americans) and American-born sons of Japanese immigrants, these soldiers were said to be fighting two wars — the war against the Germans in Europe and the war against racial prejudice at home.
Part 4, “The Return Home,” chronicles the anxiety, fear and uncertainty faced by Japanese-American families who feared they would be treated as enemies once they left the camps. Many faced economic devastation due to losing their businesses or farms. An estimated 85 percent of families originally from the Sacramento region did not return to their homes.
Part 5, “People Who Helped,” tells the stories of individuals, organizations and congregations that helped the incarcerated, including neighbors who operated businesses until the owners were released, Quakers who helped Japanese-American college students finish their education and a couple who relocated 1,000 people out of the camps.
Part 6, “Racism and Redress,” is based on the report of the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians, a federal commission established in 1980 to review facts surrounding Executive Order 9066 and its impact on American citizens. Its conclusions, submitted in 1983, were deemed, “Personal Justice Denied,” a unanimous report that became the basis for the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, which granted wartime survivors a public apology, individual reparations of $20,000 and a public education fund.
Part 7, the final chapter, is probably the segment dearest to Busch’s heart, as it examines a topic which she says has key relevance in today’s searing political climate. “Could This Happen Again?” encourages national dialogue on this unmistakably dark chapter in U.S. history and asks authors, lawmakers, academics and everyday citizens whether we have truly learned from a profound and blatant misinterpretation and/or disregard of the U.S. Constitution.
“This has been a true labor of love for Catherine — she was so dedicated to this project,” said Amanda Meeker, executive director of the California Museum. “Sadly, some of the subjects who were interviewed have passed away, but their experiences will live on and teach others. It’s been over 75 years since this happened, but these first-person accounts are so relevant to what’s going on today. Catherine has done a beautiful job of making those connections. We hope teachers will use this series — it’s a lesson that everyone of us can make a difference. It’s wonderful to see this series finished after all these years.”
The U.S. government’s incarceration of Japanese American families from 1942 to 1945 is a deeply disturbing wound that lingers in the psyche of many Americans of the west.
But Busch, who grew up in Pennsylvania, was 40 years old when she first learned that an estimated 120,000 Americans of Japanese ancestry — most of whom lived near the Pacific coast — were forced into relocation camps in the wake of the attack on Pearl Harbor.
“I laughed when I first heard about it — because I didn’t believe it,” said Busch. “Then I was horrified when I realized that many people back east didn’t even know about this important chapter in our history. It wasn’t taught in our schools then.”
That moment of realization was decades ago, but it was a turning point for Busch, who vowed to someday increase awareness about the shocking, racially-motivated incarceration of innocent American citizens. With ignorance of the past, she thought, comes the risk of repeating dangerous missteps in the future.
“I produced this in part because I wanted people of differing views to be able to talk about what happened to the Japanese and what’s happening now,” said Busch. “There do seem to be similar situations emerging along our southern borders. There are whiffs of this in the air.” To contact Staff Writer Cory Fisher, email her at Cory@theunion.com..
[EdNote."We the People" filmmaker Catherine Busch generously grants her permission to distribute series link to all interested. For schools and educators there is an Overview and Discussion Guide for each show and is on the website https://wethepeopleseries.com!}
75th Anniversary Tour Participants on Church Steps in Bruyères. Photo by David Nishitani
Compiled by Editor from contributions made by J. Morita, M. Nakagawa, M. Tanikawa and D. Nishitani.
Seventy-five years ago, the 100th Battalion and 442nd Regimental Combat Team engaged in battles that etched the unit as one of the U.S. Army’s most decorated of its size. In commemoration of the battles, Dr. Brian Yamamoto of Fairbanks, Alaska organized a July 2019 French Battlefield tour to pay homage to fallen Nisei Soldiers and to celebrate the friendships forged between the French people and Japanese Americans in the most difficult of times. The tour had both an extended and abbreviated option. Those on the longer tour met in Nice and explored the French Maritime Alps before joining those on the short tour and visiting Bruyères, Biffontaine, Belmont, Laval-Sur-Vologne, Bois-de-Champ, and Fremifontaine. A JAVA donation was used to purchase wreaths presented at area monuments and historic sites.
The historic tour caught the eye of six JAVA members – Howard Hodges of Laurel, MD; Jeffery Morita of Mililani, Hawaii; Mark Nakagawa of Springfield, VA; David Nishitani of Corvallis, Oregon; Metta Tanikawa of Warrenton, VA and 442nd RCT Veteran Lawson Sakai of Morgan Hill, CA. JAVA members, like the other 130 participants, went in hopes of gaining a deeper connection to the WWII experience of their grandfathers, fathers, uncles, and friends, and in the case of Lawson Sakai, to retrace his own footsteps. JAVA members also went with the desire to foster the relationship between the Bruyères and Japanese American communities, brilliantly symbolized in one the trip’s highlights – the “Knot Sculpture” by 442nd RCT Veteran, former JAVA member and artist Shikichi Tajiri.
JAVA Members on the Tour: L-R Mark Nakagawa, Metta Tanikawa, Lawson Sakai, Howard Hodges, BR Jeff Morita. Photo by David Nishitani.
Jeff Morita saw the tour as a chance to fulfill a lifelong dream, a “pilgrimage, to walk the very grounds where my late Uncle Yoshio James Morita, F. Company /442nd, fought and was severely wounded by shrapnel a few days after the rescue of the lost ‘Texas’ battalion on November 2, 1944, near Grebefosse, France.” Another highlight for Morita was meeting Lawson Sakai. Morita noted that although “we have exchanged communique in the past” it was the first face-to-face meeting. For Jeff, the occasion had added significance, “my Aunt Fusako Morita in Gardena, California recalled going over to Lawson’s house — their family's were neighbors before the mass evacuation and incarcerations into the concentration camps.” Jeff and his wife Yoko made the meaningful trip together.
Yoko Morita and Jeff Morita at Menton. Photo by Anne Morita Shima.
Jeff Morita at the Private Yohei Sagami (E.Co/442) Memorial — the 1st AJA KIA in the Vosges. Photo by Yoko Morita
For LTC Mark Nakagawa, USA (Ret) whose father served in the MIS, treading the land where Japanese Americans proved their loyalty to the United States, was an opportunity he could not pass up. “I had visited many of the important WWII sites such as Normandy while stationed in Germany but had only read about 442nd exploits. Visiting such hallowed ground with similarly interested individuals added emotional intensity and meaning to the trip.” Nakagawa was particularly struck by the Fremifontaine stop, where a memorial marks the rescue of the Lost Battalion. Nakagawa recounted how moved he was by the townspeople’s involvement. “A local band played as the Mayor served as master-of-ceremonies – the whole town to this day appreciates the Japanese American Soldiers who lost their lives in the fight for freedom.” Nakagawa also shared that villagers told him they “adopted” or tended the gravesites of 442nd buried at Epinal, the American Cemetery in Lorraine. As a veteran, however, the highlight of the trip was bonding with villagers by participating in a battle reenactment complete with WWII jeeps. Nakagawa rode along side of villagers wearing WWII uniforms emblazoned with the 442nd torch as they made their way up the rugged mountain hills. He left France grateful for the sacrifices of men who paved the way for a more inclusive American society but also a new understanding of the gratitude of the French people for the freedom the Japanese Americans brought to their country.
After placing a wreath at the Biffontaine Memorial, Mark Nakagawa salutes the fallen while Metta Tanikawa stands in solemn respect. Photo by David Nishitani.
The hospitality of the French villagers and the landscape of the countryside were not new to MSG David Nishitani, US Army Reserves (Ret). It was his third visit to France. He had also participated in two 100th Bn/442nd RCT tours to Italy - one in 2015 and one earlier this year. The draw, he explained, “was to follow his father’s footsteps. He was a Chief Warrant Officer in Service Company and I wanted to see where exactly he was during the war.” He also wanted to rekindle friendships he made on prior trips to France and Italy with “people that appreciated what the Nisei soldiers did for people of these countries.” For instance, on “a previous trip to France I got to meet a cousin of a family that my dad got to know in the Nice area during the ‘Champagne Campaign.’ I also was led to some places that my dad had photographed in 1944 and now I have a color comparison of the same area. These events happened thanks to the people that showed their appreciation for what the Nisei Soldiers did for their country.”
While the July tour allowed Nishitani “to see even more places” it was not a “check the box” type of tour. At every stop, the emotion was palpable. Nishitani related he had a heart-rending conversation with “the son of Barney Hajiro, a Medal of Honor recipient and then watched him hike the mountain where his dad helped save the Texas Lost Battalion near Biffontaine.” Equally poignant was the sight of seeing brothers Ken and James Sato visit their uncle's grave for the first time during the visit to the Epinal American Cemetery. Nishitani told of another emotional day spent a day at L'Escarene where the 442nd soldiers had hosted a Christmas party for the children of the town. He remarked that "some of those children are still around. Repaying the Nisei’s kindness, the town hosted a luncheon for us and many of ‘children’ attended the commemorative program and parade.” The town of Sospel also showered the same kindness on the tour participants. The group visited a Sospel school where there is a plaque commemorating Larry Miura and Kenji Sugawara, two members of the 442nd who lost their lives there. After placing a wreath at the school, the tour group attended a lunch hosted by the town. Similarly, the town of Menton on the French coast, hosted a reception for the tour group after they visited and placed a wreath at a monument honoring the 100th /442nd. Charged with taking official tour photos, Nishitani returned home with memories stored on his camera and in his heart.
At the Epinal American Cemetery. David Nishitani on the far left followed by Jolynn and Stuart Hirai and Christophe Chipot. With 24 of his years in the Reserves as a photographer for Public Affairs, 104th Div (IT) USAR based out of Vancouver Barracks, Washington, it is not surprising Nishitani was named the official "Tour Photographer."
David Nishitani, Glenn Hajiro and David Ono after hiking up to site of Lost Battalion.
The only 442nd Veteran on the trip, Lawson Sakai considered it a privilege to make the journey in honor of his fallen comrades. The above photo captures Lawson overcome with the natural beauty of Vosges, "75 years ago this wasn't a nice place but it is now." Photo by David Nishitani.
Glenn Hajiro, son of Barney Hajiro (MofH recipient) and Lawson Sakai by a sign that they replaced for Barney Hijiro near the Lost Battalion monument. Photo by David Nishitani.
While the terrain of the Vosges region enjoyed the mantel of summer during the July trip, Metta Tanikawa, a history buff who had read extensively about the Japanese American units in WWII and who also served as part of the registration team for the 2012 Congressional Gold Medal Ceremony, knew the reality of the 100th/442nd was quite different. “The rescue of the Lost Battalion took place in the wet and cold of the fall, with Soldiers carrying fifty-pound packs as bombs exploded around them.” While Tanikawa had read accounts of the challenging landscape, hiking up the mountain paths brought home the reality in a new way. “The thickness of the forest and the steepness of the slope” cannot be grasped in a text. “Being there brought a new understanding of the difficulty of the task. Seeing the German foxholes on the ridges made me realize the close-range fighting the 100th/442nd was up against.” Tanikawa was also impressed with the villagers’ knowledge of WWII history. “History is multi-generational there. Stories of the Liberation of Bruyères are passed down from one generation to the next and also studied in school. Neither the occupation of the town from 1940-1944 nor the hard-won freedom by the Japanese American Veterans has been forgotten.” Tanikawa added that “even in broken English, teenagers and adults conveyed their appreciation…from one descendant to the next, there was an excitement about the shared story of freedom.”
JAVA members offered heartfelt thanks to Dr. Brian Yamamoto and his team of assistants for organizing the 75th Anniversary Tour in honor of the heroics of the Soldiers of the 100th/442nd RCT. Members also voiced appreciation for the 52nd Signal Battalion/US Army Garrison from Stuttgart, Germany who served as Color Guard, presenting the colors at ceremonies during the second half of the tour. Lastly, members all felt honored to accompany JAVA member Lawson Sakai on this special anniversary tour. Indeed, it was an unforgettable experience for all.
Tour highlights included:
• Exploring the French Maritime Alps where Nisei troops were stationed during “Champagne Campaign."
• Visiting Sospel and dedicating a wreath at a plaque honoring two Nisei KIA there.
• Spending day with the citizens of L’Escarene where Nisei troops held Christmas party for children in 1944.
• Visiting Menton where our Vets captured a German mini-sub.
• Participating in Bastille Day ceremonies in Bruyères and marching in the town parade.
• Visiting American Cemeteries at Lorraine and Epinal and placing leis and flags at 100th/442nd Veteran graves.
• Visiting the “Knot Sculpture” by sculptor Shikichi Tajiri,442nd RCT and former JAVA member.
• Placing a wreath at Yohei Sagami Monument in Laval. Yohei Sagami was the first soldier KIA in Vosges.
• Placing a wreath at Tomosu Hirahara Square. Hirahara was KIA and is buried at the Epinal Cemetery.
• Placing a wreath in a ceremony at the Lost Battalion Monument and viewing the new Monument to the 405th FS.
• Visiting Biffontaine and Fremifontaine.
• Attending ceremonies and placing wreaths at the 45th Infantry Division & 3rd Infantry Division monument.
• Visiting the Robert Booth Monument. Booth was KIA with 405th FS.
• Participating in a wreath-laying ceremony at Borne 6, the site that commemorates the rescue of the Lost Battalion.
52nd Signal Battalion/US Army Garrison from Stuttgart, Germany Serving as Color Guard with Mark Nakagawa. Nakagawa called the commands when the Color Guard presented colors at the various sites. Photo by David Nishitani.
L-R: Andy Fujimoto, MarkNakagawa, Kurt Osaki posing with a Samurai Armor at DCM Joseph Young'sresidence.
By Mark Nakagawa
I was fortunate to have been selected and participated in the U.S.-Japan Council’s (USJC) 2019 Japanese-American Leadership Delegation (JALD) visiting Tokyo and Kumamoto, Japan in March 2019. It was an experience of a lifetime that I only began to realize the enormity and impact of in the months following my return.
Our program began with an orientation in Los Angeles where I met nine other delegates from throughout the United States: Hawaii, California, Washington, Idaho, Arizona, Colorado, Nebraska, Michigan, Vermont, and WDC. We quickly bonded as a group and prepared for our trip.
Once in Japan, delegates were given access to top Japanese government and business leaders, including Her Imperial Highness Princess Takamado, members of Prime Minister Abe’s Office, Foreign Minister Taro Kono, top ministry officials, National Diet members, prefectural and city leaders in Kumamoto, and leaders of the world’s largest and most successful corporations. The meetings and personal interaction deepened and strengthened the connection to my Japanese heritage. While I have always been intensely proud to be an American of Japanese heritage, JALD gave me a window to see and appreciate the mindsets of both worlds and the unique advantage of my background. As one of my fellow delegates insightfully remarked: “We are the children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren of Japanese immigrants to America.” Indeed, the Japanese Americans on the trip represented various career paths and have been successful in blending the best characteristics of both countries. Like other delegates, I returned home inspired to help further the U.S. – Japan alliance - drawing on my unique understanding of American and Japanese culture and serving as a bridge between the two countries.
I am eternally grateful to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the U.S.-Japan Council, The Japan Foundation’s Center for Global Partnership, and many others, for a life-changing experience. The seeds to further cultivate the people-to-people relationship have been sowed. I look forward to the future as the seeds germinate and grow, nurtured by the environment created by JALD.
2019 Delegates at their orientation in Los Angeles
Originally Published by JALD
The Japanese American Leadership Delegation (JALD) program provides the opportunity for a select group of Japanese American leaders from across the United States to travel to Japan to engage with Japanese leaders in the business, government, academic, nonprofit and cultural sectors. The trip also allows Japanese leaders to gain a greater understanding of multi-cultural America through the experiences of a diverse group of Japanese Americans. Upon their return, delegates collaborate with program alumni, the local consulates, the U.S.-Japan Council and local and national community organizations to continue strengthening ties between the U.S. and Japan.
The Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA), represented in the U.S. by the Embassy of Japan in Washington, DC and 17 consulate general offices, sponsors the program. The U.S.-Japan Council provides administration and support for the program. JALD began in 2000 and 217 delegates have participated to date.
JAVA Member Mark Nakagawa (second from left in FR) with other JALD Delegates
The ten delegates of the 2019 Japanese American Leadership Delegation (JALD) program returned home on March 9 after a full week of meetings, discussions and networking opportunities with Japanese leaders. With the aim to strengthen and diversify U.S.-Japan relations, the program builds people-to-people relationships with Japanese leaders from various sectors.
The group first visited Tokyo, where they met with Foreign Minister Taro Kono (a Friend of the Council) to discuss issues pertinent to the U.S.-Japan bilateral relationship. Minister Kono has spent time with every JALD class since the program’s inception in 2000. As in years past, he brought parliamentarians who are part of the Japan-U.S. Parliamentary Friendship League, and encouraged networking among Japanese and Japanese American leaders.
Delegate Bryce Suzuki with Foreign Minister Kono
The delegates also met with many other leaders in Tokyo, including MEXT (Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology) Minister Masahiko Shibayama; U.S. Ambassador to Japan William F. Hagerty; Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy Joseph M. Young; Special Advisor to the Prime Minister Kentaro Sonoura; and representatives from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Keidanren (Japan Business Federation), Keizai Doyukai (Japan Association of Corporate Executives), Forum 21, and the Japan Foundation Center for Global Partnership (CGP).
JAVA Vice President Mark Nakagawa (back row, center) with Kumamoto Governor Ikuo Kabashima (front row, fourth from left) and Vice Governor Taisuke Ono (back row, left)
In Kumamoto Prefecture, the delegates met with Governor Ikuo Kabashima of Kumamoto Prefecture and Mayor Kazufumi Onishi of Kumamoto City. They also participated in a symposium titled “Three Sectors, Three Approaches: Cities that Attract Youth,” co-sponsored by the Japan Foundation CGP, USJC and Kumamoto City, with support from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Kumamoto Prefecture. Based upon their own experience in academia, civil society and the private sector, panelists discussed how to create cities that will continue to draw future generations. About 120 individuals attended the symposium, which concluded with a lively Q&A.
The JALD program is sponsored by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and organized by USJC. Please see the US-Japan Council website for further details http://www.usjapancouncil.org/jald.
THE 2020 JAPANESE AMERICAN LEADERSHIP DELEGATION (JALD) APPLICATION IS NOW OPEN UNTIL SEPTEMBER 13, 2019!
The Embassy of Japan would like JAVA members and friends to know that the application for the 2020 Japanese American Leadership Delegation (JALD) is now open to the public until September 13th, 2019.
The Embassy has uploaded the application information to their website and Twitter.
The Embassy is willing to recommend applicants from DC, MD, and VA. If you would like to recommend an individual to the Embassy, please email a brief introduction of the candidate by September 13 to Namiko Suzuki at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you would like to recommend someone outside the Washington DC area, please contact the consulate general in charge of their respective state. A description of the JALD opportunity can be found on the US-Japan Council website http://www.usjapancouncil.org/jald.
For further information or questions please contact:
Namiko Suzuki 鈴木奈未子
Management & Coordination Section | Embassy of Japan
Tel: 202-238-6848 Cell: 202-531-9724
Denver Stockyards Station Post Office Named to Honor George Sakato
George Sakato (MOH) at the Congressional Gold Medal Ceremony in 2011. Photo by David Nishitani
Denver, CO. On August 23, 2019 the US Postal Service Colorado held a ceremony in Denver to name the Stockyards Station Post Office to honor of George Sakato, an employee of the US Postal Service and a Veteran of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team. The one hour program, attended by Denver’s dignitaries, a member of the diplomatic corps, and featured the Buckley Air Force Base Honor Guard and the 101st Army Band of the Colorado National Guard, was followed by a reception. A plaque (see photo) to mark this event was placed in the corridor of the building.
Daughter Leslie Sakato thanked the US Post Office for this enduring recognition and discussed her Dad’s early years in Colton, CA; the family’s move to Arizona to avoid the mass incarceration of 110,000 ethnic Japanese; voluntary enlistment in the US Army; work on the family truck farm during the day while sorting mail at the post office part time at night; conversion to full-time postal employee; and discharging his obligations as a Medal of Honor recipient.
The Japan America Society Denver reported that “Sakato retired from the Stockyards Station Post Office in Denver, after 27 years of service. In November 2013 Sakato was featured on the WW II Medal of Honor Forever stamp Prestige Folio and was an honored guest at the first day ceremonies in Washington, DC.”
On October 29, 1944 George Sakato led an assault on Biffontaine, France capturing four enemy soldiers. Inspired by Sakato’s bravery, his unit followed him to capture 34 prisoners and kill 12 enemy soldiers. Sakato received the Distinguished Service Cross for his actions. In 2000 his award was upgraded to the Medal of Honor. Sakato passed away on December 2, 2015, but his legacy lives on.
Building Dedication Plaque. Photo from Internet
Leslie Sakato, daughter of George, presenting remarks. Photo by Gil Asakawa.
New JAVA Members
JAVA sends a warm Aloha to our new Veteran and Active Duty members as well as new Friends of JAVA.
Major Larry Gladback, War Veteran, USAF (Ret)
David Johnson, War Veteran, Navy/ Marine Corps/ WVARNG/ OIF
Andrew Lida, War Veteran, USA, Afghanistan, Korea
Vincent Otani, General Member, 1/505 ABN INF. 82nd ABN DIV. Ft Bragg NC
Randall Tsuneyoshi, War Veteran MACV, RVN
Friends of JAVA
JAVA offers a heartfelt thanks to our generous members and friends for their gifts, memorials and tributes given in support of our mission, events and scholarships. We are truly grateful.
Chris DeRosa, JAVA Scholarship Fund
Al Goshi, Jack Tashiro Scholarship
Takeo Ishimasa, JAVA
Sarah Muraoka, JAVA
JAVA President Al Goshi and Maj Gen Kelly McKeague. Photo by Noriko Sanefuji.
JAVA’s Summer Quarterly Luncheon on Saturday, July 13 was an especially full afternoon. Not only were JAVA Memorial Scholarship recipients celebrated but guests also heard a poignant presentation by Maj Gen Kelly McKeague, USAF (Ret) on the work he oversees as the Director of Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA).
This year’s scholarship ceremony was particularly celebratory with family members of scholarship honorees - 442nd Veteran Terry Shima and daughter Eileen Roulier; Don and Margaret Kawamoto and Sherin Kawamoto Ferguson, and Michael Lewis (grandson of Bob Nakamoto) – in attendance as well as scholarship recipients Bryce Katahara and father CAPT Michael Katahara, USN (Ret); Fiona Koye and father CDR Frank Koye, USN (Ret); and Daniel Nakasone joining us.
Taking the podium, Scholarship Chair Mrs. Chris DeRosa paid tribute to the men and women for whom the scholarships are named. Guests could not help but notice that many of the honorees or their family members had been incarcerated yet they still chose to serve in the Army or MIS. Slide after slide, Mrs. DeRosa’s presentation highlighted lives spent behind barbed wire at Minidoka, Heart Mountain, Gila River, Tule and Topaz only to be followed by extraordinary military service. After each portrait of an honoree, Mrs. DeRosa described the remarkable academic and extracurricular achievements of the scholarship winners. There was no mistaking the passion of the JAVA awardees. From founding a National Security and Defense Club to creating an advocacy group for sexual assault victims to earning an Eagle Scout badge, the scholarship winners’ commitment to service set them apart. When the slideshow ended, President Al Goshi congratulated Daniel, Fiona, and Bryce and presented each with a scholarship certificate and JAVA coin.
Over lunch, Wade Ishimoto introduced the guest speaker Maj Gen Kelly McKeague, USAF (Ret). With his customary “Island Boy” banter, Wade noted that McKeague went to Damien High School before heading to Georgia Tech to earn both a Bachelor of Science and Master of Science in Industrial Engineering. On a more somber note, Wade added that McKeague grew up in Papakolea an area of Honolulu in the shadow of the Punchbowl, the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific - perhaps a harbinger of his work at DPAA.
McKeague told JAVA members that when he accepted his first POW/MIA post at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam in 2012, he “was shocked to learn that 82,000 service members were still unaccounted for, missing heroes.” Although most of the missing fought more than fifty to seventy-five years ago, the wounds of grief for even second and third-generation family members can still feel fresh. “Time hasn’t healed….and the uncertainty attached to the loss exacerbates the grief of these Gold Star families” McKeague explained. He continued, noting that the DPAA fulfills the nation’s promise of never leaving behind a fallen service member. "Its mission is to provide the fullest possible accounting of our missing personnel to their families and the nation.” McKeague emphasized that any recovered and identified remains are given a burial with full military honors. Although much of the work involved in recovery is difficult to even contemplate, there is a bright spot: bringing a service member home. McKeague shared heartwarming stories of entire communities turning out for a returned soldier’s funeral. When Army Corporal Kirtley, who went missing in the Korean War, was recently laid to rest in Kaycee, Wyoming, a town with a population of 263, “more than 800 patriots found their way to Kaycee to pay their respects,” McKeague recounted.
After showing a DPAA Agency video (https://www.dpaa.mil/) which highlighted their operations around the world, McKeague elaborated on the challenging process of locating and identifying MIA remains and stressed the urgency of his organization’s work. The circumstances surrounding each loss are studied in-depth. Interviews with fellow soldiers and local villagers are conducted, family members are consulted, historical photos combed, medical records reviewed, daily logs studied, and site records checked. All the information is analyzed, and if actionable, excavations are undertaken. Underwater missions are also performed. The process can take months to years. However, time is of the essence. Many family members and comrades of the fallen are aged or have passed away so it is critical to contact as many of those who still have recall of the possible whereabouts and also secure DNA for identification. Moreover, in Vietnam, the acidity of the soil makes it challenging to find remains, often very little evidence is left.
McKeague went on to tell members that DPAA’s work branches into diplomacy. Because the recovery process requires cooperation, it builds trust and demonstrates to former enemies that the US is no longer a threat. Further, the relationships DPAA develops signal that the host country is valued by the US. For instance, DPAA was at work in Vietnam seven years before formal diplomatic relations were restored in 1995. McKeague noted that Japan also makes a great effort to find their war dead. He remarked that when Prime Minister Abe visited the Senator Daniel K. Inouye DPAA building in Hawaii, he was the first head-of-state to do so. At present, McKeague is hopeful that further inroads will be made in North Korea. He told JAVA members that over 7,600 Korean War US military personnel are unaccounted-for, with approximately 5,300 believed to be in North Korea. President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un have agreed on war remains recovery being a commitment. While there is much work to be performed in the future, McKeague told members that the 55 boxes of remains which North Korea turned over last summer is a start (DPAA’s labs have so far identified seven Army soldiers from those remains).
Wrapping up his presentation, McKeague called upon President Calvin Coolidge’s words, “The nation which forgets its defenders will itself be forgotten.” Without a doubt, the mission of the DPAA ensures the US will continue to make its mark on history.
FR: Al Goshi, Terry Shima, Daniel Naksone, Fiona Koye, Sherin Kawamoto Ferguson, Eileen Roulier, Bryce Katahara, Micheal Kataraha, BR: Don Kawamoto, Margaret Kawamoto. Photo by Noriko Sanefuji.