Japanese American Veterans Association


Vol. 4, No. 51, August 3, 2022

JAVA Holds Third Annual

Day of Affirmation

2022 Day of Affirmation, JAVA President Gerald Yamada, National World War II Memorial. Photo: N. Ford.

Beneath the noonday sun and amidst summer tourists as well as JAVA members and friends, the Japanese American Veterans Association held the third annual Day of Affirmation wreath ceremony at the National World War II Memorial in Washington, DC on Friday, July 15, 2022. The Day of Affirmation commemorates the anniversary of President Harry S. Truman’s review of the returning 442nd Regimental Combat Team on the White House Ellipse on July 15, 1946. 

JAVA President Gerald Yamada gave opening remarks (see below) and a wreath was placed before the Memorial's Price of Freedom Wall which honors the American service men and women who lost their lives in World War II. The wreath ceremony participants were historically meaningful. The military escort for this year’s event was LTC Robert Vokac, U.S. Army (Ret). He is a grandson of Colonel Virgil R. Miller, who was the commanding officer of the 442nd Regimental Combat starting with the battle to save the Texas Lost Battalion. LTC Vokac is also a member of JAVA's Executive Council and was joined by his cousin Randy Miller and nephew Jackson Bennett for the weekend Day of Affirmation events.

One of the two wreath bearers was 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. Colonel Miller was a pallbearer at Saburo Tanamachi's burial. Ms. Tanamachi was presented with JAVA’s Courage, Honor Patriotism Award in 2005 for her twelve-year struggle to have a racial slur removed from Texas street signs.

The other wreath bearer was Missy Higgins Abrunzo, whose father, Captain Marty Higgins, was the commanding officer of the Texas Lost Battalion at the time the 442nd RCT rescued it. After WWII, Captain Higgins worked with Mike Masaoka, the JACL Washington, DC representative at the time, in support of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952 which allowed Issei to apply for naturalized citizenship. 

After the presentation of the wreath, a moment of silence was observed and the sounding of Taps by Master Gunnery Sgt. Scott Gearhart of the "President's Own" United States Marine Band was performed.

To watch the 2022 Day of Affirmation click here.


July 15, 2022

Opening Remarks

(As Prepared)

National World War II Memorial Washington, DC

Gerald Yamada, JAVA President

Thirty-three thousand Japanese Americans served in the US military during World War II.  They served in the face of prejudice at home and in spite of the government’s distrust of their ethnicity.  They served with the 100th Infantry Battalion/442nd Regimental Combat Team in Europe, as Military Intelligence Service trained interpreters, translators, and interrogators assigned to military units fighting in the Pacific, with the Women’s Army Corps and Army Nurse Corps, and in rebuilding Pearl Harbor. 

On this date and hour 76 years ago, President Harry S. Truman saluted the returning 442nd Regimental Combat Team, on the White House Ellipse, by stating that "You fought not only the enemy, but you fought prejudice – and you have won.  Keep up that fight, and we will continue to win….” The President’s salute affirmed that the Japanese American soldiers, men and women, who served during World War II are loyal citizens of the United States of America. 

The Japanese American Veterans Association is proud to present this wreath to honor the legacy forged by the valor and patriotism of the Japanese American men and women who served during World War II.

The participants in today’s ceremony honor the 442nd Regimental Combat Team’s rescue of the Texas Lost Battalion, which is one of the historically significant battles fought by the 442nd Regimental Combat Team.  The U.S. Army considers this rescue one of the 10 most significant battles in its history. 

At the end of October 1944, the 442nd RCT, a segregated all Japanese American combat unit (except for its officers), was ordered to rescue 275 members of the 1st Battalion of 141st Texas Regiment that had become surrounded by the German army.  After a fierce 5-day battle, 211 members of the Texas Lost Battalion were rescued with the 442nd RCT suffering over 800 casualties including 54 killed in action. 

The military escort for this year’s event is LTC Robert Vokac, U.S. Army (Ret). He is a grandson of Colonel Virgil R. Miller, who became the commanding officer of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team during the battle to save the Texas Lost Battalion.

One of the two wreath bearers is 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.

The other wreath bearer is Mary Pat Higgins Abrunzo, whose father, Captain Martin Higgins, was the commanding officer of the Texas Lost Battalion at the time the 442nd RCT rescued it.

Let’s have the wreath presentation proceed.

In honor of those who served, I ask you to face the Freedom Wall, bow your heads, and observe a moment of silence.

Moment of Silence at Price of Freedom Wall, National World War II Memorial, Washington, DC. L to R: Mary Pat Higgins Abrunzo, LTC Robert Vokac, USA (Ret), and Sandra Tanamachi. Photo: Howard High.

Day of Affirmation Wreath at Price of Freedom Wall, National World War II Memorial, Washington, DC. Photo: Neet Ford.

For all those who served, thank you for your service. 

Taps, Master Gunnery Sergeant Scott Gearhart, “The President’s Own” United States Marine Band, National World War II Memorial, Washington, DC. Photo: Howard High.

That concludes our program.  Thank you for joining us to celebrate the third annual Day of Affirmation.  

L to R: Gerald Yamada, Sandra Tanamachi, LTC Robert Vokac, USA (Ret), Mary Pat Higgins Abrunzo, Price of Freedom Wall, National World War II Memorial, Washington, DC. Photo: N. Ford.

JAVA Celebrates Day of Affirmation

with a Dinner at the

National Museum of the U.S. Army

Day of Affirmation Dinner Centerpiece, July 16, 2022, National Museum of the United States Army, Fort Belvoir, Virginia. Photo: Chris DeRosa.

In celebration of the Day of Affirmation, JAVA members and friends gathered on Saturday, July 16th in National Museum of the U.S. Army spectacular Veterans Hall. The uniquely patriotic event, kicked off with a cocktail hour where guests had a chance to catch up with old acquaintances and make new ones. With the dinner hour approaching, Emcee CPT Wade Ishimoto, USA (Ret) welcomed all to the evening program to order and led the group in the Pledge of Allegiance. JAVA President Gerald Yamada addressed the group (remarks below) underscoring that the Day of Affirmation is now formally a "tradition" and special guest Minister Koichi Ai, Head of Chancery, Embassy of Japan expressed his appreciation for JAVA's friendship and the opportunity to work with the Japanese American community in Washington, DC. As a Japanese diplomat and student of American history, Koichi remarked that he viewed the Day of Affirmation as an event that tells "the unique Japanese American experience within American History, " and added that "it is unique and at the same time though, it is a quintessential American story."

Day of Affirmation Dinner L-R: Randy Miller, Bob Vokac, May Huang, Nancy Yamada, Gerald Yamada, Koichi Ai, Wade Ishimoto. Photo: Stan Fujii

Day of Affirmation Dinner L-R: Kathy Dellinger, Jerry Dellinger, Loree Katahara, Michael Katahara, Wanda Dellinger, Dennis Dellinger, Tom Dellinger, Naomi Okusa Dellinger. Photo: Stan Fujii

Day of Affirmation Dinner L-R: Mark Nakagawa, Carol Nakagawa, Metta Tanikawa, Chris DeRosa, Dean DeRosa, Michelle Amano, Martha Watanabe. Photo: Stan Fujii.

Day of Affirmation Dinner L-R: Neet Ford, Wes Azama, Howard High, Missy Abrunzo, Sandra, Tanamachi, Rod Azama. Photo: Stan Fujii. 

After a delicious dinner, LTC Robert Vokac, highlighted stories his grandfather, COL Virgil R. Miller, had shared about his time commanding the 100th/ 442nd RCT (see remarks below). Following LTC Vokac's reflections, JAVA President, Gerald Yamada, thanked Bob for the inspiring and informative talk and presented him with a framed picture of the 442nd's Rescue of the Lost Battalion. 

Gerald Yamada presents Bob Vokac with image of the Rescue of the Lost Battalion. Photo: Stan Fujii. 

Next, LTC Mark Nakagawa, USA (Ret), representing JAVA's Awards Committee and Sandra Tanamachi, recipient of the Courage, Honor, Patriotism Award in 2005 for her 12-year struggle to remove a racial slur from Texas street signs, commenced the JAVA Awards Presentation. U.S. Army Colonel Virgil R. Miller was posthumously awarded JAVA's highest honor, the Courage, Honor, Patriotism Award. In making the award Nakagawa stated: 

That Colonel Miller loved the men of the 100th and 442nd is beyond question.  He would describe that time as "the most satisfactory and rewarding of my thirty years of service."   While serving as the regimental executive officer, then Lieutenant Colonel Miller was offered a promotion and a new command, but he declined to stay with the 442nd.  Within this relatively short time, he developed a strong bond with the Nisei Soldiers, and they shared mutual respect and admiration for each other.  More importantly, even though he was an officer and they were his Soldiers, they recognized each other as equals in humanity.  After the war, he continued to be a fierce advocate for Nisei Soldiers returning home, publicizing their wartime heroism and sacrifices, and openly defending their rights as Americans.

LTC Vokac and his cousin Randy Miller accepted the award on their grandfather's behalf. In thanking JAVA for the award, Randy Miller shared that his grandfather "revered his time with 442nd," and that as a child he "had the pleasure and honor of attending the 442nd's 1969 reunion in Honolulu and 1979 reunion in Los Angeles" with his dad and was offered a glimpse of how special the men of the 442nd were. 

Courage, Honor, Patriotism Award for COL Virgil R. Miller. L-R: Randy Miller, Sandra Tanamachi, Bob Vokac and Mark Nakagawa. Photo: Stan Fujii.

LTC Nakagawa and Ms. Tanamachi then told members that JAVA was pleased to posthumously present U.S. Army Captain Marty Higgins with the Courage, Honor, Patriotism Award. Nakagawa read:

On September 24, 1944, Higgins assumed command of Company A, 141st Infantry Regiment.  During Operation Dogface, the 7th Army's offensive line into the Vosges Mountains of France, The 1st Battalion, 141st was cut off behind German lines. Elected acting Commander of the battalion by his fellow company commanders, Higgins directed the historic stand of what came to be called the "Lost Battalion." The 442nd Regimental Combat Team, while sustaining heavy casualties, managed to fight its way through and relieve the beleaguered unit. This battle generated close ties between the men of the 36th Infantry (Texas Division) and the Nisei of the 100th Infantry Battalion and the 442nd Regimental Combat Team.  Higgins continued his support of the Nisei and worked closely with Mike Masaoka in securing passage of the Immigration and Nationality Act Of 1952 which allowed the Issei to apply for citizenship.

Mary Pat or "Missy" Higgins expressed her delight and deep appreciation for the recognition on behalf of her father. She added that she was fortunate enough to attend a number of the 442nd reunions and events with her father and had met a number of the veterans pictured in the exhibit at the JICC. Recalling a ceremony at the Punchbowl that she and her father attended with Senator Inouye who had been critical of the number of 442nd men lost in the Battle of the Lost Battalion. Ms. Higgins said that after her father's speech Senator Inouye, told him "good job, Marty." And at that moment, she saw what she believed was a huge weight of guilt lifted off of her father's shoulders. "It was a gift." 

Mary Pat "Missy" Higgins Abrunzo with her father's Courage, Honor, Patriotism Award and Sandra Tanamachi. Photo: Stan Fujji. 

As the evening festivities came to a close, Wade Ishimoto thanked Randy Miller, Bob Vokac, and Missy Higgins for honoring JAVA with their participation in the Day of Affirmation events. He also thanked all in attendance for their continued support of JAVA. Resting on tradition, the JAVA event concluded with Wade leading the group in "God Bless America."

Gerald Yamada 

Day of Affirmation Dinner Remarks

(as prepared)

July 16, 2022

Yesterday, July 15th, JAVA commemorated the third annual Day of Affirmation wreath ceremony at the National World War II Memorial.  This was the 76th anniversary of President Truman’s review at the White House Ellipse of the returning 442nd Regimental Combat Team in 1946.  In his salute, the President stated "You fought not only the enemy, but you fought prejudice – and you have won.  Keep up that fight, and we will continue to win….” The President’s salute affirmed that the Japanese American soldiers, men and women, who served during World War II are loyal citizens of the United States of America. 

As JAVA President, I started the Day of Affirmation three years ago because I believed that the story about what happened to Japanese Americans in America during World War II was incomplete.

The Japanese American community started to commemorate the Day of Remembrance in 1978.  The Day of Remembrance commemorates President Roosevelt’s signing of Executive Order 9066 on February 19, 1942 as the venue to tell the story of why Japanese Americans were victims of prejudice.  This is an important story, but it is only half of the story.  To tell the whole story, I felt that we needed to remind our community and the American public that the Nisei solders are our heroes.  They are America’s heroes. 

This is the purpose for the Day of Affirmation -- to celebrate the Nation’s affirmation that the Japanese American soldiers who served during World War II are loyal American citizens.  They served with personal courage in the face of overt prejudice.

In closing, let me say that, when you first have a commemoration, it is considered an “event” in the first year.  If you have the same commemoration in the next year, it is considered a “repeat event”.  When you have the same event three years in a row, it is considered a “tradition”.  Since JAVA has sponsored the Day of Affirmation for 3 years in a row, it has now become an annual JAVA tradition to be carried forward into future years. 

LTC Robert "Bob" Vokac, USA (Ret) 

Day of Affirmation Dinner Remarks

(as prepared)

July 16, 2022

LTC Robert "Bob" Vokac, Day of Affirmation Dinner, National Museum of U.S. Army, July 16, 2022. Photo: Stan Fujii. 

Minister Ai, distinguished guests, members, and friends of the Japanese American Veterans Association, good evening! I would like to also recognize my cousin, Randy Miller, who has traveled from Los Angeles to be here this evening. Randy is the son of William Miller, Colonel Miller’s oldest son.

It is an unbelievable pleasure and honor for me to be here this evening, as we continue to recognize yesterday’s day of affirmation. I am humbled to participate in this important event. Yesterday, I had the privilege of participating in a wreath-laying ceremony at the National World War Two Memorial along with two incredible women, Sandra Tanamachi and Missy Higgins Abrunzo. The simple act of participating in the ceremony was a powerful emotional moment. Thinking about it now still overwhelms me.

I was asked by Mr. Yamada to speak of “memories from his grandfather Colonel Virgil R. Miller of commanding the 442nd RCT.” I will tell you now that this is the first time that I have spoken publicly of my grandfather and that I can think of no more fitting venue than where I stand right now. Years ago, I learned an adage important to all public speakers – be brief, be good, and be gone. Now, I can promise to be brief and to be gone and I can only hope to be good. Allow me to temper your expectations. I was 12 years old and the oldest grandchild when grandpa died in 1968. So, my conversations with him were that of a child, not an adult.

Colonel Virgil R. Miller. Photo: Courtesy of Miller Family. 

My grandpa was a career soldier graduating from the United States Military Academy in 1924 and retiring in 1954. Three years or 10% of his career was spent with the 442 and it goes without saying that those three years were the most meaningful years of his life. How could they not be? He served with what he considered the finest soldiers in the United States Army.

When visiting my grandparents, it was obvious that my grandpa was still on Army time though he was long since retired. For example, at 5:00 am I would hear the coffee percolating in the kitchen and smell his cigarettes. Old military habits die hard.

While many of us retired from the military have an “I love me wall, shelf, or bookcase” there were very few overt displays of military service in my grandparents' home. If one looked hard enough there were a few trinkets procured at various assignments. If there was a “command post” in the home, it was located in the basement where my grandpa had a small shop containing, among other things, scrapbooks. If you knew where to look, scrapbooks full of photos, letters, newspaper clippings, orders, and such told the story of the 442. By pushing the right buttons, my grandpa could be convinced to open up the scrapbooks and provide a short history lesson. I wish I had listened better and paid more attention. What I do remember is my grandfather stressing what an honor it was to serve with such great Americans.

My grandpa was humble and certainly didn’t tell “war stories” to his grandchildren. I remember when I pressed my grandpa hard to speak to my 4th-grade grade class about the war, he ultimately replied to my mom “what could I possibly say that would be of interest to 4th graders?” Well, grandpa, there are so many things that you could have said.

Western Unio message announcing birth of Betsy and Julia Miller. Images: Courtesy of Miller Family. 

We all have stories. Every soldier has a story that explains the path leading to military service. For my grandfather, the story looks simple on paper. He worked for Colonel Pence at Fort McClellan, Alabama and when Colonel Pence became the first commander of the regiment, he brought my grandpa over as his executive officer. Well, the story is more involved and begins with my aunt Betsy. 

On March 3, 1934, then First Lieutenant Miller and his wife Ann welcomed healthy twin girls, Betsy and Julia, my mother, into this world at Fort Warren, Wyoming. A telegram was sent announcing the happy news.

Judy and Betsy Miller. Photo: Courtesy of Miller Family.

Unfortunately, before her third birthday, Betsy became sick with what would ultimately become a terminal illness.

Captain Miller's Orders to Philippines, August 28, 1936. Image: Courtesy of Miller Family.

In 1936, then Captain Miller received orders for duty in the Philippines with a departure date on or about February 2, 1937, from San Francisco.

Captain Miller's Orders to Presidio, March 15, 1937. Image: Courtesy of Miller Family.

However, because of his daughter’s medical condition, he requested relief from his orders. The Army agreed and Captain Miller was posted to the 30th Infantry Regiment at the Presidio of San Francisco.

In 1939, my Aunt Betsy passed away and was buried at the Presidio. In fairly short order, my grandpa received new orders to Hawaii. Sometimes fate leads us on unexpected paths. How so in this case? Quite simply, had grandpa been posted to the Philippines as originally planned, there is every chance that he would have been present when the Philippines were invaded in December 1941. As such, there would have been no Lieutenant Colonel Miller in 1943 enroute to camp Shelby, Mississippi. It took the loss of a precious daughter to keep grandpa on his path leading to the 442.

Lieutenant Colonel Miller and PFC Francis T. Sakai. Photos: Courtesy of Miller Family. 

The bond formed between and among soldiers, particularly those who serve together in combat, are enduring, life-long bonds. There are many sitting in the audience now who know exactly of what I speak.

This story is about PFC Francis Sakai, HQ CO, and initially Lieutenant Colonel Miller. PFC Sakai was not a young man when he joined the 442nd. When he arrived at Camp Shelby, he was already 32 years old, having been born in 1910 in Hawaii. Not too long after his arrival, he became the driver and orderly for Lieutenant Colonel Miller, then the Regimental XO. Being a driver is a thankless task. In combat, a driver is exposed to the same danger as the officer but receives none of the glory. However, by all accounts, and as told by grandpa, a special relationship existed between the two men. PFC Sakai worked with my grandfather from 1943 until he, PFC Sakai, rotated home from Italy in 1945.

Detail from newspaper clipping describing PFC Sakai's visit to Dr. and Mrs. Paul G. Miller, Colonel Miller's parents, Oshkosh Northwestern, November 12, 1943

A note from the Oshkosh Northwestern of November 12, 1943 says: “Pvt. First Class Francis T. Sakai of Honolulu is spending part of his furlough with Dr. and Mrs. Paul G. Miller.” Dr. and Mrs. Paul G. Miller were grandpa’s parents and they were hosting their son’s driver and orderly who had the long journey from camp Shelby to Wisconsin. Enlightening to say the least.

Detail of PFC Sakai's letter to Dr. and Mrs. Paul G. Miller, Colonel Miller's parents, May 11, 1945. Image: Courtesy of Miller Family.

PFC Sakai wrote the following letter to my great grandparents on May 11, 1945, obviously in response to a letter received from them. To say that PFC Sakai was proud of now Colonel Miller is an understatement. Here is what PFC Sakai said regarding grandpa’s promotion to Colonel:

"When our Commanding General pinned those eagles on Colonel's shoulder. Sir, I waited for that day. Sir, in me I was so glad and so happy that I couldn't say much to congratulate, rather, didn't know what to say that moment. But sir, of all things, we lived to tell the story and certainly we hit the victory. Of course, sir, what Colonel planned goes into history.

Sir, as far as I know Colonel is a brave man.

Sir, I took lots of interest in Colonel. Even in this almighty push many nights we didn't sleep. But sir, we made it."

Detail of Colonel Miller's letter to PFC Sakai, 1945. Image: Courtesy of Miller Family.

When PFC Sakai left Italy in 1945, Colonel Miller wrote him a letter. While much of the letter is what we in the military is called boilerplate, I am struck in particular by the last paragraph where grandpa writes:

"I wish to thank you for a job well done and wish you success in whatever may be in store for you upon your return to Hawaii and should you ever have occasion to visit the mainland do not hesitate to call on me. I will advise you of my address as soon as the family is permanently settled."

Detail of Ann Miller's letter. Image: Courtesy of Miller Family.

Unfortunately, the two lost touch at some point. However, during the 1961 442nd veterans reunion held in Hawaii grandpa was overjoyed to again establish contact with Francis Sakai. My grandma wrote: 

"Another delightful part of our trip was finding Sakai, Gil's (note Colonel Miller went by "Gil") driver, who had been with him for three years, during the war. In Some unaccountable way, we had lost touch with him, in spite of the fact that he had written us many times, and all the family had written him. Gil put "scouts out," and finally we located him. It was a joyful reunion, for Sakai had been like one of our own family. His complete devotion to Gil is heartening to see and he still addresses him as "Colonel, sir".  

Francis died in 1964, having just turned 54 years old. I and my entire family owe PFC Sakai a debt of gratitude. He selflessly and tirelessly served with my grandfather for three years and kept him safe during months of combat operations in 1944 and 1945. It is my sincere desire to make contact with Francis's family and to thank them for everything.

My grandfather loved the 442d regimental combat team. Because he loved the regiment, he could speak openly and honestly with the men. On May 6, 1945, a memorial service in honor of fallen comrades was held near Genoa, Italy. My grandfather spoke the following words: “the sacrifice made by our comrades was great. We must not fail them in the fight that continues, in the fight that will be with us even when peace comes. Your task will be the harder and more arduous one, for it will extend over a longer time.” I am proud of the inclusive language used in the few words just mentioned – our comrades, we must not fail them, the fight that will be with us. While it was clear that the burden would be carried by the soldiers of the regiment as they transitioned back to civilian life, it was also clear that their commander would continue to fight with and for them.

As one example, in 1945, a Veterans of Foreign Wars post in Spokane, Washington denied membership to Richard Naito. Grandpa wrote: “when supposedly reputable organizations such as yours violate the principles and ideals for which we fight, these young Japanese Americans are not the only ones to wonder about war aims. Millions in Europe and Asia, too, will learn of your action and question the sincerity of American policy and ideals.”

Colonel Miller's Christmas letter (and detail of letter) to the 442nd. Images: Courtesy of Miller Family.

In a December 1945 Christmas letter to the regiment, grandpa wrote: “

The Christmas season has always been a time for celebration and for presenting tokens of our regards and best wishes in one form or another to our friends, but, it is also a time for reflection on events of the past year and speculation on what the new year may bring. Nisei soldiers in every theatre of the war have won the nation's admiration and respect by their courage an integrity on the field of battle. The coming year will be a challenge to America's Nisei citizens to display the same courage and integrity in the difficult tasks of peace no matter what walk of life they may be in. It must be your job and the job of every American citizen, to prove to the world that the principles of Christ, the principles on which democracy is based, are as valid today as they were two thousand years ago. The road will be hard, but if each of you can be as fine a citizen as you have been soldiers, the things for which you fought and for which many of your comrades have died are not beyond your reach."

442nd Newsletter (and detail of newsletter). January 1946. Images: Courtesy of Miller Family. 

On February 1946, the regiment turned three years old. In a 442 RCT newsletter published that same day, Colonel Miller addressed the regiment. He wrote:

"I am proud of what you soldiers have accomplished toward gaining the respect of your fellow Americans and erasing that air of suspicion that centered about you during the early stages of the war. You have set forth an enviable record in the annals of the United States Army and thereby command the respect of your fellow men. Again, I say I'm grateful to be one of you."

Colonel Miller's farewell letter (and detail of letter) to the 442nd, June 10, 1946. Images: Courtesy of Miller Family. 

On June 10, 1946, just a few days before the 442 departed Italy, my grandpa wrote a farewell message. The last paragraph bears repeating:

"I consider having served with you an honor and a privilege. No commander could ask for greater troops. I consider you my soldiers wherever you may be. Your past achievements constantly cause me to look toward your future work and successes. Consider me one of you at any time and place. May God bless each and everyone of you."

I can only imagine the emotions that grandpa felt when this picture was taken on June 22, 1946, shortly before the regiment departed Leghorn, Italy for the mainland. He was proud of his men and pleased that they were headed home. However, for him, it was a painful separation. What he loved was soon to be lost. Colonel Miller did not return to the mainland with the regiment nor did he participate in the parade and ceremonies of July 15, 1946, truly the first Day of Affirmation. That, perhaps, is the story for another time.

Colonel Miller at 442nd veterans reunion in Hawaii. Photo: Courtesy of Miller Family.

Grandpa served eight more years, retiring in 1954.

However, he never forgot the men of the 442 and maintained regular contact with many of the veterans.

My grandparents visited Hawaii in 1961 for a 442 veterans reunion and again in 1966. From their 1966 trip report my grandmother wrote: “shortly before Christmas, Gil began talking up a trip to get some sunshine and escape the Michigan winter. We considered many places, but from the start, Gil held out for Hawaii; so early in January, we set forth. We were not many hours on the way before Ann realized that the purpose of the trip was not the search for sunshine, but rather, the opportunity it offered for a visit with the boys of the 442nd regimental combat team and the 100th battalion, with whom Gil had served for three years in World War II, and for whom he has always had the highest regard.”

And finally, from that same trip report, the satisfaction expressed over the success of so many members of the regiment: “it was wonderful to meet the boys as friends, and to see how successful they have been in civilian life."

The “Go for Broke” spirit for which they had fought the war, continues on into civilian. Each, within his means and talents, is in the highest bracket within his field. Each has the welfare of his community at heart. It gave Gil intense satisfaction to have contributed, even in a small way, to their success story.

Grandpa never returned to Hawaii. He died in 1968 and was buried in Arlington National Cemetery with full military honors. I should mention that then-Senator Dan Inouye saw to it that the regimental colors were present. I can think of no better tribute.

Thank you for your very kind attention and I again thank everyone, particularly the Japanese American Veterans Association, for the opportunity to speak with you this evening.

One of the Last, Great Untold Stories of World War II

Bridge to the Sun by Bruce Henderson

New York Times bestselling author Bruce Henderson's book about the Nisei soldiers who fought in the Pacific war available for preorders NOW.  The title will be released September 27, 2022 by Knopf. Image: Courtesy of B. Henderson. 

Washington, DC.  One of the last, great untold stories of World War II, Bridge to the Sun by Bruce Henderson— master storyteller, historian, and #1 New York Times best-selling author—tells the saga of the Japanese American U.S. Army soldiers who fought in the Pacific theater, as their families back home in America were being rounded up and held in government internment camps. It is a gripping, true tale of courage, sacrifice and adventure. Gerald Yamada, President of the Japanese American Veterans Association (JAVA), wrote a personal and stirring Afterword.

Following Japan’s surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, the U.S. military was desperate to find Americans who spoke Japanese to serve in the Pacific. They soon turned to the Nisei—U.S. citizens whose parents were immigrants from Japan. Eager to prove their loyalty to America, several thousand Nisei—many of them volunteering from the internment camps where they were being held behind barbed wire—were selected by the Army for top-secret training, then rushed to the Pacific theater. Highly valued as expert translators and interrogators, these Japanese American soldiers operated in elite intelligence teams alongside Army infantrymen and Marines throughout the Pacific, from Iwo Jima to Burma, from the Solomons to Okinawa.
Henderson reveals, in riveting detail, the harrowing and largely untold story of the Nisei and their major contributions in the war of the Pacific, through six Japanese American soldiers.  After the war, many of these Nisei soldiers became translators and interrogators for war crime trials, and later helped to rebuild Japan as a modern democracy and a pivotal U.S. ally.

After reading an advanced copy, U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth, a former Army helicopter pilot and combat veteran of the Iraq War, said, “Bridge to the Sun tells the unforgettable true story of Japanese American troops who defended our nation while serving in the U.S. Army during World War II—even as their families were being imprisoned in American internment camps back home. This book honors their courage and sacrifices, and it highlights the lesser-known service of the Japanese Americans who helped save countless American lives as part of the Army’s Military Intelligence Service while fighting on two fronts: against the Japanese overseas and against racial prejudice here at home.”

Preorder at local bookstores or online booksellers or directly from the publisher here:


Lunchbox Lecture: Mealtime in the Mess Halls: Food in the Japanese American Incarceration Camps of World War II

Wednesday, August 3, 2022

12:00 PM - 1:00 PM  (CDT)

Event is Free - Please register

During World War II, 120,000 Japanese Americans attempted to adjust to their lives behind barbed wire at one of 10 incarceration camps—and this included encountering new food served in the mess halls.

Note: Lecture will be recorded and available online after event.

Click Here & Register to Watch Online

By Stephanie Hinnershitz, PhD, Senior Historian, Jenny Craig Institute for the Study of War and Democracy, The National WWII Museum in New Orleans, LA.

During World War II, 120,000 Japanese Americans attempted to adjust to their lives behind barbed wire at one of 10 incarceration camps—and this included encountering new food served in the mess halls. Thousands of Japanese Americans ate staples like SPAM and hot dogs for the first time and also grew more familiar fruits and vegetables in small victory gardens while in the camps. They experienced wartime changes in the food they ate and the culinary traditions they struggled to keep alive when faced with limits on their freedom.

This Lunchbox Lecture is free and open to the public to attend in The National WWII Museum’s Hall of Democracy Auditorium. For those unable to make it to the Museum’s campus, the lecture will also be livestreamed on Facebook, Vimeo, and YouTube, and will be available as a recording afterward on all platforms.

For additional information, please email Maggie Hartley, EdD, Director of Public Engagement, at maggie.hartley@nationalww2museum.org.

This program is proudly sponsored by AARP Louisiana.

Text and image from National World War II Museum, New Orleans, LA: https://www.nationalww2museum.org/events-programs/events/130317-lunchbox-lecture-mealtime-mess-halls-food-japanese-american

Nisei Veterans WWII Memorial Highway to be Dedicated in Hood River

Saturday, August 13, 2022

Oregon Nisei Veterans WWII Memorial Highway Project. Image: Courtesy of Mike Allegre.

Salem, Oregon. A Bill passed by the Oregon legislature that would dedicate a highway in honor of brave Oregon Japanese American World War II veterans was signed by Gov. Kate Brown in March.  With Brown’s signature on Senate Bill 1509, State Highway 35 will be dedicated on August 13 as the Oregon Nisei Veterans World War II Memorial Highway. 

SB 1509 proposed the dedication of the 41-mile highway that runs between I-84 in Hood River and Highway 26 near Government Camp. It was later passed unanimously by the Senate and House.

A proponent of the legislation, author and emerita professor, Dr. Linda Tamura, said her father and uncle fought two battles during World War II—one for equality and justice at home and one against the enemy overseas. This was after they and other Nisei (second-generation Japanese Americans) were forced from their homes in the Hood River valley.

“This highway will be a memorial to our Nisei veteran’s valiant service. These brave steadfast veterans paved the way so Highway 35 can become a highway of gratitude and remembrance,” Tamura said.

A highway dedication ceremony is slated for Sat., Aug. 13 at Wy’East Middle School’s new performing arts center in Odell at 1 p.m.  Nisei dignitaries, former-Gov. Ted Kulongoski, local legislators and Tamura will participate.  A sign reveal will be held at the highway 35 viewpoint located just two miles south of Hood River tentatively at 3 p.m.

During World War II and the post-war recovery, more than 33,000 Nisei served with honor and distinction in the United States military, of which 432 were reportedly from Oregon, and 58 specifically from Hood River County.  Their collective service came despite federal Executive Order 9066 issued in February 1942 that directed that Japanese Americans be removed to government-built camps. 

Nevertheless, Nisei men and women wanted to prove their loyalty to their country and were later allowed to serve in the U.S. military.  Many Nisei Americans served in the Army’s famed 100th Battalion/442nd Regimental Combat Team (RCT) in Europe, which remains the most decorated unit in U.S. military history for its size and length of service.  Nisei also served in the Army’s Military Intelligence Service (MIS) as linguists in the war with Japan in the Pacific Theater.  Female Nisei served in the Army Nurse Corps and Women’s Army Corps.

Tamura and the bill’s co-sponsors, State Sen. Chuck Thomsen (R- Hood River), Rep. Anna Williams (D-Hood River), former Gov. Ted Kulongoski, Eric Ballinger of Bend, and retired Army Lt. Col. Dick Tobiason of the Bend Heroes Foundation will participate in the ceremonial bill signing in early-August.  Nisei veteran, Yoshio Tokiwa will join them. Drafted at age 18 from the camp in Poston, Arizona, Tokiwa served with the 442nd RCT Service Company in Europe.

Currently there are eight Oregon highways named for veterans.  Organizations have raised more than $100,000 to pay the Oregon Dept. of Transportation and others to install and maintain more than 90 signs along 2,900 miles of highway.

2022 Korean War Veterans Tribute and Speaker Forum

September 10th

Veterans Memorial Court Alliance

2022 Korean War Veterans Tribute & Speaker Forum

In conjunction with VFW Post 3670  and

Gardena Nisei Memorial Post 1961

September 10, 2022, at 11:00 am

Tanaka Farms 53803/4 University Drive, CA 92612

RSVP by August 29, 2022

Admission and Lunch are Complimentary with Confirmed Reservation

RSVP by Email to VMCAEVENTS@gmail.com or

call Kathy Hayashi at 714-393-3517

Business Casual and Dressy Aloha Attire

Sugihara Visas Day 

July 29th

As of 2021, the California Senate designated July 29, as Sugihara Visas Day to memorialize the great achievements of Chiune Sugihara in saving thousands of Jewish lives during World War II.  

You can read and hear more about it by clicking below:

"Do What's Right Because It's Right," Chiune Sempo Sugihara

CA Senate Floor Session (see minute 19:35)

[EdNote: Much thanks to JAVA member Eric Saul for passing along notice of Sugihara Visas Day.]

The Tokyo Shimbun

Coverage of Shane Sato's Exhibit at the JICC

JAVA is pleased to share that The Tokyo Shimbun covered the co-sponsored Japanese American Veterans Association, Veterans Memorial Court Alliance, and Japan Information & Culture Center exhibit of Shane Sato's The Go For Broke Spirit! To access the article, please see: https://www.tokyo-np.co.jp/article/182674.

Study on First & Second- Generation Immigrant Veterans and Mental Health Treatment Seeking Behavior 

Howard Chi,  a doctoral student at Yeshiva University is conducting a study about first- and second- generation immigrant veterans and their mental health treatment seeking behavior (e.g., rates of treatment, barriers for treatment, etc.).  The goal of this research would be to help gain a better understanding of this understudied group and create curated outreach programs to seek mental health treatment services and provide treatment modules aimed specifically at this population.  

The reason I chose this topic is that this group of veterans often gets overlooked in studies surrounding mental health.  As an Air Force veteran and I am a child of immigrants myself, I see firsthand how this group of veterans can benefit from this research.  

The contents and answers of this survey are totally anonymous and should take about 20-30 minutes to complete.  Once a participant finishes their survey, they will be entered into a raffle.  Once the study is complete, there will be eight people chosen and will receive a $25 gift card from Amazon.

To Participate: https://yeshiva.co1.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_9tT54mZ0NVx1A5U

Please email me at Hchi@mail.yu.edu and I can provide further instructions.

The research team involved, as well as the institutions that they are affiliated with, are:

Dr. Kerry Dunn, Yeshiva University

Dr. Rain Lee, Yeshiva University

Dr. Randy Nedegard, Fresno State University 

Howard Chi's LinkedIn profile:


Howard Chi's Facebook profile:

JAVA is not endorsing this survey, we are only providing information about survey participation.


Donald Mitsuru Wakida
August 5, 1938 - July 17, 2022

Fresno, California. Donald Mitsuru Wakida died on Sunday, July 17, 2022 in Fresno, CA. He was 83. Don was a vivacious and funny storyteller and devoted advocate for Japanese American veteran groups.

He was born on August 5, 1938 in Selma, CA, to Frank Mitsumori and Rose Hatsuko Wakida, and raised in rural Parlier. In 1941, he was incarcerated with his parents and younger brother John at the Gila River Relocation Camp for the duration of World War II. The family returned to California in 1945. His father tragically died in 1947 and a year later, his mother married Harry Masao Wakida and had a daughter, Roslyn. Postwar, the family grew up in downtown Fresno and Don attended Emerson Elementary and Longfellow Jr. High. He remembered a childhood of community picnics, playing baseball at the California Field clubhouse with his Mexican and Armenian friends, and movies at Wilson Theater. Don was an avid Boy Scout, earning the highest rank of Eagle Scout with Troop 27 in 1955, and he graduated from Roosevelt High in 1957.

He married Geraldine (Kebo) Wakida in 1962 and had three children. In 1961, he joined the Navy, serving through the Vietnam War and traveling around the world on military cruises. He became a skilled electronic technician, earning the rank of Chief Warrant Officer while stationed in Yokosuka, Japan; Pearl Harbor, Hawai'i; and San Diego, California before retiring after 24 years of service. Following the Navy, he was employed by the U.S. Postal Service for 27 years.

Don served numerous years as Commander for the Central California Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 8499, as advocate for the Japanese American Veterans Association, and attended annual reunions with the Friends and Family of Nisei Veterans group in Las Vegas.

He is survived by his wife Gerry, daughters Debbi Jorgensen (Jeff Jorgensen) and Patricia Wakida (Sam Arbizo), son Douglas Wakida (Shawna Haymond), sister Roslyn Lara, and five grandchildren, Ben Jorgensen (Katie Jorgensen), Rachel Jorgensen, Kyle Wakida, Ethan Wakida, and Takumi Arbizo.

The obituary was originally published Fresno Bee on Jul. 31, 2022, and can be found online at: https://www.legacy.com/us/obituaries/fresnobee/name/donald-wakida-obituary?pid=202478419

[EdNote: Donald Mitsuru Wakida was a JAVA member. JAVA sends condolences to Don's family and friends.]


Emiko Yamada Stoppe

February 20, 1923 - July 26, 2022

Emiko (Amy) Yamada Stoppe, 99, formerly of Mount Holly/Westampton, NJ, died suddenly on July 26, 2022, at Premier Cadbury of Cherry Hill, Cherry Hill, NJ.

She was born on February 20, 1923, to the late Takekichi and Tomi Yamada, in Otsu, Japan. She attended and graduated from the Japanese school system, and later met her husband, Master Sergeant Benjamin Stoppe, U.S. Army, while she was a clerk typist for the American Occupation Forces after the Second World War. They were married in a Japanese rite ceremony in 1948, and, again in an American ceremony in Kobe, in September 1951. Emiko immigrated to the United States in April 1952, to join her husband, who was posted to Camp Kilmer, and then later to Fort Dix, NJ.

Amy, as her Burlington County Memorial Hospital (Virtua) co-workers would call her, is survived by three children: Benjamin Jr. (Anne Lovelett), of Lake Monticello, Palmyra, VA; Arthur (Elizabeth Bressi), of Moorestown, NJ; and Ellen Wenger (William), of Raleigh, NC. She had one grandson, Weston Wenger, also of Raleigh. She was predeceased by her loving husband in 1978.

Emiko enjoyed raising her family and visiting her husband’s family in North Jersey monthly. In December 1956, she became a U.S. citizen. When her children were older, she worked in the business department of the local hospital, where she was famous for using her abacus to check the computer’s math results. After her husband’s death, she traveled the United States. But, she never forgot her roots and the ways of Japanese culture, returning several times to visit family and friends there.

Viewing will be held on Tuesday, August 2 from 10-11 AM at the Perinchief Chapels, 438 High St., Mount Holly. Funeral services will be held at 11 AM at the funeral home. Interment to follow at Princeton Memorial Park, 403 Gordon Rd., Robbinsville. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests that donations may be made in her memory to ones favorite Veteran’s charity.

Obituary: https://www.burlingtoncountytimes.com/obituaries/p0218909.

Questions or Suggestions: Please contact Neet Ford at javapotomac@gmail.com.

Japanese American Veterans Association:  Address: P.O. Box 341198, Bethesda, MD 20827 I www.java-us.org.