Japanese American Veterans Association


Vol. 5, No. 65, September 8, 2023

President's Message

JAVA President Gerald Yamada. Photo: Shane Sato. 

I am pleased to announce the appointment of Ms. Antoinette Phelps as JAVA’s new Executive Director. She will take on this responsibility in addition to her work for a large governmental consulting firm as a financial management analyst and contract support. She has an MBA in Business Administration and a BA in Business Analytics. During her undergraduate years, Antoinette studied for a semester at Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University in Beppu, Japan where she honed her Japanese reading, writing, and speaking skills. While in graduate school, she interned at Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) for the Department of Defense.

Over the next month, we will be having a transition of responsibilities from our former Director Neet Ford to Antoinette as our new Executive Director. Neet has graciously agreed to continue to help with our activities until a new Executive Director is in place. This is crucially helpful because In September JAVA is co-sponsoring with the Japanese Embassy’s Japan Information and Culture Center (JICC) an exhibit of photographs of Nisei soldiers while they were serving in World War II. The over 200 photo exhibit was assembled by Eric Saul has been shown in California and Hawaii. Neet has shouldered JAVA’s responsibilities in helping to open this exhibit in DC with JICC and Eric Saul. I deeply appreciate Neet’s commitment to JAVA. Thank you, Neet!!!

In October, we will look to Antoinette to take over the reins as JAVA’s Executive Director. Please welcome her to JAVA’s leadership team. 

Gerald Yamada

JAVA President

Antoinette Phelps, JAVA Executive Director. Photo: Courtesy of A. Phelps.

JAVA and JICC to Co-Sponsor Exhibit of Eric Saul's WII Nisei Soldiers Photo Collection

Opens September 21, 2023

President Truman reviews the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, July 15, 1947. Photo: U.S. Signal Corps. The image is part of Eric Saul's collection and will be on exhibit in Go For Broke: Japanese American Soldiers Fighting on Two Fronts at the JICC from September 21 to December 15, 2023.  

The Japanese American Veterans Association (JAVA) together with the Japan Information & Culture Center (JICC), Embassy of Japan in Washington, DC, will co-host a new exhibit documenting and honoring Japanese American soldiers of World War II, titled Go for broke: Japanese American soldiers fighting on two fronts. The exhibit, which opens Thursday, September 21, 2023, at the JICC, features rare photographs and documents depicting Japanese American WWII military service. The photographs were taken by the Armed Forces and by the Japanese American veterans themselves. This is a unique opportunity to see a rarely told story of an incredible unit and its contribution to American history.

Eighty years ago, Americans of Japanese Ancestry who were first-generation American-born citizens volunteered for military service in the United States Army. They volunteered from both Hawaii and the mainland. Despite the fact that Japanese Americans were unjustly incarcerated because of unwarranted suspicion, thousands volunteered for service overseas, signifying their love of America and honoring their patriotic duty.

They became part of the famed all-Japanese American 100th Infantry Battalion and 442nd Regimental Combat Team. They served in eight major campaigns in Italy and France, earning seven Presidential Unit Citations. The unit suffered very high casualty rates in many pivotal battles to liberate Europe during World War II. The U.S. Army designated the 100th and 442nd the most decorated unit for its size and length of service.

President Truman, awarding the seventh Presidential Unit Citation, said of the 100th/442nd:

You fought for the free nations of the world…you fought not only the enemy, you fought prejudice—and you won. Keep up that fight…continue to win—make this great Republic stand for what the Constitution says it stands for the welfare of all the people, all the time.

More than 6,000 Japanese Americans served in the Pacific theater of the war as interpreters, interrogators, and translators, serving in every theater of the Pacific campaigns. Their knowledge of the Japanese provided both tactical and strategic advantages, contributing to the Allied victory in the Pacific.

Senior Army officers credited the soldiers of the Military Intelligence Service (MIS) with shortening the war and saving countless lives on both sides. After the war, Japanese Americans participated in the occupation of Japan and contributed mightily to its post-war recovery and the healing between the two nations.

As a result of their wartime service, the Japanese American veterans were awarded the nation’s highest civilian award, the Congressional Gold Medal. 

In addition, Congress passed the Civil Rights Act of 1988, apologizing for the unjust incarceration of Japanese Americans from the West Coast and Hawaiʻi. 

Parts of this exhibit were shown in the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History. The exhibit was adapted and shown there for more than 25 years.

Go For Broke: Japanese American Soldiers Fighting on Two Fronts will be shown at the Japan Information & Culture Center (JICC), Embassy of Japan, 1150 18th St. NW, Washington, DC, starting Thursday, September 21, 2023. Exhibit hours are 9:00 am to 5:00 pm, Monday to Friday, and admission is open to the public and free. The exhibit closes on December 15, 2023.

The JICC invites the public to hear historian Eric Saul speak about the photos on display at a 1:00 pm talk on November 8, 2023. The program will be free, but an Eventbrite ticket to enter will be required.

For more information about the exhibit, please visit the Japan Information & Culture Center, Embassy of Japan website at https://www.us.emb-japan.go.jp/jicc/exhibits/go-for-broke-2023.html.

Thank You for Your Membership and Support!

JAVA Elections Call for Nominations

In accordance with JAVA’s By-laws, the Nominations Committee is preparing to nominate JAVA members for each of the four elected Offices: President, Vice-President, Treasurer, and Secretary. 

Should you desire to be considered for one of those positions, please submit your name and a short summary (no more than one page) of your qualifications and desire to run for any of the elected offices. The deadline for submission is Friday, December 1, 2023. These Officers will serve a two year term beginning in February 2024. Your submissions should be sent to Nominations Chair Dawn Eilenberger at dawn.eilenberger@java-us.org.

Election Timeline:

  • Slate of Candidates will be presented to the membership by January 6, 2024.
  • Email voting will take place from January 6 to 28, 2024.
  • Proxy email voting will take place from January 6 to 26, 2024.
  • Election results will be announced at the General Membership Meeting on February 10, 2024.

Japanese American Heritage Nite at Citi Field

At the at the Annual Japanese American Heritage Nite at Citi Field—Ohtani/Senga match, JAVA member and Vietnam veteran Tak Furumoto was honored prior as the Veteran of the Game! Way to go Tak!! Photos: Courtesy of Furumoto Family. 

To watch a clip of the event, click the link: Takeshi Furumoto - Veteran of the Game - YouTube (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wnHkYzMGuhU.

18th Annual Nisei Soliders Memorial Service

September 24, 2023

The 18th Annual Nisei Soldiers Memorial Service will be held at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, Sunday, September 24, at 9:30 A.M.

A tribute and celebration highlighted by the presentation of the colors, laying of wreaths, offerings of songs, remarks, and a rifle salute. The service will feature Minda Yamaga of the Japanese American Citizens League, Honolulu Chapter, 111th Army Band, Student Presenters, JROTC cadets, and Veteran Organizations.

Presented by the Nisei Veterans Legacy (NVL). To learn more about the legacy of the Nisei soldiers in WWII and the NVL, go to www.nvlchawaii.org. The NVL is a Hawaii non-profit dedicated to telling the Nisei soldiers' story.

Watch live on Oleo, channel 53 or https://www.facebook.com/oleocommunity or after October 23 oleo.org/oleonet/, search Nisei. Mahalo to the Oleo Community.

[EdNote: JAVA EC Member, Hawaii Regional Representation Major Lynn Mariano, USA (Ret) will represent JAVA at the 18th Annual Nisei Soldiers Memorial Service.]

Film Details Eviction of Hawaii’s Japanese Americans during WWII

About 1,500 Japanese Americans were evicted from their homes in Hawaii during WWII, among them the Uyeda family, proprietors of the Uyeda Shoe Store. Photo: Courtesy of Ryan Kawamoto.

Claire Takashima’s family, the Uyedas, had 24 hours to vacate their home. Photo: Courtesy of Ryan Kawamoto.

Honolulu Star-Advertiser

July 30, 2023

By Steven Mark

Reprinted with Permission

Claire Takashima remembers a chilling moment that happened to her family, the Uyedas, shortly after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor: “The guard came and he said, ‘You have 24 hours. You have to vacate this property. You’re gone. No one can be here.’ So they panicked, right? Because they had to be out. I mean, can you imagine moving your whole house in 24 hours?”

Takashima recounts the incident in a new documentary, “Removed by Force: The Eviction of Hawai‘i’s Japanese Americans During WWII,” by Ryan Kawamoto, a filmmaker from the Big Island who has made several documentaries about the injustices the U.S. government visited on Japanese Americans during World War II.

The film tells the little-­known, complicated story of about 1,500 Japanese Americans in Hawaii who were evicted from their homes during the war and left to fend for themselves, and their fight for redress nearly 50 years after the war ended. Their story has often been overshadowed by the story of the incarceration of 120,000 Japanese and Japanese Americans — about 2,200 from Hawaii — who were taken from their homes and incarcerated in concentration camps on the U.S. mainland.

“There’s no real good name for them, so we’re using the term ‘evicted,’ or ‘removed by force,’ ” Kawamoto said of the evictees. He recalled hearing about them while making an earlier film and being “blown away by all this information, because I’d never heard about this before.”

Oahu attorney William Kaneko has written a book on the subject and is a producer of the hourlong film, which will be screened twice at the Hawai‘i Convention Center in mid-August.

Kaneko was president of the Honolulu chapter of the Japanese American Citizens League when the Civil Liberties Act of 1988 was enacted, granting reparations of $20,000 and a letter of apology to each Japanese American wrongfully incarcerated during the war.

But at the time, the issue of the evictees was virtually unknown, and their eligibility for reparations was unclear.

“You had all these pockets of AJAs (Americans of Japanese ancestry) that were just basically kicked out (of their homes),” Kaneko said. “When all the publicity about the internments came about, these unique cases started to surface. And so the question was, were these AJAs who were not interned but relocated eligible for redress?”

About 1,500 Japanese Americans were evicted from their homes in Hawaii during WWII, among them the Nishioka family, who were farmers. After the war, Charles Nishioka ran a service station in Ewa and became a community leader. Photo: Courtesy of Ryan Kawamoto.

Saxon Nishioka shares memories of his family’s eviction. Photo: Courtesy JACL Honolulu. 

The film features the experiences of families such as the Uyedas, who have run a shoe store in Honolulu since 1915; the Iwaharas, who owned a major hardware store near downtown Honolulu; the Nishioka family, who had a farm near Pearl Harbor; and the Tanaka family, who ran a bar near Schofield Barracks. In the film, members of these families recount being ordered to pick up and leave their homes, but not told where to go.

“Being Japanese, I guess we were asked to move out,” recalls Jane Endo, a member of the Tanaka family, in the film. “So we ended up going to my relatives. … We just had the clothes on our back.”

As would eventually be discovered, these families were evicted because they lived near train tracks, military installations, or other facilities deemed to be of military importance, according to the documentary. That contrasted with those who were incarcerated, who were suspected of having “perceived ties to Japan,” Kaneko said, and included Japanese-language school teachers, martial arts instructors, Japanese newspaper editors and community leaders.

The film also delves into the legal battle for redress for the 1,500 evictees, which takes place after the reparations bill had been enacted. Kaneko, then leading JACL efforts to find redress recipients, was visited in 1991 by Dr. Donald Kanemaru, whose family had been living near an ammunition depot in West Oahu’s Lualualei Valley and had been evicted.

At the time, there was no known documentation proving the evictions even occurred, in contrast to those who were incarcerated, whose names were listed on camp rosters and arrest records, Kaneko said.

“The internment story is very, very well-documented,” Kaneko said. “But the eviction cases, there was really nothing.”

Collecting evidence

Soon other similar stories started to surface, from other farmers in Lualualei, former residents of Pauoa Valley, Kahuku, even other islands. The film reveals that while many of the evicted Japanese Americans were able to find housing with friends or family, others did not fare as well. Karl Sakamoto, an attorney who later worked with the evictees, tells of a person living in a chicken coop during the war, and of evictees watching their homes being used for target practice or as a brothel.

But then the question arose as to how to prove the evictions happened and that they targeted Japanese Americans in particular.

A key discovery at the time was made by Pam ­Funai, then a graduate student in American Studies at University of Hawaii at Manoa. She had been researching war records at Hamilton Library when Kaneko asked her to look for anything related to evictees.

“My first thought, ‘There’s no way I’m going to find that,’ ” Funai said in a phone call from New York, where she now lives. “I’m thinking, ‘That’s a total needle in a haystack, if the military even bothered to document it.’ ”

But in a folder labeled “Food Production,” she found a document ordering “all alien Japanese and citizens of Japanese ancestry residing in the areas hereby designated will be evacuated.” Funai thinks the order was in the folder because of the importance of farming in wartime Hawaii. Eventually 23 specific locations around the islands were found to have been subject to the same kind of evictions.

“People say, ‘Wow, you did such a great thing, but I’m like, ‘No, it was really luck,’ ” said Funai, who worked in social services for decades and now works in philanthropy. “I don’t think I did anything special except come across the right box of documents.”

Kaneko and a host of other young attorneys, working pro bono, then collected evidence of discrimination against Japanese Americans provided by their former neighbors. Chinese, Filipinos, Native Hawaiians and others testified that they also were initially evicted from sensitive areas, but “they were allowed to come back,” Kaneko said. “In some cases, the Japanese could only stay in places like at their farms during the day, but they couldn’t come back at night. So how they handled the Japanese American evictions was very different from how they handled the non-Japanese.”

Eventually about 1,500 evicted Japanese Americans qualified for redress, resulting in compensation totaling $30 million along with the letters of apology from the president of the United States.

Emotional response

At a screening in June, coincidentally held on the day that the Supreme Court overturned affirmative action, the film drew a powerful reaction from the crowd, revealing the depth of emotion that still surrounds the actions targeting Japanese Americans during the war, as well as feelings about confronting racism in general.

“In light of what’s happening in the Supreme Court and what’s happening around the nation, this is a really important story to tell and that we cannot lose,” said Karen Ginoza, a retired teacher who knows some of the evictees through her church. “What’s being lost in our books today, it’s information about history and what’s being done about discrimination.”

“This story needs to be told, because it’s as contemporary as it can be,” said former Gov. Neil Abercrombie. “We actually have someone (Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis) who’s running for president of the United States who’s going to attack a baby’s birthright if you’re born to an immigrant person in the United States of America, even though we have the 14th Amendment absolutely guaranteeing your birthright (to U.S. citizenship).”

Now a University of ­Hawaii regent, Abercrombie promised that “what happened at the Supreme Court is not going to happen at the University of Hawaii.”

With the documentary and Kaneko’s soon-to-be-­released book now bringing the issue to light, there’s hope that the full story of ­individual evictees, would be more widely known and understood.

Upcoming screenings

“Removed by Force: The Eviction of Hawai‘i’s Japanese Americans During WWII”

Hawaii island: Hawai‘i Japanese Center, Hilo, 2 p.m. Sept. 23. Admission TBA.

Visit jaclhonolulu.org for tickets and more information.

[EdNote: JAVA thanks the Honolulu Star-Advertiser for granting permission to reprint and to CPT Wade Ishimoto, USA (Ret) for sharing the article with us! The article can be accessed online at https://www.staradvertiser.com/2023/07/30/features/film-details-eviction-of-hawaiis-japanese-americans-during-wwii/.]

From left, former Gov. John Waihee, filmmaker Ryan Kawamoto, Gov. Josh Green, producer William Kaneko, former Gov. Neil Abercrombie and former Gov. Ben Cayetano share a moment after a screening of Kawamoto’s film.

More Than Names on a Wall

Memorial Day ceremony held at JACCC to honor fallen Nikkei soldiers.

1st Sgt. Steve Mick, USMC (retired) and Sally Hamamoto, sister of Medal of Honor recipient Kiyoshi Muranaga, offer a floral tribute.

Rafu Shimpo


By GWEN MURANAKA, Rafu Senior Editor

Reprinted with permission

As people once again gathered at the JACCC Plaza on Saturday to honor the men who died serving in the armed forces, Hubert Yoshida, a first lieutenant in the Marine Corps, had an urgent message.

Yoshida emphasized: “Don’t let these men be statistics or just a name on a wall. Find their pictures and learn their stories. They will live as long as someone remembers them.

Vietnam War veteran Hubert Yoshida delivers the keynote address. Photo: GWEN MURANAKA/Rafu Shimpo.

The Memorial Day ceremony is held annually at the Japanese American Veterans War Memorial Court and honors Japanese Americans who died in combat from the Spanish American War up until recent conflicts.

“This is truly a Little Tokyo event,” emcee Lee Higa said as he welcomed the gathering of more than 150, including Consul General Kenko Sone, veterans and family members of fallen soldiers.

Brian Kida, an Eagle Scout with Koyasan Troop 379, led the audience in the Pledge of Allegiance. Helen Ota of Grateful Crane Ensemble sang the national anthem. Rev. Mark Nakagawa offered the invocation. Rev. Nobuko Miyoshi performed the benediction.

A wreath was placed at the memorial by leaders of the sponsoring organizations, Veterans Memorial Court Alliance, Japanese American Cultural and Community Center, Go For Broke National Education Center, Japanese American National Museum, Little Tokyo Service Center, and Keiro.

Yoshida was inspired to serve in the Marines after President John F. Kennedy visited the physics lab where he was working at UC Berkeley. Initially rejected for Officer Candidate School, Yoshida enlisted and was sent to Marine Corps Air Station El Toro, where he met his wife, Laura. Yoshida reapplied for OCS and was accepted, becoming a Marines Corps lieutenant.

From left: Mark Nakabayashi, Ann Burroughs, Mitch Maki, Erich Nakano, Patricia Wyatt and Chris Segawa place a wreath at the monument. Photo: GWEN MURANAKA/Rafu Shimpo.

During the Vietnam War, Yoshida served as a platoon commander and fought in Operation Utah in March 1966. A resident of Morgan Hill, Yoshida retired in 2020 as chief technology officer at Hitachi Data Systems. He said that a website, the Wall of Faces (www.vvmf.org/Wall-of-Faces), gives life to the soldiers who perished in Vietnam and he offered a few poignant examples from his research.

The Veterans Memorial Court Alliance announced plans to work on a similar website in conjunction with Yoshida.

World War II veteran Yosh Nakamura receives a flower from Nisei Week Princess Faith Nishimura. Photo: GWEN MURANAKA/Rafu Shimpo.

“With this Vietnam website we are able to learn their stories and understand who they were and what they were like and perhaps why they went into this conflict,” Yoshida said.

He shared the story of Glenn Lee Hata, an Army first lieutenant, who died on April 2, 1971 in Quang Ngai, Vietnam. Hata was a Sunday school teacher at Gardena Valley Baptist Church.

“I think we need Sunday school teachers to train these officers. When you’re a young man and you have this terrible assault weapon and you’re angry or fearful, you can do terrible things with this assault weapon and you read it in the news,” said Yoshida. “But somehow we need to train these men to use these weapons in a good way.”

John Nishimura was wounded on Dec. 10, 1967 in Quang Tri and left a quadriplegic. He returned to San Francisco but perished from his wounds several months later. Nishimura was initially ineligible to be included on the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington. Suzy Nishimura, now 92, led efforts to change the rules for eligibility and his name now appears on the wall.

“It wasn’t just his name, there were 10 other names added to the wall. And those 10 other names were added because of Suzy Nishimura,” Yoshida said.

Family members reflect at the war memorial. Photo: GWEN MURANAKA/Rafu Shimpo.

Sally Hamamoto offered a floral tribute on behalf of Gold Star Medal of Honor families. Her brother, Kiyoshi Muranaga, died on June 26, 1944 in frontline fighting in Italy.

As Beverly Ito of Keiro, Mitch Maki of Go For Broke and Patricia Wyatt of JACCC read the names of organizations, people took flowers to place at the memorial and share a moment of reflection.

“Taps” and rifle volleys were offered by the Redondo Union High School ROTC.

Among the most tragic stories are the soldiers who never returned home. Yoshida shared the story of Staff Sgt. Susumu Masuda, who went missing and was assumed captured in May 1969. He was declared dead in 1976.

Susan Sasaki, a member of the JACCC board, said the ceremony was a reminder of the importance of service and honoring traditions. Her father was proud of the fact that all five brothers in the family served in the military. His brother, Pfc. Andrew Sase, was a member of the 442nd RCT and declared missing in action in 1945. The family received a letter from President Harry Truman saying that he had died on Feb. 24, 1946, with no other information provided. His mother received a letter from the Veterans’ Administration that she would receive a monthly benefit of $47.60 for the rest of her life.

“My father was haunted by the fact that he really did not know what happened to him. But the other thing was he always told my grandmother that he would always take care of her; in a way he did because she received the benefit,” Sasaki said.

“It reminds me of why I help at the JACCC and why carrying on tradition is important and being proud to be Japanese American.”

[EdNote: JAVA thanks the Rafu Shimpo and Gwen Muranaka, Sr. Editor for granting permission to reprint and to Robert Horsting of the Memorial Court Alliance,  for sharing the article with us! The article can be accessed online at https://rafu.com/2023/06/more-than-names-on-a-wall/ and the link to the Memorial Court Alliance video coverage can be found  at https://www.memorialcourtalliance.org/]

Returned Ring of 442nd Hero from Hawaii Unites 2 Families

Above, Roure holds a display with the ring and memorabilia. Photo: Craig T. Kojima, ckojima@staradvertiser.com. 

Honolulu Star-Advertiser

August 1, 2023

By Kevin Knodell

Reprinted with Permission

When Sebastien Roure found an old mud-caked ring near his village in France two years ago, he couldn’t have guessed it would lead to a Hawaii family being reunited with a lost family heirloom or that he would forge an international friendship that would bring him and his own family to the islands.

In November 2021, Roure found the ring in a forest near Bruyeres, France, and through research was able to determine that it had belonged to Staff Sgt. Robert Kuroda, a member of the famed 442nd Infantry Regiment who died fighting Nazi forces in the area and was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions. Roure managed to find and contact the Kuroda family and returned the ring to them in 2022.

“His sole purpose was to return it to the family, expecting nothing in return,” said Kevin Kuroda, one of Robert Kuroda’s nephews.

Now the Kurodas are hosting Roure and his family in Hawaii. It’s their first time traveling internationally. Roure, who doesn’t speak English, said through an interpreter that he’s been struck by how welcoming the Kurodas and the community in Hawaii have been. He’s enjoyed learning more about where the ring came from.

Robert Kuroda was born in 1922 to Japanese immigrant parents in Aiea and graduated from Farrington High School in 1940. He was the first in his family to graduate, and his golden class ring was a prized memento.

After the Japanese navy attacked Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, the U.S. government promptly cracked down on Japanese American communities in Hawaii and the mainland.

Above, the class ring that belonged to Staff Sgt. Robert Kuroda, a member of the famed 442nd Infantry Regiment, was found two years ago by Sebastien Roure in a forest near Bruyeres, France. Photo: Craig T. Kojima, ckojima@staradvertiser.com. 

Under orders from President Franklin Roosevelt, the Army rounded up Japanese families on the West Coast and sent them to internment camps. Despite the discrimination, when the Army began looking for fresh troops to fight, thousands of Japanese Americans eagerly volunteered to enlist.

The Army raised the 442nd, which was made up mostly of Japanese American volunteers, with a few white and Korean American officers sprinkled in. Despite having ordered the internment, when Roosevelt announced the creation of the unit, he declared “Americanism is not, and never was, a matter of race or ancestry.”

The 442nd participated in some of the fiercest battles of World War II’s Italian campaign and fought its way into France, proving itself as one of the toughest units the Allies had at their disposal. Today it’s still considered one of the most highly decorated units in American military history.

On Oct. 20, 1944, Kuroda was leading his men in an advance to destroy snipers and machine gun nests near Bruyeres when they began taking heavy fire from a wooded slope. Unable to pinpoint the German machine gun, Kuroda made his way through heavy enemy fire to the crest of the ridge, where he got within 10 yards of the machine gun nest and used grenades to take out the German machine gun crew.

After killing the machine gunners, he got into a firefight with nearby German troops where, according to his Medal of Honor citation, he fired “clip after clip of rifle ammunition, killing or wounding at least three of the enemy.”

After firing his last bullet, he saw an American officer struck by a burst of machine gun fire from another firing position on a nearby hill. Kuroda rushed to help the officer only to realize he’d been killed. He picked up the officer’s submachine gun and made his way through a hail of enemy fire to the second machine gun emplacement and destroyed the position.

As he turned to fire on more enemy soldiers, Kuroda fell to a sniper’s bullet.

Fellow soldiers recovered his body, and his remains were returned to his family and buried at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Punchbowl Crater. But his class ring was lost in the forest in France until Roure came across it 80 years later.

Above, Mary Hammond, left, Kevin’s wife; Kevin; Roure and his wife, Sylvie; and sons Allan and Pierrick. Photo: Craig T. Kojima, ckojima@staradvertiser.com.  

Roure, a history enthusiast, regularly went with friends to search the woods around Bruyeres with metal detectors in areas that they knew soldiers used as staging areas during the war, to look for historical artifacts. When he found the ring, he knew it likely belonged to an American soldier.

He put it with other items he found and thought little of it. But when he cleaned up the ring, he began recognizing the figures of palm trees, and he quickly determined it had belonged to a 442nd soldier from Hawaii. The words “Farrington High School” were emblazoned on the ring. Etched in the inner part of the ring was “R. Kuroda.”

He talked to specialists in World War II memorabilia who told him it likely did belong to a member of the 442nd and could be valuable. But he wanted to find the Kuroda family. He said that “it was the feeling that it should be returned to the family.”

Searching online and using Google translate to sift through articles, he eventually concluded that it had belonged to Kuroda. Roure found the Kurodas’ auto shop in Waipio and sent an email written in French saying he believed he had found Robert Kuroda’s class ring.

At first the Kurodas were suspicious and wondering whether it was a scam. Roure reached out to a cousin living in Iowa to help bridge the language gap, assuring them he was serious, and he sent pictures.

Roure offered to mail them the ring, but at the time the pandemic was straining mail services and the Kurodas worried it could get lost. Kevin Kuroda and his wife, Mary Hammond, flew to France in May 2022 to meet them and receive the ring themselves. Hammond, who learned French in high school but isn’t fluent, was able to bridge the gap.

“That high school French actually paid off,” Hammond joked.

Roure hosted the couple and took them hiking around the region. Hammond said many of the people in the area, who knew that Japanese soldiers from Hawaii had played a key role in driving the Nazis from their villages, shouted out “442 Hawaii!” when they saw Kevin Kuroda’s Japanese features.

Roure took them to the spot where he found the ring, as well as to the area he believed Robert Kuroda died fighting.

“He showed his kindness,” said Kevin Kuroda. “When we left, we just we had this bond, and we said, ‘Hey, let’s set a goal for you to come visit us in Hawaii,’ and we stuck to it.”

The Roure family arrived in Hawaii on Friday. Roure has now met much of the Kuroda family, including Kevin Kuroda’s father, Robert Kuroda’s last surviving brother. He also visited the cemetery at Punchbowl to pay respects to Robert Kuroda. The two families also saw fireworks at Ala Moana and went boogie boarding at Bellows Beach. The two families say they have lots planned for the rest of the week.

“I feel like we’re part of the family now,” Roure said.

[EdNote: JAVA thanks the Honolulu Star-Advertiser for granting permission to reprint and to LTC Jason I. Kuroiwa, USA (Ret) for sharing the article with us! The article can be accessed online at https://www.staradvertiser.com/2023/08/01/hawaii-news/returned-ring-of-442nd-hero-from-hawaiiunites-2-families/.]

Upcoming JAVA Events

Thursday, September 21 –  Opening Eric Saul’s WWII Nisei Soldiers Photo Exhibit, Japan Information & Culture Center, Embassy of Japan.

Wednesday, November 8 - Exhibit Talk on Eric Saul's WWII Nisei Soldiers Photo Exhibit, Japan Information & Culture Center, Embassy of Japan.

Saturday, November 11– Veterans Day Program, National Japanese American Memorial. Keynote Speaker: Major Michael H. Yamamoto, U.S. Army.

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.