Japanese American Veterans Association

e-Advocate

Vol 1 No. 9, October 1, 2019 

President's Message

Gerald Yamada, JAVA President

As JAVA President, let me thank those that supported me.  I also thank Al Goshi for his time and effort in serving as President for the past two years and on the Executive Council for a number of years before that.  Al has been very gracious in helping me to transition into this position. 


I am pleased to announce the JAVA leadership team that has been put into place.  The elected officers are:

Gerald Yamada, President

Howard High, Vice President

Ruby Ellis, Treasurer

Linda Bethke-Cyr, Secretary

In addition to the elected officers above, the members of the Executive Council are:

  • Mark Nakagawa, Chair of Finance Committee
  • Ken Washington, Chair of Nomination Committee
  • George Ishikata, Chair of Awards Committee
  • Cynthia Macri, Chair of Outreach Committee
  • Jason Kuroiwa, Chair of Communications Committee
  • Metta Tanikawa, Chair of JAVA Luncheon Committee
  • Marty Herbert, Liaison to Freedom Walk Committee
  • Dawn Eilenberger, General Counsel
  • Chris DeRosa has agreed to serve as Chair of Scholarship Committee for another year.  Brett Egusa will serve as Chair of Veterans Day Program Committee for this year.
  • I promised, if elected president of JAVA, to promote the legacy created by the valor and sacrifices made by the Japanese Americans who served in the US military during World War II; to increase JAVA’s visibility; and to strengthen how JAVA is governed and its accountability.   With the support of the Executive Council, we have already taken steps to fulfill these promises.
  • Promote the Legacy of the Nisei Soldiers.  I have felt that the Japanese American community needs to have a special celebration to acknowledge the benefits that have been derived from the legacy created by the Nisei soldiers.
  • To address this, the Executive Council voted to designate July 15 as a Day of Affirmation to commemorate what was accomplished by those who choose to put country first while their family and friends were imprisoned in America’s war relocation internment camps. 
  • It was on July 15, 1946, that President Harry Truman received the returning 442nd Regimental Combat Team at the White House Ellipse at 12 noon in the rain and praised their battlefield accomplishments by saying "You fought the enemy abroad and you fought prejudice at home, and you won.  Keep up that fight, and we will continue to win", thereby affirming the decision made by the Japanese American soldiers to serve their country and its ideals and to demonstrate loyalty as their way to fight the prejudice that they faced at home.       
  • On July 15, 2020, JAVA is planning to lay a wreath at the World War II National Memorial to honor all the Japanese Americans who served during World War II.  The honor guard will consist of Japanese American veterans of World War II or lineal descendants or ancestors of Japanese Americans who served during World War II.
  • On July 15, 2021, JAVA has reserved the US Army Museum for a gala event to honor the Nisei soldiers in addition to the wreath laying ceremony at the World War II National Memorial earlier that day.  Tours of the US Army Museum will be a part of the evening event.    
  • Be sure to mark your calendars for both of these Day of Affirmation events.
  • As part of its mission, JAVA found it necessary to raise its voice in defending the legacy of the Nisei soldiers in response to the resolution of apology adopted by the National Council of the Japanese American Citizens League earlier this year.  JAVA’s letter to JACL, dated September 17, 2019, can be found at the JAVA website at java.wildapricot.org.
  • Increasing JAVA’s Visibility.  I have started to attend the monthly meetings of the National Military and Veterans Alliance and to circulate NMVA’s position papers and letters on pending legislation affecting the military, veterans, and their families to the Executive Council to determine whether JAVA should lend its support. 
  • Strengthening Governance and Accountability.  Proposed revisions to the JAVA By-laws have been posted on JAVA’s website -- java.wildapricot.org – for a 60 day comment period.  These revisions substantially amend the JAVA By-laws.  These revisions, if approved, will strengthen transparency, governance, and accountability of JAVA’s operations.  The goal is to present a revised set of by-laws, approved by JAVA’s Executive Council, at the January 2020 general membership meeting for ratification. The JAVA Executive Council has approved this schedule.  

Anyone wishing to give me comments on these initiatives can do so by either attending the next JAVA quarterly on October 12th at the Harvest Moon Restaurant where I will be discussing these initiatives or by sending me your comments by emailing them to javapotomac@gmail.com.

We ask for your continued support by attending JAVA-sponsored events and increasing our membership by getting another war veteran to join JAVA or to have a family member or friend designated as a Friend of JAVA.  See JAVA’s website at java.wildapricot.org for a membership application or information about being designated as a Friend of JAVA at no cost. 

Pete Rubino and His “Doll” Storm Normandy Beach Again


                              

COL Menyhert and Pete Rubino. Photo; Provided COL Menyhert.

COL Renita Menyhert,USA (Ret), JAVA member

He always called me “Doll!” Very politically incorrect by today’s standards, but I adored it. It was proof I’d been accepted by Pete. And as a military journalist dedicated to writing about the Army’s heroes and their extraordinary adventures, approval by any Soldier is a must for me.

     I first met Pete Rubino at a chance outing at Gibbs Hall. He worked at the Suneagles Golf Course and offered to drive me around the area that sunny afternoon. As we conversed, I realized he was the man I’d been searching for.

     Ceremonies for the annual anniversary of the Normandy invasion were approaching, and I was looking for veterans to write about. Retired Col. Paul Zigo, Director for World War II Studies at Brookdale College had given me Pete’s name and assured me he would be a great subject.

    As Pete and I chatted during that first encounter, I knew Zigo was right. As a 29th Infantry Division infantryman, Pete was one of the first Soldiers to storm Omaha Beach in the early morning of June 6, 1944. When the subject of the most famous invasion in history came up, Pete was humble and nonchalant. “It was my duty,” he said simply. “I was an American who loved my country and wanted to serve it.”

       Pete had not always been comfortable sharing that infamous morning from over half a century ago. After he returned from overseas duty in 1945, nightmares of Omaha Beach plagued his sleep. For the next 40 years, he avoided the subject of World War II until he was approached by Zigo who was gathering material for the Center for World War II Studies and Conflict Resolution.

     “I was amazed when he agreed to a video taped interview,” recalled Zigo. “Although Pete insisted he had nothing to say, the 30 minute session turned into two hours!”

     Zigo described that time with Pete as “emotionally packed.” “The beach was red and the water was red,” said Pete. Those words alone prompted tears from Zigo and the television crew bringing production to a halt. When the taping resumed, Pete revealed for the first time what he and his buddies had experienced in Normandy, France on June 6, 1944. 

    Thunderous battle noise accompanied by blinding flashes from deadly weapons firing back and forth ominously greeted Pete as his ship pulled up to the Normandy coast. But according to Pete, he never really “heard” the deafening sounds. He feared the English Channel more than he did the Germans because he couldn’t swim. Luckily, Pete had two tall Texans beside him offering to help him to shore.     

     “They called me ‘Dago,’” grinned Pete at the memory. “They said ‘Dago, just put your arms around us and we’ll walk you to the beach.’ But bullets were coming in from everywhere when we got off the ramp, and the fellow on my right got hit. He had my rifle so I had to wait until I was ashore to find another one.”

     Because the machine guns “were really raking” when the ramp started to drop, Pete began praying to his mother, the woman he looked upon as a patron saint. Afterwards, he always credited her for saving his life that day. 

     With bullets whizzing everywhere, Pete moved on the beach by alternating a few steps and then dropping flat. When he reached a small bluff he heard an officer yell, “We have two choices – either we stay here and get killed or we go up the hill.” With casualties mounting all around them, Soldiers who’d never been in combat dug deep inside themselves and found the courage to charge ahead.  

     Pete continued fighting through Normandy and was in Paris the day of liberation. The war ended for Pete when he was injured in Battle of the Bulge. He never did learn to swim. 

     When his family saw the video, they realized for the first time the tremendous sacrifices Pete had made on their behalf, his friends, community and country. They weren’t the only ones.

     Pete’s love of golf brought him to Fort Monmouth, N. J. where he worked for 14 years as a Recreational Aid at the Fort Monmouth Golf Course and was a member of the Fort Monmouth Golf Club. Many of his coworkers had no idea of his involvement in World War II until he entered Chip Dayton’s office, the Suneagles Golf Manager.

     Pete had come to inform Dayton about his upcoming interview about D-Day at Brookdale. Eager to hear the story, Dayton invited Pete to share the experience with him first. Pete accepted and for the next hour, Dayton sat spellbound as Pete described the morning on Omaha Beach.

     “We had to stop several times because Pete’s emotions got the better of him,” recalled Dayton. “It was like a history class as Pete took me from the boats in the ocean to the shores of Normandy and running up the hill.”   

     After the initial interview with Zigo, Pete found the courage to speak to outside audiences about his war time experiences in France and Germany. Thanks to his new-found confidence, people learned what a battlefield experience was like and understood the effort the “Greatest Generation” made to preserve the freedoms Americans enjoy today.

     “Pete Rubino became and will remain one of the great representatives of the “Greatest Generation,” said Zigo. “This was a title he bore well no matter where he went or to whom he talked.”

     I also reminded Pete “history should not be forgotten or rewritten,” and encouraged him to accept all the requests sent to him to speak about Operation Overlord.

     “Ok, doll,” Pete had grinned. “But you have to come with me.” I agreed, and for the next two years, we embarked on a special crusade together for the purpose of sharing D-Day.

     Pete lectured about the invasion to many local schools and organizations commemorating Memorial and Veteran’s Day and specific battle anniversaries. But the biggest impact he made was with school children. They were mesmerized by his simple, straight talk of what D-Day was like and appreciated his message why freedom should always be cherished and never taken for granted.

     “I had told Pete my office was always open for him after that first occasion,” said Dayton. “He would regularly come in after one of his appearances just to talk. It seemed like great therapy for Pete because he was so happy and excited after each of his speaking ventures.”

      Pete and I had met a few times to discuss various ideas for his upcoming D-Day story when he happened to talk about Soldier life before the invasion. He described being locked up in a camp and the bets starting as to where and when the invasion would come.  He snickered about the Army suddenly providing good food like milk, eggs, ice cream, and steak that Soldiers hadn’t seen for months, describing it as “fattening us up for the kill.” Then there were the long hours aboard the ship where GIs slept, prayed, and played cards. Since the days before Operation Overlord weren’t usually the ones usually read about, I suggested we approach Pete’s story from that point of view.

     When the article called, “The Days before D-Day,” was posted on several military related web sites and recognized by Department of the Army annual writing awards, the pride on Pete’s face was indescribable. When honored at an award ceremony, Pete was moved to tears where the audience stood and applauded him for several minutes.

      The 60th anniversary of Operation Overlord afforded Pete a special invitation by the French government for an all expense paid trip to Paris and Normandy.  When he expressed his doubts and concerns about the venture, I immediately advised him to set those aside and accept. After all, other veterans would be there, and here was a chance for closure.

     Upon his return, Pete eagerly showed me his French Legion of Honor, the highest award given by the French government. Pete was also exhilarated that he met the medic who had saved his life when he was wounded in Battle of the Bulge.

     More encouragement from Zigo led to a second Normandy visit the following year. This time Pete added two more significant experiences. On the previous visit, Pete and the rest of the veterans were denied the chance to walk on Omaha Beach and there was no time to see the Normandy American Cemetery.

     “I had to leave without finding all the men I knew buried there,” said Pete sadly.

      This time, with his entire family and Zigo by his side, Pete walked the shore of Omaha Beach from sun up to sun down. Later, he made his way through 9,387 white crosses in the American Cemetery.

     “Pete wore his French Legion of Honor everyday we were in Normandy,” said Zigo. “Wherever he went, people followed and were enthralled as he shared his D-Day memories.”

     Pete’s courage was tested a second time when a huge crowd gathered to hear him speak about D-Day in the American Cemetery overlooking Omaha Beach.

     “I think it was obvious Pete came full circle on that trip back to France,” added Dayton. “When he came back we looked at all the pictures and his medals and reminisced about the trip. I think it was the best medicine in the world.”

     I visited Pete often when his health began deteriorating. Rather than dwell on his illness, we reverted back to our “politically incorrect ways” telling off color infantry jokes, singing old World War II songs, and reliving Soldier adventures. The laughter gave us both peace and the strength to appreciate the past and enjoy the future.  

    When the notification came that Pete had peacefully passed away, I wanted desperately to leave something with him that would keep us connected. Since the invasion had brought us together, I placed a vial of sand from Omaha Beach in Pete’s hands that also held his rosary. I said my final goodbye with a slow salute and a quote we both enjoyed when parting made famous by the film Saving Private Ryan.  “See you on the beach, Pete.”  “See you on the beach, Doll.”


Have You Discovered Discover Nikkei?

Discover Nikkei Website Home Page. Photo: Discover Nikkei

Discover Nikkei

Discover Nikkei (DiscoverNikkei.org) is an international, community-based web project of the Japanese American National Museum. The multilingual website—available in English, Japanese, Spanish, and Portuguese—brings together the voices and experiences of Nikkei (Japanese emigrants and their descendants). In addition, the project’s network of partners, participants, and site visitors connects Nikkei around the world.

This year, Discover Nikkei celebrates its 14th year online and is pleased to be working with the Japanese American Veterans Association by sharing some of their veteran’s stories from the Advocate in the Journal section of the website. New articles are published every Monday through Saturday about topics ranging from personal and family stories to community histories, from sports to arts, and just about everything in between. In the interviews section, watch clips from video life history interviews with Nikkei, including veterans such as the late Senator Daniel K. Inouye and Susumu “Sus” Ito. JAVA was also recently featured as a Nima of the Month.

There are many other important resources on the website, including the Japanese American Military Experience Database, developed and maintained by the Japanese American National Museum. JAVA members are invited to submit additional information for inclusion in the database. There is also how-to guides for recording your own life history interviews, as well as an online Events calendar and Nikkei Album where users can upload photos and videos to create collections to share with our global audience.

We welcome your thoughts and questions at editor@DiscoverNikkei.org. Visit our contact page to sign up for Discover Nikkei’s monthly e-newsletter, or to follow us on social media.

Discover Nikkei Home Office in JANM Pavilion. Photo: Discover Nikkei.