Our sincere condolences to the loved ones of our friends who have recently passed away.
JAVA member Marie Tashiro passed away at the age of 95 on April 21, 2019. Marie was the wife of Jack Tashiro, who served in the MIS, participated in the Occupation Forces in Japan and then joined the CIA. The Tashiro's helped in the early days of JAVA with Jack serving as Treasurer and Marie lending a hand wherever needed. Both Marie and Jack shared their memories of growing up on the West Coast and experiences of their families in internment camps at Poston and Tule Lake in the Library Of Congress Veteran History Project, http://memory.loc.gov/diglib/vhp/story/loc.natlib.afc2001001.27114/transcript?ID=mv0001.
Washington, DC . Hiroshi Arisumi, Chairman of Arisumi Brothers, a commercial construction company, and a patriot, died on March 8, 2019 at the age of 98. Arisumi quit school at age 12 to work as a day laborer at the Hawaiian Commercial and Sugar Company to help support his family. As a carpenter he repaired and built dwellings for the plantation’s employees, built bridges across canals and other carpentry work.
When the War Department issued a call for volunteers to serve in the 442nd Regimental Combat Team (RCT), Arisumi volunteered. Because of his carpentry skills he was assigned to the 232nd Engineer Company. The enemy destroyed bridges, mined the rivers, fields and canals and felled large trees to block the roadways to impede the advancing Americans. The Engineers tasks were to cope with these impediments and to create mine fields, search for and deactivate mines, build bridges and roads and clear the path for the tanks, trucks and infantrymen to advance forward. Arisumi told David Fukuda in an oral history interview “In fact our platoon we really got bust up over there. Fortunately, I never got hit, but, gee, almost one half of the platoon got hit”. Combat Correspondent Lyn Crost’s Honor by Fire, page 257, described the Engineers job this way: “The engineers’ job was one of the worst in the Combat Team. . . . too often, they had to use their weapons to remain alive under enemy fire. . . . The infantry couldn’t have won battles without the support of the engineers. . . . Food and ammunition could get to infantryman so that they could push the retreating enemy faster and harder. And, in this fight for the west coast of Italy, the 232nd Engineer Company shared with the 100th Battalion a Distinguished Unit Citation for ten days of bitter action, April 5 to 14, 1945.”
As an Army engineers non commissioned officer, Arisumi gained first hand experience on how to build structures, discipline and organization. Along the way he learned carpentry at Maui Vocational School. Upon his discharge from the Army, Arisumi was employed by the US Army and US Navy in Honolulu. The Hawaiian Commercial and Sugar Company offered him a job as supervisor, however, he politely declined and in 1952 along with his brother Mitsuo, formed a partnership called Arisumi Brothers. Their specialty was to build starter homes and later specialized in commercial buildings.
Arisumi purchased a two acre farm property in the Maui countryside which had 50 persimmon trees. He took personal pride in tending these trees, planting other fruit trees, and sharing the bountiful harvests with his neighbors and the Nisei Veterans Memorial Center (NVMC) complex.
When his children were young he took them to Disneyland and to other cities on the west coast of the mainland where Nisei veterans reunions were held. When the children grew up they took Dad in 2014 on a two week trip to Italy and France to visit locations where he fought. He was accorded a hero’s welcome wherever he visited such as Bruyeres where the towns people held a reception at City Hall in his honor.
Arisumi was passionately committed to preserving the legacy of the WW II generation. He served as a member of the board of NVMC for 25 years and as its president for 23 years. He provided the leadership that led to the construction of the NVMC Education Center in 2013, the Kansha Pre School Building and the Maui Adult Daycare Center, both built in 2006 and all three located on the same campus in Wailuku. Leonard Oka, founder of Maui Sons and Daughters of 442nd veterans, said “it took 30 years to raise funds for the construction of the NVMC”. Submitting the lowest bid, Arisumi Brothers won the construction contract. Oka was impressed with Arisumi’s style, negotiating skills, and courtesies. “Mr Arisumi was like a rock, when he spoke people listen”, Oka said. Arisumi said the NVMC building is a memorial to the WW II soldiers who did not return and he is pleased with the Sons and Daughters initiative and commitment. When the JAVA Newsletter reporter commended the Maui’s Sons and Daughters of the Nisei Veterans for their community work, Oka said, “Our Issei Grandparents and our Nisei parents worked hard to give the Sansei generation the education and other opportunities that allowed us to live a comfortable life. It also allowed us the freedom to reach out and contribute to our communities. How else do we assure that the legacy our fathers fought for, will continue to benefit future generations”?
NVMC has honored Arisumi by naming the preschool building as the Hiroshi and Edna Arisumi Kansha Pre school Building and the Education Workroom in NVMC building as the Arisumi Brothers, Inc. workshop. In 2005 Arisumi was elected as NVMC President Emeritus. He received the Nihon Bunka Award from the Japanese Cultural Society of Maui and the Japanese Imperial Order of the Rising Sun from the Government of Japan. The French government presented him with its prestigious Legion of Honor and his own government the Congressional Gold Medal, the Presidential Unit Citation and campaign ribbons.
JAVA Research Team
Brig. Gen. Thomas S. Ito
Brig. Gen. Thomas S. Ito, who played a key role during the Cold War managing the transition of mainland National Guard artillery units to solid fuel ground-to-air Nike Hercules missiles as deterrent against long-range Soviet bombers, has died. When Ito was promoted to brigadier general in 1977, he became the fourth Japanese American to become a general in the U.S. military.
Ito, 90, spent 37 years as a commissioned officer in the Hawaii Army National Guard, retiring in 1988. He died Jan. 26. Memorial services were held March 12. Private burial will be at the National Cemetery of the Pacific. His survivors include his widow, Doris; and three children-- Merrie Chung; Wendell; and Alison Kevern.
Retired Hawaii Army National Guard Chief of Staff Col. Gerald Silva remembers Ito “as a pioneer when he served at the National Guard Bureau in the Pentagon (in the 1960s). He was one of the rising stars at the national level when Army National Guard units across the country took on the active air defense of their areas--a role that had been traditionally been handled by Active Army units. Tom was a key player in helping with that transition nationwide. On the mainland, some Guard units took over older liquid-fueled Nike Ajax systems. In Hawaii, the Hawaii Army National Guard was one of the first organizations in the nation to field the state-of-the-art, solid-fueled Nike Hercules missiles (in 1960).”
Silva recalled that the Hawaii National Guard operated missile sites on Oahu that were “the centerpiece of the Hawaii Air Defense system. The units went on to
achieve national recognition--to including setting a world record for the
longest intercept of a target drone. The record was set by a Hawaii Army National Guard unit in Kahuku and the missile was launched from a launch pad located on the
grounds now occupied by the Turtle Bay resort. “
The Hawaii Army Guard also set a precedent in the country when they took
over the command and control responsibilities for the missile sites -- staffing the command post deep underground in Kunia, Silva said. “In partnership
with the Hawaii Air National Guard's fighter units, Hawaii became the first
area in the United States where the complete air defense system was operated
by the National Guard.”
Ito and Silva served in the 298th Air Defense Group, which was the first in the country to be armed with 72 nuclear capable Nike Hercules missiles as a defense against Soviet bombers. The unit had four lethal missile launch sites on Oahu – Palehua, Bellows Air Force Station, Dillingham Air Force Base and the Kahuku Training Area. Ito spent four years on active duty from 1962-66 as a major assigned to the Pentagon to manage the multi-million dollar conversion of mainland National Guard Nike Ajax to the Nike Hercules missile system. The Nike missile program was terminated in 1974 when intercontinental ballistic missiles were introduced.
Ito was born in 1928. He graduated from Mid-Pacific and the University of Hawaii in 1952. He joined the Hawaii Army National Guard as a field artillery officer in 1951. He also served as deputy adjutant general.
Gregg K. Kakesako worked for the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, Gannett News Service in Washington, D.C and the Honolulu Star-Advertiser for more than four decades as a government, political and military affairs reporter and assistant city editor.
BG Thomas S. Ito
Wounded in Solomon Islands, Decorated MIS Nisei also Served in US Special Forces Brigade to Open Burma Road
JAVA Research Team
Myitkyina, Burma. Japanese Americans were prohibited from serving in the Asia Pacific Theater during WW II because they were viewed as disloyal. This prohibition was waived for some 3,000 Nisei linguists, who were desperately needed to serve in a large translation unit in Australia and in small numbers with Army, Marine, Navy and Army Air Corps on the war front and at division headquarters overseas and at stateside locations. Nisei, carrying guns and translators’ paraphernalia, accompanied every infantry and marine invading campaign. Their duty was to translate captured documents and to interrogate prisoners and pass intelligence information to commanders real time to prepare counterattack strategies to win battles and save American lives. Their individual awards of Combat Infantryman’s Badge, Distinguished Service Cross, Purple Heart, Silver Star, Bronze Star for Valor and Air medal are evidence of their front line work. No Nisei was withdrawn or court martialed for supporting the enemy, a testimony of their loyalty.
This is a story of T/Sgt Kazuo Komoto of Sanger, Fresno County California, who was wounded by a Japanese sniper bullet in New Georgia, Solomon Islands. After his recovery he volunteered for the MARS Task Force, a US Special Forces brigade that opened the Burma Road to haul war materiel from Burma to China. Komoto was awarded the Purple Heart Medal in the Solomon Islands, the first MIS member to receive this Medal, and the Combat Infantryman’s Badge for his duty in Burma and the Bronze Star Medal for meritorious service.
When Komoto was 9 years old his mother took him and his two other siblings to Okayama Prefecture, Japan. In 1937, following graduation from high school, Komoto began the enrollment process to enter a university, however, with war clouds looming in Japan, he decided instead to return to America, where he worked on the family farm. He was drafted into the US Army in 1941 and, after war began, volunteered to serve in the Military Intelligence Service (MIS). He graduated from the MIS Language School at Camp Savage, MN in June 1942. Selected as the team leader for a 10 Nisei language team, they were shipped to Fiji Islands, a way stop to Solomon Islands, a former British Protectorate. With Guadalcanal, also in Solomon Islands, being in the mopping-up stage the new scene of combat was New Georgia.
While on a mission in New Georgia in June 1943, Komoto was shot by a Japanese sniper which tore up his knee. He was placed on a hospital ship where he was awarded the Purple Heart Medal. In mid August 1943 Komoto was transferred to a stateside hospital, where he met Eleanor Roosevelt, who was visiting wounded soldiers. Komoto told Mrs. Roosevelt about his family in an internment camp.
In Fall 1943, prior to his next assignment, Komoto was given a 30-day leave, which he spent with his family at Gila River, Arizona, Internment Camp. Komoto was pleased to read a warm letter his mother had received from the undersecretary of war pertaining to his wound. After his leave, Komoto reported for duty at Presidio of Monterey where he was told his next assignment would be the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, which was training at Camp Shelby, Mississippi. Viewing that as an MIS tech sergeant he could not fit in an infantry unit, Komoto arranged for an assignment with the MIS Language School in Camp Savage, MN. Major John Aiso, head instructor, assigned Komoto as an instructor. After a period of teaching, Komoto obtained a transfer to the Southeast Asia Translation and interrogation Center (SEATIC), located in New Delhi, India. From there, Komoto applied for and was approved to serve as leader of the 12-man MIS team for the 475th Infantry Regiment of the 5332nd Brigade (Provisional), nicknamed the MARS Task Force.
The MARS Task Force succeeded the Merrill’s Marauders, which had disbanded after the August 3, 1944 capture of Myitkyina with the support of Chinese Nationalist, and Kachin (Burmese) scouts. The capture of Myitkyina was important because it was on the Burma Road and had an all weather airport from which Japanese fighter planes interdicted American planes flying over the hump to transport goods to China.
The MARS Task Force forced the Japanese troops to retreat south of Lashio, Burma, the starting terminal of the Burma Road thus clearing the Burma Road to transport war materiel unimpeded from Lashio to Kunming, China, a distance of 720 miles. The Burma Road was built in 1937 after the outbreak of the Sino-Japanese War. The soldiers of Merrill’s Marauders and the MARS Task Force have the distinction of being the first American soldiers to fight on the Asian continent since the Boxer Rebellion in 1899.
Its mission accomplished, the MARS Task Force disbanded in July 1945 and Komoto returned to SEATIC . He was recommended for field commission in July 1945 and also for a MIS position in China. The war ended on September 2, 1945. Having accumulated enough points for an honorable discharge, Komoto chose that option.After his discharge, Komoto got married to Rose Kimoto, also of Sanger, owned and operated the Mid Valley Nursery, worked for Franklin Life Insurance Company, and became a real estate broker. He has a son, Jeffrey, and daughter, Tina. Five of the Komoto brothers served in the US Army and the sixth, who remained in Japan, had no military duty. Komoto died in Sanger on December 3, 2018, soon after his 100th birthday.
JAVA Research Team
Kazuo Komoto, taken during his later years.
Kazuo Komoto showing his Purple Heart Medal to younger brother Susumu during his visit to Gila River, AZ, internment camp, where his family was interned. Komoto was on leave following hospitalization from wound sustained in combat. Photo courtesy of War Relocation Authority.
Questions or Suggestions: Please contact Neet Ford, JAVA e-Advocate Editor, at email@example.com.
Japanese American Veterans Association: (202) 494-1978, Address: P.O. Box 341998, Bethesda, MD 20827 I https://java.wildapricot.org
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