President’s Message

JAVA President Gerald Yamada. Photo: Shane Sato.

As earlier announced, Neet Ford, JAVA Executive Director, has submitted her resignation effective June 30, 2023, for family reasons.   With the deepest regret, I have accepted her resignation. 

Neet has made enormous contributions to JAVA, and we all have enjoyed working with her.  She will be very much missed by all of us.  We wish her the best in her future endeavors.

We are presently searching for an Executive Director.  If you are interested or know of anyone who would be interested, please contact me at

One of the duties of the Executive Director is to serve as the Editor of the e-Advocate.  Until we have a new Executive Director in place, we will have to scale back future issues of the e-Advocate to include only announcements about JAVA programs, JAVA operations, and JAVA Research Team articles.  Hopefully, this will be a very short disruption.

Gerald Yamada

JAVA President

Fourth Annual Day of Affirmation

JAVA’s 2022 Day of Affirmation Ceremony, National World War II Memorial, Washington DC. L-R: Gerald Yamada, JAVA President; Sandra Tanamachi, whose uncle, Saburo Tanamachi, was killed in action while serving with the 442nd RCT in its efforts to save the Texas Lost Battalion and is one of the first Japanese American to be buried at Arlington National Cemetery; LTC Robert Vokac, U.S. Army (Ret), grandson of Colonel Virgil R. Miller, who was the commanding officer of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team starting with the battle to save the Texas Lost Battalion; Missy Higgins Abrunzo, whose father, Captain Marty Higgins, was the Commander of the Texas Lost Battalion at the time the 442nd RCT rescued it.

By Gerald Yamada, JAVA President

On July 15, 2023, at 12 noon, JAVA will commemorate the triumphant return of the 100th Infantry Battalion/442nd Regimental Combat Team from the bloody battlefields in Europe to Washington, DC.  Seventy-six years earlier, on July 15, 1946, President Harry S. Truman received the military unit at 12 noon at the Ellipse, which is the outer south lawn of the White House, following its march down Constitution Avenue on a rainy day. The President presented the 100th Infantry Battalion/442nd Regimental Combat Team with its seventh (7th) presidential unit citation earned since its activation in 1943. This military unit except for its initial officers was a segregated all-Japanese American combat unit. 

During the ceremony, President Truman said: “You fought not only the enemy, but you fought prejudice – and you have won. Keep up that fight, and we will continue to win – to make this great Republic stand for just what the Constitution says it stands for: the welfare of all the people all the time.

In 1943, Japanese Americans were asked by the federal government to declare whether or not they were loyal to America.  Those who answered yes showed that they were willing to fulfill their civic responsibilities as American citizens by serving in the US military and, more importantly, that they still believed in the American dream that brought their Issei parents to this country.  They made this decision under the most adverse circumstances.  Most were being unjustly imprisoned in War Relocation Authority confinement camps, and all faced widespread overt political and racial “prejudice at home” against persons of Japanese ancestry that predated the war against Japan.  For those who served in Europe, this decision tested their courage on the battlefield. They responded with a valor that is still unmatched in terms of their military accomplishments. Those who served in the Pacific significantly contributed to shortening the war against Japan and saving countless American lives.  

President Truman affirmed that the decision made by the Nisei soldiers is the way to win the war against prejudice and to support the Constitution and what it stands for. The war against prejudice still continues as shown by current events. But, the battle against prejudice that the Nisei soldiers won by choosing to keep their faith in America was the critical turning point in our history to defeat prejudice against persons of Japanese ancestry and the foundation upon which Japanese Americans started to benefit and will continue to benefit in the future.

At 12 noon (East Coast time) on July 15, 2023, JAVA will lay a wreath at the Price of Freedom Wall, National World War II Memorial, to show our appreciation for the legacy created by the thirty-three thousand Japanese American men and women who served in World War II. 

The military escort and wreath bearers for the Day of Affirmation ceremony will represent three generations of Terry Shima’s family. Terry Shima is a veteran of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team and celebrated his 100th birthday earlier this year. The military escort is Terry’s son Mike Shima, who will be assisted by his son Eric Shima. Following his father’s legacy of service, Mike served in the U.S. Army. One of the wreath bearers will be Eileen Shima Roulier, who is Terry’s daughter.  The other wreath bearer will be Mike’s daughter, Kelly Shima, who will be assisted by her son, Donovan Trexler. 

The Day of Affirmation will be livestreamed via Facebook on July 15, 2023, at 12 noon (EST).  To watch, please visit the JAVA Facebook page at Sunday, July 16, 2023, JAVA will host a Day of Affirmation luncheon at The Army and Navy Club in Washington, DC. The featured speaker will be Mr. Landon Grove, Director and Curator of the Ritchie Museum, who will share the fascinating history of Camp Ritchie. Camp Ritchie is where U.S. soldiers were trained in German, Italian, and French to decode enemy communications and interrogate prisoners of war captured in Europe. One class of the Nisei Military Intelligence Service was also trained at Camp Ritchie. While there, a mural featuring Japanese Americans is believed to have been painted by Nisei solder Nobuo Kitagaki.  Tickets may be purchased at  

President Harry S. Truman decorating the colors of the Nisei 442nd RCT. Photo: Abbie Rowe, National Park Service, Harry S. Truman Library & Museum.

70th Anniversary of the End of the Korean War

June 25, 1950 – July 27, 1953

Korean War Memorial. Washington, DC. Photo: National Park Service.

JAVA salutes all of our Korean War veterans and their loved ones on the 70th anniversary of the end of the Korean War.

“The United Nations Memorial Cemetery in South Korea remains the only UN cemetery in the world — and for many, a final site of reunion between veterans, widows and loved ones lost in the Korean War.”

Read in CNN:

[EdNote: Many thanks to JAVA member Jeff Morita who passed along the news article about the United Nations Memorial Cemetery in South Korea. Jeff noted that In the last photograph, there are a number of American of Japanese Ancestry names inscribed on the granite monument at ‘The United Nations Memorial Cemetery in Korea.’]

A Closer Look at the Golden Cranes of the National Japanese American Memorial to Patriotism During WWII

View of two Cranes, National Japanese American Memorial to Patriotism. Photo: Nina M. Akamu.

Several months ago JAVA received correspondence from a member wanting to spread the word about the artist behind the Golden Cranes sculpture in the National Japanese American Memorial to Patriotism During World War II.  She suggested an article by Walter Wright on October 22, 1999, in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, titled “Sculpture Took Wing Through Sand Island Camp Heritage.” Below is the note from the member as well as a 2014 JAVA Press Release that like the referenced Star-Advertiser article describes the Golden Crane sculpture. For those of you with plans to visit DC this summer, we invite you to take a closer look at sculptor Nina Akamu’s amazing cranes. 

Note from JAVA member…


This article appeared in the Honolulu Advertiser on Friday, October 22, 1999, by staff writer Walter Wright. There was a contest for Artists & Sculptors to create a memorial in DC to the Japanese Americans. Nina Akamu’s entry won.

She was inspired by her grandfather whom she never knew. He operated the plantation store in Pakala, Kauai. I live three miles west of Pakala and have been to this store. To add to my excitement, Nina’s aunt still lives six doors away on the same street as mine. Even MORE amazing, another aunt was my 4th-grade partner teacher (now retired) at Kekaha School. Both ladies were home. I gave them the article; they were humbly proud of Nina.

Still, I’m on the hunt to get this story to our Kaua’i folks. Our electric company KIUC used to take graduates of our four high schools on a trip to DC, but Covid-19 ended that.

The Story of the Golden Cranes of the Japanese American Memorial to Patriotism

Reposted from JAVA Press Release Vol. 9, No. 18 (June 8, 2014)

Washington, DC. This article provides a description of the two cranes written by its sculptor, Nina M. Akamu, and also a brief background on the sculptor. The next time you visit the National Japanese American Memorial to Patriotism, located near the Capitol Building on New Jersey and Louisiana Avenues and D Street, pause in front of the cranes and reflect on Nina’s remarks.


Created by renowned sculptor Nina Akamu for the National Memorial to Patriotism, the sculpture symbolizes the unique experiences of Japanese Americans during World War II. It promotes a national healing for 120,000 persons of Japanese ancestry who were forcibly imprisoned in relocation camps without regard to their constitutional rights; the sculpture honors the 33,000 WWII Japanese American veterans; and provides hope that America will remember the harsh lessons learned from its past struggles to overcome present and future challenges.

The bronze centerpiece depicts two golden cranes symbolizing freedom and longevity. The barbed wire signifies the internment, injustices and sacrifices suffered by Japanese Americans during WWII. Grasping the barbed wire with their beaks, there is optimism and hope for freedom, as each crane presses its powerful free wing, supporting the other. Reaching skyward, they unite in a single cause against the bonds of prejudice and injustice.

The sculpture’s design pays a solemn tribute to the heroism and sacrifices of Japanese American veterans who fought and died for this country. Visually, the symmetrical outline of the cranes’ bodies form the silhouette of the urn. Arising from the urn, the golden vertical wings are transformed into the eternal flame of freedom as they reflect the brilliance of the sun. By identifying with the eternal flame of freedom used in the military insignia of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team and in the logo of the Japanese American Veteran’s Association, this design honors the veterans’ willingness to preserve the flame of freedom by answering the call to service, while their families were imprisoned in America’s concentration camps.

At its full height of 14 feet, the liberated golden wings rise above the stark granite walls. This shining beacon of hope presents the Japanese American experience as an example of triumph over adversity and is a compelling demonstration of faith to freedom loving people everywhere.

Nina’s mother’s father, a Japanese immigrant, owned a plantation store for 20 years and was a respected community leader in Kauai, Hawaii. On December 7, 1941, he was detained by the FBI at Sand Island, Pearl Harbor. He became ill and died of heart failure while still incarcerated. Her father, Ah Kui Akamu, of Chinese-Japanese ancestry, was a US Air Force senior master sergeant. During his 28 years of service, she and her family moved with him to his various posts, including Japan, where Nina was influenced by Japanese art and design, especially netsuke, Japanese miniature sculpture.

Nina graduated from the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore. She later moved to Italy. For seven years, she lived in Pietrasanta and become very familiar with the towns of Massa, Carrara and other places in Versiglia where the 442nd Regimental Combat Team fought. At Pietrasanta, a monument of Private First Class Sadao Munemori, posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor, stands in remembrance of him and the Allied, including Nisei, liberators. She also visited Monte Cassino where the 100th Infantry Battalion sustained huge casualties and visited other Nisei battle sites in Italy. In Germany, she visited the death camp at Dachau.

Join Us!

JAVA Day of Affirmation Luncheon

The Army and Navy Club, Washington DC

Sunday, July 16, 2023

Mural by Nobuo Kitagaki in Building 305, Camp Ritchie, MD. Photo: Courtesy of Landon Grove.

Luncheon Guests will receive a JAVA commemorative mug featuring the Nisei Soldier Congressional Gold Medal.

Day of Affirmation Luncheon

Sunday, July 16, 2023, at 11:30 am

The Army and Navy Club

901 Seventeenth Street, NW, Washington, DC

Keynote Speaker

Landon Grove

Ritchie History Museum Director & Curator

RSVP by July 10

Cost: $60.00 per person

The keynote speaker will be Mr. Landon Grove, Director and Curator of the Ritchie Museum, who will share the fascinating history of Camp Ritchie. Camp Ritchie is where U.S. soldiers were trained in German, Italian, and French to decode enemy communications and interrogate prisoners of war captured in Europe. One class of the Nisei Military Intelligence Service was also trained at Camp Ritchie. While there, the above Japanese American mural is believed to have been painted by Nisei solder Nobuo Kitagaki. The Ritchie Museum was recently awarded a grant from the State of Maryland to restore the mural, which is located in a building next to the museum. We hope you can join us and learn more about the museum and the mural! 

The luncheon program will begin at 11:30 am. All guests are asked to arrive by 11:15 am to allow time to check-in.

“The Army and Navy Club has been a prestigious home away from home for the most illustrious names in America’s military and political history. The Club is a private, members only, Five Star Platinum Club on Washington, DC’s historic Farragut Square. Valued by members as a distinguished landmark where traditions and camaraderie reign, the Club’s timeless elegance and atmosphere are complimented with fine dining, delightful accommodations, an exceptional library, and special events designed to benefit all members.” (

Island Pacific Senior Helps Nisei Veterans’ Families by Geotagging Graves

Sage Tottori’s brother, Taj, helped him with his Eagle Scout project to geotag the locations of nisei veteran gravesites at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific at Punchbowl. Photo: Courtesy Sage Tottori.

Sage Tottori’s (middle) friends and family gather for a photo on their final day of locating and geotagging at Punchbowl. Photo: Courtesy Sage Tottori.

Reprinted with Permission

Honolulu Star-Advertiser

April 24, 2023

By Lisa Dower

When Sage Tottori volunteered as a Boy Scout at September’s Nisei Veterans Memorial Service at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, he noticed many families struggling to find their loved one’s gravesite – even when give a plot number.

A senior at Island Pacific Academy in his final year of scouting, Torrori was on the hunt for a project to earn Eagle Scout status and was inspired to help those families he’d seen wandering through the cemetery. While some tried using’s Find a Grave smartphone app, the nisei grave locations hadn’t been geotagged into the app. So he came up with the idea to geotag each nisei veteran gravesite and “get a direct route to that grave.”

Geotagging involves attaching geographic coordinates to websites, photos, text messages, QR codes and other media based on the location of a mobile device. 

After committing to the project, Tottori reached out via email to Lynn Heirakuji, then-president of Nisei Veterans Legacy, and she quickly agreed to help him. According to its website, the Honolulu non-profit works to “preserve, perpetuate, and share the legacy of Americans of Japanese Ancestry who served in the U.S. Armed Forces in World War II.”

“As soon as I saw that I said, “Absolutely,” Heirakuji said. “It will certainly help any member of the public, not just a descendant who is trying to locate a gravesite.”

Heirakuji, who continues to serve as a board member of the Nisei Veterans Legacy, began contact various veterans groups in the state and compiling a list of names of those buried at the Punchbowl.

“It’s the youth who will perpetuate the legacy of the nisei soldier – local youth who are finding the nisei soldier story so interesting that they want to do something like this,” she said.

Tottori said he plans to attend college on the mainland after graduation, but when he does return home on school breaks, he wants to continue to working with the Nisei Veterans Legacy to geotag new nisei veteran gravesites.

[EdNote: JAVA thanks both Wade Ishimoto and Jason Kuroiwa for passing along this article and the Honolulu Star-Advertiser for permission to reprint!] 

As the Military Struggles for Recruits, UH ROTC Programs Grow

The ROTC facilities at UH. Photo: Craig T. Kojima /

Military recruiting is falling short of the numbers the military would like. Above, Lt. Col. Jerrod Melander, left, professor of military science, addresses Cadet Vance Oya, second from right, during class at the University of Hawaii. Photo: Craig T. Kojima / March 1.

Reprinted with Permission

Honolulu Star-Advertiser

By Kevin Knodell 

March 20, 2023

Many are following a family tradition of military service. Some join for the promise of adventure. Others join for the money.

Cadet Mia Ruiz is a junior at UH. Her father served in the Marines, and many of her uncles also served. She said she was young when her father deployed, and didn’t personally experience much of the military life growing up. A Native Hawaiian, Ruiz saw attending UH and getting the Army to pay for it as an opportunity she couldn’t pass up.

“I always wanted to leave the house and be more independent and travel, and I wanted to learn more about my culture here,” said Ruiz.

She hopes to become an Army physical therapist after graduation and is interning at Tripler Army Medical Center.

“I would say my family’s very Army-influenced,” said Gwenivere Neth, a senior who will become an officer working with armored vehicles after she commissions in May. Her grandfather was an elite Green Beret, her father is in the Hawaii National Guard and many other family members served.

Neth grew up in American Samoa and moved to Hawaii when she was young. She said the ROTC program has “made me come out of my shell.”

“I was a follower; I wasn’t the type of person to stand out or make the first move,” she said. “But coming here, it has pushed me to that limit to become that kind of leader. … I would have to be out of my comfort zone to accomplish some tasks and missions, even with people I didn’t know or hadn’t met before.”

A study of recruiting demographics by the conservative-leaning Heritage Foundation found that in 2003, Pacific Islanders, including Native Hawaiians, joined the U.S. Army at a rate 249% higher than the general U.S. population. The same study also found that wealthier Americans were as a group less likely to choose military service.

“Coming out of high school, I didn’t really have a lot of options,” said Cadet Timothy Catingub, a senior. Born in the Philippines, his family moved to Wahiawa and shared a home with three other families.

He said everyone in his family has struggled to lift themselves out of poverty and that without the Army there’s no way he would have been able to afford college. Catingub will join the Medical Corps after graduation, and said he’s excited to work in hospital administration, a field he hopes to continue in when his military commitment ends.

“This is a great way for me to, you know, kind of break a generational cycle,” he said. “I’m more willing to try new things and willing to push myself in ways that I never thought I would be able to do.”

Military recruiters often are accused of targeting poor communities, but in the past decade, even recruitment in low-income areas has dropped sharply as health issues and lack of education render many potential recruits ineligible for military duty.

Senior military leaders have begun to openly discuss unhealthy diets, lack of exercise and low grades among America’s youth as becoming national security concerns, with some retired generals and admirals advocating boosts in education funding. The Pentagon estimates that more than three-quarters of American youth don’t meet the minimum physical or educational requirements for military service.

Perhaps more to the point, American attitudes on military service have changed after a half-century of leaders relying on an all-volunteer force to fight America’s wars. Fewer than 1% of Americans actually served during the past two decades even as sprawling post-9/11 conflicts saw troops deploy to multiple conflict zones, often simultaneously.

A 2015 survey by the Harvard Institute of Politics of Americans age 18 to 29 found that while 60% of people interviewed supported sending U.S. combat troops to fight ISIS militants in Iraq and Syria, 62% said they themselves would “definitely not” join the military, and another 23% said they would “probably not” sign up.

In a February interview with The Associated Press, Maj. Gen. Alex Fink, the Army’s head of marketing, said young people “see us as revered, but not relevant, in their lives.”

“This war is not over for millions of people in Afghanistan and the U.S.,” Army veteran Aidan Gunderson told Congress during hearings earlier this month. “Thoughts of those two weeks have plagued my mind since coming home. I see the faces of all the people we could not save — all the people we left behind.”

The pentagon now considers the Pacific to be its top-priority theater as tensions simmer with China. But as military planners look to the future, the legacy of past wars and current scandals have cast a shadow. A 2022 Gallup Poll found the public’s trust in the military had dropped 8% in just two years from 72% in 2020 to 64% in 2022.

In Hawaii the fallout from the 2021 contamination of the Navy’s drinking water system by jet fuel from its World War II-era Red Hill fuel storage facility has soured military leaders’ relations with many local and military families alike. After initially resisting a state emergency order, the Pentagon is working to drain the tanks, which sit just 100 feet above a critical aquifer most of Honolulu relies on for drinking water.

“I think it’s important to realize that there is a stigma in Hawaii that the military is this thing that just comes and destroys and takes over,” said Catingub. “Growing up as a kid, I just thought it was completely like a war-fighting function, that’s it. If you wanted action or if you wanted stuff like that adrenaline, then you would join the military.”

He said he’s become more familiar with the role the military has played in responding to natural disasters and in the other opportunities it has offered students like himself. Catingub said it’s the duty of future military leaders to set an example that service members and civilians alike can trust.

Cadet Kelvin Anosan is a UH junior who, like Catingub, immigrated from the Philippines. He originally enlisted in the Army, serving six years before enrolling in college in hopes of continuing his service as an officer. He said he joined the military to break out of his “cultural bubble” within his immigrant community and hoped to see the world and become a better, stronger version of himself.

Anosan said he got what he wanted: He made friends from all walks of life, got into shape and gained confidence. But he also had an epiphany about military service.

“One of the things I realized is that I can actually do a lot of those things on my own,” he said. “Like I could have been physically stronger without having to enter the military, I could have gotten out of the cultural bubble.”

He said that what keeps him wanting to pursue a military career is doing it alongside others and giving back to his adoptive country.

“Serving, it’s not really about yourself,” he said. “It not about trying to be better than anybody else.”

[EdNote: JAVA thanks Wade Ishimoto for passing along this article and the Honolulu Star-Advertiser for permission to reprint!]