L-R: (front) Royce Higa, Hidenobu Hiyane, George Oide, Clinton Shiraishi, Koichi Tokushige, Paul Watanabe. (Standing) Catherine Delfino, Guillaume Maman, Emmanuel Lebrun-Damiens, Governor Ige and Mrs. Ige. Photo by Morita.
Jeff Morita, Historian
Honolulu, Hawai'i. On June 1, 2019 a prestigious ceremony at the Hawai'i Convention Center conferred to six 100th and 442nd World War II Veterans the Chevalier (Knight) of the Légion d’honneur, France’s highest order of merit. Hawai’i Governor David Y. Ige, wife Dawn Amano-Ige, members of the Consular Corps of Hawaii and 150 family and friends of the veterans witnessed the historic knighthood. Consul General of France in San Francisco, Emmanuel Lebrun-Damiens, presented individual medals to:
- Royce Eiko Higa; A “Able” Battery, 522nd Field Artillery Battalion/442nd RCT
- Hidenobu Hiyane; Headquarters Company, 100th Infantry Battalion
- George Kenichi Oide; Headquarters Battery, 522nd Field Artillery Battalion, 442nd RCT
- Clinton Ikuzo Shiraishi; Headquarters Battery, 522nd Field Artillery Battalion, 442nd RCT
- Koichi Harry Tokushige; A “Able” Battery, 522nd Field Artillery Battalion/442nd RCT
- Paul Sanji Watanabe; 232nd Engineer Company/442nd RCT
Kevin Morita, Choir Director at Kapolei Middle School and the son of Jeff Morita, played soothing ukulele prelude music. The 100th Infantry Battalion, 442nd Infantry Color Guard presented and retired the colors. Sandy Tsukiyama provided beautiful acapella renditions of Le Marseillaise, The Star Spangle Banner, and Hawai’i Pono'i. Members of the US Army Pacific (USARPAC) provided military escorts for the Honorees. Honorary Consul of France in Hawai’i Guillaume Maman provided the welcome address; Governor Ige and Consul General Lebrun-Damiens commended the honorees. Theresa Tilley Maman, wife of Honorary Consul Maman, served as emcee. Joint Planning Committee Members included Lynn Heirakuji (Chairperson), Mae Isonaga, Grace Tsubata Fujii, Theresa Tilley Maman, Jeff Morita and community volunteers.
Since 2014, Morita, a retired US Army Sergeant First Class and GG-13, Department of the Army Civilian (40-years total service), has completed and submitted 43 application forms for 100th/442nd Veterans to receive the Légion d'honneur. To date, the Government of France has awarded this prestigious decoration to 23 veterans Morita has assisted. Morita (email@example.com) welcomes any request for assistance.
Jeff Morita (L) and Awardee Clinton Shiraishi. Photo by Morita.
MG Tony Taguba, USA (Ret)
In 1919, the United States formed the Philippine Scouts under US Army control consisting of ten regiments: seven Infantry, one cavalry, two field artillery with supporting units and the Philippine Commonwealth Army commanded by GEN Douglas MacArthur prior to and during WWII. It was estimated that some 260,000 Filipinos served in the U.S. Army and the Philippine Army including recognized guerrilla units from 1941 to 1946.
The Filipinos were granted US nationality status (not citizenship since they were territorial citizens) under the US Nationality Act of 1940. After the Japanese surrender in September 1945, several hundred Filipinos assigned to Philippine Scouts units were granted US citizenship. My father, a Phil Scout, Bataan Death March survivor, and recognized guerrilla was granted US citizenship. Thousands of Filipino soldiers waived that offer.
In February 1946, the 79th Congress passed the Rescission Acts that revoked the Act and the soldiers US nationality status. The law also revoked their active duty status granted under President Franklin Roosevelt’s military order of July 26, 1941 which prevented them from receiving backpay owed during the war. My father received $60.00 after he was repatriated in 1945, but the Army took back $38.20 for “resettlement cost.” Not sure what that meant. His total pay for almost four years of war service was $22.20. His pay was documented in his military record which I have a copy from NPRC. From the time he was granted US citizenship in September 1945, my father remained on active duty until he retired in June 1962.
The Immigration Act of 1990 offered US citizenship to Filipino WWII veterans in which some 28,000 were approved. In 1992, a moratorium was imposed on this law, which also prevented their families from applying for US citizenship. In 2015, President Obama issued an Executive Order to allow families to apply for US citizenship under a parole program. The Executive Order was offered to only 5,000 applicants. I don’t have a current data on the number of applications approved, but I would assume less than 5,000 were received. There was a fee of about $500 for each application.
In sum, the plight and experience of the Filipino soldiers fight under the US flag was rife of injustice and discrimination since the colonial era. It didn’t just start in WWII, but it is still ongoing to this day. We have some 4,000 veterans appealing for their backpay. Most of them are in their 90s and still hopeful and loyal to the US. [EDNote. We asked MG Taguba to provide his perspective concerning the history of Filipino contributions to the US Army. Filipinos have also contributed to the US Navy and other branches. MG Taguba and Debbie’s son, Major Sean T. Taguba, US Army and an Armor Officer, is currently serving on the Division staff, lst Armored Division, Fort Bliss, Texas. He, his wife and daughter reside in El Paso, TX. He served as tank platoon leader and infantry company executive officer in Iraq. He also commanded an Infantry company in Afghanistan, and Cavalry troop at Ft Bliss, Texas. He graduated as a distinguished military graduate and commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Army from the University of Hawaii in June 2007.]
Seaman First Class Nisei Nobuteru Harry Sumida, Manzanar hospital. Beside his cot is a stand on which there were five post card size photos of Johanna. Photo by Ansel Adams.
Seaman First Class Nisei Nobuteru Harry Sumida, Manzanar hospital. Beside his cot is a stand on which there were five post card size photos of Johanna. Photo by Ansel Adams.
Washington, DC. Nobuteru Harry Sumida, a Nisei, and eight Japanese nationals who enlisted in the US Navy as seamen were the first Nikkei to serve in the US armed forces. The men all served in the Spanish American War of 1898, when the US declared war on Spain, resulting in US acquisition of Philippines, Guam, and Puerto Rico, and removal of Spain as a Caribbean power. They were followed by Kenji Inomata, a Japanese national who joined the US Navy in 1906 and eventually received US citizenship. Remarkably, Inomata was the only known ethnic Japanese resident of Los Angeles exempt from the mass internment of those with Japanese ancestry during WWII. Throughout the internment period, Inomata was allowed to continue to reside at his home in Los Angeles.
The Nikkei, however, were not the first Asia Pacific Americans to serve in America’s wars. Filipinos served in the War of 1812 and Filipino, Chinese, and nationals of various southeast and south Asia nations served in the Union and Confederate armies in the Civil War.
From their settlement in the Mississippi delta region of southeast Louisiana, Filipinos served in the army of Jean Baptiste Lafitte and MG Andrew Jackson to defeat the British in Louisiana in 1815. These Filipinos, who had served on the crews of Spanish galleons transporting goods from Manila and Acapulco, jumped ship at New Orleans beginning in 1763. And in 1587, twenty years before Jamestown, Virginia, was settled and 189 years before the US was founded, Filipinos had arrived in Morro Bay, California, located midway between San Jose and Los Angeles.
The first Chinese arrived in the US in 1815 to work on the transcontinental railroad and by the time of the Civil War there were about two hundred living in the eastern US, some working in the cotton fields. About sixty Chinese men served in the Union and Confederate forces in the Civil War and three held corporal ranks commanding white troops.
Documented Nisei military service in the US began with Nobuteru Harry Sumida who was born in New York City on December 25, 1871. Ansel Adams’s book, Born Free and Equal: The Story of Loyal Japanese Americans, as well as other sources, reports that Sumida was raised by Caucasian foster parents soon after he was born and never knew his birth parents. Educated at New York City public schools, Sumida graduated from a Manhattan high school. He learned Japanese through self-study; he ordered books from Japan and gained proficiency in Japanese literature. He also worked on a sailing ship, which visited Kobe, Japan, but he did not go ashore.
In 1891 Sumida enlisted in the US Navy and was assigned as a gunner on the USS Indiana. During the 1898 Spanish American War battle in Santiago Bay, Cuba, he received shrapnel wounds in his leg that disabled him permanently and for which he received a monthly government compensation. At the time of his discharge in 1899, his rank was Seaman First Class. In 1904, at age 32, Sumida married Johanna Schmidt in NY. Ansel Adams’s book noted Johanna died in 1941 and that they had no children. When WW II began, Sumida lived in Temple Sanitarium in Los Angeles. In the 1942 mass evacuation, Sumida was placed in the Manzanar Internment Camp Hospital because of rheumatism in his leg caused by the war wound. In time he was transferred to the Manzanar senior center.
In addition to Seaman First Class Sumida, eight Japanese nationals served as US Navy seaman in the Spanish American War of 1898. The eight Japanese nationals were among the two hundred sixty seamen who perished when the USS Maine sank in the Havana, Cuba, harbor as the result of an explosion. Some seamen’s bodies and remains were eventually recovered with ten declared missing. The names of the dead USS Maine seamen including the eight Japanese nationals are inscribed on the USS Maine Memorial in Arlington National Cemetery. The Japanese nationals who sank with the USS Maine are also listed on the Japanese American War Memorial Court in Little Tokyo, Los Angeles, the only location where ethnic Japanese killed in combat in all wars are memorialized.
Also during the Spanish American War of 1898, Japanese nationals Kenji Inomata and his friend, speaking very little English, arrived in New York City as stowaways – jumping overboard and swimming ashore as their ship approached New York harbor. According to the book Pure Winds Bright Moon by Kenji’s grandson, Kinji Inomata, as well as other sources, in 1906 Inomata enlisted in the US Navy as a Third Class Mess Attendant. He traveled the world with the Navy, earning promotions and eventually serving as Steward to captains and commanders who commended him for trust and integrity. After 30 years of service, Inomata retired as Petty Officer First Class and lived in Los Angeles, CA. He also became a naturalized US citizen. However, the date of naturalization is not available. In 1918, he married Genevieve Beckham, who was of Caucasian and African heritage. Following his military service, in 1937, Inomata worked for the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power. When WW II broke out, Kenji Inomata was exempted from the mass internment and allowed to live a normal life in the home he bought in Los Angeles, although it is not known if he held his job at the LA Department of Water and Power during the war. The Inomata family military service continued as Kenji and Genevieve’s son, Takeo, served in the 442nd RCT.
When the US entered WW I on April 5, 1917 an announcement in English, Chinese, Japanese and Korean urged “nationals of Allied countries” to enlist in the Hawaii National Guard as “this would help you obtain US citizenship.” However, the examiner for US Naturalization Service amended the statement; instead, he said “oriental veterans” were not eligible for naturalization, only the “white race” or “African race” were eligible. Nevertheless, a large number of Japanese nationals applied to the Hawaii National Guard. Due to the large number, the Japanese nationals were placed in a separate unit, Company D, with a Japanese national as commander. All written and oral communication were in Japanese. After the war, on November 14, 1919, US Judge Horace Vaughn allowed 400 Japanese national soldiers to be naturalized. Yet when Judge Vaughn’s term ended six years later the territorial government voided his decision.
The long and arduous road for ethnic Japanese and other Asian immigrants to gain naturalized US citizenship came to an end in 1952 with the passage of the Immigration and Nationality Act which allowed Asian immigrants to become US citizens. [JRT thanks AARP (Ron Mori and Ryan Letada); NPS Manzanar Historic Site (Alisa Lynch); Pacific Citizen (Susan Yokoyama); Library of Congress (William Elsbury); Densho (Tom Okino); and MG Taguba, USA (Ret) for their support.]
Petty Officer First Class Kenji Inomata, naturalized US Citizen
The 838 men in Company D, referred to as “Japanese company”, of the Hawaii National Guard were immigrant Japanese aspiring to become US citizens. Communications, written and oral, were in the Japanese language. Photo from Library of Congress.
Ted Tsukiyama, 98, died on February 13, 2019 in Honolulu. Tsukiyana was an authoritative historian for the 100th Battalion, 442nd Regimental Combat Team (RCT) and Military Intelligence Service (MIS). This tribute discusses JAVA’s relationship with Tsukiyama, a JAVA member, pertaining to the digitization of National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) documents on the 100th, 442nd, MIS and a small part of the internment.
When Japan attacked Honolulu on December 7, 1941, University of Hawaii ROTC cadets were issued weapons to defend key locations. Twenty-six days later, the ROTC cadets were discharged because the government viewed them as enemy aliens. Determined to prove their loyalty, 169 Nisei cadets obtained the military governor’s approval to serve as civilian construction laborers to build roads and buildings and crush rocks. Calling themselves the Varsity Victory Volunteers (VVV), their espirit de corps and patriotism must have impressed Assistant Secretary of War John J. McCloy, who from a distance observed the VVV at labor. Soon after McCloy’s return to Washington, DC the call went out in January 1943 for volunteers to form the 442nd RCT. Members of the VVV volunteered immediately and en bloc. While in basic training at Camp Shelby, MS, Tsukiyama and his colleagues with Japanese language proficiency were transferred to the MIS for intensive Japanese language training. Following training,Tsukiyama was assigned to the China-Burma-India theater where his duties included monitoring enemy communications.
On one of Tsukiyama’s visits to Washington, DC in early 1990, he engaged Dr. Susumu (Sus) Yamamoto and wife Fumie to visit NARA to make copies of official documents pertaining to the 100th and the 442nd RCT. The Yamamoto’s and Maggie Ikeda, widow of Lt Chick Ikeda, made weekly visits to NARA pro bono for ten years (until health issues prevented Dr. Yamamoto from continuing the work). In all, they sent 25 linear feet of photocopied documents to the 442nd Veterans, Hawaii. The tremendous value of the copied documents was realized for the first time in 1998 when a review produced names and citations of Distinguished Service Cross awardees who met the criteria for upgrades to Medal of Honor.
In 2002, Tsukiyama proposed to JAVA an arrangement whereby JAVA would collect the documents at NARA and Tsukiyama would arrange funding from the 442nd,100th and MIS veterans in Honolulu. LTC Dave Buto, USA (Ret), a West Point graduate and JAVA Secretary, suggested a digital collection, which was approved. A team of JAVA researchers and scanners visited NARA pro bono for eight years, until 2010, to digitize the Nisei military and internment documents as they related to the 100th, 442nd and MIS. To access the NARA database go to http://www.javadc.org/search.php. Or, go to https://java.wildapricot.org/Research-Archive and look for the “Click here" to locate archived documents.
These NARA documents are now accessible to any researcher electronically from anywhere in the world. Researchers can call for the information using key words and dates, a feature not available at NARA. This database contributes substantively to achieving the goal of perpetuating the story of Nisei military experience during WW II. The person with the vision to accomplish this goal was Ted Tsukiyama, known at among members of JAVA as the Father of the NARA Project. JAVA Research Team
Tsukiyama in NARA’s reading room. Photo by Chosei Kuge.
San Francisco, CA. Maj Richard Noboru Hamasaki, 99, died peacefully at his home on November 24, 2018. Born in Paauilo, Hawaii, Hamasaki attended McKinley High School, went to Japan with his parents and returned to Hawaii before the start of WW II. Drafted in March 1941, he was assigned to the 298th Infantry Regiment at Schofield Barracks, and subsequently the 100th Infantry Battalion. Like other 100th soldiers, he trained at Camp McCoy, Wisconsin, and Camp Shelby, Mississippi. The 100th was then deployed to Salerno, Italy where they joined the 34th Infantry “Red Bull” Division.
Hamasaki served in all of 100th campaigns up to the invasion of Bruyeres, France in the Vosges campaign, where he was wounded, thus ending his service in Europe. By this point Hamasaki had received the Combat Infantryman’s Badge, four Purple Heart medals, the Silver Star, the Bronze Star for valor and the Presidential Distinguished Unit Citation. In addition, Hamasaki received a battlefield commission to 2nd Lieutenant. The commission influenced his decision to make the US Army his career choice. He also married Setsuko Nao, a student at the University of Minnesota. Hamasaki’s next assignment was at Schofield Barracks in Hawaii and soon after moved to the counterintelligence corps in Yokohama, Japan.
When the Korean War broke out Hamasaki was assigned to the 5th Regimental Combat Team in Korea, where he was awarded his second Silver Star. Apparently, in an arrangement with the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) he was transferred to CIA while still on active duty status and worked in Tokyo. In 1965 the CIA assigned Hamasaki to South Vietnam in an intelligence role.
In 1975, having served 20 years in the US Army and 14 years in civil service, with combat duty in WW II and the Korean War and intelligence duty in Vietnam, Hamasaki decided to retire with his wife in the San Francisco Bay Area. He pursued his hobbies of gardening and golf, the latter of which Hamasaki honed to a single digit handicap. He also worked part time as a salesman for noted golf professional, Bob McCaffery. His three children are in the education profession.
Gravesite of PFC Kiyoshi Murakami, Idaho, Co. G, 442nd RCT. KIA Po Valley, Italy campaign, three weeks before Germany surrendered. Grave No. 5123, Section 12-4. Bouquet of flowers placed by JACL WDC and JAVA; Hawaiian orchid lei is from David Iwata. Photo by Matthew Oelkers, member of Kobayashi family.
Washington, DC. The 71st Annual Memorial Day Service, jointly sponsored by JACL WDC and the Japanese American Veterans Association (JAVA), was held at Arlington National Cemetery (ANC) on May 26, 2019. The day began with a 45-minute program at the Columbarium Ceremonial Courtyard, attended by Minister Ken Mukai, Head of Chancery of the Embassy of Japan; MG Garrett S. Yee, USA, and Mrs. Yee; and JAVA members. Following the program, teams decorated the 90 gravesites of Japanese Americans and two Caucasians.
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 continued the project, with son Turner heading up logistics. This year the Kobayashi family was represented by 13 members coming from Texas, Ohio, and New Jersey. Mrs. Kyoko Kobayashi, wife of Key, has ensured continuity and high standards by actively participating all 71 years.
Attendees heard from two guest speakers. First at the podium was Keegan Thai, a 5th grade student at US Senator Spark Matsunaga Elementary School, located in Germantown, MD, the only public school east of the Rockies known to be named to honor a Japanese American. Thai, whose cousin is a cadet at West Point, reflecting on the significance of Memorial Day, remarked that it is a day to honor our men and women who have sacrificed their lives to “protect our country with pride, honor and persistence.” Next, CPT Wade Ishimoto, USA Ret, a former counter-terrorist expert with the Department of Defense, urged his audience to “encourage our youth to consider serving in our military, in law enforcement, or as firefighters, as these patriots are ready to give their lives to save others. Alternatively, prompt them to consider becoming public servants, teachers, or volunteers for civic-minded projects.“
Douglas Ichiuji, member of the Board of Directors of the National Japanese American Memorial Foundation (NJAMF), which is responsible for the National Japanese American Memorial to Patriotism, located on Capitol Hill, paid tribute to the American patriots, including the Japanese Americans, who are interred at Arlington Cemetery. His father, a member of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team (and Poston Concentration Camp internee) and mother are both laid to rest at Arlington.
David Iwata, life member of JAVA, currently the Military Relations Committee Co-Chair for the Go For Broke National Education Center presented orchid leis flown in from Hawai’i to the 19 KIA 100th-442nd members buried at ANC. “As Co-Chair with Alan Hayashi, it was important for us to participate and recognize the 75th anniversary of the battle to rescue the Texas lost battalion, the defining moment in military history that cemented the legacy of the Nisei warriors. By placing the orchid leis on the grave markers, we bring the ‘spirit of aloha,’ honoring their bravery and sacrifice,” Iwata said.
In 2018 Sandra Tanamachi of Houston, Texas, the niece of Saburo Tanamachi, one of the first two Japanese Americans interred at Arlington, spoke about Saburo and his 442nd experience. In view of the favorable response to the 2018 event, Terry Shima was invited to speak this year on Sgt Kelly Yeiichi Kuwayama, a bemedaled 442nd combat medic.
This event at Arlington National Cemetery is held each year on the Sunday before the Monday Memorial Day holiday. If any family, friend, or colleague of a fallen hero interred at Arlington National Cemetery wishes to participate in this program and discuss the life/career/sacrifice of that individual, please contact Turner Kobayashi for additional information and scheduling. Turner can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you wish to attend but not speak you are cordially invited.
71st Annual Memorial Day Service, Arlington. Bugler (standing between Veterans and white crosses in the background) playing taps at the end of the 45-minute program. Photo by Nobuyuki Tanaka, Washington Bureau Chief, The Nishi Nihon Shimbun.
On May 17, Wade Ishimoto gave a leadership development presentation to the United States Special Operations Command Pacific at Camp H.M. Smith, Hawaii.
On May 30, Ishimoto was the guest speaker for the celebration of Asian Pacific Islander Heritage Month at Joint Base Andrews, MD His presentation emphasized the importance of uniting different cultures to achieve a common purpose and a military mission.
SDFJ group photo at entrance of Iolani Palace, once the state capitol and now a museum, the only official royal palace in the US. Quentin Kawananakoa, a descendant of Prince David Kawananakoa and former State Representative, arranged a private tour for SDFJ. Quentin is behind Mr. Muragaki's (center) right shoulder. Photo by Jon Yoshimura.
By Jon Yoshimura.
Honolulu, HI. Nearly 160 years ago, 77 samurai representing the Tokugawa shogunate departed Yokohama on the U.S.S. Powhatan destined for Washington, DC, to meet President James Buchanan and establish the first Japanese Embassy in the United States. Unanticipated heavy weather and rough seas caused the mission to stop in Honolulu in March 1860, setting the stage for a historic first meeting between Hawaiian and Japanese government officials.
Earlier this year, 30 descendants of the 77 Japanese diplomats traveled to Hawaii to attend three days of events commemorating the historic meeting between King Kamehameha IV and the Japanese delegation. On April 17, a welcome reception hosted by the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawaii and attended by Hawaii Governor David Ige, Japanese Consul General Koichi Ito, and approximately 50 representatives of Hawaii community organizations kicked off the commemorative events. Governor Ige welcomed the descendant group, known as the Society of Descendants of the First Japanese Embassy (SDFJ), and spoke about their ancestors’ role in what would develop into a special relationship between Hawaii and Japan.
On April 18, the SDFJ were honored guests at the final event of the Hawaii Gannenmono Commemoration celebrating the arrival of the first Japanese contract workers in Hawaii 151 years ago (1868). A stone monument made in Yokohama recognizing the Gannenmono was installed and dedicated at Honolulu City Hall. The SDFJ then made the short walk to Hawaii’s State Capitol where a special exhibition of historic photos and documents related to the March 1860 visit and meeting with King Kamehameha IV was presented by the Hawaii State Archives.
Later, both chambers of the Hawaii State Legislature hosted SDFJ members and issued Certificates of Recognition to the group. SDFJ Executive Director, Mr. Takashi Muragaki, was given the special honor of addressing the Hawaii State House of Representatives prior to its regular session.
The second day of events was capped by an audience with Governor Ige in his Executive Chambers where he presented the SDFJ with a Proclamation praising its effort to perpetuate the historic first meeting between Hawaiian and Japanese government officials.
On the final day of the visit, the SDFJ were treated to a special tour of Iolani Palace, the only royal palace on American soil, arranged by Quentin Kawananakoa, a direct descendant of Prince David Kawananakoa. Although Iolani Palace had not yet been built in 1860, it contains many historic artifacts that date back to the early years of the Hawaiian monarchy.
Many Hawaii organizations and individuals were responsible for arranging the commemorative events, including the Hawaii Gannenmono Commemoration Committee, the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawaii, the Hawaii State Archives, the Governor’s Office, the Hawaii State Senate, and the Hawaii State House of Representatives.
Governor Ige (center, navy blue jacket holding Proclamation) received SDFJ delegation in his executive chamber, where he presented a Proclamation to Mr. Muragaki, Society Executive Director (right of Governor). Photo by Jon Yoshimura.
Mr. Muragaki with Senate President Ronald Kouchi (L) and State Senator Brian Taniguchi (R).
Photo by Jon Yoshimura.
Jon Yoshimura (standing), former Director of Communications for US Senator Daniel Akaka and Coordinator of SDFJ visit to Honolulu, discusses past governors since Statehood in ceremonial room of Governor’s executive chambers. Mr. Muragaki, seated left front. Photo from Jon Yoshimura.
Mr. Muragaki addressing the members of the State House of Representatives. Photo by Jon Yoshimura. Inset placed by Phoebe Ford.
On January 26, 1942, two days before the sinking of USS Royal T. Frank, Ushijima used his camera at Schofield Barracks to take this group photo of the men who left Honolulu on the ill-fated voyage. The film was passed to a friend to develop; however, the camera was retained by Ushijima. Photo includes non-Nisei, who were members of the 299th Regiment. Ushijima, a member of the Torpedo Gang, added the names on this photo. His family approved this reprint.
By JAVA Research Team
Eight Nisei were saved and 12 were killed when a Japanese submarine torpedoed a US Army transport near Maui, Hawaii, on January 28, 1942, just seven months after the Pearl Harbor attack. A few months later the eight Nisei joined the 100th Infantry Battalion and miraculously survived nearly two years of combat in Europe. The 20 Nisei were among the 60 men aboard the USS Royal T. Frank, which transported military personnel, equipment and ammunition to the various islands of the Territory of Hawaii. The Nisei were returning to Hilo after basic training at Schofield Barracks, Honolulu.
The USS Frank, one of the three-vessel convoy, including a destroyer, left Honolulu on July 27, 1942, and arrived in Kahului, Maui, early the following morning. After a brief port call the vessel departed for Hilo. Peter Von Buol, an adjunct professor of journalism and freelance writer, using Adjutant General’s Office classified Decimal files, AGF 579.14 (submarine project files) originally classified SECRET, published the following account: At 7:00 AM on January 28, 1942, approximately 30 miles north of the Hawaii’s Upolu Point in the Alenuihaha channel an unnamed ship’s officer saw a torpedo, moving slowly, coming towards the USS Frank. He shouted “torpedo.” The torpedo hit the starboard side of the Frank that caused a loud explosion. Flying debris killed USS Frank’s captain Wiechert, men on the deck were thrown into the sea or they jumped out. Clinging to any floating debris, they were rescued three hours later. The USS Frank sank in about a minute after being hit taking the men below deck with it. Of the 60 men in the vessel, there were 36 survivors, including 9 men of 299th Regiment, eight of them Nisei. The other survivors included crew members. The survivors, covered with oil, were taken to a school gymnasium in Hana, Maui, where the students helped to get them cleaned up and comfortable. A Navy medic arrived from Honolulu. The survivors were warned not to discuss their experience with anyone. The USS Frank has not been found.
The 12 Nisei who sank with the Frank are:
The 12 Nisei with the rank of inductee are memorialized on white walls at the Missing in Action (MIA) section of the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific (Punchbowl) and on a bronze plaque at the East Hawaii Veterans Cemetery #1 in Hilo, Hawaii. Each soldier was awarded the Purple Heart Medal, which is awarded only to soldiers killed or wounded in combat.
The eight Nisei survivors (awards data from Thomas D. Murphy, Ambassador in Arms):
1. PFC Yoshio Ogomori; Mountain View, HI; Hq.Co/100; CIB, SS, BS, PH, DUB
2. Tokimaru Takamoto; Captain Cook, HI; Hq.Co/100. No award listed
3. George Y. TAKETA, Hilo, HI; Med.Det/100; Combat Medic Badge, BS, PH,
4. CPL Shizuo Toma; Pahoa, Hi; Hq.Co/100; CIB, BS
5. PFC Shigeru Ushijima; Hilo, HI; Hq.Co/100; CIB, BS, PH, DUB
6. Mac Tsutomu Wakimoto; Hq.Co/100; CIB, BS
7. PFC Haruo Yamashita; Kurtistown, HI; C.Co/100; CIB, BS
8. Pvt Susumu Yoshioka ; Hilo, HI; A.Co/100; CIB, BS, PH
Survivor Raymond Wakimoto saw the torpedo and thought it was a large fish. When the vessel exploded he thought it was a dream. When he floated in the ocean he thought “it was the end of the world." He adopted a personal policy when riding future troopships to always sleep on the deck. At the 100th Battalion Veterans 1972 reunion, Frank survivor Ogomori said the morning of January 28 was rainy and misty. He recalled hearing a thud while he was going up the deck, then an explosion, and then found himself in the ocean floating near Ushjijima.
The eight Nisei survivors returned to their 299th Regiment at Schofield Barracks. In late May 1942, 1,432 Nisei infantrymen, including the eight survivors, were formed into the Hawaii Provisional Infantry Battalion with LTC Farramt L. Turner as Commander and CAPT James W. Lovell as Chief of Staff. Turner told the 100th men he was ordered to appoint only haoles (Caucasian in Hawaiian) to serve as company commanders and thus appointed CAPT Alex E. McKenzie, CAPT Phillip B. Peck, CAPT John A. Johnson, CAPT Clarence R. Johnson, and CAPT Charles A. Benamen, all born in or long-time residents of Hawaii. On May 28, 1942, Turner told the men they would be shipped to the mainland, but they could not tell their families, and all passes were cancelled. On June 5, 1942, the men boarded the SS Maui and left Honolulu quietly headed for Oakland, California, where the Battalion was designated the 100th Infantry Battalion.
The USS Frank Nisei survivors formed an exclusive club called Torpedo Gang, which held a reunion each year to honor the 12 Nisei who sank with the USS Frank. The eight Gang members were assigned to different companies. Apart from Takamoto, each of four other Hq Co assignees received the Combat Infantryman’s Badge (CIB) or Combat Medic Badge (CMB) and the BS. In view of this awards record, it can be presumed that Takamoto, at a minimum, received the CIB and BS. In addition, three others received the CIB, one other received the Silver Star, four others received the Purple Heart, three others received the Bronze Star, and one became a prisoner of war (POW). A review of the Gang’s combat decorations suggests these men were not assigned to “safe assignments” or given preferential treatment to compensate for their USS Frank nightmare. It is a miracle that all survived the 100th's high attrition rate in the nearly two years of combat in the European combat zones. Susumu Yoshioka is the only Gang member known to become a German prisoner. The 100th Bn Veterans Education Center write-up stated “Yoshioka was captured in January 1944 probably during the assault on the Gustav Line and was officially registered as a POW on January 22, 1944. He was sent to Stalag VII in Moosburg, Germany and was liberated on July 25, 1945.” While Yoshioka was not presented with a Purple Heart Medal for his back injury resulting from the USS Frank sinking, the injury was viewed as a service-connected disability for postwar benefits purposes.
Peter Von Buol reported that on February 1, 1944, the Japanese submarine that sank the USS Frank was sunk by the US Navy off Bougainville in New Guinea.
[JRT comment: JRT appreciates the research assistance provided by Jayne Hirata, editor of Puka Puka Parade. Also, our thanks to LTC Wayne Yoshioka, USA Ret, Afghanistan combat veteran, who discussed Susumu Yoshioka’s POW status and arranged the use of the group photo which accompanies this article. Finally, our thanks to JAVA member Wade Ishimoto, who, during his visit to Paradise, spent five hours with members of his family at Punchbowl to research and take photos of the Nisei who sank with the USS Royal T. Frank.]
On May 19, 2019, Wade Ishimoto visited Punchbowl to pay tribute to and take this photo that memorialized Torao Yamamizu and Albert H. Yano. The names of the 12 Nisei who sank with the USS Royal T. Frank are not listed together but are scattered in different courts. The Missing in Action Section occupies one section of Punchbowl and it is maintained by the American Battle Monuments Commission. JAVA is grateful to Wade and his Honolulu family for spending five hours at Punchbowl to perform this task.
Los Angeles, California. Nine members of the Japanese American Korean War Veterans (JAKWV) were invited to a luncheon on March 29, 2019 at the residence of the Korean Consul General Wan-joon Kim and his wife Madam Hae jin Park in Los Angeles to thank the Korean War veterans for their service in the Korean War.
This luncheon stemmed from the JAKWV invitation of Consul General and Mrs. Park to lunch in January when Robert Wada, Founding President of JAKWV presented them with his two authored books, “From Internment, to Korea to Solitude" and “Americans of Japanese ancestry in the Korean war” after the luncheon.
Consul General Kim has publicized to the Korean people that Japanese Americans had served and died for the freedom of the Republic of Korea. He stated the majority of Korean people have not been aware of the extent of the involvement of the Japanese Americans in the Korean War. The Consul General’s secretary advised Wada that Mr. Kim had written an article for the local Korean language newspaper regarding the Japanese Americans role in the Korean War and mentioned Wada’s two books.
Wada’s goal has been to build a stronger bond of friendship between the Korean people and the Japanese Americans.
JAKWV members attending, as shown in the picture below (Back row, L-R) Wally Takata, Victor Muraoka, Sam Shimoguchi, Robert Wada, Richard Iseri, Min Tonai, (Front row L-R) George Iseri, Nori Uyematsu, Mrs. Hae Jin Park, Lois Muraoka, Kuniko Shimoguchi, C.G. Wan-joon Kim, Bacon Sakatani.