Hiro's War, a novel by Rebecca Taniguchi
A new book has appeared that may be of interest to JAVA members. It is Hiro's War by Rebecca Taniguchi. It is essentially a fictionalized retelling of the WWII saga of Shiro (Kash) Kashino, a member of the 442nd RCT.
Kashino, a native of Seattle, Washington, volunteered for the 442nd RCT from Minidoka Internment Camp in Idaho. He served in Co I, 3rd Bn. He was noted for his courage and gained the reputation of never leaving his buddy behind. He was wounded six times and received six Purple Heart medals, Silver Star for valor in the battle for Carrara, Italy, Bronze Star for gallantry, and a Combat Infantryman’s badge.
Frank Wada. Photo: Courtesy of Shane Sato, from his book, Portraits of Legacy.
San Diego, CA. Frank Mitoshi Wada, Sr. was born on July 23, 1921 in Redlands, CA to Tamakichi and Akiyo (Nishida). Wada passed away at his home in Spring Valley, CA on June 14, 2021. After graduating from Redlands High School at age 16 years old he worked on his sister, Mary’s farm in San Diego. In 1942 he was relocated from San Diego to Santa Anita Assembly Center and then to the internment Camp III in Poston, AZ. After becoming one of the first in Poston to volunteer and before leaving for the Japanese American 442nd Regimental Combat Team, he married Jean Ito on June 14, 1943.
During training at Camp Shelby, Mississippi, he joined “E” Company. After training he was deployed to Europe in May 1944 and participated in the Rome-Arno, Po Valley, Rhineland and Ardennes campaigns. During these early campaigns, he received a battlefield promotion to Staff Sergeant. He was later seriously wounded by shrapnel in October 1944 during the liberation of Bruyers, France. He rejoined his unit in January 1945, helped breach the Gothic Line in Italy in March 1945 and was discharged in Long Beach, CA in December 1945.
His significant decorations include the Combat Infantryman Badge, Bronze Star Medal, Campaign Medal with four Oak Leaf Clusters and one Purple Heart. In November 2011, the 442nd Regimental Combat Team was presented the Congressional Gold Medal at a ceremony in Washington, D.C. On April 8, 2015, Frank received France's highest honor to citizens and foreign nationals, the National Order of the Legion of Honor for his participation in the liberation of France during World War II. Following military service, he worked for the U.S. Postal Service and the Navy Public Works as a Mechanical Planner, Estimator and Contract Specialist, retiring in 1977.
Frank’s brother Ted served with “K” Company, 442nd RCT. His brother Jack served in the Army during the Korean and Vietnam wars. Brothers Henry and Robert served in the Marines in the Korean War.
Preceded in death by his wife Jean (Ito) who passed away in 2012, son, Frank Jr (2011) and daughter, Laureen (Lo) Yasuda (2016). He is survived by daughters, Dorothy Saito and Janet Kobayashi (Mike), son, Greg (Roberta), daughter-in-law Jane Wada, and brothers Henry and Robert. Also survived by nine grandchildren and ten great-grandchildren. Special “thank you” to Dr. Howard Williams who took special care of Frank for over 30 years, especially the past year. Dr. Williams has cared for four generations of Frank’s family.
Dr. Toshio Fujikura
Gaithersburg, MD. Toshio passed away peacefully on May 13, 2021, at the age of 97. Born in Tokyo, Japan he was the beloved son of Tome Fujikura and Masashiro Yoshida. Toshio lost his father at an early age and was raised by his mother who was a successful business owner. In 1941, Toshio entered the Chiba Institute of Technology to study engineering. His education was disrupted by World War II, and he was sent to the countryside to do farm work. Toshio was determined to continue his education after the war, and he was accepted to the Keio University Medical School in Tokyo.
After he completed his residency in Obstetrics and Gynecology, he aspired to study in the US. In 1953, he accepted an Obstetrics and Pathology Fellowship at Johns Hopkins University Hospital. He later returned to Japan and met the love of his life and “Best Friend” Yuka Yasui, a visiting Fulbright Scholarship nurse. They got married and returned to the US. Toshio continued his training in Clinical Pathology at the University of Oregon Medical School and later became an instructor there. In 1963, he was appointed as a Medical Officer Pathologist at the National Institute of Health (NIH).
Then in 1973, he followed his interest in neonatal research as an Associate Professor of Pathology at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Magee-Women’s Hospital. In 1978, Toshio returned to Japan to accept a position as Chief of the Pathology Dept., Radiation Effects Research Foundation in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. He later moved back to Tokyo to serve as a pathologist at several area hospitals. Throughout his career, Toshio wrote and published numerous papers in prominent medical journals. He worked well into his eighties and continued his love of research.
(click here to watch a recording of Scholarship Awards Ceremony)
The Japanese American Veterans Association is pleased to announce the 14 winners of the 2021 Memorial Scholarship Program. Outstanding students from around the country applied for the scholarships. The candidates for the JAVA scholarships were incredibly talented and accomplished, and all applicants would be worthy of receiving a JAVA scholarship to continue the legacy of the Nisei service to country.
The $3,000 memorial scholarship honoring the late U.S. Senator Daniel K. Inouye’s iconic career of military and civilian public service was awarded to Samantha Kanekuni, of Baltimore, Maryland. The granddaughter of Isamu Kanekuni, 442nd RCT, Samantha is working towards a J.D. at the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law.
The $3,000 Founder’s Scholarship named for JAVA’s founder, the late Colonel Phil Ishio, his wife Constance and their son Douglas Ishio, was awarded to Madeleine Matsui, of Cambridge, Massachusetts. The granddaughter of Victor Matsui, MIS, Madeleine just completed her first year at Harvard Law School.
The Kiyoko Tsuboi Taubkin Legacy Scholarship, a $2,000 award in honor of a longtime patron of JAVA was awarded to Jairus Iwasaki, the grandson of Shigetoshi Iwasaki, 442nd RCT, of Hilo, Hawaiʻi. Jairus is pursuing a B.A. in Education at the University of Hawaiʻi, Manoa.
The following JAVA Memorial Scholarships were awarded to graduating high school seniors, each in the amount of $1,500:
Malina Miura, received a JAVA Memorial Scholarship in honor of Dr. Americo Bugliani and his liberator, Paul Sakamoto, 100th Bn. Malina is the grandniece of Douglas Tanaka 442nd RCT, and is from Culver City, California. She will attend the University of California, Irvine, and plans to work towards a Bachelor of Fine Arts.
Kyle Kuwahara received the Tak and Carolyn Furumoto JAVA Memorial Scholarship, in honor of Tak’s late father Sam Kiyoto Furumoto. Kyle is the grandson of Keso Kuwahara, 442nd RCT, and is from Berkeley, California. He will attend the University of California, Berkeley, and plans to study Computer Science.
Juliana Ibaraki received a JAVA Memorial Scholarship, in honor of Ranger Grant Jiro Hirabayashi, MIS. Juliana is the granddaughter of Thomas Ibaraki, 100th Battalion, and is from Manhattan Beach, California. She will attend the University of Greenwich in London, and plans to study Public Health.
Garrett Tamura received a JAVA Memorial Scholarship in honor of COL Jimmie Kanaya, a three-war veteran - WWII, Korea and Vietnam. Garrett is the grandson of Kunima Tamura, MIS, and is from Torrance, California. He will attend California State University, Long Beach, and plans to study Mechanical Engineering.
Mari Kanemoto received a JAVA Memorial Scholarship in honor of CWO4 Mitsugi Murakami Kasai, MIS. Mari is the granddaughter of Harry Yoshio Ishibashi, 442 RCT/ 522nd Field Artillery, and is from Seattle, Washington. She will attend Northwest Nazarene University in Nampa, ID, and study Nursing.
Cassidy Hanano received a JAVA Memorial Scholarship in honor of Sergeant Ben Kuroki, a gunner in the U.S. Army Air Corps, 505th Bombardment Group. Cassidy is the grandniece of Charles Hanano, 442nd RCT, and is from Wailuku, Hawaiʻi. She will attend Creighton University in Omaha, NE, and is Pre-Med.
Micah Katahara received a JAVA Memorial Scholarship in honor of Victor Matsui, MIS, and his wife Teru Matsui. Micah is the great-grandson of Sadami Katahara, 442nd RCT, and the son of JAVA member CAPT Michael Katahara, USN (Ret). He is from Great Falls, Virginia. Micah will attend the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, VA, and plans to study Economics.
Evan Haramoto received a JAVA Memorial Scholarship in honor of Colonel Virgil R. Miller, Commanding Officer of the 442nd RCT. Evan is the great-grandnephew of George Ryoji Yamada, 442nd RCT, and is from Whittier, California. He will attend the University of California, San Diego, and plans to study Biology.
Ethan Murakami received a JAVA Memorial Scholarship in honor of past JAVA President and Korean War veteran, Bob Nakamoto. Ethan is the great-grandnephew of Seichi Tsugawa, 442nd RCT, and is from Kaneohe, Hawaiʻi. He will attend Emory University in Atlanta, GA, and plans to study Economics.
Nicholas Gima received a JAVA Memorial Scholarship in honor of Betty Shima, lifelong partner of Terry Shima, 442nd RCT and former JAVA Executive Director. Nicholas is the grandnephew of Shinye Gima, MIS, and is from Kula, Hawaiʻi. He will attend California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo, CA, and plans to study Engineering.
Arisa Aloiau received a JAVA Memorial Scholarship in honor of Major Orville Shirey, 442nd RCT, and his wife Maud Shirey. Arisa is the granddaughter of Hiroshi Kato, 442nd RCT, and is from Honolulu, Hawaiʻi. She will attend the University of Hawaiʻi, Manoa, and plans to study Marketing.
JAVA thanks the Scholarship Committee - Mrs. Chris DeRosa, Chair; Ms. Dawn Eilenberger, JD, former Deputy Director of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence; Major Kay Izumihara, USAR; and CAPT (Dr) Cynthia Macri, MC, USN (Ret).
The future of our nation is in great hands, knowing these young individuals will be at the forefront.
Gerald Yamada, JAVA President
July will be a busy month for JAVA. There are two important JAVA events in July that I ask the JAVA membership to support. The first event is the second annual Day of Affirmation to be held on July 15 at the World War II Memorial in Washington DC. This date will mark the 75th anniversary of President Harry S. Truman’s review of the returning 442nd Regimental Combat Team (RCT) on the White House Ellipse on July 15, 1946.
This event is called the “Day of Affirmation” by JAVA because President Truman’s salute to the Japanese American soldiers that "You fought not only the enemy, but you fought prejudice – and you have won…” affirms that all the Japanese American soldiers, men and women, who served during World War II are America’s heroes and removes any doubt that they are loyal citizens of the United States of America.
The JAVA ceremony will include the presentation of a wreath at the Price of Freedom Wall. The military escort for this year’s event is LT Caitlin Takahashi-Pipkin, MC, USNR, granddaughter of Kazuo and Fusa Takahashi. Kazuo Takahashi served in the Military Intelligence Service during World War II and passed away in 1977.
There will be two wreath bearers. One is Tyler Franklin, grandson of Kazuo and Fusa Takahashi. Fusa Takahashi is one of the original co-founders of the Stamp Our Story Campaign that successfully obtained the U.S. Postmaster General’s approval of the Go For Broke Japanese American Soldiers World War II Commemorative Stamp, that was first issued on June 3, 2021.
Ms. Michelle Amano is the other wreath bearer. Ms. Amano is the granddaughter of Mike Masaoka, whose advocacy work with the government to allow Japanese Americans to serve again in the U.S. military resulted in the creation of the 442nd RCT. He was one of the first to volunteer to serve in the 442nd RCT together with his four brothers, one of whom was killed in action
The Day of Affirmation will be livestreamed via Facebook on July 15, 2021, at 12 noon (EST). To watch, please visit the JAVA website at www.java-us.org.
The second event is JAVA’s first luncheon meeting for 2021 to be held on Saturday, July 24, 2021 at the Peking Duck Gourmet Inn Restaurant, 6029 Leesburg Pike, Falls Church, VA 22041, starting at 11:30 am. The cost is $30 per person.
The guest speaker for our luncheon is Lieutenant Colonel (Retired) Ray L. Oden, U.S. Army Special Forces, who is currently President of the Special Forces Association Chapter XI (SFA Chapter XI), “The National Capitol Chapter.”
At the July 24th meeting, we will also make several JAVA award presentations and announce the 2021 JAVA scholarship winners. After the luncheon, we will convene the annual General Membership Meeting and ask the general membership to approve by-law amendments that have been approved by the Executive Council. The proposed by-law amendments would:
If you can attend the July 24th luncheon meeting, please make your reservation with Neet Ford at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hope to see you at both events.
Captain Wade Ishimoto, U.S. Army (Ret)
By Wade Ishimoto
As we near the 20th anniversary of the horrendous al-Qaeda attack on our homeland, there are those that wonder if terrorism continues to be a threat to our American national security. On September 11, 2001, 2,977 lost their lives to a well-planned and executed attack by 19 terrorists. Since that fateful day, the number of terrorist attacks by foreign terrorists inside the U.S. has been minimal. On the other hand, there have been significant attacks classified as terrorism that were perpetrated by U.S. citizens or legal immigrants.
An example of a foreign terrorist attack is the 2019 Pensacola Air Station attack by a Saudi Arabian Air Force student that killed three and wounded 5. Examples of the latter category include Major Nidal Hassan, who killed 13 at Fort Hood, Texas, in 2009; a bombing of the Boston Marathon by two immigrant brothers that killed three but injured hundreds in 2013; and the Las Vegas shooting that killed 59 people. There have also been numerous other mass killings that might be considered terrorism although they may not have had a political motivation.
Terrorism has not disappeared inside America. However, the extent of foreign based terrorist events has greatly diminished thanks to the efforts of our military, intelligence, law enforcement, and security organizations. Our diplomatic initiatives with other countries have also contributed to the diminished threat. Domestically, the judicious application of the Patriot Act and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act have played a key role in being able to identify terrorist threats and to act on them before they are perpetrated. JAVA members GEN Paul Nakasone and LTG Michael Nagata (USA Ret) have been at the forefront in preventing acts of terrorism. GEN Nakasone continues to lead the National Security Agency and the U.S. Cyber Command providing electronic intelligence, while LTG Nagata retired as the Deputy of the National Counterterrorism Center.
Other JAVA members like MSG Jae Kuen Lee are deployed overseas to stem the tide of terrorism from reaching our shores and to assist our allies in their fights against terrorism. D.C. Air National Guard and JAVA members Renee Lee and Jason Yee were activated to provide security at the U.S. Capitol due to the attempt to disrupt Congress on January 6, 2021. Members of Hawaii’s 100th Infantry Battalion, 442nd Infantry Regiment, were also activated to respond to that event.
Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State have not gone away, but our counter-terrorism efforts overseas have also significantly reduced the threat to our homeland. However, those two organizations and others continue to pose a threat to other countries. In addition, it is important to remember that there are other non-Islamic extremist groups like the Naxalites in India that also pose insurgent and terrorist threats around the world.
Domestically, we continue to see acts of terrorism and mass killings perpetrated by U.S. citizens that are racially biased, religiously motivated, or have anti-government sentiments on both the left and right, along with deranged lone actors. It is well nigh impossible to stop all acts of terrorism. However, through proper vigilance and reporting of suspicious activity to law enforcement, security, and intelligence organizations, we can reduce the number of incidents and loss of life. We cannot and should not live our lives in fear. As President Franklin Roosevelt once said, “There is nothing to feat but fear itself.” We have proven that we can deal with terrorists and not allow them to rule our lives.
On June 15, 2021, the National Strategy for Countering Domestic Terrorism was published. My views on that strategy will be provided in a future edition of the e-Advocate.
Four of the five Masaoka brothers who served in the U.S. Army. L-R: Ben, killed in action; Mike; Tad, wounded in combat; Ike, totally disabled. Hank volunteered for the 442nd but was transferred to the paratroops. Photo: Courtsey of Michelle Amano
By Michelle Amano
I am honored today to share the story of my Great uncle, Private Ben Frank Masaoka, who is interred here at Arlington National Cemetery, in Section 13- 1. For as long as I can remember my family and I would come here to pay honor to him. He was killed in the Vosges forests after the Lost Battalion rescue. Uncle Ben’s story begins by me telling you about the Masaoka brothers during WW II.When the government issued the call for volunteers for the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, five of the six Masaoka boys, without prior coordination between or amongst themselves, all volunteered.
The eldest, Joe Grant; who was 34, was encouraged not to volunteer so he could remain home to care for his mother. This was also a precaution by the government to ensure that just like in the movie, “Saving Private Ryan”, the government did not want to take the chance of all six Masaoka boys getting killed or wounded. As to the fate of the remaining five:
My great grandmother Masaoka had to endure having one son killed in action,and three others who were wounded in combat. All four received the Purple Heart Medal.
Grandpa Mike has the distinction of being the first Nisei to volunteer. When he volunteered, War department officers chided Grandpa, for they expected Mike to request to be commissioned. Grandpa Mike said, “No. To the contrary, if he were offered a commission he would not accept it.”
Grandpa enlisted as a Private, was promoted to Private First Class a rank he held to nearly the end of the war when he was promoted to Technician 4 th Grade or Sergeant. His predecessor at Camp Shelby had the rank of Major. Grandpa Mike told a colleague after the war that acceptance of a commission would have carried the wrong message in the Japanese American community.
Uncle Ben served in Company B, 100th Battalion and was subsequently transferred to Company E, 2nd Battalion. Following ten days of intense fighting to liberate Bruyeres, Belmont, Biffontaine, and other towns, the 442nd was pulled back to a safe zone for rest, hot showers and hot meals. But this did not happen. Instead, they were ordered the next morning to return to the Vosges forests to rescue a Texas battalion trapped by the Germans. Hitler had personally ordered those trapped to be killed. After five days of bitter combat under conditions of rain, sleet and snow, out of an original 276, 211 Texans were rescued.
This later became known as the “Rescue of the Lost Battalion.” While 211 Texans were saved, the 442nd endured a very high casualty and mortality rate. After the rescue operation, instead of giving the Nisei time to rest in a safe zone, the Division commander once again ordered the 442nd to pursue the retreating Germans. Frontline company and battalion commanders watched their men closely and alternated their assignments between safer areas and high risk assignments. After extended service in the hazardous area, Uncle Ben was assigned to a less hazardous assignment.
One day, Uncle Ben visited Grandpa Mike at his Public Relations office in Service Company, located in a relatively safe area. Uncle Ben told Grandpa he was planning to return to the front line. Uncle Ben told Grandpa, “Ï just wanted to let you know.” Grandpa Mike asked why take the risk, why not stay where you are. Uncle Ben said “Yeah, the Colonel said the same thing. The Colonel said I did not have to go but he would not stop me if I really wanted to go. Uncle Ben said, “The boys on the front line were getting hit hard taking lot of casualties and he felt he ought to be there.” Uncle Ben had made up his mind, and he just wanted to tell Grandpa Mike what he was going to do. Before Uncle Ben left he turned to Grandpa and said, “Here Mike, this is something I made for you.” It was a ring. In his spare time Ben had carved a hole in the center of a 25 cent piece and had painstakingly beaten it into a plain silver ring with whatever crude tools that were available to him.
Later that evening, after dark, uncle Ben had gone out on a patrol. The patrol ran into a German ambush. Uncle Ben was apparently shot and his body was not recovered. Grandpa obtained approval to visit the forest area where uncle Ben fought and together with the men of B Company, they searched for Uncle Ben.
Grandpa had hopes that uncle Ben was taken prisoner by the Germans. But when Uncle Ben’s dog tags were found, Grandpa Mike feared that Ben was killed, and not taken prisoner. A couple years after that, Grandpa and the family received an Army report that Ben’s grave was found in the Vosges forests.
The sense of comradeship, Uncle Ben’s sense of obligation to be with his buddies in time of danger was one of the silent hallmarks of the 442nd Regimental combat teams great combat record. Grandpa Mike almost instinctively knew that this exchange of brotherly love, was Ben’s way of saying goodbye. While few words were exchanged, this encounter and the memory of it stayed with my Grandpa for his entire life.
Grandpa Mike said he wore that ring as a combination wedding ring and keepsake memory of his brother. After my grandfather’s passing, I too wore the ring for many years as a remembrance of both my uncle Ben and Grandpa Mike. And even in death, Ben and the Masaoka family continued to support our country. Uncle Ben’s death benefits were used by my great grandmother Masaoka to fund an annual memorial scholarship each year over a 25-year period. One of the recipients of scholarship was Cherry Tsutsumida, who later became the first executive director of the National Japanese American Memorial Foundation during the planning, construction and grand opening phases of the Memorial in 2001.
I like so many other descendants of the Nisei veterans take great pride in their shining example of bravery, heroism, and sacrifice. Even as our families were unjustly incarcerated by the country of their heart these men still chose to fight and some giving the ultimate sacrifice to their country.
Dgital Museum of Japanese History in New York Brochure
Vietnam veteran and JAVA member Takeshi Furumoto is on a mission to bring to life the contributions, both past and present, of Japanese American veterans in the New York area. Furumoto fervently believes in preserving and promoting the stories of individuals of Japanese ancestry who have given back to their American community. For Furumoto, history inspires and reminds us to work hard and do better. A resident and business leader in Fort Lee, New Jersey, a suburb of New York City, Furumoto linked up with others who shared his interest in history and became one of the founding members of the newly formed Japan History Council of New York. The Japan History Council is focused on people of Japanese ancestry who are somehow tied to the New York region and have achieved in academics, politics, sports, music, business, and the military. Furumoto recognizes that much of Japanese American history, especially military history, is centered on the West Coast and Hawaii. However, he is confident that there are threads of the Japanese American experience that can be pulled and tied to New York. Indeed, he believes that New Yorkers and East Coasters, in general, are often ignorant of the Japanese American experience in World War II, and he hopes by weaving the various threads together through the Japan History Council and their Digital Museum of History of Japanese in New York, awareness of the Nisei story will be heightened. Currently, the Digital Museum only features Dr. Sabro Emy, an anesthesiologist and veteran of World War I who also served in the American Red Cross during World War II. Still, the Japan History Council is eager to add the stories of more veterans from the New York area to the museum.
To learn more about the Japan History Council of New York, please visit https://www.jaany.org/, and to learn more about the Digital Museum of History of Japanese in NY, please visit https://www.historyofjapaneseinny.org/. If you have a story of a New York Japanese American veteran to share, please contact Tak Furumoto at email@example.com.
Digital Museum of Japanese History in New York Brochure
NASIH hosts monthly "Brown Bag Lunches" for members and non-members to learn about current scholarship in the field.
NASIH presents: Brian Masaru Hayashi, “Race Matters but not in the Way You Might Think: The OSS and its Asian American Agents during World War II”
The topic: Does race matter? Bradley Smith, author of The Shadow Warriors: O.S.S. and the Origins of the C.I.A. (Basic Books, 1983) apparently thought so, highlighting the example of racial discrimination against an American-born Japanese named Hatsumi Yamada who worked for the Research and Analysis section of the OSS in a racially segregated workplace inside the Library of Congress and was excluded from admission to the OSS Headquarters because he wore the wrong racial uniform.
Admittedly, Yamada was an example of racial discrimination but his was the exception, not the rule. Far from a tale of racial discrimination, Asian American Spies shows race mattered to the OSS in ways beyond Smith’s understanding. Asian Americans were specifically recruited into sections such as Secret Intelligence precisely because possession of the correct racial uniform was a minimum requirement to slip behind enemy lines to gather intelligence or to conduct Special Operations’ guerrilla warfare. Race further counted positively in qualifying Chinese American and Japanese American for war crimes investigations on co-ethnics accused of collaborating with the Imperial Japanese forces. For the OSS, loyalty more than race played the determinative factor in their service during World War II.
The event is free. Please register on Eventbrite, https://www.eventbrite.com/e/dr-brian-hayashi-the-oss-its-asian-american-agents-during-wwii-registration-157682383253 or click here.
Brian Masaru Hayashi is a Professor at the History Department, Kent State University, in northeast Ohio from 2016 to the present. He was formerly a Professor at Kyoto University in the Graduate School of Human and Environmental Studies from 1999 to 2016. Before then, he was Assistant Professor at Yale University from 1995 to 1999 with a tenure-track appointment in American Studies, History, and East Asian Studies (courtesy) as well as the co-founder and director of its Ethnicity, Race, and Migration Program. His research work on Japanese Americans resulted in For the Sake of Our Japanese Brethren (Stanford University Press, 1995), winner of the Kenneth Scott Latourette Award; Democratizing the Enemy (Princeton University Press, 2004), winner of the Robert Athearn Award; and his co-edited volume with Yasuko Takezawa, New Waves (Kyoto University, 2004). His new book, Asian Americans Spies is coming out of Oxford University Press in May 2021. As a Stanford University Visiting Researcher, his current research is on the rise and decline of the racialist ideology, the Yellow Peril, 1894 to 1952.
The North American Society for Intelligence History (NASIH) was formed in the summer of 2016 by Sarah-Jane Corke and Mark Stout. Their goal was to encourage and support the study of intelligence history in Canada and the United States and to highlight the accomplishment of those in our field.
Membership is currently open to anyone interested in the historical study of intelligence anywhere in the world but is subject to review. There are currently no costs to join. Click here for more information and to apply for membership.
[EdNote: the above image, text and photo are taken from the Eventbrite posting.]
Article and Photos are Reprinted with Permission from Defense Intelligence Agency Alumni Association Newsletter
The campaign in the Aleutian Islands included the only land battle on North American soil during World War II. Initially, the Aleutians, a remote chain of volcanic islands off the Alaskan peninsula, were of dubious strategic significance for American operations. However, the US considered the possibility that Japan might raid Alaska or even the US mainland. The American public was also concerned once the Japanese had invaded US soil, however remote their location was to the mainland. If the Japanese succeeded in the Aleutians and at Midway, its forces would create a defensive perimeter in the North and Central Pacific.
On May 12, 1942, five Nisei graduates of the first language class at the Presidio arrived in Anchorage, Alaska, to work with the Alaska Defense Command. Led by Sergeant Yoshio Hotta, the team traveled to the Aleutians and then on to other bases in the state. Seven months later, another five would arrive, with a Caucasian language officer.
On June 3, 1942, the day before the decisive naval Battle of Midway, the Japanese attacked Dutch Harbor, a small naval facility in the Aleutian Islands. Over a period of two days, 43 Americans were killed, including 33 soldiers, and another 64 wounded. The Japanese took over the Aleutians’ westernmost island, Attu, and the island of Kiska, which was 180 miles away.
On May 11, 1943, the Americans landed on Attu Island. Meeting little resistance on the beach, the soldiers anticipated a relatively easy mission. However, they were badly mistaken. As they moved further inland, they met fierce resistance from the Japanese, who held the high ground. The frigid weather and the icy mud created harsh combat conditions.
The Military Intelligence Service (MIS) contributed to the Aleutian Islands campaign in several ways. About 16 Nisei linguists served on Attu during the battle there. They translated captured documents, monitored radio transmissions, and made leaflets to drop from airplanes. The work was intense and dangerous. Some soldiers crawled into caves where Japanese soldiers were hiding to persuade them to surrender. After Attu was retaken, MIS linguists interrogated the 28 captured Japanese POWs and translated documents on the spot.
This group of 16 included Private Satsuki Fred Tanakatsubo, a Nisei from Sacramento, CA, who graduated from the Military Intelligence Service Language School in June 1942. Tanakatsubo had been assigned to kitchen and garbage duty at Fort Lewis when he was first interviewed as a potential MIS recruit.
Another small team of MIS linguists participated in the recapture of Kiska that took place on August 15 and 16, 1943, while a separate group worked the Alaska Defense Command headquarters at Dutch Harbor. Thankfully, the recapture of Kiska was farPage 12 less difficult than that of Attu. The Japanese had in fact abandoned the island more than two weeks before the American invasion, and the troops arrived to find the island deserted. Nevertheless, the men confronted other dangers in the form of booby traps left behind by the Japanese.
After about two weeks of intense fighting, on May 29, the Americans finally recaptured Attu from the Japanese. But it was at great cost for both sides. More than 2,300 Japanese soldiers died in the battle. The Americans counted 549 dead, more than 1,100 wounded, and another 2,000 men suffering from disease and noncombat-related injuries, primarily trench foot. Only 28 Japanese were taken prisoner, as over 500 chose suicide rather than be captured.
Castner’s Cutthroats Castner’s Cutthroats was the unofficial name for the 1st Alaskan Combat Intelligence Platoon (Provisional), also known as Alaskan Scouts. Castner’s Cutthroats fought during World War II and were instrumental in defeating the Japanese during the Aleutian Islands Campaign. The unit was composed of just sixty-five men selected to perform reconnaissance missions in the Aleutian Islands during the war.
Colonel Lawrence Varsi Castne
The brainchild of Colonel Lawrence Varsi Castner (1902–49), an Army intelligence officer serving in General Simon Bolivar Buckner’s Alaskan Defense Command, the band was organized to create a unit that was fully functional with only minimal outfitting. Castner chose men skilled at flourishing in the tough conditions of the Alaskan wilderness including the native Aleuts and Eskimos, sourdough prospectors, hunters, trappers, and fishermen. Their background in survival and hunting made them ideal scouts. Hard and dangerous men, they often had names in keeping with their unit’s nickname, such as Bad Whiskey Red, Aleut Pete and Waterbucket Ben. Appreciating their unique talents, Col. Castner did not enforce standard military procedures on his unit. They were given a great deal of freedom in order to get the job done. The name “Castner’s Cutthroats” was given by the military press during the war, but the name preferred by the men was Alaska Scouts.
The commanding officer chosen to lead Castner’s Cutthroats was Captain Robert H. Thompson, a Montana State University football star from Moccasin, Montana.
Captain Robert H. Thompson
Thompson was hugely popular with his men and developed a deep love of Alaska. After leaving the Castner’s Cutthroats, he stayed in Alaska as a guide, hunter, and bush pilot until his accidental death in 1955.
Lt. Earl C. Acuf
He was joined in early 1942 by Lt. Earl C. Acuff, a University of Idaho graduate and rival football player. Acuff had been stationed on a remote Aleutian island to spy on Japanese planes. After several months went by without hearing from him, the army charged Castner’s Cutthroats with recovery of his body. When they found him alive and well, he was quickly transferred to the Alaskan Scouts.
I was living like a king. I was diving for king crab and eating fresh seafood and fowl – wild ptarmigan, ducks, and geese – for dinner. They told me not to break radio sound unless I saw a Japanese plane, so I didn’t. When the Alaskan Scouts came to ‘rescue’ me, they started thinking that maybe they’d like to stay with me.
Castner’s Cutthroats was selected to head reconnaissance missions and helped plan landing zones for amphibious assaults on the Japaneseheld occupied islands. During the American counterattack, Castner’s Cutthroats main mission was to serve as guides and messengers for the Army. However, when battle preparations were being made to invade Attu and Kiska, they warned the Army that wheeled vehicles would not function on the permafrost and the soldiers would need to be outfitted with warm gear and plenty of food, a warning that was largely ignored. Consequently, many soldiers owed their lives to Castner’s Cutthroats for protecting them from the weather and providing them with food.
Adak Island landing strip
One of the major successes of Castner’s Cutthroats was the building of an airfield on Adak Island. The Army Air Forces had lost several planes, not to the Japanese, but to Alaskan weather. In order to shorten the distance between the Japanese and American air bases, an airfield on Adak Island was proposed and Castner’s Cutthroats were sent in to scout for a suitable location. Due to the mountainous terrain of the area, no acceptable site was available. Instead, Castner’s Cutthroats dammed a lagoon and drained it to use the sandy bottom floor as a temporary landing strip. Engineers later came in and improved the area.
Castner retired from the military towards the end of World War II and remained in Alaska. After spending a year as a vice-president of the fledgling Alaska Airlines, he founded a cold storage and wholesaling business in Anchorage and was regarded as an up-and-coming leader of the local business community. This would prove to be shortlived, as Castner died in December 1949.
Earl C. Acuff was the last surviving member of the Cutthroats. He died on 13 February 2013, at the age of 94 in Blacksburg, Virginia.
Pictured from left to right - Ed Walker of Palmer, Alaska; retired Brig. Gen. Earl Acuff of Blacksburg, Virginia; and William “Billy” Buck of Glenallen, Alaska.
[Ed Note: We wish to thank Rod Azama for sharing this story with the e-Advocate.]