L-R. Fusa Takahashi, Wayne Osako, Aiko O. King. Photo: Lynn Franklin(Los Angeles, CA, 2015).
Chiz Ohira. Photo by Wayne Osako (Camarillo, CA, 2007)
Sacramento, CA. “Always be proud of your heritage,” said Stamp Our Story campaign founder Fusa Takahashi of Granite Bay, California. “It’s what our parents taught us that made these soldiers give their best.” Ms. Takahashi (93), is the second-generation Nisei woman who began the Stamp Our Story campaign in 2005, first called the “Nisei World War II Soldiers Stamp Campaign.” The campaign’s goal has been to get a US commemorative postage stamp that would tell the story of the Japanese Americans who served in the US military during World War II.
Ms. Takahashi and the Stamp Our Story campaign received good news this fall. On November 17th, 2020, the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) announced the inclusion of a commemorative stamp honoring the “Go For Broke Japanese American Soldiers of World War II” in its 2021 line up. “I hope with the issuance of this stamp that we will be able to make the general public aware of what the Nisei soldiers have accomplished, and help to dispel the discrimination many Asian Americans are still facing,” said Ms. Takahashi.
The “Go For Broke” stamp is the culmination of over 15 years of work by many. The campaign began after Ms. Takahashi and her childhood friend, Aiko O. King, first discussed the stamp idea at the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles in 2005. “After seeing an exhibition on the Nisei soldiers and their accomplishments, we started this idea of trying to get a stamp issued to commemorate their deeds accomplished in World War II,” explained Ms. Takahashi. “We first felt we needed some way for the public to know more about these young men who volunteered or were drafted from behind barbed wire. They had their freedom taken away and yet they fought with such bravery and valor.”
Following their early discussions, Ms. Takahashi and Ms. King were soon joined by the late Chiz Ohira, Nisei wife of the late 442nd veteran Ted Ohira (H Co.). Ms. Takahashi is the widow of the late Nisei veteran Kazuo Takahashi (Military Intelligence Service). The three women were incarcerated in the camps during the war: Ms. Takahashi and Ms. King were in Amache, Colorado, and Ms. Ohira was in Poston, Arizona. The women first wrote letters to the USPS and distributed handwritten petitions to their family members and friends. The origin of the stamp campaign is with the family and friends of the Go For Broke soldiers, who have embraced the effort since it first began. Through the hard work of many in just the first two years of the campaign, over fifteen thousand people from across the country had signed their petitions.
Their efforts developed to involve organizations and lawmakers. They first distributed petitions at meetings for organizations of Nisei World War II veterans and their families. They set up tables at cultural events like Nisei Week in Los Angeles’ Little Tokyo, and the Japanese American festival in Camarillo, California. Many chapters of the Japanese American Citizens League (JACL) got involved. Ms. King’s Ventura JACL Chapter in California was the first to help. Even strangers they never met joined them, such as Carole Herhold of Chicago, Illinois, who had no direct ties to the Japanese American community but felt so strongly to support the campaign that she spearheaded a successful effort to get a state resolution and her congressman’s help. “Helping remember the sacrifice and service of these young men is the right thing to do,” she said in 2008 [DELETE "at the time”]. She was joined by Bill Yoshino, Midwest Director of the JACL [DELETE "at the time”], and Chicago JACL members. Besides Illinois, many JACL chapters participated nationwide, including the National JACL. Among them, Mas Hashimoto and the Watsonville-Santa Cruz JACL chapter were especially prominent since the early years of the campaign. The Go For Broke National Education Center, with Christine Sato-Yamazaki, notably worked with Rabbi Abraham Cooper and the Simon Wiesenthal Center for a joint press conference in support of the stamp in 2007.
By 2020, supporters had documented lawmakers’ help from local, state, and national levels. Seven state assemblies passed resolutions: Hawaii, California, Utah, Oregon, Washington, Arizona, and Illinois. In addition, letters of support were collected from three state governors, 91 members of Congress, two Consul Generals of Japan, and numerous local officials including mayors and city councils. California saw bipartisan help led by critical early assistance from former Congressman Mike Honda and the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, Rep. Adam Schiff, former Governor Jerry Brown, and State Rep. Mike Eng who championed its state resolution. Hawaii saw help at all levels, first from State Senator Les Ihara Jr. and State Rep. John Mizuno, then from Governor David Ige, and the whole congressional delegation, notably championed by the late Rep. K. Mark Takai. With Utah JACL chapters involved, Utah State Senator Jani Iwamoto, whose late father was a Nisei World War II veteran, was central to securing a state resolution, and letters of support from the entire Utah congressional delegation, Attorney General Sean Reyes, and Governor Gary Herbert. Help from the state of Washington was led by JACL chapters, and the Seattle Nisei Veterans Committee, and resulted in a state resolution and letters of support from its members of Congress. Help from Oregon was led by Portland JACL, and Dr. Linda Tamura, and resulted in a state resolution and support letters from its congress members. Wyoming’s congressional delegation co-authored a letter of support after assistance from the Heart Mountain Wyoming Foundation Executive Director Brian Liesinger, current Chair Shirley Ann Higuchi, and former Senator Alan Simpson. The efforts of Mia Russell and the Friends of Minidoka led to a coauthored letter of support from Idaho’s congressional delegation. Dr. Brian Yamamoto’s efforts led to Alaska’s congressional delegation voicing support. Highlights also include help from Texas over the years from Rep. Al Green, William Scarbrough and the 36th Division Association, Sandra Tanamachi, Gary Nakamura and the Houston JACL, and Texas Standard Radio’s W.F. Strong. Additional highlights include the National Military and Veterans Alliance letter of support in 2010, key help from Rabbi Shmuel Novack (grandson of the late Lt. David Novack), support from Historian Eric Saul, and the boost from documentary film producer Jeff MacIntyre. Key support and encouragement were received from former Secretary Norman Y. Mineta, and the late Senators Daniel K. Inouye and Daniel Akaka during the campaign.
The result of these collective efforts coupled with critical assistance from the Japanese American Veterans Association (JAVA) has led to the issuance of the “Go For Broke” stamp. “We are forever grateful to the JAVA leadership, especially Gerald Yamada and Terry Shima, and the entire JAVA family, for the kind support over all these years, and we look forward to celebrating the stamp’s issuance with them,” campaign co-chair Wayne Osako said. “The support has been so important for us since the early years of the campaign. An example that we would like to highlight is the help from Eileen Roulier, Gerome Villain, and Hervè Claudon. They tirelessly organized petition signatures and letters of support from French citizens and lawmakers over a number of months.”
The stamp will be issued sometime in 2021, but the date has not yet been announced. Following the issuance of the “Go For Broke” stamp, Stamp Our Story will continue to work toward educating the public about the proud American story behind the stamp. For additional information, including a more comprehensive list of support, visit www.StampOurStory.org.
Washington, DC. While attending the monthly meeting of the National Military & Veterans Alliance (NMVA) on December 7, 2020, JAVA President Gerald Yamada announced that the United States Postal Service will honor all Nisei soldiers who served in World War II with the Go For Broke US postage stamp in 2021. To share this good news, NMVA immediately sent an email message to 48 addressees, including NMVA’s 35 member organizations, congratulating “Gerald Yamada and all the members of JAVA for their tireless efforts to make this a reality! NMVA will be sharing this on its Facebook page and Twitter account; we ask that all of you consider sharing it from there as well.”
JAVA’s active participation in NMVA activities is an important way of JAVA showing support for military and veteran issues beyond the Japanese American community. NMVA is a non-profit and non-partisan umbrella organization of 35 veteran- and military-serving organizations that expands the military and veteran community’s ability to present a united front to the Department of Defense, the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Congress, and the White House. By working together, the larger voice of the combined associations’ memberships and their families help to promote the objectives concerning a wide-range of military quality of life issues, including pay, personnel, medical, survivor benefits, military housing, education, veterans, and military retiree issues. NMVA represents more than 3.5 million members. Collectively, the member organizations represent some 80 million Americans – those who serve or have served their country and their families. JAVA is a member of NMVA, and JAVA President Gerald Yamada is JAVA’s representative to NMVA.
Podcast host, Melissa Ritz, interviews women who have served in the military in SERVED: Military Women’s Stories.
In the latest episode of SERVED, JAVA member, Kay Wakatake, the Staff Judge Advocate for the Army Medical Command at the Pentagon, shares her experiences of attending Airborne school, deploying to Iraq, balancing work and personal responsibilities, and leveling the playing field both physically and intellectually while stationed at an infantry division overseas.
Listen to the podcast here: https://www.podbean.com/eu/pb-ncrxr-f61413
In an earlier recording, JAVA member, Persian Gulf War veteran and Bronze Star recipient Denise High shares her journey of growing up as a Navy "brat", pivoting careers as a civilian and as a recruit, unifying under pressure at wartime, a surprise multilingual romance, and reinvention during a military drawdown. (Denise is married to JAVA Vice President Howard High.)
Listen to the podcast here: https://www.podbean.com/eu/pb-f3dta-f39df1
In this episode, JAVA member Vicki Jordan shares how her love for languages led her from Nebraska to the Army's Defense Language Institute in California, where she excelled in Russian and met her husband. Vicki also served as the Chief of Staff of the Operations Directorate at the NSA, and shares the importance of leadership, teamwork and communication in the evolving digital age of cyber intelligence and security.
Listen to the podcast here: https://www.podbean.com/eu/pb-xmi2c-f5bc03
"Join the U.S.-Japan Council and The Asian/Pacific Islander American Chamber of Commerce and Entrepreneurship (National ACE) on January 11 for an exclusive interview with General Paul M. Nakasone, Commander, U.S. Cyber Command and Director, National Security Agency/Chief, Central Security Service. General Nakasone is currently the highest-ranking officer of Japanese and Asian American heritage in the United States Army.
This webinar is brought to you by Presenting Sponsor, Deloitte, and will be moderated by Joe Ucuzoglu, Chief Executive Officer, Deloitte US. Tune in for an engaging and inspiring conversation with the United States’ most senior official dealing with the critical issue of cybersecurity for our country, during which we will discuss U.S.-Japan & East Asia relations, global and domestic security issues, leadership and more!
This event is open to the public and off the record. Simultaneous Japanese interpretation will be available."
When: January 11, 2021 from 6:00-7:00 pm ET
Where: Virtual Event
Registration: Click here
JAVA sends a warm Aloha to our new Veterans as well as new Friends of JAVA.
LT Brian Abe, U.S. Navy Blue Angels
Tara Asami, USAR and USAF
LTC Ben Dennis, USA (Ret)
John Ikeda, USA
Vicki Jordan, USA
MAJ John Kakinuki, CA ARNG, JAG
LTC Janette Kautzman, USA
SFC Jaekuen Lee, USA, SOC
CPT Matthew Song, USA, SOC
CW3 Gordon Watanabe, USA (Ret)
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.
Michelle Amano - 2020 Fundraising Appeal
Spencer Baba - 2020 Fundraising Appeal
Diane Nakashima Barstein - 2020 Fundraising Appeal
COL Julia Coxen, USA - 2020 Fundraising Appeal
Lt Col Toki Endo, USAF (Ret) - 2020 Fundraising Appeal - IMO brother, CAPT Nori B. Endo, USN (Ret)
Elliot Frankeberger - 2020 Fundraising Appeal
Dr. Thomas Guglielmo and Nikki Kadomiya, In Appreciation for the JAVA Research Archive and IMO of Nikki’s grandfather, Yasugo Kadomiya
Erica Harris - 2020 Fundraising Appeal
Akira Horiuchi - 2020 Fundraising Appeal
Shannon and Wayne Inouye - 2020 Appeal - Inouye and Taubkin Scholarships
CPT Wade Ishimoto, USA (Ret) - 2020 Fundraising Appeal
MAJ John Kakinuki, CA ARNG - 2020 Fundraising Appeal - Inouye Scholarship
Lynn Kanaya - COL Jimmie Kanaya Scholarship
Sherin Kawamoto-Ferguson - 2020 Fundraising Appeal - IMO of father, Yukio Kawamoto
CPT Jun Kayama, USA - 2020 Fundraising Appeal
Duane Wesley Koyano - 2020 Fundraising Appeal - IMO of father, Wesley Kaname Koyano, 442nd RCT
LTC Jason Kuroiwa, USA (Ret) - 2020 Fundraising Appeal
CDR David Lee, USN (Ret) - 2020 Fundraising Appeal
Vincent Matsui - 2020 Fundraising Appeal
Dr. James T. McIlwain - IMO Roger Eaton
Richard Mikami - 2020 Fundraising Appeal - IMO Judge Vincent Okamoto
Dorothy Miller - COL Virgil R. Miller Scholarship
Randy Miller - COL Virgil R. Miller Scholarship
Hollis Molden - 2020 Fundraising Appeal
Hollis Molden - Founder's / Ishio Scholarship
Mary Murakami - 2020 Fundraising Appeal - Memorial Day
LTC Mark Nakagawa, USA (Ret) - IMO Lawson Sakai
LTC Mark Nakagawa, USA (Ret) - IMO Ranger Vincent Okamoto
Allan Nakamoto, USN - 2020 Fundraising Appeal
LTC Robert Nakamura, USA (Ret) - 2020 Fundraising Appeal
Ellen Nakashima - 2020 Fundraising Appeal - IMO of father, Shigemitsu Nakashima, MIS, uncle, Isaac Nakashima, 100th BN, and uncle, Richard Nakashima 442nd RCT
National Japanese American Memorial Foundation - Veterans Day Program
CAPT Roger Natsuhara, USN (Ret) - 2020 Fundraising Appeal
Terrence Okura - 2020 Fundraising Appeal - In Appreciation of Jeff Morita
Rhian O'Rourke - 2020 Fundraising Appeal
COL Walter Ozawa, USA (Ret) - 2020 Fundraising Appeal
Lester Sakamoto - 2020 Fundraising Appeal - IMO of father, Sueo Sakamoto, 442nd RCT
Vickie Schaepler - 2020 Fundraising Appeal, - IMO of father, Shizuo Sakurada
Hiroshi Shima - 2020 Fundraising Appeal
Metta Tanikawa - 2020 Fundraising Appeal
Julie Ishio Tsuchiya - Founder's / Ishio Scholarship
Grant Ujfusa - 2020 JAVA Fundraising Appeal
Vietnam Veterans of America, Dean K. Phillips Memorial Chapter 227 - 2020 Fundraising Appeal - JAVA Scholarship Program
Elizabeth Vokac - COL Virgil R. Miller Scholarship
Ruth Sono Watanabe - COL Jimmie Kanaya Scholarship
Gerald Yamada - 2020 Fundraising Appeal
Takashi Yamamoto, USN (Ret) - 2020 Fundraising Appeal
Allan Yamashiro - 2020 Fundraising Appeal
CAPT Homer Yasui, USNR - 2020 Fundraising Appeal
Bugler at the 72nd Annual Memorial Day Service, November 15, 2020 (Rescheduled). Photo: Neet Ford.
On behalf of the Japanese American Veterans Association, I welcome you to this 72nd annual Memorial Day Service at Arlington National Cemetery. JAVA is proud to again co-sponsor this service, with the Washington, DC Chapter of JACL and the National Japanese American Memorial Foundation.
Thank you -- to Turner Kobayashi and your family -- for again organizing today’s rescheduled Memorial Day Service. This event was started in 1948 by Turner’s Dad, Key Kobayashi. I remember Key with very fond memories and appreciate his work, as a member of the Redress Commission staff. This program has been organized every year, since 1948, by the Key Kobayashi family, and we look forward to enjoying this program in the many years to come.
Today, we honor the soldiers who are no longer with us. They came from different backgrounds to serve, but they had one thing in common. They believed in America.
For our community, the World War II Japanese American soldiers serve as our role models. They put honor, duty, and country first. They kept their faith that America was still the land of hope and opportunity for them and their families. They answered the call to serve because their faith in America was neither diminished by the government’s suspicions of their ethnicity nor eroded by the government’s distrust of their loyalty.
They stepped forward at a time when they knew that they would be putting themselves in harm’s way. Almost 800 Nisei soldiers made the ultimate sacrifice during World War II. They died fighting for America, without knowing, if the freedoms, for which they fought, would be restored to their family and friends, who were unjustly imprisoned by the Franklin Roosevelt Administration.
The wartime service and valor of the World War II Japanese American soldiers won battles on battlefields in Europe and in the Pacific, and fought prejudice at home. Today, and every day, let us remember their faith in America, their sacrifices for our community, and their service to our country. They are our heroes. They are America’s heroes.
In this delayed Memorial Day service, let us honor, with our deepest respect, all fallen soldiers. And, in appreciation to all, who have served and are serving, we simply say to you, “Thank you for your service and God bless you.”
Gerald Yamada, 72nd Annual Veterans Day Service at Arlington National Cemetery, November 15, 2020. Photo: Neet Ford.
Turner Kobayashi at the 72nd Annual Memorial Day Service, November 15, 2020. Photo: Neet Ford.
11/15/20 is today’s date. Numbers have a way of working in mysterious ways. My father, Key Kiyokazu Kobayashi was born on March 11, 1922 in Fresno, California. Both his parents passed before he turned the age of four and he was raised by family and family friends. He grew up in Fresno, Turlock and eventually graduated from Alameda High School. He got accepted to the University of California, Berkeley and was an excited and avid student. In the second semester of his sophomore year, he learned that Executive Order 9066 was signed by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, this order authorized the evacuation of all persons deemed a threat to national security from the West Coast to relocation centers further inland. Little did he know or understand the road that laid ahead.
He was moved from the college campus to temporary housing, then to an assembly center in Fresno before finally arriving at the Gila River Relocation Center in Arizona. It was an eye opening experience for a 21 year old young man. He adjusted and adapted as best as he could, he joined the camp baseball team to give him the chance to travel outside the barbed wire fences to play other camps. He realized that the only way to actually leave the camp was either for the war to end or for him to join the US military. He chose to join the U.S. Army. Due to his bilingual skills, he entered the Military Intelligence Service and achieved the rank of Lieutenant.
Upon one of his deployments, he meets my mom in Tokyo. Kyoko Toyoda was a Japanese national at the time, having lost her father, older brother and sister to the horrific Tokyo fire bombings. I can only imagine what my grandmother was thinking when a young man wearing a United States Army uniform comes up and asks her for her daughter’s hand in marriage after all the suffering she had experienced.
Our dad came back to the states with a young bride that spoke no English, two small children at the time and went back to finish his schooling. He graduated from UC Berkeley with a degree in Political Science and later went on and received his Master's degree from Columbia University in International Relations.
But things weren’t easy. There was still quite a bit of anti-Japanese sentiment after the war and finding a job was very challenging. Fortunately, some of his military buddies would vouch for him and he was able to get a job at the U.S. Patent Office and then he moved over to the Library of Congress, where he spent the bulk of his career as the Assistant Head of the Japanese section.
He became the father of seven children, four girls, three boys. My mom became a proud naturalized U.S. citizen and eventually had her own distinguished career with the U.S. government.
Our dad was active, very active. He was the President and member of our elementary, intermediate, and high school PTAs. He was a proud, long-serving member and officer of the Kiwanis Club. He was an active officer and member of the DC chapter of the JACL. He was one of the original members of JAVA. He worked on The Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians. He was a long time volunteer and officer for Little League Baseball as their Far East Liaison Representative. He was instrumental in bringing the Japanese and Taiwan teams to the Little League World Series, even acting as team interpreter and representative for ABC Wide World of Sports coverage. A year after his death, Fairfax County named the baseball park that my brothers and sisters played on at Jefferson Village in Falls Church after him: The Key Kobayashi Baseball Field. Our Field of Dreams.
We are here today in part because of our dad. He began a memorial service back in 1948 with other JACL members like Mike Masaoka and Ira Shimasaki for an annual Memorial Day Service here at Arlington National Cemetery. He was the chairman of this event for 44 consecutive years until the year of his death in 1992. My family and I have been attending this event for many years. For the last 28 years, I have had the honor to carry on this tradition as chairman of this event. It has been running for 72 years now, the longest continually running service by an outside organization in the history of Arlington National Cemetery.
It was on 11/15, November 15th in 1992, that changed our family’s lives. It was this day 28 years ago, that my mom’s husband of 40 years at that time, our dad died suddenly and unexpectantly of a heart attack. It was an incredibly sad day. I miss him to this day as I know my mom and brothers and sisters do.
However, this story does not end on this sad note. Just over a month ago, on October 14th, my only child and daughter, Kara had a son, my and Mary Kay’s first grandchild, a first great-grandson to my mom and dad. His name is Cody Kiyokazu Divakinja, after his mom’s grandfather, her dad’s father, her grandmother’s husband. Ironically, the time of birth was 11:15. As they say, as one chapter closes, another one opens.
Here’s to the memory of my mom’s husband, our dad, our children’s grandfather and great grandfather, a community leader, a fighter for civil rights, a coach, a volunteer, military officer, patriotic citizen, your friend and colleague and a great man: Key Kiyokazu Kobayashi. Love you Dad.
[Ed Note: To watch a recording of the 2020 Memorial Day Service or learn about the Keynote Address given by CAPT Cynthia Macri, MC, USN (Ret), visit the JAVA Memorial Day webpage at https://www.java-us.org/Memorial-Day or click here.]
Keynote speaker CAPT Cynthia Macri, MC, USN (Ret) at the 72nd Annual Memorial Day Service, November 15, 2020. Photo: Neet Ford.
2020 Veterans Day wreath placed before the names of the 800 Nisei soldiers killed-in-action in World War II, National Japanese American Memorial to Patriotism in WWII, Washington, DC. Photo: Nicole Yamada
JAVA Vice President Howard High serves as emcee at the 2020 Veterans Day Ceremony. Photo: Nicole Yamada.
While many traditions have been upended this year, the Japanese American Veterans Association (JAVA), along with the National Japanese American Memorial Foundation (NJAMF), kept to tradition and held its annual Veterans Day Ceremony on Wednesday, November 11th, at the National Japanese American Memorial in Washington, DC. Instead of audience applause, heart and thumbs-up emojis floated over the JAVA Facebook feed, as watchers from far away locales such as Hawaii, Florida, and California signaled their gratitude for the sacrifices made by Nisei Veterans and their families.
Gerald Yamada, JAVA President, Veterans Day Ceremony, November 11, 2020. National Japanese American Memorial to Patriotism in WWII, Washington, DC. Photo: Nicole Yamada.
JAVA Vice President and U.S. Army Veteran, Howard High, served as emcee. He opened the program noting that the JAVA/NJAMF Veterans Day Program was selected by the Veterans Day National Committee from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs as one of the “Veterans Day observances throughout the country to represent a fitting tribute to America’s heroes.” Howard High then introduced Gerald Yamada, JAVA President. Yamada welcomed viewers and noted that the day’s damp weather reminded him of his days in basic training in Fort Lewis, Washington. Yamada then reflected on the “huge debt of gratitude” owed to the Nisei soldiers who served during World War II. He continued,
“They served with valor. They amassed a heroic combat record, which is yet to be surpassed. They left us a legacy, from which we have benefited and will continue to benefit. They are an inspiration for all Americans. Their service kept America safe and free. Their service proved their loyalty, in spite of the prejudice, war hysteria, and distrust that confronted them. They truly are America’s heroes.
Let us also honor the 800 Nisei soldiers whose names are inscribed on the granite panels of this Memorial behind me. They died defending America’s freedoms -- not knowing whether their sacrifice would make a difference.
History would say to those 800 Nisei soldiers, ‘You can rest in peace. Your sacrifice did make a difference.’”
Rhianna Taniguchi, NJAMF Board Member & U.S. Army National Guard Veteran, Veterans Day Ceremony, November 11, 2020. National Japanese American Memorial to Patriotism in WWII, Washington, DC. Photo: Nicole Yamada.
Next, Rhianna Taniguchi, NJAMF Board Member & U.S. Army National Guard Veteran addressed the virtual audience. After thanking veterans for their service, Ms. Taniguchi highlighted the remarkable diversity of the armed services and underscored the Nisei’s contribution to that diversity:
“The story of Japanese American military service during World War II reminds us that no matter what race you may be, what language you may speak, or what religion you may practice - all Americans have a place in our country and in our ranks. Those who know their story are well equipped to serve tomorrow’s veterans because they know that our nation and our military are strengthened by its diversity. It’s our responsibility and honor to share that history.”
Ms. Taniguchi then encouraged listeners to go beyond words and reach out to a veteran. She urged all to consider mentoring a veteran at work, donating money to a veteran organization, and learning about veteran issues like PTSD. Ms. Taniguchi finished by sharing her hope that on this Veterans Day, “each and every one of us can make a difference in the life of a veteran.”
U.S. Coast Guard RDML Andrew M. Sugimoto, Assistant Commandant for Intelligence, Veterans Day Ceremony, November 11, 2020. National Japanese American Memorial to Patriotism in WWII, Washington, DC. Photo: Nicole Yamada.
Taking the podium, U.S. Coast Guard RDML Andrew M. Sugimoto, Assistant Commandant for Intelligence, opened by sharing how personally significant it was for him to finally visit the Memorial. He explained that his father was a camp internee in Arkansas before volunteering to fight in World War II. Other family members also served – an uncle in the 442nd, two uncles in the MIS, and some made parachutes and critical war supplies in camp. For Sugimoto, the “dedication, sacrifice and courage exhibited by those who served in our nation's armed forces” felt particularly personal at the Memorial and offered that the Japanese word “giri” or moral devotion undergirds the sacrifices and spirit of service of those that came before us. The Rear Admiral continued that his sense of duty began when he took the oath of office. He added that the powerful words of the oath have been spoken by “17. 4 million Americans who have paused their personal pursuits, have said goodbye to loved ones…and have done so to ensure that every one of us still has the ability to speak our minds, follow religions of our choice, vote, love those who we want to, and to be secure in our inalienable rights.” Sugimoto emphasized that such liberties, even though they might be taken for granted “were secured by our veterans who chose to serve.”
RMDL Sugimoto suggested the Japanese word for gratitude or “kansha” was also fitting for Veterans Day. He then thanked the 17. 4 million veterans who “selflessly secured” American freedoms. He also thanked military families; “the husbands, the wives, and the kids, [who] each and every day provide the love and foundational support for service members to go out and honor that oath of office.” Sugimoto closed by suggesting the that the Memorial’s sculpture of the entwined golden cranes bound by barbed wire not only “embodies [his] family’s experiences, their need for communal support and interdependence on one another while struggling for freedom” but also represents the service members daily fight for freedom and need for support. Sugimoto told watchers that he is hopeful for the future, and that his “hope was brought by the very service of our nation's Veterans and I am eternally grateful.”
JAVA Executive Council Member LTC Mark Nakagawa, USA (Ret), and RDML Sugimoto observe a moment of silence, Veterans Day Ceremony, November 11, 2020. National Japanese American Memorial to Patriotism in WWII, Washington, DC. Photo: Nicole Yamada.
After the Rear Admiral’s words, JAVA Executive Council Member LTC Mark Nakagawa, USA (Ret), and RDML Sugimoto placed a wreath before the 800 names of Japanese Americans killed in action during World War II. The wreath laying was followed by a moment of silence for the fallen. Before ending the program, Howard High thanked the speakers and JAVA co-sponsor NJAMF for helping us to honor our Veterans and remember the sacrifices they have made to preserve our freedom.
[Ed Note: To watch a recording of the 2020 Veterans Day Ceremony visit the JAVA Veterans Day webpage at https://www.java-us.org/Veterans-Day or click here.]
PFC Takeshi Kazumura (possibly the shortest soldier to serve in the U.S. Army) and Lt. Joseph Lawrence Byrne. Photo: U.S. Signal Corps.
(First printed in Rafu Shimpo, Nov. 5, 2009)
The Sunday before Memorial Day I was listening to the comments of NPR commentator (Cowboy Poet) Baxter Black. He recounted an afternoon sitting with his son and dad (asleep in his chair), having just watched a documentary about the USS Enterprise, in which men stayed with wounded comrades rather than swim to safety. The film reminded him of his dad, "Grandpa" Tommy, who served in the navy. Whenever asked about his service "Grandpa" Tommy would jokingly reply, "I saved the world". With Memorial Day approaching, Mr. Black said he would say, "Thanks Grandpa Tommy, for saving the world.” as soon as he awoke from his nap.
That account brought to my mind one of those men of World War II. Putting thoughts of personal safety aside as he dove into the heated fuel-filled water of Pearl Harbor to retrieve bodies and remnants of sailors floating amid the wreckage of the battleship Arizona. The attempts had the ring of futility to my ears as he expressed that those he pulled to the docks were beyond needing help, but it was a job that needed to be done. This action evoked the image of a statuesque sailor of Hollywood movies (circa the 1940s) or the strong swimmer’s physique of Johnny Weissmuller (Olympic swim champion/Tarzan), so you might be surprised to read that Larry "Shorty" Takeshi Kazumura stood a towering 4'-9".
As the Japanese attack unfurled with the sound of machine-gun fire and the explosions of torpedoes hitting the moored ships, Mr. Kazumura (a member of a civilian work-crew) was busy loading lumber onto a ship, bound for another island. This cargo stayed at Pearl Harbor, quickly fashioned into coffins for the overwhelming body count, which was buried in long trenches by the harbor. Mr. Kazumura was the only man of Japanese heritage left on the base (to his knowledge and for unknown reasons), the others having been escorted off with their arms raised in the air as he watched them march away. Working a 36-hour shift, his prolonged exposure to the fuel and other chemicals in the water resulted in a six-month-long illness.
I had the honor of meeting Mr. Kazumura in 2007 when he agreed to participate in an interview with the Go For Broke National Education Center's, Hanashi Oral History Program. Originally born and raised in Hawaii, he later settled in Seattle, Washington, where he joined the Nisei Veterans Committee (NVC). The NVC arranged our introduction and participated in the interview.
Shocked by the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7th, 1941, and angered by the death of his two friends, Mr. Kazumura felt compelled to volunteer his service at the first opportunity. The 100th Battalion (a segregated Japanese American unit) was formed mainly from members of the Hawaiian Territorial Guard and Hawaii based Nisei (second generation) soldiers already in the service when war was declared. The U.S. Military decided to expand the recruitment of these hard training soldiers to include servicemen and volunteers from the mainland and then returned to Hawaii to fill the additional 1,500 men needed to form the 442nd Regimental Combat Team. Mr. Kazumura seized the opportunity to join the ranks. He was initially turned away with the phrase, “Son, you’re too short”. Overwhelmed by the crush of 10,000 volunteers to fill the 1,500 spots, the initial onsite physicals were dispensed with. He made it past the first station when standing erect, he declared to an officer that his height was 5’ or 5'-2", he didn’t quite remember. The skeptical officer sent him to the next station and the stature of his determination got him into the unit…that and a later discovered clerical error that lists his height at 5'-8".
“Shorty” spoke of how the issued uniform—designed with the average non-Asian in mind—hung off his body, the sleeves reaching the floor. It evoked the image of a boy wearing his father’s uniform on-for-size. Like many of his fellow soldiers, he would have to have the uniform altered. Boots proved to be another challenge, as he was issued a pair of size 8 boots to fit his 2-1/2 EEE feet. His account conveyed both the difficulty of training, as the length of the newspaper-filled boots gave him little traction on a field march and the comical appearance of oversized clown shoes. Our crew found many opportunities for laughter, because he spoke in a light easy manner, with the ability to see a situation as others might and having the gift of being able to laugh at himself.
Despite his height, “Shorty” had a strong physique, which was strengthened by a year-plus of training at Camp Shelby, Mississippi, before the 442nd received orders to ship out and deploy to Europe in May 1944. He also possessed a keen sense of direction, which he proudly proclaimed, won him the first Private First Class rank within his unit, during their first week of training. This ability assured the men of his group that they would find their way back to camp during night-maneuvers training.
“Shorty” was assigned scout and runner (messenger) duties and served as a bodyguard for 1st Lt. (and later, Capt.) Joseph Lawrence Byrne. Shorty's height provided a stark visual contrast to that of Byrne’s 6'-4" frame. The two soldiers got along very well because of the mutual respect for each other's abilities, which resulted in their teaming up to survey the landscape whenever I Company would relocate to a new area. “Shorty” expressed concern that Lt. Byrne’s height would make him an easy target for the Germans to zero-in-on. He quickly concluded that your height really doesn't matter; recounting an incident where he received nicks and bruises from shrapnel, kicked-up rocks, and debris, while Byrne standing next to him was unscathed.