In keeping with its long tradition, JAVA will sponsor the Veterans Day Program on, Wednesday, November 11th at the National Japanese American Memorial in Washington, DC. RDML Andrew Sugimoto (USCG) will be our main Veterans Day Program speaker. Currently, he serves as the Coast Guard’s Assistant Commandant for Intelligence.
The National Japanese American Memorial Foundation will be a co-sponsor again this year. The program will start at 2:00 pm EST (11:00 am PST, 9:00 am PST), rain or shine.
There will be a substantial change to the program this year due to COVID-19 concerns. The program will be live streamed via Facebook. Viewers can go to the JAVA website at JAVA-US.org and clicking on the Veterans Day Program webpage. Interested persons are encouraged to watch the program online via Facebook rather than attending in person due to COVID-19 concerns.
At the last JAVA Executive Council meeting held on September 19, 2020, David Iwata was appointed as JAVA Regional Representative for Southern California and Lynn Mariano was appointed as JAVA Regional Representative for Hawaii. We look forward to having Lynn and David joining the JAVA leadership team and having them help connect JAVA events with area members and other organizations.
Help Identify Officers in 1944 Holiday Photo
JAVA member Jeff Morita's cousin, Ann (Morita) Shima, daughter of Corporal James Yoshio Morita, F “Fox” Company, 2nd Battalion, 442nd Regimental Combat Team came across the above black/white photograph. Her father Jim would have been recuperating in Southern France after being severely wounded in the back by German self-propelled artillery a few days after the epic rescue of the lost ‘Texas’ battalion in the Vosges Mountains — so it is a mystery as to why he would have the photograph in the first place. On the reverse side of the photo is a handwritten note, “Christmas Day 1944 (Harrison Hamasaki)." December 1944 would place the 100th/442nd in Southern France (Maritime Alps Allied Offensive Campaign).
Claire Mitani, Secretary, 442nd Legacy Center and Veterans Club quickly identified the two Nisei soldiers as (left) Michio Takata, and (right) Henry Oyasato, both assigned to F “Fox” Company. The Morita Family would like to identify the other ‘caucasian’ officers depicted in the group photograph. Information on Harrison Hamasaki would also be welcome.
Jeff Morita related an on an interesting side note — Henry Oyasato also played an acting role in the original 1951 “Go for Broke” movie. Morita believes he portrayed Lieutenant “Ohara” who is killed by artillery shrapnel in the Vosges and has a kid brother who joins the unit a short time later. Oyasato was also a Silver Star Medal recipient for gallantry near Belmont, France; he retired as a U.S. Army Colonel is buried at Punchbowl.
Reverse side of photo: Christmas Day 1944 (Harrison Hamasaki).
U.S. Congress Passes
Merrill’s Marauders Congressional Gold Medal Bill
BG Frank Merrill, Commander, with two Nisei in Burma. Photo: U.S. Signal Corps.
JAVA Research Team (JRT)
Washington, DC. The Merrill Marauders Veterans organization announced that the Bill to award the Congressional Gold Medal to the 5307th Composite Unit (Provisional), commonly known as Merrill’s Marauders (MM), was passed by the U.S. House of Representatives on September 22, 2020. It passed the U.S. Senate on December 9, 2019 and now awaits the President’s signature. The nickname Merrill’s Marauders was given by an American journalist after its Commander, BG Frank D. Merrill, USA. Eight living MMs and family members of the deceased are expected to participate in the award ceremony, when it is held.
British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and President Franklin D. Roosevelt agreed at the 1943 Quebec Conference to launch a secret, “long-range penetration force” of American volunteers, code-named Galahad, to fight behind enemy lines in Myanmar (Burma). The goal of the mission was to capture the town of Myitkina, which was Japan’s principal supply base in Burma, had an all-weather airport from which Japan interdicted American flights over the hump, and provided access to “Burma Road” needed to transport war material to China. Operating behind enemy lines to reach their objective, MM’s secondary mission was to disrupt enemy activities.
General George C. Marshall, Army chief of staff, who said this was a mission against “large numbers of the enemy with few resources that were unmatched in any theater” issued a call for volunteers.Recruiters told each volunteer “85% of you will not be standing when the campaign is over, do you still want to volunteer.” "Yes!" was the unanimous response. MM total strength was 2,997 officers and enlisted men. This would be the first time since the Boxer Rebellion of 1899 that American combat troops would serve on the Asian continent.
Two hundred Nisei linguists volunteered from which 14 enlisted men were selected, evenly split between Hawaii and mainland Nisei. They were:
SSgt Edward Mitsukado, Team Leader, Hawaii
Thomas K. Tsubota, Hawaii
Herbert Y. Miyasaki, Hawaii
Robert Y. Honda, Hawaii
Roy K. Nakada, Hawaii
Russell K. Kono, Hawaii
Howard Furumoto, Hawaii
Roy Matsumoto, U.S.
Ben S. Sugeta, U.S.
Grant Hirabayashi, U.S.
Jimmy Yamaguchi, U.S.
Henry Gosho, U.S.
Calvin Kobata, U.S.
Akiji Yoshimura, U.S.
1st Lt William Laffin, who was born of Japanese mother, raised in Japan and who graduated from the MIS Language School, was the leader of the Nisei contingent. The Nisei served in three battalions, First, Second and Third. In February 1944 the MM began its 1,000 mile, five-month trek, with no artillery support and with all supplies and equipment carried on their backs and pack mules. They encountered mountains, valleys, rivers, and jungle infested with malaria-carrying mosquitoes, leeches, snakes and with diseases such as denge, typhus, and dysentery. Also, due to inadequate resupply by air drops, the MM suffered from hunger and thirst.
The MM fought the Japanese 18th Army Division in 5 major and 30 minor engagements. In some of their engagements, the MM received flank support from CIA-trained Kachin rangers who knew their native terrain well.
Thirteen hundred MM arrived in the Myitkina area after their 100 mile hike from Nphum Ga and waited for the monsoon rain to end. On May 17, 1944, supported by two Chinese regiments, MM attacked Myitkina airfield that resulted in its and the town’s capitulation on August 10, 1944. With only 200 Marauders left standing, as correctly predicted by Army recruiters, the MM disbanded. The newly arrived American MARS Task Force served in the clean-up operation of the Myitkina-Lashio area which paved the way for the opening of the Burma Road.
In addition to their intelligence duties, Nisei did everything the infantryman was expected to do. While all Nisei survived the mission, none is living today. The team leader, CAPT Laffin was killed in combat. Each MISer received the Combat Infantryman’s Badge and a Bronze Star. In addition, one received the Legion of Merit, 14 received a second Bronze Star, and 7 received 2nd lieutenant commissions. BG Merrill said of the Nisei “I could not have gotten along without them”.
Japanese soldiers spoke freely and loudly in the jungle. Nisei translated and passed to their commanders tactical intelligence information. Vegetation grew so thickly at some locations that Nisei could get up close to the enemy without being noticed. At Nhpum Ga, Roy Matsumoto crawled to the enemy bivouac area, eaves dropped on their conversation, and reported to his commander Japanese plans to mount a large attack the next morning. The commander spent the night preparing countermeasures. When the Japanese attacked, the first two waves were annihilated and the third wave withdrew. Without the Nisei intelligence report the result might have been different. Matsumoto also climbed a tree, tapped the enemy’s telephone line and produced intelligence that caused U.S. bombers to destroy the enemy’s ammo dump.
When the MM disbanded, Matsumoto was assign to CIA for its clandestine operations in Indo China. Another Nisei was assigned to the CIA detachment in Burma to work with the Kachin Rangers, a few remained in Burma to serve with the British Army; a few were sent to stateside hospitals, and others were assigned to Southeast Asia Translation and Interrogation Center (SEATIC) in New Delhi, India, and to SINO Translation and Interrogation Center (SINTIC) in China.
When the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) was awarded the CGM in 2018 three Nisei MM were entitled to receive the award: Edward Mitsukado, Robert Honda, and Roy Matsumoto. When the 100th Battalion, 442 RCT and MIS received the CGM in 2020 these three, received their second CGM. When the MM receive the CGM, families of these three Nisei will be entitled to receive their third CGM, a remarkable feat. Mitsukado and Honda. both former 100th Battalion members, were transferred to the MIS due to their Japanese language fluency. Matsumoto graduated from middle school in Japan. When the MM disbanded on August 10, 1944, Mitsukado and Honda volunteered to serve in OSS Detachment 101 in Burma. Honda worked with the Kachin Rangers in north Burma. Matsumoto eventually received a transfer to OSS Detachment 202 and engaged in special operations in Indochina such as dynamiting bridges. JAVA congratulates the three families for this unique achievement.
Colonel Kay K. Wakatake Receives NAPABA Military and Veteran Service Award
Colonel Kay K. Wakatake, U.S. Army Judge Advocate General’s Corps.
JAVA member and former Advocate editor Colonel Kay K. Wakatake was recently presented with the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association (NAPABA) Military and Veteran Service Award. The accolade is given to "APA attorneys who exhibit the highest integrity,
competency and commitment to serving others, the APA community, and their
country and whose character and commitment reflect the highest standards of the
Congratulations Colonel Wakatake!
[EdNote: Material from NAPABA Newsletter was used for the article.]
JAVA Joins the Tanamachi Family and Friends to Celebrate Mrs. Tamamachi's 100th Birthday!
Mrs. Kikuko Nakao Tanamachi
JAVA wishes Mrs. Tanamachi a very happy 100th birthday and hope she enjoys many more. Mrs Tanamachi was born on September 30, 1920 in Terminal Island (San Pedro, California).
JAVA Welcomes Colonel Julia Coxen
Colonel Julia Coxen
JAVA is pleased to welcome Colonel Julia Coxen as a new member. Julia graciously took the time to share some of the highlights in her remarkable life and to provide some thoughts for today’s youth as they prepare for the future.
Julia’s parents immigrated from Korea in 1969 and took up residence in Pine Brook, NJ, where Julia and her siblings were born and raised. They taught her the value of hard work in life and in school. Her academic credentials are amazing. She received her Bachelor of Applied Science in Environmental Systems Engineering with a minor in Music from the University of Pennsylvania. During her Army career she received two Master of Science degrees from Columbia University with one being in Operations Research and the other in Engineering and Management Systems. Julia is currently working on her PhD from the University of Michigan in Industrial and Operations Engineering. Her dissertation will be on taking a risk analysis and data-driven approach to combating human trafficking.
Out of both curiosity and the opportunity to receive a scholarship, Julia joined the Army ROTC program at the University of Pennsylvania. During her Junior year and after completion of the ROTC Summer Camp that is a prerequisite to commissioning, she graduated from the Army’s Airborne school. Coincidentally, Julia and Kay Wakatake are active duty Army Colonels and JAVA members who are airborne qualified. Julia was a Distinguished Military Graduate and joined the Army’s Signal Corps.
She completed a tour in Korea with the 304th Signal Battalion and then was assigned to Fort Bragg, NC, with the 82nd Airborne Division. She deployed to Afghanistan for Operation Enduring Freedom. Upon her return to Fort Bragg, she was a Battalion Operations Officer supporting troops deploying to Iraq. It was during her time with the 82nd Airborne that she decided to remain in the Army as she was taken with the quality of soldiers that she worked with and the challenges that being in the Army presented.
At her Captain’s Career Course, Julia was the Honor Graduate and also received the Kilborne Leadership Award. That was followed by a second tour to Korea and then her attendance at Columbia University. After receiving her two Master’s degrees, she was assigned to the United States Military Academy at West Point where she became an Assistant Professor in the Department of Systems Engineering. She showed her compassion for the cadets at West Point by being the Officer-in-Charge of three cadet clubs, advising the Korean American club, and being the Officer Representative for the Women’s Soccer team.
Her tour at West Point was followed by an astounding eight-year assignment with a United States Special Operations Command unit at Fort Belvoir, VA. COL Coxen served under four commanders of the unit with the first one being Bryan Fenton who is now a Lieutenant General and the Senior Military Assistant to the Secretary of Defense. Her leadership skills were displayed by commanding a systems control company, as the head recruiter responsible for finding unique officers and non-commissioned officers for specialized and dangerous duties, and as the first woman selected to command the Group Support Battalion in its 40 years of existence. Her intellect was also put to great use through her initiatives on special communications, data mining, transforming logistical applications, advanced data analytics and data ecosystems. She co-led the Joint Special Operations Command’s Data initiative forging academic and industry partnerships and interagency efforts. She was one of the 50 finalists out of 18,000 applicants to become an Astronaut. Although she was not selected to become an astronaut, the Army recognized her superior talents by selecting her for the PhD program at the University of Michigan. Upon award of her PhD, Julia will be assigned again to West Point. This time she was selected as a PUSMA (Professor U.S. Military Academy) and the Deputy Head of the Department of Systems Engineering.
Julia and her husband Craig are the proud parents of 6-year-old Grace and 2-year-old Gabriel. Craig is a management consultant in the health care industry that gives him the latitude to work almost anywhere that Julia may be assigned.
Colonel Coxen reflected back on her 22 years in the Army to date. She views her service as but a small payback for the opportunities that America gave to her parents, herself, and her siblings and for America’s commitment to fight oppression world-wide. She has thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to serve with what she considers to be phenomenal world-class leaders, for the flexibility in assignments, and the exciting nature of the challenges in the military. In addition to encouraging today’s youth to consider serving in the military, she shared a piece of advice … "Don’t settle for an easy life, make good use of that hard earned grit and work ethic – you will find it to be infinitely rewarding!"
JAVA is honored to welcome Colonel Julia Coxen as a member. On a personal note, as a long-time advisor to the U.S. Special Operations Command unit to which Colonel Coxen was assigned, I can attest to the absolutely highest regard that Julia Coxen's commanders, peers, and subordinates have for her. She is one of a kind! Welcome aboard!
The Coxen Family. Photo: COL Julia Coxen.
JAVA Member CPT Wade Ishimoto, USA (Ret), on Panel Discussion of Historical and Current U.S. - Iran Relations
National Iranian American Council (NIAC) Panel Screenshot.
CPT Wade Ishimoto, USA (Ret), was part of a panel hosted by the National Iranian American Council on to discuss U.S. - Iran relations in light of the new documentary film Desert One.
"When Iranian students seized the U.S. Embassy on November 4th, 1979, they changed the course of U.S.-Iran relations and U.S. foreign policy for decades to come. In the documentary film, Desert One, some of that history is reconstructed and we get a detailed look at the harrowing tale of Operation Eagle Claw—a covert operation ordered by then U.S. president, Jimmy Carter, to rescue 52 Americans...[A] fascinating discussion with the film's director, award winning filmmaker Barbara Kopple, Ambassador John Limbert who was among the 52 Americans held in Tehran, and Captain Ishimoto who served as an intelligence officer for Operation Eagle Claw."
The JACL DC Chapter is pleased to invite members and friends to our 3rd virtual book talk. The upcoming book talk is with Shirley Ann Higuchi on Wednesday, October 7, 2020 at 7pm EDT. In this presentation, Shirley will include a focus on the multigenerational impact of the incarceration to Japanese Americans. Her new book, Setsuko’s Secret: Heart Mountain and the Legacy of the Japanese American Incarceration, can be ordered through Amazon or directly through the distributor at:
Chicago Distribution Center
1-800-621-2736 (toll-free, U.S.)
9 a.m. and 5 p.m. U.S. CST/GMT-6, Monday-Friday
A Zoom link for the event will be emailed to you once you register through Eventbrite at: https://bit.ly/3i4dEPx
Densho Dinner At Home
Join Densho for an Evening of Community, Remembrance and Solidarity
Saturday, October 24
Our history shows that in moments of turmoil, our connections to one another matter more than ever. While we can’t come together in person, we can still be in community with each other to collectively remember our past and affirm our commitment to action. Join Densho for an evening of community, remembrance and solidarity. Keynote speakers Valarie Kaur and Brynn Saito will share inspiring lessons from their families’ story of compassion and reflections on the power of unity in the face of challenging historical moments. Together we can transform this challenging time into a moment for powerful social change.
Registration is free! Learn more about the program and featured speakers, and sign up today:bit.ly/DenshoDinner2020.
Five Nisei World War II Veterans Inducted into
the French Légion d’ Honneur
Jeff Morita (Hawaii)
The month of September 2020 brought forth more wonderful news — the Republic of France inducted five 442nd Regimental Combat Team Veterans into the prestigious Chevalier dans L'Order National de la Légion d’Honneur (Knight in the National Order of the French Legion of Honor). The French Chevalier is the highest French order bestowed for military and civilian merit and established in 1802 by Napoleon Bonaparte. All five 442nd Regimental Combat Team Veterans were instrumental in the liberation of France in World War II from years of occupation and oppression.
Hajime Miyamoto. Photos: Courtesy of Susan (Miyamoto) Yoshitomi.
Hajime Miyamoto was born on October 11, 1918 in Kawainui, Pepeekeo, (then) Territory of Hawaii to Kichiuemon and Koei Miyamoto. He was the oldest boy and seconnd of eight siblings. In 1937, he graduated from Hilo High School where he was involved in vocational agriculture, and the Future Farmers of America. On March 27, 1943, Miyamoto enlisted in the U.S. Army and received basic infantry training and as a medical aidman. He was one of three medical aidmen initially assigned to G "George" Company, 2nd Infantry Battalion, 442nd Regimental Combat Team. Subsequently assigned to the Medical Detachment, Headquarters, 442nd RCT, Miyamoto attained the rank of Technician Fifth Class (Tec/5). He served courageously and with valor in the Rome-Arno; Northern Apennines; (France) Rhineland-Vosges and Maritime Alps; and Po Valley Campaigns. He personally contributed to the liberation of Northeastern France to include the villages of Bruyères, Belmont-Biffontaine, and the epic rescue of the lost ‘Texas’ battalion (1st Battalion, 141st Infantry Regiment) in the Vosges Mountains. On December 13, 1945 Tec/5 Miyamoto was honorably discharged from U.S. Army at the Army Separation Center, Oahu.
For his honorable service, Tec/5 Miyamoto was a recipient of the U.S. Congressional Gold Medal; Silver Star Medal; Bronze Star Medal; Purple Heart Medal; Army Good Conduct Medal; American Campaign Medal; Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal; European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with four Bronze Campaign Stars; World War II Victory Medal; Distinguished Unit Badge (Presidential Unit Citation); Combat Medical Badge; and Honorable Service Lapel Button-World War II. Miyamoto returned to his roots in Hilo and was first employed as a field supervisor for Flowers of Hawaii, Ltd and then subsequently worked for the Hawaii Sugar Plantation Association for 30 years retiring as an Experimentalist on October 31, 1984. Spouse Mitsue Miyamoto (NEE: Masuchika) preceded him in death. Mr. Miyamoto passed away on June 12, 2019 at the age of 100. He is survived by a daughter Susan Eiko Yoshitomi (Alvin) of Honolulu. Due to the on-going COVID-19 Pandemic, a presentation ceremony in Hawaii s tentatively on-hold until such time it is safe for group gatherings.
Silver Star Citation: The President of the United States of American, authorized by Act of Congress, July 9, 1918, takes pleasure in presenting the Silver Star to Private First Class Hajime Miyamoto (ASN: 30106254), United States Army for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action against the enemy while serving as a Medical Aidman with the 442d Regimental Combat Team, attached to the 36th Infantry Division, on October 20, 1944 in the vicinity of Bruyeres, France. Observing two of his comrades severely wounded and exposed to enemy fire, Private First Class Miyamoto, on his own initiative, left his covered position and dashed through a hail of enemy fire to the aid of these men. Under fire, he calmly administered first aid. When intense enemy fire was directed against his position, Private First Class Miyamoto, with complete disregard for his own safety, threw himself over one of the wounded men, shielding him with his own body. Realizing the wounded man was in need of immediate blood transfusion, Private First Class Miyamoto, displaying outstanding bravery, carried him through intense crossfire to the aid station." (Headquarters, 7th Army General Orders No. 17; January 24, 1945).
Charles Masuo Murakami
Charles Masuo Murakami. Photos: Courtesy of the Murakami Family.
Charles Masuo Murakami was born on March 4, 1922 in Sherwood, Oregon to Shuichi and Yae Murakami, and the 5th of seven siblings. At the age of 14 a very young Murakami worked on the railroads using a sledgehammer to drive in railroad spikes. At age 15, he worked at the local salmon cannery, recalled "most kids did at that time," cleaned and packed the salmon as the catch came in. The salmon runs lasted roughly 16 to 18 days; he worked every day 10 to 12-hours because there was no refrigeration and earned 10 cents per hour. He later worked the nightshift at the local sawmill all the while helping the family with monetary income. Mr. Murakami attended Benson Polytechnic High School, Portland, Oregon and took a keen interest in the draftsman trade; he graduated in 1940. Following the December 7, 1941 surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii on February 19, 1942, then President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066 and authorized the U.S. Secretary of War to set aside certain areas of the U.S. mainland as military zones. This cleared the way for the internment of non-U.S. citizens (parents of) and U.S. citizens of American of Japanese Ancestry into U.S. ‘relocation' camps. Under the War Relocation Authority, Mr. Murakami and his family were confined at Minidoka Concentration Camp in Hunt, Idaho, one of ten relocation camps across the U.S. mainland.
On May 1, 1943, Mr. Murakami was inducted into the U.S. Army in Salt Lake, Utah and received basic combat training at Camp Shelby, Mississippi. He was trained as an assault infantry heavy machine gun crew member, and ultimately became a machine-gun Section Leader. Assigned to H "How" Company (Heavy Weapons), 2nd Battalion, 442nd Regimental Combat Team, he attained the rank of Staff Sergeant (SSG). SSG Murakami served honorably and gallantly in the Rome-Arno —Northern Apennines —(France) Rhineland-Vosges and Rhineland-Maritime-Alps — and Po Valley Offensive Campaigns. On October 17, 1944 during a combat assault for Bruyeres, SSG Murakami was wound in the neck by artillery shrapnel and recalled, “a half inch more and it would’ve cut my neck off.” He received the coveted Purple Heart Medal. On December 11, 1945 SSG Murakami was honorably discharge at Separation Center, Fort George G. Meade, Maryland. For his honorable service, SSG Murakami was the recipient of the U.S. Congressional Gold Medal; Bronze Star Medal; Purple Heart Medal; Army Good Conduct Medal; American Campaign Medal; Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal; European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with four Bronze Campaign Stars; World War II Victory Medal; Distinguished Unit Badge (Presidential Unit Citation); Combat Medical Badge; Honorable Service Lapel Button-World War II.
Following his service in the U.S. Army, Mr. Murakami worked as a draftsman at small companies prior to working at Inland and Ricoh. He learned the draftsman trade while in his vocational high school and advanced from Structural Steel Draftsman to Chief Structural Draftsman through experience and seniority. Mr. Murakami fully retired in 1987. After 65 years of marriage, on July 31, 2011, wife Grace preceded Mr. Murakami in death; they have no children. Mr. Murakami resides in Florida and a member of The American Legion. A very proud nephew-Kerry Murakami and a niece-Melissa Murakami-Luna reside in Chicago, Illinois. The Consul General of France in Miami, Florida is tentatively scheduled to confer Mr. Muraoka the French Chevalier (Knight) on Columbus Day, Monday, October 12, 2020, at The Carriage House Gracious Retirement Living in Oxford, Florida.
Seichi Joseph Oshiro
Seichi Joseph Oshiro. Photos: Courtesy of the Oshiro Family.
Seichi Joseph Oshiro was born April 18, 1923, in Honolulu, (then) Territory of Hawaii to Kamado and Isami Oshiro. Mr. Oshiro is the 2nd of eight siblings and attended Maui High School until the 10th grade. He later attended the Department of Public Instruction, and received a High School Certificate.
On March 23, 1943 he enlisted into the U.S. Army in Maui County, Maui, and received training as an infantry assault rifleman. Then Private Oshiro was assigned to L "Love" Company, 3rd Infantry Battalion, 442nd Regimental Combat Team, and eventually attained the rank of Sergeant. SGT Oshiro served courageously and valiantly in the Rome-Arno, North Apennines, (France) Rhineland-Vosges and Maritime Alps Campaigns. He personally contributed to the liberation of the Eastern-France to include the towns of Bruyeres, Belmont-Biffontaine, and in the epic rescue of the lost ‘Texas' battalion (1st Battalion, 141st Infantry Regiment) in the Vosges Mountains. He was wounded twice, once on July 20, 1944, in the vicinity of Nuova and Colle Alvetti, Italy, and a second time on November 1, 1944, in the Vosges Mountains of France.
On December 13, 1945, SGT Oshiro was honorably discharged from active U.S. Army duty at Army Separation Center, Oahu. For his honorable service, SGT Oshiro received the U.S. Congressional Gold Medal; Bronze Star Medal; Purple Heart Medal with one Bronze Oak Leaf Cluster (2nd award) Army Good Conduct Medal; American Campaign Medal; Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal; European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with three Bronze Campaign Stars; World War II Victory Medal; Distinguished Unit Badge (Presidential Unit Citation); Sharpshooter Badge M1 Rifle; Honorable Service Lapel Button-World War II.
In Honolulu, Mr. Oshiro started his U.S. Federal Civil Service career as a United States Postal System Carrier. He eventually became a foreman of building maintenance - in charge of post office machinery - at the USPS Post Office, Honolulu International Airport and after 30 years of federal civil service he retired on December 29, 1980. On August 26, 1950, Joseph Seichi Oshiro married the former Nancy T. Yonashiro and both currently live in Honolulu, Hawaii. They have two children, four grandchildren, and five great grandchildren. Due to the on-going COVID-19 Pandemic, a conferment ceremony in Hawaii is tentatively on-hold until such time it is safe for group gatherings.
Takashi Shirakata. Photos: Courtesy of Shirakata Family.
Takashi Shirakata was born on April 12, 1921 in Honolulu, (then) Territory of Hawaii to Tamiichi and Kiku Shirakata and the 3rd of six siblings. In June 1929, Shirakata graduated from McKinley High School and employed by the Bank of Hawaii as a bookkeeping machine operator.
After the attack on Pearl Harbor, Mr. Shirakata enlisted and inducted into the U.S. Army on March 25, 1943 at Schofield Barracks, Oahu. Then Private Takashi was assigned to Headquarters Company, 2nd Battalion, 442nd Regimental Combat Team as an assault rifleman. He also received additional training as a radio operator assigned to the communications platoon. PVT Shirakata was subsequently transferred to the 206th Army Ground Forces Band (AGFB), 442nd RCT and attained the rank of Technician 5th Class (Tec/5). Tec/5 Shirakata assisted with military band music to provide and maintain esprit de corps and preserve military tradition of ceremonies for U.S. and foreign guests and dignitaries. The 206th AGFB service members were fully armed, conducted vital guard duties to ensure the security of the RCT's Headquarters, and held in reserve in the event additional combat power was necessary in the RCT's area of operation. Security in a war footing was paramount in order for the RCT's headquarters element to provide effective command and control over its' assigned three infantry battalions, field artillery battalion, combat engineers, medical and logistical staff. Shirakata assisted with military band music to provide and maintain esprit de corps and preserve military tradition of ceremonies for U.S. and foreign guests and dignitaries in additional to providing security to the RCT's headquarters.
Tec/5 Shirakata served courageously and gallantly in the Rome-Arno; Northern Apennines; (France) Rhineland-Vosges and Maritime Alps; and Po Valley Campaigns. He personally contributed to the liberation of Northeastern France to include the villages of Bruyères, Belmont-Biffontaine, and the epic rescue of the lost ‘Texas’ battalion in the Vosges Mountains. On December 19, 1945 Shirakata was honorably separated from the U.S. Army at the Army Separation Center, Oahu, ToH. For his honorable service, Tec/5 Shirakata received the U.S. Congressional Gold Medal; Army Good Conduct Medal; American Campaign Medal; Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal; European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with four Bronze Campaign Stars; World War II Victory Medal; Distinguished Unit Badge (Presidential Unit Citation); Expert Marksmanship M1 and Pistol; Honorable Service Lapel Button-World War II.
Mr. Shirakata returned to the Bank of Hawaii until the late 1950's, then employed by City Bank until his final retirement on April 30, 1986 as Vice Present of Operations. Mr. Shirakata served as a proud officer, and member of the 442nd RCT Veteran's Club, and Chapter President for the 232nd Combat Engineer Company, and 206th Army Ground Forces Band, 442d RCT. Mr. Shirakata is married to the former Florence Sadae Ogawa. They have four children, four grandchildren and three great grandchildren. Mr. and Mrs. Shirakata currently live in Honolulu, Hawaii. Due to the on-going COVID-19 Pandemic, a conferment ceremony in Hawaii is tentatively on-hold until such time it is safe for group gatherings.
Minoru Tamashiro. Photo: Courtesy Jeff and Airi Morita.
Minoru Tamashiro was born on September 16, 1924 in Hilo, (then) Territory of Hawaii to Jitsuyei and Oto Tamashiro, and the 2nd of three all brother siblings. Tamashiro graduated from McKinley High School. On March 24, 1943 he enlisted into the U.S. Army at Schofield Barracks, Oahu, and received training in infantry tactics, jeep driving and as an anti-tank crewman. Private (PVT) Tamashiro was assigned to Headquarters Company, 442nd Regimental Combat Team (RCT), and eventually attained the rank of Private First Class (PFC). PFC Tamashiro served courageously and gallantly in the Rome-Arno; Northern Apennines; (France) Rhineland-Vosges and Maritime Alps; and Po Valley Campaigns. He personally contributed to the liberation of Northeastern France to include the villages of Bruyères, Belmont-Biffontaine, and the epic rescue of the lost ‘Texas’ battalion in the Vosges Mountains. On April 13, 1945 PFC Tamashiro was wound by shrapnel to the right arm along the Lingurian Coast, Italy; he received the coveted Purple Heart Medal. On December 30, 1945 Tamashiro was honorably separated from the U.S. Army at the Army Separation Center, Oahu, ToH. PFC Tamashiro received the U.S. Congressional Gold Medal; Bronze Star Medal; Purple Heart Medal; Army Good Conduct Medal; American Campaign Medal; Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal; European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with four Bronze Campaign Stars; World War II Victory Medal; Distinguished Unit Badge (Presidential Unit Citation) with one Bronze Oak Leaf Cluster (2nd award); Combat Infantryman Badge; Sharpshooter Badge M1 Rifle and Expert Badge; Honorable Service Lapel Button-World War II.
Mr. Tamashiro attended the University of Hawaii and received a Baccalaureate (1952) and Master of Science (1954) degrees in Entomology. In 1959, he went on to receive his Doctorate in Entomology from University of California, Berkeley. The University of Hawaii at Manoa then hired Mr. Tamashiro as an Assistant Professor of Entomology; and subsequently promoted to an Associate Professor, and lastly Professor. He retired in 1989 and awarded Emeritus Professor in the Department of Plant and Environmental Protection Sciences, UH-Manoa. Mr. Tamashiro's academic career encompassed mostly in teaching and research. He is most proud of his students and their own achievements. Many have gone on to become leaders and teachers in their own fields. Mr. Tamashiro's main area of research was Subterranean Termites, which caused millions of dollars of damage in Hawaii and throughout the world every year. Involved in research and innovative techniques, Mr. Tamashiro significantly contributed to greatly reducing this devastating insect problem. More importantly techniques employed enabled to greatly reduce the use of highly toxic chemicals, which were sprayed in the environment in order to control this insect.
Mr. Tamashiro is married to the former Elaine Masako (NEE: Kushiyama) and both currently live in Honolulu, Hawaii. Due to the on-going COVID-19 Pandemic, a conferment ceremony in Hawaii is tentatively on-hold until such time it is safe for group gatherings.
Korean Soldier’s Family Supports the Museum, Recognizes Father’s Service
Retired Captain Monika Stoy standing beside photo of her father, Choi, Kyung Jin, who served with Army Unit 8240 Korean Partisans in the Korean War.
Retired Captain Monika and retired Lieutenant Colonel Tim Stoy have been early supporters of the National Museum of the United States Army, and recently doubled their contribution after watching the vision for this historic project become a reality. Captain Stoy’s mother, Hae, has also made a significant contribution to the Museum, both families donated in honor of their late husband/father, Kyungjin Choi, a Korean citizen who served with the 8240 Army Unit of the United Nations Partisan Forces Korea from 1950 to 1953.
Kyungjin Choi was born in Pyongyang Province while Korea was still occupied by Japan. After the Japanese occupation ended in 1945, and the country separated to prevent the Soviet Union from occupying the Korean Peninsula, Kyungjin was sent to a boarding school in Seoul for high school. When the UN Forces liberated Seoul, he joined the partisan forces being trained and equipped by the U.S. Army and undertook many missions into Pyongyang Province. He served in the 8240 Army Unit of the United Nations Partisan Forces Korea from 1950 to 1953.
Kyungjin, Hae, and their five children immigrated to the United States in 1973 and settled in Springfield, Va. Monika went on to serve as a Captain in the U.S. Army. While serving in the Army, Monika met her husband Tim, who served in the Army Intelligence from 1981 to 2012 retiring as a Lieutenant Colonel.
“This project owes a special debt of gratitude to the Choi and Stoy families, both for their Army service, and their contributions supporting the Museum, to help ensure that Americans are able to learn the stories of all Soldiers,” said The Army Historical Foundation, President retired U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Roger Schultz.
The Stoy family has been great volunteers of the Foundation spreading the word about the Museum and encouraging many veterans and family members to purchase commemorative bricks. Monika has also participated in the Foundation’s Soldier Experience Series, where she highlighted her father’s service in support of the U.S. Army.
This project owes a special debt of gratitude to the Choi and Stoy families, both for their Army service, and their contributions supporting the Museum, to help ensure that Americans are able to learn the stories of all Soldiers.
The Stoy and Choi family are part of the Museum’s Circles of Distinction program, which is comprised of individuals, foundations, and corporations that have donated more than $50,000 to the Capital Campaign for the National Museum of the United States Army. These donors will have their names showcased on the massive granite wall in our Lobby.
[EdNote: Reprinted with Permission from Call to Duty magazine. The article can be found online at: https://armyhistory.org/korean-soldiers-family-supports-the-museum-recognizes-fathers-service/. We thank Wade Ishimoto for submitting this article. Captions to the photos were added by JAVA. Photos were taken at Association of the United States Army (AUSA) on Wilson Boulevard, Arlington, VA in 1997. Retired Captain Monika and retired LTC Tim Stoy are responsible for Outpost International (OI), an element of the Society of the 3rd Infantry Division, 7th Army. OI's mission is to honor veterans of the 3rd Division and other appropriate units of the 7th Army and French units by placing plaques in communities liberated by them in France, Germany, and Austria during WWII, in locations in Korea where the Division fought, and in the Marne Region during WWI. OI also publishes history and conducts seminars on Division's combat experience during WWII and the Korean War. Monika is President of Outpost.]
L-R: Former JAVA VP and EC member LTC Mark Nakagawa (Ret), LTC Tim Stoy (Ret), and CPT Monika Stoy (Ret).
Rearview: Catching Up on 2 Unusual Weddings and Other War Stories
The strangest wedding ever shows the minister at left, the bride and groom in the middle and bridesmaid, Doris Ishikawa, right. Behind them, U.S. troops watch as a captured Japanese officer marries his beloved nurse at the end of World War II. Photo: Carol Nitta,1945.
John Wayne and Pilar Pallete were married in Kona in 1954. Photo: Honolulu Star-Advertiser.
Reprinted with Permission
Bob Sigall, Special to Star-Advertiser, Sept. 18, 2020
Last month I wrote about John Wayne owning The Forbidden City, originally on the corner of Ala Moana Boulevard and Ward Avenue.
Wayne bought it for his mistress. They rendezvoused on his boat, docked across the street at Kewalo Basin. When Wayne’s wife, Pilar Pallete, found out, he gave the restaurant to Jack Cione and Francis Tom and moved the mistress to the mainland.
Mark Norman Olds Jr. called to tell me he attended Wayne and Pallete’s wedding in Kona on Nov. 1, 1954. He was a child at the time. His dad, a state senator and district judge, performed the ceremony.
The sunset wedding was held at the home of Sen. William “Doc” Hill at Keauhou Bay. Golfer Francis I‘i Brown was the best man, and his girlfriend, Winona Love, also attended. Brown said he met the actor at Pebble Beach, Calif., where he had a home, and they became friends.
Olds said a party of about 150 was in progress, with music playing, when he arrived. “It was the first wedding I had been to where the reception started before the ceremony,” the judge chuckled.
He was also surprised to learn the actor’s real name. The marriage certificate read, “Marion Michael Morrison.”
The vows did not include the word “obey,” the judge said. The idea of an obedient wife was on its way out in the 1950s. The ceremony took only about 90 seconds.
Wayne was on the Big Island filming “Sea Chase,” which co-starred Lana Turner. The director, John Farrow, gave the bride away.
Wayne and Pallete had three children. Wayne died in 1979. Pallete is 92 and lives in California.
The strangest wedding
Two weeks ago I wrote about another wedding. This one was between a captured World War II Japanese officer and an Okinawan nurse.
The Japanese officer agreed to tell the Americans everything he knew, if he was allowed to marry the woman he loved. Gen. Hodge gave it his blessing.
The bride managed to find a kimono in which to be wed. A GI played the wedding march on an accordion. A Mormon chaplain was quickly found to lead the ceremony.
An AJA interpreter acted as best man, while Doris Ishikawa of Maui, who was a refugee on Okinawa, was bridesmaid.
Army Intelligence officer Paul Tognetti said the officer did cooperate, and his information saved hundreds of American lives. After that the newlyweds passed into obscurity. Their names and fate remain unknown to me.
But I did hear from Ishikawa’s daughter, Carol Nitta, last week, and she had a photograph of the wedding. It clearly shows her mom, on the right, the bride and groom in the middle and the minister at left.
Nitta said her mom barely talked about the wedding and had no new details to provide.
Found in Okinawan cave
In the same article, I shared with readers that, long ago, I heard a story about an American GI from Hawaii coming upon a woman in an Okinawan cave and recognizing her as a schoolmate. I asked whether any reader knew more.
Richard Ito replied that he knew a variation of the story. It involved U.S. Sgt. Takejiro Higa (EdNote: a JAVA member before he died], part of the Military Intelligence Service during World War II.
Following the Battle of Okinawa in 1945, Higa interrogated two men in threadbare clothes who were found by U.S. servicemen in an Okinawan cave. They both feared they would be executed by the Americans.
Higa was born in Hawaii but grew up on Okinawa. His family returned to Hawaii in 1939.
He asked them basic questions about their age, where they lived and where they went to school. “Kishaba Shogakko,” they said.
Did they know Nakandakari sensei? The two were shocked. How would an American GI know about a teacher there?
By now Higa recognized the two. “Do you remember one of your classmates named Takejiro Higa from Shimabuku?” They replied that he had gone back to Hawaii.
“I looked them straight in the face and in the Okinawan dialect said, ‘Don’t you recognize your own classmate?’”
They began crying in relief. “The three of us grabbed each other’s shoulders, huddled together and wept aloud,” Higa recalled.
Higa also was tasked with interrogating a man in a civilian relief center. “I recognized him instantly, because he was my teacher for the seventh and eighth grades.
“Sensei,” Higa said.
The teacher turned and recognized Higa, “Ah, kimi ka” (“Oh, it’s you”). They were both choked up, Higa said. He made sure all three were treated well.
Joel Yoshiyuki Fujita
My summer series on the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II prompted Cynthia Fujita, whose father was in the 442nd, to write me. How he got in was an interesting story, she said.
“He volunteered because he initially got a draft notice. He told his boss off at work when he quit his job, and his co-workers threw him a going-away party and bought him a beautiful leather jacket.”
Shortly thereafter he received a letter from the government to disregard the draft notice, Cynthia said.
He said, “I felt I had no choice but to volunteer, ’cause no can go back work after telling my boss off and my co-workers giving me a nice gift.”
He and his nephew, Mitsuyuki (Mitz) Fujita, volunteered for the 442nd and were shipped off to Camp Shelby, Miss.
“My dad liked to tell us the story of what happened to them while in Hattiesburg, Miss. He and his buddies had a pass for the evening and got on the bus heading into town, but they noticed that the bus driver drove right past an elderly African American lady with bags of groceries who was waiting at the bus stop.
“They were surprised, as the bus was half empty. When they spoke up to the driver, he ignored them. So when the bus pulled up to the next stop, one of my dad’s friends, ‘Wacky,’ threw the driver off the bus, commandeered it and drove back to the previous bus stop to pick up the elderly woman.
“When she boarded the bus, they told her the ride was free for her and everybody else who was riding the bus to town. When they returned to camp, they knew that they most likely would be punished for what they did.
“The commanding officer learned about the incident and called them in to hear their side of the story. He did ‘lecture’ them about their behavior but did not punish them. He said he understood why they did what they did, but unfortunately, segregation and discrimination was still rampant in the South.”
After the war Fujita returned to Honolulu, got married and worked at different jobs using his artistic talent as a sign maker for the state of Hawaii, painting and designing the logos of the public school signs. He retired in 1985.
In November 2019, Fujita received the French Chevalier Legion of Honor medal for his contribution in the liberation of France during WWII.
Joel Fujita died in June at 100 years of age.
Special Salute to Veterans
Lynn Heirakuj, President of Nisei Veterans Legacy. Interview Screenshot.
Hawaii television station KITV recently aired a special salute to WWII Veterans, Honoring Hawaii's Heroes. JAVA member and Nisei Veterans Legacy (NVL) President Lynn Heirakuji was interviewed for a segment on the 442nd Regimental Combat Team (click the link below to watch).
The Expanded Caregiver program is live. Pre-1975 veterans are now allowed to apply for the Caregiver program! APPLY TODAY!
Dear Caregivers and Veterans:
Yesterday, the VA announced they are now accepting applications from pre-1975 Veterans for the Caregiver program. If you are a Veteran already in the Caregiver program, no application needs to be made, but if you are a Veteran who was injured on military duty before May 7, 1975, you can now submit your application at the VA website here. If you are not comfortable submitting online, you can print the VA Form 10-10CG at home and mail in with supporting documents. Detailed information regarding the new, expanded caregiver program can be found here.
If you are already in the Caregiver program, and you wonder how these changes will affect you, the VA’s produced a factsheet which you can review here.
We recommend Veterans not already in the caregiver program apply as soon as practicable, as stipend and benefit payments are usually computed from the date of application for the program. Lastly, if you are having problems with your application for the program, The Independence Fund Casework program is here to help you – you can contact the program at Casework@IndependenceFund.org.
New JAVA Members
JAVA sends a warm Aloha to our new Veterans as well as new Friends of JAVA.
Sgt. Adam Bell, USMC
Dylan Brocar, USN
SGT Rimie Charo, USA
Shogo Cottrell, USMC
COL Julia Coxen, USA
Mayumi Doty, USN
LCDR James Farrens, USN (Ret)
Thomas Foerstel, USMC
LtCol David Gersen, USMC
Lon Horiuchi, USA
MSgt Todd Iguchi, USAF (Ret)
Dennis Ito, USA
Justin Kim, USN
Roger Onaga, USN
CW3 Gordon Watanabe, USA (Ret)
Gean Writesel, USAR
CSM Tony Wyno, USA (Ret)
Masaru "Mas" Hashimoto, USA
Foreign Service Officer Yukio Kuniyuki Jr. (Ret)
SPC TJ Okamura, USAR
Rhianna Taniguchi, ARNG Veteran
Pam Momoko Yan
Friends of JAVA
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.
Richard P. Baks - Operations
Tom Graves - IMO Lawson Sakai
Foreign Service Officer Yukio Kuniyuki Jr. - New Member
LTC Jason Kuroiwa, USA (Ret) - Operations
Robert and Sheri Nakamoto - Bob Nakamoto Scholarship
Isami Yoshihara - New Member
For his service in Vietnam, Vincent Okamoto was inducted into the Army Ranger Hall of Fame. He often spoke of the soldiers who never came home as the “real heroes.”
OBITUARY: VINCENT OKAMOTO, 76; JUDGE, VIETNAM WAR HERO
Reprint from Rafu Shimpo with permission.
Posted on September 29, 2020
Rafu Staff Report
Okamoto was a 24-year-old lieutenant leading a platoon on Aug. 24, 1968 near Dầu Tiếng, when his unit came under attack by North Vietnamese troops. To protect his men, he led five men to plug a gap blown in the defensive perimeter by the enemy.
Realizing the need for supporting fire, he ran to a disabled armored personnel carrier and manned its heavy machine gun, pouring fire into the advancing enemy.
When the weapon became inoperable, he ran to a second damaged armored vehicle and manned its .50 cal. machine gun. This vehicle was on fire and could have detonated at any moment. The flames illuminated Okamoto and exposed him to more enemy fire. Yet he remained atop the APC, firing the machine gun until it ran out of ammunition.
Then, Okamoto ran to a third armored vehicle, removed the dead gunner from the turret, manned the heavy machine gun and resumed firing into the advancing enemy troops, blunting their attack until he ran out of ammunition.
In an act of courage Okamoto launched a one-man attack against the attackers. Arming himself with grenades, he crawled toward the enemy until he was only ten meters away from a heavy machine gun being set up to rake the American position. Okamoto destroyed the weapon and its gun crew with hand grenades.
He returned to the perimeter wounded, yet assisted another injured American soldier to the aid station. Refusing aid for himself, he returned to direct the defense of the threatened sector of the perimeter. His actions saved the lives of scores of his fellow Americans.
During his tour of duty, Okamoto was wounded three times and received 14 combat decorations, including the Distinguished Service Cross. In 2007, he was inducted into the Army Ranger Hall of Fame in Fort Benning, Ga. — the first Japanese American so honored since World War II. He memorably shared his experiences as a young soldier, including eating a bowl of rice for the first time in a long while, in the 2017 Ken Burns documentary “The Vietnam War.”
Judge Vincent Okamoto
At veterans’ gatherings, Okamoto would often speak about the “real heroes,” the young men who died too young, often the sons of working-class families who didn’t have wealth and privilege to let them avoid military service.
Okamoto wrote two books: “Wolfhound Samurai,” a novel based on the story of a Japanese American soldier during Vietnam, and “Forged in Fire,” the story of the friendship between Medal of Honor recipient Hershey Miyamura and Joe Annello during the Korean War.
Ken Hayashi, president of the JA Vietnam Veterans Memorial Committee, said Okamoto was the driving force behind the Japanese American Vietnam Veterans Wall at the JACCC. The black granite monument was the beginning of what is now the Japanese American National War Memorial Court, which honors JAs who perished in combat.
“Vince approached politicians, businessmen and community leaders, all of whom did not offer a home. The still remaining controversy of the long and unpopular war was an obstacle none wanted to be associated with. Through almost five years of rejection, Vince continued to persevere. Finally Min Tonai, then president of the JACCC, said ‘Yes’ and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial had a home. The Japanese American Vietnam Veterans Memorial was dedicated on Nov. 11, 1995,” Hayashi said.
“He was a dear friend and I will miss him dearly, but the JA community and the country has lost an inspirational leader and role model,” Hayashi said.
At that dedication, Okamoto recalled visiting the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., with his wife Mitzi and son Darby.
“We have a limit on the tomorrows allotted to us. I say to the veterans of Vietnam, let us put the tomorrows that remain to us to good use. To savor each day and not let the anger and bitterness of the Vietnam War poison our lives,” Okamoto said. “I hope, as veterans, that we can come to this place and find a sense of peace. I hope that a healing process can begin. I hope that this memorial will remind you what a precious gift life is. I hope you can bring your families here and allow yourself to accept the love and support they want to give you.”
Vincent Okamoto, joined by wife Mitzi, was honored as Nisei Week grand marshal in 2018. (MARIO GERSHOM REYES/Rafu Shimpo).
As news spread of Okamoto’s unexpected passing, friends and fellow veterans paid tribute.
“His eloquent voice of reason, logic and humor will be sorely missed,” stated David Miyoshi.
Mia Frances Yamamoto, posted on Facebook that she had lost a friend of more than 50 years. Both had served in Vietnam and attended law school after the war.
“He was the best, most soulful people I have ever known and I already miss him. Rest in Power, my good brother, you showed us a life well-lived,” Yamamoto said.
Okamoto was born on Nov. 22, 1943 in the Poston, Ariz. internment camp; the 10th child and the seventh son born to Japanese immigrants. All six of his older brothers served in the U.S. military. The eldest two fought in Europe during World War II with the 442nd Regimental Combat Team. Another brother volunteered for the Marines and fought in the Korean War.
After three years of active duty, Okamoto left the Army with the rank of captain. He attended the USC School of Law and served as a Los Angeles County deputy district attorney for five years before entering private practice.
Vincent Okamoto (center, standing) with fellow Japanese American Vietnam War veterans and Rep. Maxine Waters in front of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial replica in Gardena’s Mas Fukai Park in April 2018. (Courtesy of Terry Weber)
In the 1970s, as a deputy district attorney, Okamoto was among the founders of the Japanese American Bar Association. He also was elected to the Gardena City Council, and served on the board of the California Veterans Affairs Commission.
In 2002, Okamoto was appointed to the Los Angeles County Superior Court bench by Gov. Gray Davis. He submitted an application for a judgeship at the encouragement of his mentors, role models, and friends in the Japanese American legal community.
In 2018, Okamoto was named grand marshal of the Nisei Week Parade. That same year he spoke at the opening of a temporary display of a replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Gardena.
His last public remarks were for the annual Memorial Day service at the JACCC, held this year amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Hayashi explained that when organizers produced a video, they didn’t want to intrude on the judge during the shelter-at-home restrictions. And so his daughter Kristyn read Okamoto’s words, which offered comfort to families who have lost loved ones in combat.
“Recognize that unwritten beside each name is the broken heart of a mother, a father and the grief of family and loved ones left behind,” Okamoto wrote. “The wall serves to tell the parents of those who perished that we remember and honor their sons and share the pain of their loss.”
Okamoto’s survivors include his wife, Mitzi, and son, Darby.
[EdNote: Judge Vincent Okamoto was a JAVA Member and was a guest speaker at a JAVA luncheon in the fall of 2011. Ken Hayashi, also a JAVA member and President of the President of Japanese
American National War Memorial Court Alliance passed along the sad news of Judge Okamoto's death. JAVA sends the family and friends of Judge Okamoto our heartfelt condolences as they mourn his passing.]
Nelson Takeo Akagi
Nelson Takeo Akagi
June 27, 1923 -September 19, 2020
Nelson Takeo Akagi, JAVA life member, passed away peacefully surrounded by family in his home on Saturday, September 19, 2020, in Murray, Utah at the age of 97.
Nelson was born on June 27, 1923, in Lindsay, California to Otoemon and Masano Takehara Akagi, where he grew up on the family farm. He attended Lindsay High School, lettering in football, basketball, and track. He was working toward a major in electrical engineering and a minor in mechanical engineering at California Polytechnic State University when Pearl Harbor was attacked. Akagi was immediately sent home. WWII turned his family’s lives upside down. They were stripped of their rights, classified 4C enemy aliens, and forced to sell their properties for pennies on the dollar. Their choice was to relocate to an internment camp or a sugar beet farm in Parker, Idaho. To avoid internment, they chose to work on the farms of the U&I Sugar Company in Parker, Idaho.
Nelson never returned to California Polytechnic State University, until years later, in 2010, when he was awarded an Honorary Bachelor of Humane Letters. In 1943, when Japanese-Americans were able to serve in the military, Nelson enlisted. He was 19 years old. He served as a machine gunner and forward observer. He belonged to the highly-decorated all Japanese-American “Go For Broke” 442nd Regimental Combat Team, nicknamed “The Purple Heart Battalion.” He was honorably discharged in 1946. In 2011, he was awarded the prestigious Congressional Gold Medal and in 2020, the highest French decoration, the French Legion of Honor.
During WWII, his family moved to Utah to farm. Upon returning from the war, Nelson resumed his education at the University of Utah. He married Atsuko Noda in the Salt Lake Temple in 1969, and they had three children: Douglas, Paul, and Jeanette. When Jeanette was still an infant, Atsuko succumbed to pulmonary hypertension, a fatal lung disease. Nelson married Lois Kilbourn Bennett in 1974. A year later, he received a Certificate of Completion of Apprenticeship as a machinist from the State of Utah. Nelson doubled as a fruit farmer on the family farm in Draper, Utah, and as a machinist at Hercules (now ATK), where he worked on intercontinental ballistic missiles, retiring in 1987.
Nelson continued to farm until 1995 when the family decided to develop the land. In 1997, Nelson and LaVar Christensen were presented the Developers of the Year Award by the City of Draper for their development of Akagi Farms.
Nelson was a Christian all his life. He converted to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in 1965. He was an early member of the Japanese Dai Ichi Branch where he served in many capacities including ward missionary, executive secretary, and in the High Priests Group leadership. Nelson is survived by his sisters Betty and Marie, his children Doug (Jani), Jeanette (Grant) Spencer, Craig Bennett, Scott (Robyn) Bennett, and many grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
[EdNote. We thank Peggy Mizumoto for providing this obituary.]
Roger Eaton, 1942
La Palma, CA. Roger Eaton, historian, resident of La Palma, CA, passed away at home on September 3, 2020. He celebrated his 78th birthday the day before. Roger requested that no obituary be written, however, his wife, Dianna, approved the following write-up to record what she called “Roger’s passion.”
Roger partnered with Jim Yamashita to produce Echoes of Silence, a compilation of over 20,000 names of Japanese Americans who served in the armed forces during WW II. Roger enriched this database by including information obtained from obituaries collected nationwide from any time period.
Earlier this year, Roger, using his own database, Echoes of Silence and Seiki Oshiro’s MIS Registry, compiled a list of 3,342 names of MISers who served overseas. This settled the guesswork noted in various publications ranging from 2,800 to 7,000.
Knowing virtually zero about Japanese names, the 100th, 442nd and MIS, Roger became interested in the Nisei WWII veterans after speaking with George Ryoji Yamada, Dianna’s father, a veteran of the 232nd Combat Engineers Company, 442nd RCT. Roger dedicated his total post retirement life from his career job to recording pro bono the legacy of this Nikkei wartime generation.
In August 2020 Roger received a high JAVA award, the Congressional Gold Medal with a JAVA inscription, for his historical work pertaining to the WW II Nisei generation.