Image of PFC Shiroku “Whitey” Yamamoto of Ninole, HI on Go For Broke Forever Stamp to be release on June 3, 2021.
Hello. My name is Gerald Yamada. I am president of the Japanese American Veterans Association.
I appreciate the opportunity to join the celebration of the release of the “Go For Broke” stamp that honors the Japanese American, men and women, who served during World War II.
On behalf of JAVA, let me express our gratitude to the organizers of the “Stamp Our Story Campaign” who had the vision to start this initiative in 2005. The stamp campaign faced an uphill battle against tremendous odds. The organizers persevered over these many years and finally achieved victory with the U.S. Postal Service’s approval in 2020. JAVA and I are proud to have been a part of this campaign.
The reason why this stamp is important is that this is the first time that all Japanese American, men and women, who served in World War II have been honored for their service. The stamp is our Nation’s way of saying “Thank you for your service.” The stamp honors them as America’s heroes.
The stamp also draws attention to the spirit of the Japanese Americans who served. Faced with the government’s discriminatory actions taken against them and the denial of their constitutional rights, based solely on their ethnicity, the Japanese American men and women, who answered the call to serve, showed their loyalty to America. Their faith in America was not eroded by the distrust or overt prejudice that they faced. They served with honor and valor, in Europe with the 100th Infantry Battalion/442nd Regimental Combat Team and in the Pacific with the Military Intelligence Service, in the Women’s Army Corp and Nurses’ Corp, and in rebuilding Pearl Harbor. They all embraced the “Go for Broke” spirit that is an integral part of their Japanese heritage. Their spirit is the guiding light for all Americans to follow.
Thank you for allowing me to be a part of this celebration.
George Oide pictured in his 90s. Photo: Courtesy of Ralf Oide
George Oide pictured in his early 20s. Photo: Courtesy of Ralf Oide.
Reprinted with Permission from the Honolulu Star Advertiser
June 13, 2021
By Kacie Yamamoto
George Kenichi Oide, a member of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team and one of the first in Hawaii to use a monotype composing machine for commercial printing, died in Kapahulu on Jan. 27. He was 97.
Born Feb. 22, 1923, in Nuuanu to immigrants from Hiroshima, Japan, Oide was the youngest of nine children. After graduating from McKinley High School in 1941, he enlisted in the Army and was a member of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team’s 522nd Field Artillery Battalion-Headquarters Company, serving throughout Europe.
“(My grandfather) looked like this tiny little man, under 100 pounds, but his job was to hold the radio as the forward observer, so he was always right in harm’s way,” said Oide’s grandson, Hailama Farden. “He never complained. Even when he was wounded by shrapnel, he never filed for a Purple Heart. It wasn’t important to him; his dedication and service was most important.”
While in Europe, he met his future wife, Erika Karbe, a German Luftwaffe courier who defected to marry the Nisei soldier. She died in 1999 at age 77.
After the war, Oide enrolled in a typographical apprenticeship program through the Honolulu Advertiser and sponsored by the International Typographical Union, Local 37. He earned an apprentice diploma in 1952 and went on to work for the Advertiser and Honolulu Star-Bulletin.
In 1956, for the first time in Hawaii, the Advertiser’s production department began using monotype equipment, a system for printing by hot-metal typesetting from a keyboard. Oide also typeset the first unabridged Hawaiian language dictionary by Mary Kawena Pukui and Samuel Elbert in 1957.
Oide later moved on to Typographers Inc., a typographic and print agency where he would become president and owner in 1983. He retired in 1992.
In 2007, Oide was selected as a Living Treasure of Hawaii by the Honpa Hongwanji Mission but declined the honor. According to Farden, in explaining his decision, Oide often said he “already got paid” for his work and that he didn’t know why he should be honored for doing his duty.
“He’s a great example of someone who had a lot of ethics, good morals,” said Oide’s son, Ralf Oide. “(He was) very patient and very tolerant.”
In June 2019, the French Government bestowed Oide and five other Hawaii Nisei veterans with its highest military and civilian award, La Legion D’Honneur Medal, for their participation in the 1945 liberation of France.
In 2020, he was selected as a Kalani Ali‘i awardee by the Hawaiian Royal Societies for his contributions to both the U.S. military and to the Hawaiian language dictionary. The award will be conferred posthumously to Oide later this year.
Outside of his work, Oide’s passions included writing haiku in English and Japanese, crossword puzzles and sudoku, and fishing. “We grew up eating a lot of fish, and I have really fond memories of doing that,” Ralf Oide said. “I’ve been a fisherman all my life, I was a diver at one time. My kids love to fish. My grandson loves to fish … We’re all into it, and it started with my pop.”
Oide is additionally survived by his son Glenn T. H. (Kathy ) Oide, two grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.
The article can be accessed online at: https://www.staradvertiser.com/2021/06/13/hawaii-news/nisei-veteran-george-oide-also-typeset-landmark-hawaiian-dictionary/
[EdNote: We wish to thank Wade Ishimoto for sharing this story with the e-Advocate.]
When Yoshiake Fujitani served in the Military Intelligence Service during World War II, he visited his dad, who was interned in New Mexico. Photo: Courtesy of Pat Holmes.
Retired buddhist Bishop Yoshiake Fujitani at the office of Buddhist Information Society and Numata Foundation in Honolulu. Photo: Courtesy of Honolulu Star Advertiser/2004
Reprinted with Permission from the Honolulu Star Advertiser and Report for America
June 27, 2021
By Jayna Omaye
Rev. Yoshiaki Fujitani dedicated his life and career to serving the islands’ diverse communities.
As bishop of the Honpa Hongwanji Mission of Hawaii for 12 years, he advocated for inclusivity — passionately working to expand services, while collaborating with a diverse group of religious leaders.
Fujitani died on May 17 at Kuakini Medical Center. He was 97.
Known by many as a visionary and trail blazer, Fujitani cofounded a handful of community nonprofits, including Project Dana, which offers support and care services to seniors; the Interfaith Alliance Hawaii, which represents a wide range of religions in seeking social justice and equality; and the Samaritan Counseling Center Hawaii, which provides faith-based counseling services regardless of religious affiliation.
“He was really accepting,” said longtime family friend Donna Higashi. “He made people feel special. He helped them realize that there’s not one way to do things.”
Born on Maui, Fujitani moved to Oahu and graduated from McKinley High School. As a sophomore at the University of Hawaii during the Pearl Harbor bombing, he joined fellow ROTC members in what would become the Varsity Victory Volunteers. Although his father, a Buddhist priest, was interned in New Mexico, Fujitani wanted to serve his country. Known as the Triple-V, the group was made up of UH students of Japanese ancestry who were initially classified by the government as “enemy aliens,” preventing them from serving in the military. They volunteered to build barracks, smash rocks and do other tasks until the U.S. Army formed all-Japanese units to serve during World War II — the 100th Infantry Battalion, the 442nd Regimental Combat Team and the Military Intelligence Service.
Fujitani served in the MIS and was sent to Tokyo to translate government and military documents. After returning home from the war, he enrolled at the University of Chicago through the GI Bill and then at Kyoto University to study religion and Buddhism. He was ordained a priest and was appointed as Honpa’s bishop in 1975.
While at Honpa, he created the Living Treasures program in 1976, which recognizes community leaders from all walks of life. Past honorees include musician and kumu hula Robert Cazimero, former UH President Fujio Matsuda and Hawaiian scholar Mary Kawena Pukui.
“He was a breath of fresh air,” said Alan Goto, an advisor on Honpa’s board who considered Fujitani a mentor. “He just had the personality that people loved him. He was quietly forceful and made his points.”
After retirement, Fujitani remained active in the community, serving as director of the Buddhist Study Center near UH Manoa. He also volunteered with Project Dana and was recognized as a Living Treasure honoree in 1994.
A beloved dad and jiichan (grandpa in Japanese), Fujitani loved spending time with his family. He met his wife, Tomi, in Chicago while attending MIS training school. Her family had been released from an Arkansas internment camp and moved to the Windy City.
Daughter Pat Holmes still loves to tell the story of how her parents met — it was not love at first sight. The pair went their separate ways after the war but reconnected when Fujitani attended the University of Chicago. They wed in 1949 and had three children and six grandchildren. They were married for 70 years before Tomi died last year.
Although work kept Fujitani busy, he always found time to go on outings with his kids and attend his grandchildren’s school plays and dance recitals. Holmes remembers as a teenager taking a family trip to Waianae during the summer. They stayed there for one week and went fishing, which her dad enjoyed.
Holmes also loved her dad’s witty, self-deprecating humor. One of his favorite jokes poked fun at his and other seniors’ hearing woes. When he was on the set of the filming of the local “Go For Broke” movie, he was asked to give a blessing and began it by making fun of his age.
He enjoyed golfing, bowling, playing tennis and photographing “just about everything,” from family events to Tomi’s ikebana. As he got older, one of his favorite pastimes was sitting on the lanai of his Manoa home feeding the birds, sometimes going through a 20-pound bag of birdseed in a week.
“There was so much that he did, and folks could see how much of an impact he had in their lives. There was that sense of awe,” Holmes said. “We’re really proud of him.”
Fujitani is survived by daughters Pat Holmes and Maya Togashi; son Stephen Fujitani; and grandchildren Gen, Keala and Kiyomi Fujitani, and Akemi, Satsu and Akira Holmes. Visitation will be open to the public at 2:30 p.m. Aug. 15 at Honpa Hongwanji. A private service will follow at 4 p.m. but will be livestreamed on Honpa’s website. It would’ve been Fujitani’s 98th birthday.
Jayna Omaye covers ethnic and cultural affairs and is a corps member with Report for America, a national service organization that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on under-covered issues and communities.
The article can be accessed online at: Revered Hawaii bishop and nisei veteran Yoshiaki Fujitani dies at 97 | Honolulu Star-Advertiser (staradvertiser.com)
[EdNote: We wish to thank Jeff Morita for sharing this story with the e-Advocate.]
JAVA sends a warm Aloha to our new Veterans as well as new Friends of JAVA.
Naomi Childres, USA
Wesley Chiu, USAF
Robert Clewis, USAF (Ret)
Dale Kawata, USA
LTC John Nakata, USA
Delbert Nishimoto, USA
LCDR Luke Tajima, USN (Ret)
John Tsutsui, USA
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.
Anonymous - In Memory of Roy Sugimoto
Mas and Marcia Hashimoto - General Fund
Sheldon Henderson – General Fund
Dale Kawata - General Fund
LTC Jason I. Kuroiwa, USA (Ret) - General Fund
BG Neal S. Mitsuyoshi, USA - General Fund
LTC Mark Nakagawa, USA (Ret) – General Fund
Kenjalin Ogata - General Fund
Chris Nguyen - General Fund
Govan Yee - General Fun
Go For Broke Stamp. Photo credit: U.S. Postal Service.
Special for JAVA by Wayne Osako
Los Angeles, CA. The Stamp Our Story Committee (SOSC) continues to be busy developing and preparing for the release of the Go For Broke Japanese American Soldiers of World War II commemorative stamp. The USPS will officially release the stamp this Thursday, June 3rd, through a prerecorded video from USPS headquarters.
The following day, the USPS allows special dedications to take place. SOSC is setting up the First City of Issuance - Los Angeles, California stamp unveiling on Friday, June 4th. The program is private, but it will be livestreamed at 9:30 a.m. PDT / 12:30 p.m PDT on Friday, June 4, 2021, and recorded for viewing online through the SOSC's website, www.StampOurStory.org.
Honolulu (June 4th), Kauai (June 4th), Houston (June 4th), San Francisco (June 4th), Boise (June 13th), and Portland, Oregon (June 14th), will have stamp dedications that will follow the LA dedication. Links to view them will be available on the Stamp Our Story website as well.
One of SOSC’s tasks has been to develop a short video on the history of the stamp campaign. Developed through the generous volunteer efforts of filmmakers and documentarians Robert Horsting, Tim Yuge, and Kaia Rose, viewers will be able to hear founder Fusa Takahashi, and family members of the founders.
Filmed on May 8th, the production crew spent a long day documenting the history of what it took to get the stamp, and perspectives on the stamp’s meaning to people today. “Viewers will get a glimpse into the efforts of the founders and the SOSC committee,” said Wayne Osako, SOSC Co-Chair. “The founders’ mission has been, and continues to be, to teach others about the American legacy of the Nisei Soldiers through the stamp.”
SOSC has also developed an educational curriculum for 3rd-6th grade that teachers can use. Through the generous efforts of the Anaheim Elementary School District in collaboration with SOSC, educators now have a way to bring the story of the Nisei Soldiers of the war into their classrooms. Go to the “Education” tab on the Stamp Our Story website for links. The curriculum includes a teacher’s guide, slideshow, YouTube art lesson video, and a special interview with 100th Battalion veteran Don Miyada (96). SOSC is developing future educational programming following the stamp dedications — a GoFundMe site is being established where people can contribute to help, which will soon be found through the SOSC website.
Wayne Osako (Co-Chair), Aiko O. King (CoFounder), and Fusa Takahashi (CoFounder), at the May 8, 2021 interview in Anaheim, CA. Photo: Courtesy of Wayne Osako.
Behind the scenes at the May 8, 2021 interview in Anaheim, CA. Robert Horsting (right) talks to Tim Yuge. Photo: Courtesy of Wayne Osako.
Here is the latest information on the Go For Broke Soldiers Commemorative Forever Stamp:
On June 4, 2021, the Stamp will be unveiled in Hawai’i. As I shared previously, for 15 years, three amazing Los Angeles (LA) Nisei women, all of whom were incarcerated during the war - Fusa Takahashi, Aiko O. King, and the late Chiz Ohira – worked tirelessly with Wayne Osako, an LA sansei, toward the creation of this Forever Stamp, as a way to tell the story of the Nisei Soldiers of World War II (WWII). Fusa and Chiz were married to Nisei Soldiers.
The U.S. Postal Service (USPS) will present a pre-recorded national stamp dedication event on June 3, 2021, the Stamp’s First Day of Issue, featuring Hawai’i’s own General David A. Bramlett, U.S. Army (Ret). The pre-recorded event may be viewed on facebook.com/USPS, or twitter.com/USPS. For more information see: https://about.usps.com/newsroom/national-releases/2021/0514ma-usps-will-honor-japanese-american-veterans-with-the-go-for-broke-forever-stamp.htm. Information about how to purchase this stamp is also on this website.
Other planned Hawaii events include:
For more background on the Nisei Soldier Story and the significance of the Go For Broke Soldiers Stamp, you can also view a May 10, 2021, 30-minute ThinkTech Hawaii interview that I participated in at: https://youtu.be/LaNj40TevXw.
Mahalo for your interest in this milestone event to honor the service, sacrifice and legacy of all the Nisei Soldiers who served during WWII. Hope you can view the livestream on June 4. 2021.
Lynn Heirakuji, President, Nisei Veterans Legacy
For more information:
Memorial Day Salute. Left to Right: Gerald Yamada, LTG Michael K. Nagata, USA, (Ret); LTC Mark Nakagawa, USA (Ret), Capt. (Dr.) Cynthia Macri, MC, USN (Ret), Howard High, Turner Koyabashi. Photo: N. Ford.
Arlington National Cemetery. Members of the Japanese American Citizens League, Washington DC Chapter, the Japanese American Veterans Association, and the National Japanese American Memorial Foundation gathered for the 73rd time on Sunday, May 30, 2021, to pay tribute to Japanese American soldiers who lost their lives in defense of our nation and all soldiers buried at Arlington.
The Memorial Day Service program, which has been organized every year since 1948 by the Kobayashi family and is the longest-running Memorial Day Service at Arlington, opened with a welcome by Turner Kobayashi. After a warm greeting, Turner acknowledged guests including the Principal of Spark Matsunaga Elementary School, Mr. James Sweeney. He also recognized two Japanese American soldiers who recently passed away and are at Arlington National Cemetery: Capt. Norio Bruce Endo, USN, and Sgt. Kay Megumi Sato, 442nd RCT. Turner then turned the podium over to event speakers.
JACL DC Chapter Co-President Linda Sato Adams reflected on the Service's theme of “Honoring the Legacy of the Nisei Soldiers” by sharing memories of her father's experiences during World War II. Although her father did not speak often about his military days, Ms. Sato Adams did recall him opening up about his Camp Shelby training after a visit to a Smithsonian exhibit titled A More Perfect Union: Japanese Americans and the US Constitution. Her father described the unspoken ethos of the JA soldiers, which despite differences between the "Buddha heads and Katonks," was to help those lagging behind - carrying their pack, gun, whatever it took - so that all could succeed. Although the war stories were few, her father's tales always conveyed the strong bonds and kinship the soldiers in the 100th/442nd had for one another. Next, JAVA President Gerald Yamada commented on the recent rise in anti-Asian sentiment and reminded listeners of the personal struggle Japanese American soldiers in WWII faced as they defended the U.S. while enduring, along with their families, unjust treatment under the law and discrimination from other Americans. Answering the call to serve and having faith in America allowed Japanese American soldiers to overcome prejudice. Yamada urged all to look to the Japanese American soldiers of World War II, "follow their example and do what we can to ensure that the government provides equal protection to all Americans. (See Yamada's full remarks below.) Following Gerald Yamada, NJAMF Board member and longtime JAVA member, LTC Mark Nakagawa, U.S. Army (Ret), remarked on the hard and arduous path of Japanese American World War II soldiers, one paved with heroism, valor, and loss of life. That path opened up opportunities for subsequent generations to serve and take on leadership roles in Korean, Vietnam, the Gulf Wars, and other conflicts. He added that the qualities and values, such as "gaman" (enduring the seemingly unendurable quietly and with patience), "giri "(one's duty to follow the strict rules and norms of society), and "on" (obligation) that led to JA soldiers' military success, are also evident in the 15-year stamp campaign that is culminating in the USPS release of the Go For Broke Forever Stamp. By honoring the legacy of 100th, 44nd, and MIS soldiers, Nakagawa is certain that these important values will be passed down.
After an introduction by Gerald Yamada, noting a distinguished 38-year career in the military, Keynote Speaker, LTG Michael K. Nagata, U.S. Army (Ret), recounted and inspired listeners with the origins of Memorial Day which can be traced back to the Civil War and the more recent genesis of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. (See LTG Nagata's full remarks below.) General Nagata also underscored that the sacrifices and contributions of the Nisei and Asian American and Pacific Islander soldiers "are a reminder of the strength and vibrancy of an America that, at its best, strives to harness and propel the virtues and strengths of all of its people, regardless of origins, religion, race, gender, and so on." General Nagata then movingly recounted his early military career and lessons learned in responding to bigotry and prejudice. He recommended that listeners rather than succumb to outrage and frustration, should "choose a different path...that combines recognizing how far we have progressed despite all of our remaining flaws and terrible failures. It is the path that accepts the risk of trying to be better; which also requires the courage of attempting solutions that may fail, but by learning from failure, as humans always have, we will learn to make future progress." With his message of effort despite great obstacles, General Nagata gave listeners hope as they looked out on the markers of those who had sacrificed so much.
Michelle Amano, the grandaughter of Mike Masaoka, then offered a Special Tribute to her great uncle Ben Frank Masaoka who was killed while fighting to free the lost Texas Battalion. She shared the last exchange between her grandfather and his brother Ben Frank. Ben Frank was drawn to help his comrades press on and went to the front line even though his commanding officer had told him he could remain in a less hazardous area. Ben Frank exemplified honor and duty. She followed the tribute with a reading of the Japanese American Creed which was penned by her grandfather. A bugler's somber TAPs brought the 73rd Memorial Day Service to a close.
[EdNote: The 73rd Memorial Day Service was livestreamed and recorded on the JAVA Facebook page. To view a recording of the 2021 Memorial day Service click here.]
Keynote Speaker LTG Michael K. Nagata, USA (Ret). Photo: N. Ford
LTG Michael K. Nagata, USA (Ret)
2021 JACL, JAVA, NJAMF Memorial Day Service Remarks (As Prepared)
Arlington National Cemetery Columbarium
I want to begin by expressing my gratitude to the Japanese American Citizens League, the Japanese American Veterans Association, and the National Japanese American Memorial Foundation and for inviting me to attempt a small contribution to this important Memorial Day observance, and particularly on such hallowed ground as Arlington National Cemetery.
It is a privilege and honor to address all of you today as we recognize the significance of Memorial Day, and at the same time, having had the chance to celebrate Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage month across the United States. As a career Military member who also happens to be of Japanese descent, that convergence is both remarkable and poignant in ways that I know that so many in this audience, and many thousands more who are finding other venues to reflect on all that has come before us, are recognizing and remembering this month.
As we all learn in school, the origins of Memorial Day trace back to the American Civil War in the late 1800s. In fact, the ground that we stand on today was part of that upheaval, and in ways only the unpredictable trajectory of human history can create, went from being the ancestral home of General Robert E. Lee during a time of enormous divisiveness and fratricidal conflict, to becoming America's most important National Cemetery that honors the sacrifices that have been necessary to secure and advance American unity and liberty. After that catastrophic upheaval in the 1800s, wherein a million Americans became casualties, a movement that some began calling "Decoration Day" gradually evolved into what is now formally enshrined as the national, annual observance we are here to honor and celebrate.
The millions of American men and women who have served in our Armed Forces over our history, and in many cases have truly given the last, full measure of devotion, have only reinforced the importance and significance of this day and of this place. I'm sure that almost everyone who can hear me today knows of someone, or perhaps even has someone in your own family, who deployed overseas in defense of this Nation, and came back bearing the scars of conflict, or perhaps has been laid to rest in hallowed ground somewhere, including this place all around us.
We are all taught in school that the Civil War was based on a profound schism among the American people over the enslavement of the Black population in our country. It may seem today like such a distant, perhaps even archaic, fact that almost 20% of the American population once lived without freedom. Yet, even now, we are faced with unsettling reminders that we still too often struggle to achieve the ideals of equality and freedom... just in this past year we've had too many reminders of continued mistreatment of minorities of all types, including Asian Americans. We should certainly recognize America has made enormous changes and progress since the 1800s, but it is also obvious that we still have a long way to go to fully realize the standard that Martin Luther King once urged all of us to strive for... that the content of our character should matter far more than our race or, indeed, anything else... and we must recognize that our own children, and our grandchildren, will have to continue to work to advance this after we are gone.
Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage month has a more recent pedigree--- it was formally introduced as a proposal in Congress in 1977, and was signed into law a year later. Very importantly, the month of May was chosen to mirror the completion of America's transcontinental railroad in May of 1869, and as I'm sure most of you know, to recognize the tremendous and back-breaking labor, and unfortunately the often terrible mistreatment, of the thousands of Chinese immigrants who built that railroad for America, and laid the foundations of so much of the prosperity and "sea to shining sea" traditions that we enjoy today. Another driver of the creation of this day is something that I and many in this audience have a historical family connection to, and it was the bravery and heroic example that thousands of young Japanese-American men and women gave us during World War II, in the face of terrible treatment by the very Government they chose to serve.
My remarks today are my attempt to blend the two themes that emerge from my own reflections on the significance of both our Memorial Day and Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage month... the first being a primarily military observance, and the other a more broadly cultural, societal, and perhaps even spiritual one.
Many of us here are an example of this "blending." Both sides of my own family immigrated to the United States, seeking opportunity and an escape from poverty, from Japan in the 1930s... just before World War II began. I spent a career of nearly four decades in the U.S. Military, and my father was also an Army officer after the War, serving more than two decades as an Army Chaplain. He and I shared the experiences of deploying into harm's-way in defense of America, though we both had to sometimes deal with various degrees of discrimination and prejudice, whether from our military colleagues or from some of the very same Americans we were striving to safeguard.
But, a far more important and compelling example lies a little farther back, in the America of the 1940s. As is now widely known, in the aftermath of the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 by Imperial Japan, the United States Government decided to gather all persons of Japanese ancestry in many of our Western States, most of whom were American Citizens, and place them in so-called "Internment Camps" scattered across those States for the duration of the war. Over 120,000 Japanese-Americans were forced to abandon their homes, surrender their property, close or sell their businesses, relinquish their relationships with American society, and were essentially imprisoned for years without any due process or right of appeal. Even the U.S. Supreme Court of that day upheld this practice... a blot on the history of that body.
But, as sometimes happens in the wake of tragedy, unexpected and powerful events can emerge that show all of us what it is to rise above even the worst of circumstances.
History now records that, in the wake of this disgraceful Government treatment of its own Citizens.... obviously driven by racial bias and bigotry... over 33,000 Japanese Americans nonetheless volunteered for U.S. military service during that terrible conflict. Two of the most notable examples of this choice to willingly serve a Government that had betrayed them were the creation of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, and the Military Intelligence Service of the U.S. Army.
In the case of the 442nd, three complete combat infantry Battalions were raised... one comprised by young Japanese-American men from Hawaii, and the other two battalions were raised in the Continental States... and often from the very Internment camps where their mothers, fathers, and siblings remained imprisoned. One small footnote- I'm very proud to say that I had three uncles, from both sides of my family, who served in the Regiment. Yet, even though all these men had volunteered to serve, the U.S. Army of the time would not allow Japanese-Americans to be officers, so these three battalions, and the entire Regiment itself, were only commanded by white officers during the war. Yet, despite these things, the 442nd would go on to participate in some of the most important military campaigns in the liberation of Europe, and in the process, become the most decorated unit of its size and length of service in U.S. military history; and sadly also absorb terrible casualties among its ranks. When I've had the chance to ask the surviving veterans why they fought so hard, and sacrificed so much, they would always tell me that they were determined to prove not only their own loyalty to the United States, but by extension, prove that their Families were loyal Americans as well... despite how they had been treated.
The Military Intelligence Service was also comprised of thousands of Japanese Americans, both men and women, again many of them volunteering from the Internment Camps, who served in intelligence and communications roles to support America's campaigns in the Pacific. Rather predictably, very few Americans understood either the Japanese language or Japanese culture, and waging war against Imperial Japan across the enormous Asia-Pacific region... including all of Southeast Asia and much of China, made the language translation and intelligence contributions of these volunteers strategically vital for eventually compelling the Japanese government to unconditionally surrender to the U.S.and its Allies in 1945. These men and women who silently served in the Military Intelligence Service were decisive and irreplaceable for that victory.
And, of course, over America's history, thousands of similar stories can be told of the contributions and sacrifices of so many other Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in defending or strengthening America... whether in or out of uniform, whether in or out of Government. Collectively they are all a reminder of the strength and vibrancy of an America that, at its best, strives to harness and propel the virtues and strengths of all of its people, regardless of origins, religion, race, gender, and so on.
As I reflect on my own life and career as a Japanese American who chose a path of military service, I am struck by how incredibly fortunate I have been... not only because I was born in the United States, but because I was able to enjoy a highly successful Military Career that both challenged me and strengthened me in ways that I never imagined when a very much younger version of me first enlisted in 1981.
That's not to say that discrimination or prejudice were unknown to me. It is important to recall that, in the post-Vietnam era when I joined the Army, race-relations within the U.S. military were alarmingly bad, and often violent... particularly between black and white soldiers. I have very vivid memories of being warned, the very first time a young 2nd Lieutenant Nagata pulled the night duty called "Staff Duty Officer" in my infantry battalion in Korea, about the possibility of a violent melee in any of the barracks that I had to monitor until the morning. Nothing even remotely like that exists today, four decades later, and one need look no further than the fact we today have a black Air Force Chief of Staff and even a black Secretary of Defense to see how much things have improved. But, that also should not mean we can afford to rest on our laurels. Among the many things that we will all have cause to regret during the past year of a historic pandemic, we must also regret and deal with the mistreatment of minorities that we saw, all too vividly.
There were also my own experiences with bigotry and discrimination as I rose through the ranks since then that were sharp reminders for me that America still has work to do to realize the ideal expressed in our own Declaration of Independence, that all of us are "created equal." I did not always react as effectively as I should have, occasionally lapsing into either self-pity or fruitless anger. But, when I was at my best, I instead chose to use these unhappy experiences as motivations to just be better. Even all these years later, after one of those unhappy experiences, I can remember a small voice in my head saying, "okay, then I'm just going to prove that I'm better than these people that wish to discriminate against me..." That was often neither the easy nor the safe path to take, but I guess I was either too stubborn, or perhaps just too young, to see how difficult and risky that kind of reaction could be. But, in the end, I somehow managed to retire after 38 successful years in uniform, as a Lieutenant General, and as the most senior Asian American to serve in U.S. Special Operations Forces... so I guess it didn't turn out too bad.
So here we are... seeking to celebrate these two important observances while we also begin clawing our way out of the dark, COVID tunnel we've been in, and weighed down by the controversies, outrages, and scandals of the past year. We sometimes are inundated by pronouncements and reporting that seem to all be trying to remind us of how angry, or sad, or regretful, or frustrated we should be. It's so easy to focus on what brings us down or what divides us... and it is all too often the path of least resistance these days.
Yet, my own experiences that I've tried to share with you today cause me to choose a different path, and I commend this path to all of you. It is the path that combines recognizing how far we have progressed despite all of our remaining flaws and terrible failures. It is the path that accepts the risk of trying to be better; which also requires the courage of attempting solutions that may fail, but by learning from failure, as humans always have, we will learn to make future progress. And it is the path that allows us the opportunity, and encourages our ability, to occasionally lay down our burdens and toils for a brief time, to look back, and both remember and honor those who came before us. Those millions of our Citizens who offered up their very lives and fortunes for defending America and what it has tried to stand for since the American Revolution. And among and alongside those veterans, the millions of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders who have contributed so much, often against great odds and deep-seated prejudices, toward building a better country and a more generous humanity.
Do I follow this path I've described for you perfectly? Of course not... I have feet of clay just like anyone else. But I remain determined to try... and I see today's event with you as a way of reminding myself that this is how even this retiree can still "give back" to the admittedly imperfect America that nonetheless has truly been the land-of-opportunity for me and my family.
It's been a privilege to speak to all of you on this important occasion, and I pray that fair fortune will smile on each and every one of you, and all your loved ones, in the months and years ahead. Thank you for listening to me, Godspeed to all of you, and though it may seem rather old fashioned to some, on this day, and in this place, where we are surrounded by the spirits so many of America's heroes... may an ever kind and watchful providence continue to steady our hands and guide our sometimes faltering feet, safeguard our children and the fruits of our labors, and protect and advance what I still believe is the greatest ongoing experiment in human liberty, the United States of America.