___________________________________________________________________________ JULY/AUGUST, 2001 VOLUME IX * NUMBER 4
Somehow it gives one a sense of achievement when one sends "Greetings from the President's Desk." But this president's desk is in its usual disarray, and one can only hope that some semblance of order can be restored. At any rate, the following subjects seem to be of sufficient importance to bring to your attention.
One, I believe, is the JACL resolution adopted last June forgiving the "resisters" in WWII. There was strong reaction among some veterans at the time, which lingers to this day. Now we have a request from the Nisei VFW Post 938 in Sacramento asking us well as other nisei veterans organizations to support their resolution opposing the JACL position. Included elsewhere in this newsletter is an item on JAVA statement on this issue adopted in l999 and the VFW request. The matter will be taken up for consideration at the coming Executive Council meeting.
The message I sent you about the proposed changes in our charter and by-laws includes the results of discussions by the Executive Council and officers of JAVA. the purpose of these changes is to take the initial stops whereby our organization or a future organization may, in some form, carry on the legacy of the Nikkei heritage of outstanding military service to our country. The disappearance of the Nisei veterans from the scene is happening all to rapidly now that they are in their 70's and 80's, which means that the source of information is rapidly disappearing. Warren Tsuneishi is our contact with the Library of Congress on the recently established program to gather data nationwide on the wartime experience of veterans, and it is hoped that the Nikkei veterans groups will cooperate with this program.
JAVA welcomes to new members who have joined our ranks: Norman Hashisaka of Eleele, HI, and David Tanaka of Anchorage, AK. Letters of welcome and congratulations have been sent to those two who will become the first official "National Members" pending approval of the by-law changes. This addition to our ranks proves the ever-increasing capabilities of e-mail. Our web master Dave Buto and Grant Ichikawa and others are to be congratulated for their efforts which have resulted not only in our getting two new members, but in promoting the wonderful efforts of Ms. Meyerratken and her students. (Dave came to my house twice to give me lessons on the computer. Thanks, Dave.)
There are a couple of upcoming events which JAVA should strongly support. One is the National D-Day Museum opening of its "D-Day Invasions of the Pacific" exhibit on December 7, 2001. I have asked Eiko Yamamoto, a very active travel agent in California, to spread the word there. (Her agency was instrumental in organizing a large group from California to attend the opening of the National Japanese American Memorial in Washington.) She has already had articles entered in the local Japanese language papers and has brought Sam Chu Lin, a well-known reporter, into her fold to help her. This is an opportunity for the MIS to receive nation-wide recognition for is outstanding contribution to the Allied victory in the Pacific which resulted in the awarding of the Presidential Unit Citation last year by Congress and the President.
We have received from the Department of Veterans Affairs letters explaining their efforts to improve compensation and pension examination process and about the CHAMPUS VA for Life Health Benefits Program. Instructions on how to get information concerning these matters are included in this issue.
JAVA has been invited to take part in the 4th Annual WWII Conference (November 8-10) at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Washington, D.C. We will have a panel of JAVA veterans with MIS and 442nd RCT experience. (Item follows.) Our continuing good work in spreading the word is evident in a partial listing of talks given by our panelists. Of particular interest is the appearance of Grant Hirabayashi as the Keynote speaker at the Army National Guard Readiness Center in Arlington, VA on May 18 when he was given an honorarium of $500, which he donated to JAVA. Congratulations to Grant and thanks for the donation.
Have a great summer. See you all at the China Garden in October where we will honor Leila Meyerratken. (Excerpts from a letter she sent us is included in this newsletter.)
REFLECTIONS ON VETERANS' REUNION AT SALUTE 2001 by Warren Tsuneishi
I have been attending reunions of MIS vets since 1990 and at each gathering at least one former comrade in arms has observed that this might be "Our Last Hurrah." But this time as we gathered in Little Tokyo, Los Angeles for still another reunion organized under the rubric of Salute 2001 All Nikkei Veterans and Family Event, it was abundantly clear to those of us representing the last "good war" who now average 80 years plus or minus a couple of years, that this one might indeed be our last reunion.
The number of registrants for the event seemed to point in the same direction: some 1,500 to 2,000 registrants had been projected; perhaps 700 showed up.
My old outfit was the 306th Headquarters Intelligence Detachment assigned to the XXIV Corps at Schofield Barracks, Oahu, in June 1944. We were a unit of 10 Nisei enlisted men (led by a Caucasian officer) who had been trained at the Military Intelligence Service Language School at Camp Savage, MN. Together with our twin unit, the 307th, we comprised a group of 21 (including our CO) Japanese language specialists under the corps G-2. We had "returned" to the Philippines in October 1944 with General MacArthur in the Leyte campaign and then had taken part in the Battle of Okinawa. After the surrender of Japan in August 1945, we wound up in the liberation and occupation of Korea.
Now, 55 years later in Los Angeles, we were down to nine survivors of the two detachments, of whom eight were able to make the reunion. There was George Takabayashi from Honolulu, the NCO in charge of the 306th who had won a field commission on Okinawa, accompanied by his wife Millie; Bob and Keiko Sugimoto, from Berkeley, Bob had won a camera in a poker game aboard our troopship carrying us to Leyte and thus had become the photographer of the 306th and 307th. He presented albums of his battlefield photos to each of us;
Tom Sasaki from Sacramento, the "kid", was our best scrounger for needed supplies like shoyu to liven up our C-rations. Tom also gained the notoriety for being the most laconic interpreter of our team when he was pressed into service to interpret for an unusually loquacious American officers presiding over the surrender ceremony for a Japanese garrison on an island in the Okinawa chain. Tom's truncated translations into simple colloquial Japanese of the officer's formal statements became the stuff of legend;
Joe Nishihara, from Cressey, CA, still tending his walnut grove and attending his first ever reunion -- we had not seen him in 55 years -- with his wife and daughter; Jerry Katayama, from the 307th and now retired in Chicago; this was his second reunion; Akira and Judith Tanaka, originally from Wahiawa, next door to Schofield Barracks -- we had run around with Akira's University of Hawaii friends when we were stationed there -- but now living in Encino (Akira having retired from General Motors as a design engineer; Ben Hazard, our CO, in retirement as professor of Asian studies from San Jose State University and a widely respected black belt senior sensei in kendo; Lloyd Shinsato, originally from Honolulu and now a retired judge in Denver -- Lloyd and I had volunteered to join a reinforced amphibious battalion sent by GHQ to save inhabitants of the Camotes Islands off Leyte from being massacred by an occupying Japanese force (Lloyd was the one who did not make the reunion), and myself. (Editor's note: Warren failed to note that he retired as Chief of the Asian Division at the Library of Congress and prior to that was Director of Area Studies when that post was eliminated .)
We commiserated with each other on our age-related disabilities, while at the same time denying that we were aging. And while we tried to recall and savor ancient exploits, truth to tell, we found it difficult to dwell on our shared experiences of the war even though we sat together at the XXIV Corps table specially reserved for us at the veterans banquet in the cavernous ballroom of the Beverly Hilton, and even though we dined together again at a Chinese restaurant in Monterey Park. We were simply unable from some reason to "talk story" about the good old days which were so much a part of the "best years of our lives."
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"Salute 2001" was planned and organized by, among others, the Japanese American National Museum, the Japanese American Cultural and Community Center, and the Go For Broke Educational Foundation.
Highlights included the honoring of 24 Nikkei recipients of the Medal of Honor for heroic service in WWII, Korea and Vietnam; the opening of the traveling exhibit featuring the medal winners entitled "Beyond the Call of Duty'" a "Welcome to Veterans" function; the official banquet and featured speakers including Senator Daniel K. Inouye, U.S. Army Chief of Staff General Eric K. Shinseki, and Secretary of Veteran Affairs Antony Principi; memorial services, and a grand parade.
The reunion -- August 3 - 5, was part of the annual Nisei Week Festival held throughout Little Tokyo.
Inouye, speaking at the official banquet, told how a visit by Hawaiian GIs during training at Camp Shelby to the WRA camps in Arkansas where families of mainland GI's were incarcerated gave the Hawaiians a fuller understanding of the conditions from which the mainland Nisei had volunteered, abating tension which had been building up between the two groups.
Shinseki made it clear that the unequalled valor of the Nisei soldier in Europe and their accomplishments in the Pacific opened the opportunity to all who followed. (Shinseki is too skilled an orator to point to himself as a prime example, but I could not help recalling the barriers to advancement facing Nisei and other minorities, even in the Army which was the only branch of service which would accept Nisei draftees and volunteers during the war.)
Secretary Principi was generous with his praise of "18,000 Nisei (which he pronounced "Knee-Sigh") had served in Europe and 10,000 in the MIS. "When I heard these figures, I could see in my mind's eye JAVA member Norman Ikari, who has a historian's disdain for imprecise military statistic, wince.
TAPESTRY TO BE DISPLAYED AT INDIANA WAR MEMORIAL by Verna Abe
The 120,000 tassel tapestry (quilt) honoring Nikkei soldiers of World War II will be on display at the Indiana World War Memorial in Indianapolis after a preview showing at the central court of Tippecanoe Mall in downtown Lafayette.
The tapestry, a fabric mural measuring 19 feet high and 41 feet high, was made by the joint efforts of more than 500 eighth graders from Sunnyside and Tecumseh Middle Schools, and was viewed by more than 1,000 people over the August 11-12 weekend, the tapestry's first public display in the State of Indiana. Countless other back-to-school shoppers could not miss seeing the tapestry in the center of the Mall as they hurried from store to store.
The 300-pound tapestry honors Japanese American WWII veterans of the Military Intelligence Service and the "most decorated unit in the U.S. military history" -- the 442nd/100th Regimental Combat Team.
Its display on the Mall was a spectacular success with the crowds, in addition to viewing the tapestry, watch the videotape and spoke to the student docents who remained on duty for the entire 17 hours the quilt was on display.
Natural lighting from skylights gently illuminated the quilt, allowing the true colors and textures of fabric, artwork and artifact to be easily seen by all. Five cross ties were attached to the hooks on each side of the skylight wells, and five sets of ropes and pulleys were suspended from the cross ties. Larry Shaw of Eli Lilly and Company -- Tippecanoe Laboratories installed the quilt in its place of honor in the central court.
After this "sneak preview" in Lafayette, the tapestry will go on display shortly for about two months at the Indiana World War Memorial in downtown Indianapolis, the crown jewel of the four-city-block Memorial Plaza.
The Plaza is home to the American Legion National Headquarters and features memorials honoring veterans of both World Wars, Korea and Viet Nam. The War Memorial building rises 21- feet above street level, and the tapestry will be proudly displayed in the marble and column-lined main foyer.
Moves are reported underway to have the tapestry displayed in Hawaii.
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(Editor's Note: Verna Abe suggests that "if each member of your local group and/or perhaps the organization itself can e-mail Oprah Winfrey, perhaps we can nominate Leila (Leila Meyerratken--of Sunnyside Middle School who head the tapestry project) for the community service-oriented Use Your Life Award that Oprah gives out periodically. My mom says it is perhaps worth $30,000 (this ought to get the tapestry the road). I have sent in a nomination and here is an internet address if you care to add support to the application (the more the merrier!) To nominate Leila Meyerratken, Sunnyside Middle School, Lafayette, Indiana, for the 120,000 Tassel Tapestry go to: www.oprah.com/tows/intheworks/plugs_85.html or write to The Oprah Winfrey Show, Harpo Productions, P.O. Box 909715, Chicago, IL 60607.)
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JAVA has received a letter of thanks to "all who have contributed to the learning of my students" from Leila Meyerratken and a hand-made, multi-lingual card expressing gratitude from her 8th Grade students for JAVA's participation in their quilt project.
"The quilt is very special because it comes from the heart. To us, it is a sacred, priceless piece of art. The best part of the project, for me, was when I noticed my students develop utmost respect for all veterans, upholding strong patriotic beliefs, and carrying a desire to make things better. For them, there is no tolerances for intolerance. These changes I saw in them made all the time spent worthwhile…"
The students' card read: "THANK YOU FOR BEING A PART OF OUR QUILT PROJECT! MERCI, GRACIAS, DANKE, AND ARIGATO."
The full text of Ms. Meyerratken's letter is being posted on the JAVA web site: www.javadc.org.
Yoshikazu "Yosh" Yamada -- Artist, Scientist, and Inventor; ALSO A DECORATED BUT QUIET MISer
At the memorial services last month for the late Yoshikazu "Yosh" Yamada, the Hawaii-born, WWII veteran of the Pacific War, was described by the Reverend S. Michael Yasutake as an artist, scientist, and inventor.
What Yasutake could have added at the St. Andrews Episcopal Church in Irvine, CA., where the services were held on July 20, was that Yamada, Yasutake's brother-in-law, was also a decorated, though quiet, MISer.
Those who knew Yosh, such as Harry Akune, said Yosh seldom talked about his war experiences. It was not until 1993, after half century, that Yosh received recognition for his crucial contributions to America's victory in the Pacific when he was awarded the Legion of Merit by the U.S. Army. ( Akune, a war hero in his own right, also served in the Pacific and has been inducted into the Military Intelligence Hall of Fame for his exploits.)
The award was for Yamada's part in the deciphering of the so-called "Z Plan" or Admiral Koga's Combined Fleet Secret Operations Order No. 73, which gave the status and projected plans of the Japanese Navy for the Mariana's and the Philippine Islands. This resulted in decisive victories for Admiral Nimitz' fleet in the Marianas and the Leyte Gulf, a turning point in the war in the Pacific. Both Japanese and U.S. historians credit the deciphering of the Z Plan as the greatest single intelligence feat in the war in the Pacific.
Perhaps even as remarkable was the fact that Yamada, who, at that time, had never been in Japan and admitted to learning very little in Japanese language schools in Hawaii, was one of two Nisei (the other was the late George Kiyoshi Yamashiro, a.k.a. "Sankey") assigned to the complicated deciphering task along with several Caucasian officers. Unlike most Nisei in the MIS, Yamada did not receive any language training while in the military.
When asked years later by an interviewer for a television program how he managed to translate the very complex military document, his simple reply was: "My superior officer in Australia handed me a Japanese dictionary, so I read it."
His wife Mitsuye gave a fuller explanation: "He's a very fast study because once he sinks his teeth into something, like a pit bull, he never lets go until he has thoroughly mastered it."
Yamada had an affinity for learning; his childhood friends in Honokaa on the Big Island called him "the professor" because he always had his nose in books. A brilliant student in math and science, he also had a talent for art. After graduating from the University of Hawaii, he was accepted at the University of Michigan in 1937 where he switched his major to science though he continued to take art classes in Ann Arbor and, in a "Young American Artist" exhibit, had a water color painting shown at New York's Whitney Museum of Art.
He had gotten his a Master's degree in chemistry when he was drafted into the U.S. Army in April of 1941, trained to be a medic and, in the following October, was sent to the Del Monte Air Base on Mindanao in the Philippines with the 5th Air Force Group. When the Japanese invaded the Philippines, he was in the thick of taking care of sick and wounded.
He also helped out a little on intelligence, since, he once explained, "I was the only American soldier on the island at the time who could make any sense out of the Japanese language."
In April, 1942 when the air base was being evacuated at night, Yamada was immobilized with a back injury when the truck he was on hit a bridge. As a lowly private he felt he had not the slightest hope of being flown out since available space was according to the strict army priority system. Though he never learned why, evacuated, he was, and ended up at the Army's 4th General Hospital in Melbourne.
After his recovery, he was assigned to the newly formed Allied Translator and Interpreters Service in Brisbane and for the first time met other Nisei who had been trained at the Presidio in San Francisco. It was the first time in his Army career where he was not the only Nisei in the outfit.
The work on deciphering the "Z Plan" was top secret, and normally would have been done only by officers. Exceptions were made in the case of Yamada and Yamashiro, however, and the day after joining the translation team for the Z Plan, he and Yamashiro were made Warrant Officers without any explanation, then later promoted to become second lieutenants.
Yamada was with the first Occupation Troops to enter Japan.
After his discharge, Yamada he got his PhD in inorganic chemistry from Purdue University. While there he made frequent visits to Chicago, met and later married Mitsuye Yasutake, who was attending the University of Chicago graduate school at that time. He and she, while attending an art show of the New York artist Taro Yashima, drew this comment from Yashima:
"Anybody with a little bit of diligence could get a PhD, but very few people in the world were blessed with the kind of natural artist talent as Yosh."
After Purdue, he worked as a researcher with a fledging TV station, then as a research chemist with Mergenthaler Linotype Corp. in the suburbs of New York, six years later was sought out and hired by Bell and Howell Corp. in Chicago, then moved to Sierra Madre, CA with the company's research department.
Yamada took early retirement to develop his own inventions and in 1970 moved with his family to Irvine where Mitsuye was teaching full time at Cypress College in Orange County.
Among other things, Yamada designed and produced a mathematically conceived perpetual calendar, developed a black and white photographic mural using black lights to transform city lights into a brilliant night scene. He opened the Yamada Family Gallery in Laguna Village with his newly designed calendars, Mitsuye's poetry books, photos by a son, etchings by a daughter, and hand-sketched note cards by another daughter.
Yamada is survived by his wife, Mitsuye, daughters Jeni and Hedi, sons Stephen and Kai, five grandchildren, and four brothers and sisters.
NEW NOVEL PUBLISHED ON 100TH/442ND RCT
The Last Fox, a novel based on the Nisei GI in the WWII battlefields of Europe by Robert H. Kono has just been published by Abe Publishing of Eugene, OR.
The title of the book derives from the Japanese word for fox -- kitsune. It's main character, Sgt. Fred Murano, and three fellow volunteers, originally from Oregon but volunteering from the "concentration camp" at Minidoka, ID, are referred to as the Four Foxes (Kitsune) of I Company. At the end, only Murano survives.
The book, whose characters are all fictional with no resemblance to anyone intended, costs $14.95 per copy plus shipping cost which varies with the type of shipping requested -- $4 for regular; $5 for one, $8 for two, USPS Priority Mail, and $10 for one, $15 fir two for international shipping.
The mailing address: Abe Publishing, P.O. Box 5226, Eugene, OR 97405; Fax (541) 485-3893; Phone toll-free (800) 535-5038; E-Mail: email@example.com.
SACRAMENTO NISEI VFW POST SEEKS SUPPORT IN OPPOSING JACL RESOLUTION ON WWII DRAFT RESISERS
Sacramento's Nisei Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 8985 has asked for support from JAVA and other Nikkei veterans groups to oppose the Japanese American Citizens League's resolution to forgive, honor and formally apologize those who resisted being drafted into the U.S. Army from internment camps during World War II.
JAVA has notified the Sacramento VFW that their request will be considered by JAVA's executive council and sent Post 8985 a copy of JAVA's resolution on the matter.
The VFW resolution said, "We vigorously oppose JACL's extension of an official apology to the Nisei Draft Resisters of World War II, which would be tantamount to disclaiming the Supreme Sacrifices of the 830 Japanese Americans 'Killed in Action' and the accomplishments of the Nisei World War II veterans…"
Two years ago, in its own resolution, JAVA said "…the Japanese American Veterans Association of Washington, D.C. recognizes the principled stand taken by the resisters of conscience in refusing induction on Constitutional grounds…and that JAVA extends the hand of friendship to the long ago pardoned resisters and their families."
CALL FOR CBI VETS
Any veteran who served in the China-Burma-India Theater during World War II has been asked to contact Thomas Haga, who is compiling a record of all those who served in that part of the world during the 1941-1945 period.
Haga, who served in the CBI Theater himself, would like dates of service, units in which they served, rank at the beginning of and rank at the end of service.
Haga's E-mail address is: firstname.lastname@example.org, his mailing address: 4010 Ridge Dr., Pueblo, CO 81008; phone number: (719) 544-3450.
NISEI VETS TO BE FEATURED IN WWII CONFERENCE IN D.C.
A panel of Nisei veterans who fought in both Europe and Asia will be featured along with high ranking officials next month at the 4th Annual Conference of the World War II Veterans Committee at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in downtown Washington, D.C.
Veterans of the U.S. Army's Military Intelligence Service and the 442nd RCT will participate in a panel on the final day of the November 8 - 10 conference during which different aspects of the war will be discussed each day.
Speakers at the conference will include General Andrew Goodpaster, former Assistant Secretary of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; Admiral Thomas Moorer (the only man to get his plane out of Pearl Harbor just before the Japanese attack), the Hon. Ed Whitcomb, former governor of Indiana and author of the book "Escape from Corregidor;" and others.
Other events scheduled for the conference include wreath laying ceremonies at the Arlington National Cemetery, the Iwo Jima Memorial, and the Navy Memorial; an Evensong Service at the Church of Epiphany; an awards banquet, and a 1940's "Swing Dance."
Detailed information on the conference is available from the WWII Veterans Committee at (202) 777-7272 or fax (202)408-1087.
U.S. ARMY LAB SEEKING NISEI PARTICIPANTS IN GUAM 1946-1949 WAR CRIME TRIALS
The U.S. Army's Central Identification Lab in Hawaii is trying to track down Nisei who may have participated in the 1946-1949 Guam war crime trials in the Army's efforts to recover the remains of American marines and airmen in the Pacific.
M. Emerson Wiles, III, of the laboratory, said that a George Kumai and Sam Ueda are two of the veterans they are looking for, but that there were other participants in the trials. The laboratory is seeking any information that may lead to the recovery of the remains of the marines and airmen.
The Central Identification Lab-Hawaii is responsible for recovering and identifying the remains of missing U.S. servicemen from all U.S. war.
Wiles address is: U.S. Army Central Identification Laboratory, 310 Worchester Avenue, Hickam Air Force Base, HI 96853-5530. Phone: (808) 449-5260, ex 221
WETA SEEKS LETTERS TO AND FROM HOME OF NIKKEI VETS BY Norman Ikari
Joe Brancrak, program director of WETA, is seeking copies of correspondence between Nikkei veterans of World War II, the Korean and the Vietnam Wars and their parents/relatives while the veterans were serving overseas.
Copies of their correspondence would be collected by the Legacy Foundation, working through WETA (Washington's public television station) for possible program purposes.
The request from WETA is seen as a fascinating opportunity for Nikkei to highlight the unique difficulties the Nikkei soldiers, especially during WWII, when trying to communicate with families who had been incarcerated in camps or relocated and because of language difficulties when younger family members often had to act as go-betweens.
Contact either Brancrak by telephone (703) 998-2883 or Norman Ikari telephone or fax (301) 869-5543; or by E-mail email@example.com.
Meanwhile, JAVA/s Speakers Bureau has been busy carrying on their crusade to educate the public on the Nikkei in America.
Four new commitments have been made by the Bureau to address various groups in the coming months.
Jean Kariya will be a panelist at the Prince of Peace Presbyterian Church in Croftton, MD, on "The Many Faces of Prejudice." The invitation to speak came from the Jewish Women International.
Jean also will speak November 26 to the OASIS Senior Group, Lake Forest Mall, Gathersburg, MD, to be followed by Fred Murakami on December 3 and Norman Ikari on December 10. All three will speak on "The Japanese American Experience in WWII."
Recent Bureau engagements included a discussion May 31 on Nikkei soldiers in the European and Pacific Theaters in WWII and the film "Beyond Barbed Wire" by Yuri Hata, Terri Hata Stowe, Grant Hirabayashi and Norman Ikari; a discussions of the Nikkei soldier in WWII on June 7 by Phil Ishio, Connie Ishio, Joe Ichiuji and Norman Ikari at the 11th Annual Commemorative Weekend at the Mid-Atlantic Air Museum; and a discussion on the same subject before the Multicultural Summer Institute VII of the Prince William County Public Schools by Carol Izumi, Jean Kariya, Yukio Kawamoto, and Norman Ikari.
VA ANNOUNCES NEW HEALTH BENEFITS FOR DEPENDENTS
The Department of Veterans Affairs has announced a new health benefits program for certain dependents of veterans over the age of 65 under the department's Civilian Health and Medical Program (CHAMPVA).
The new benefits under CHAMPVA for Life (CFL) extends CHAMPVA benefits to those eligible over the age of 65 who are on Medicare.
Information on the CFL and other VA health benefit programs is available on the VA website www.va.gov/hac. Forms and fact sheets can also be downloaded from this website.