Japanese American Veterans Association


Vol 1 No. 2 , June 14, 2019 

71st Annual Memorial Day Service Held at Arlington Cemetery

Gravesite of PFC Kiyoshi Murakami, Idaho, Co. G, 442nd RCT. KIA Po Valley, Italy campaign, three weeks before Germany surrendered. Grave No. 5123, Section 12-4. Bouquet of flowers placed by JACL WDC and JAVA; Hawaiian orchid lei is from David Iwata. Photo by Matthew Oelkers, member of Kobayashi family.

Washington, DC.  The 71st Annual Memorial Day Service, jointly sponsored by JACL WDC and the Japanese American Veterans Association (JAVA), was held at Arlington National Cemetery (ANC) on May 26, 2019.  The day began with a 45-minute program at the Columbarium Ceremonial Courtyard, attended by Minister Ken Mukai, Head of Chancery of the Embassy of Japan; MG Garrett S. Yee, USA, and Mrs. Yee; and JAVA members. Following the program, teams decorated the 90 gravesites of Japanese Americans and two Caucasians.  

Key Kobayashi, MIS veteran and JAVA’s inaugural vice president, began the Memorial Day gravesite decoration program in 1948.  When Key passed away in 1992 his family continued the project, with son Turner heading up logistics. This year the Kobayashi family was represented by 13 members coming from Texas, Ohio, and New Jersey.  Mrs. Kyoko Kobayashi, wife of Key, has ensured continuity and high standards by actively participating all 71 years.

Attendees heard from two guest speakers. First at the podium was Keegan Thai, a 5th grade student at US Senator Spark Matsunaga Elementary School, located in Germantown, MD, the only public school east of the Rockies known to be named to honor a Japanese American. Thai, whose cousin is a cadet at West Point, reflecting on the significance of Memorial Day, remarked that it is a day to honor our men and women who have sacrificed their lives to “protect our country with pride, honor and persistence.”  Next, CPT Wade Ishimoto, USA Ret, a former counter-terrorist expert with the Department of Defense, urged his audience to “encourage our youth to consider serving in our military, in law enforcement, or as firefighters, as these patriots are ready to give their lives to save others. Alternatively, prompt them to consider becoming public servants, teachers, or volunteers for civic-minded projects.“

Douglas Ichiuji, member of the Board of Directors of the National Japanese American Memorial Foundation (NJAMF), which is responsible for the National Japanese American Memorial to Patriotism, located on Capitol Hill, paid tribute to the American patriots, including the Japanese Americans, who are interred at Arlington Cemetery.  His father, a member of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team (and Poston Concentration Camp internee) and mother are both laid to rest at Arlington.

David Iwata, life member of JAVA, currently the Military Relations Committee Co-Chair for the Go For Broke National Education Center presented orchid leis flown in from Hawai’i to the 19 KIA 100th-442nd  members buried at ANC.  “As Co-Chair with Alan Hayashi, it was important for us to participate and recognize the 75th anniversary of the battle to rescue the Texas lost battalion, the defining moment in military history that cemented the legacy of the Nisei warriors.  By placing the orchid leis on the grave markers, we bring the ‘spirit of aloha,’ honoring their bravery and sacrifice,”  Iwata said.

In 2018 Sandra Tanamachi of Houston, Texas, the niece of Saburo Tanamachi, one of the first two Japanese Americans interred at Arlington, spoke about Saburo and his 442nd experience. In view of the favorable response to the 2018 event, Terry Shima was invited to speak this year on Sgt Kelly Yeiichi Kuwayama, a bemedaled 442nd combat medic. 

This event at Arlington National Cemetery is held each year on the Sunday before the Monday Memorial Day holiday.  If any family, friend, or colleague of a fallen hero interred at Arlington National Cemetery wishes to participate in this program and discuss the life/career/sacrifice of that individual, please contact Turner Kobayashi for additional information and scheduling.  Turner can be reached at turner@audleyfarm.com. If you wish to attend but not speak you are cordially invited.

71st Annual Memorial Day Service, Arlington.  Bugler (standing between Veterans and white crosses in the background) playing taps at the end of the 45-minute program. Photo by Nobuyuki Tanaka, Washington Bureau Chief, The Nishi Nihon Shimbun.

JAVA Member Captain Wade Ishimoto, USA Ret, Presenter at Special Operations Command Pacific and Speaker at Joint Andrews Base

On May 17, Wade Ishimoto gave a leadership development presentation to the United States Special Operations Command Pacific at Camp H.M. Smith, Hawaii.  

On May 30, Ishimoto was the guest speaker for the celebration of Asian Pacific Islander Heritage Month at Joint Base Andrews, MD  His presentation emphasized the importance of uniting different cultures to achieve a common purpose and a military mission.

Descendants of Japan First Diplomatic Mission to USA Officially Received by Hawaii

SDFJ group photo at entrance of Iolani Palace, once the state capitol and now a museum, the only official royal palace in the US.  Quentin Kawananakoa, a descendant of Prince David Kawananakoa and former State Representative, arranged a private tour for SDFJ.  Quentin is behind Mr. Muragaki's (center) right shoulder.  Photo by Jon Yoshimura.

By Jon Yoshimura

Honolulu, HI.  Nearly 160 years ago, 77 samurai representing the Tokugawa shogunate departed Yokohama on the U.S.S. Powhatan destined for Washington, DC, to meet President James Buchanan and establish the first Japanese Embassy in the United States. Unanticipated heavy weather and rough seas caused the mission to stop in Honolulu in March 1860, setting the stage for a historic first meeting between Hawaiian and Japanese government officials.

Earlier this year, 30 descendants of the 77 Japanese diplomats traveled to Hawaii to attend three days of events commemorating the historic meeting between King Kamehameha IV and the Japanese delegation. On April 17, a welcome reception hosted by the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawaii and attended by Hawaii Governor David Ige, Japanese Consul General Koichi Ito, and approximately 50 representatives of Hawaii community organizations kicked off the commemorative events.  Governor Ige welcomed the descendant group, known as the Society of Descendants of the First Japanese Embassy (SDFJ), and spoke about their ancestors’ role in what would develop into a special relationship between Hawaii and Japan.

On April 18, the SDFJ were honored guests at the final event of the Hawaii Gannenmono Commemoration celebrating the arrival of the first Japanese contract workers in Hawaii 151 years ago (1868).  A stone monument made in Yokohama recognizing the Gannenmono was installed and dedicated at Honolulu City Hall. The SDFJ then made the short walk to Hawaii’s State Capitol where a special exhibition of historic photos and documents related to the March 1860 visit and meeting with King Kamehameha IV was presented by the Hawaii State Archives.

Later, both chambers of the Hawaii State Legislature hosted SDFJ members and issued Certificates of Recognition to the group.  SDFJ Executive Director, Mr. Takashi Muragaki, was given the special honor of addressing the Hawaii State House of Representatives prior to its regular session.

The second day of events was capped by an audience with Governor Ige in his Executive Chambers where he presented the SDFJ with a Proclamation praising its effort to perpetuate the historic first meeting between Hawaiian and Japanese government officials.  

On the final day of the visit, the SDFJ were treated to a special tour of Iolani Palace, the only royal palace on American soil, arranged by Quentin Kawananakoa, a direct descendant of Prince David Kawananakoa. Although Iolani Palace had not yet been built in 1860, it contains many historic artifacts that date back to the early years of the Hawaiian monarchy.

Many Hawaii organizations and individuals were responsible for arranging the commemorative events, including the Hawaii Gannenmono Commemoration Committee, the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawaii, the Hawaii State Archives, the Governor’s Office, the Hawaii State Senate, and the Hawaii State House of Representatives.

Governor Ige (center, navy blue jacket holding Proclamation) received SDFJ delegation in his executive chamber, where he presented a Proclamation to Mr. Muragaki, Society Executive Director (right of Governor). Photo by Jon Yoshimura.

Mr. Muragaki with Senate President Ronald Kouchi (L) and State Senator Brian Taniguchi (R). 
Photo by Jon Yoshimura.

Jon Yoshimura (standing), former Director of Communications for US Senator Daniel Akaka and Coordinator of SDFJ visit to Honolulu, discusses past governors since Statehood in ceremonial room of Governor’s executive chambers.  Mr. Muragaki, seated left front.  Photo from Jon Yoshimura.

Mr. Muragaki addressing themembers of the State House of Representatives. Photo by Jon Yoshimura.  Inset placedby Phoebe Ford.

Twelve Nisei Sank with USS Royal T. Frank
Torpedoed by Japanese Submarine  
Eight Nisei Survivors Also Survived Combat with 100th

On January 26, 1942, two days before the sinking of USS Royal T. Frank, Ushijima used his camera at Schofield Barracks to take this group photo of the men who left Honolulu on the ill-fated voyage. The film was passed to a friend to develop; however, the camera was retained by Ushijima.  Photo includes non-Nisei, who were members of the 299th Regiment. Ushijima, a member of the Torpedo Gang, added the names on this photo. His family approved this reprint.     

By JAVA Research Team

Eight Nisei were saved and 12 were killed when a Japanese submarine torpedoed a US Army transport near Maui, Hawaii, on January 28, 1942, just seven months after the Pearl Harbor attack. A few months later the eight Nisei joined the 100th Infantry Battalion and miraculously survived nearly two years of combat in Europe.  The 20 Nisei were among the 60 men aboard the USS Royal T. Frank, which transported military personnel, equipment and ammunition to the various islands of the Territory of Hawaii. The Nisei were returning to Hilo after basic training at Schofield Barracks, Honolulu.

The USS Frank, one of the three-vessel convoy, including a destroyer, left Honolulu on July 27, 1942, and arrived in Kahului, Maui, early the following morning.  After a brief port call the vessel departed for Hilo.   Peter Von Buol, an adjunct professor of journalism and freelance writer, using Adjutant General’s Office classified Decimal files, AGF 579.14 (submarine project files) originally classified SECRET, published the following account:  At 7:00 AM on January 28, 1942, approximately 30 miles north of the Hawaii’s Upolu Point in the Alenuihaha channel an unnamed ship’s officer saw a torpedo, moving slowly, coming towards the USS Frank.  He shouted “torpedo.”  The torpedo hit the starboard side of the Frank that caused a loud explosion.  Flying debris killed USS Frank’s captain Wiechert, men on the deck were thrown into the sea or they jumped out.  Clinging to any floating debris, they were rescued three hours later. The USS Frank sank in about a minute after being hit taking the men below deck with it. Of the 60 men in the vessel, there were 36 survivors, including 9 men of 299th Regiment, eight of them Nisei. The other survivors included crew members. The survivors, covered with oil, were taken to a school gymnasium in Hana, Maui, where the students helped to get them cleaned up and comfortable.  A Navy medic arrived from Honolulu. The survivors were warned not to discuss their experience with anyone. The USS Frank has not been found.

The 12 Nisei who sank with the Frank are:

  • 1.    Iwao Nakamura, Kealakekua, Kona, HI
  • 2.    Yoshito Nii, Papaikou, HI
  • 3.    Shoji Okido, Honomu, HI
  • 4.    Muneo Larry Oku, Koloa, HI
  • 5.    Reginald M. Osato, HI
  • 6.    Shinichi Shiigi, Honolulu, HI
  • 7.    Raymond H.Shirakawa, Waiohino, HI
  • 8.    Yeishun A. Soken, Waiakeauka, HI
  • 9.    Bushichi Tani, Papaikou, Hi
  • 10.  Torao Yamamizu, Pepeekeo, Hi
  • 11.  Albert H. Yano, Koloa, HI
  • 12.  Yonezo Yonemura, Keopu, Hi

The 12 Nisei with the rank of inductee are memorialized on white walls at the Missing in Action (MIA) section of the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific (Punchbowl) and on a bronze plaque at the East Hawaii Veterans Cemetery #1 in Hilo, Hawaii.  Each soldier was awarded the Purple Heart Medal, which is awarded only to soldiers killed or wounded in combat. 

The eight Nisei survivors (awards data from Thomas D. Murphy, Ambassador in Arms):

1.   PFC Yoshio Ogomori; Mountain View, HI; Hq.Co/100; CIB, SS, BS, PH, DUB

2.   Tokimaru Takamoto; Captain Cook, HI; Hq.Co/100.  No award listed

3.   George Y. TAKETA, Hilo, HI; Med.Det/100; Combat Medic Badge, BS, PH,

4.   CPL Shizuo Toma; Pahoa, Hi; Hq.Co/100; CIB, BS

5.   PFC Shigeru Ushijima; Hilo, HI; Hq.Co/100; CIB, BS, PH, DUB 

6.   Mac Tsutomu Wakimoto; Hq.Co/100; CIB, BS

7.   PFC Haruo Yamashita; Kurtistown, HI; C.Co/100; CIB, BS

8.   Pvt Susumu Yoshioka ; Hilo, HI; A.Co/100; CIB, BS, PH

Survivor Raymond Wakimoto saw the torpedo and thought it was a large fish. When the vessel exploded he thought it was a dream. When he floated in the ocean he thought “it was the end of the world."  He adopted a personal policy when riding future troopships to always sleep on the deck.  At the 100th Battalion Veterans 1972 reunion, Frank survivor Ogomori said the morning of January 28 was rainy and misty.  He recalled hearing a thud while he was going up the deck, then an explosion, and then found himself in the ocean floating near Ushjijima.

The eight Nisei survivors returned to their 299th Regiment at Schofield Barracks.  In late May 1942, 1,432 Nisei infantrymen, including the eight survivors, were formed into the Hawaii Provisional Infantry Battalion with LTC Farramt L. Turner as Commander and CAPT James W. Lovell as Chief of Staff.  Turner told the 100th men he was ordered to appoint only haoles (Caucasian in Hawaiian) to serve as company commanders  and thus appointed CAPT Alex E. McKenzie, CAPT Phillip B. Peck, CAPT John A. Johnson, CAPT Clarence R. Johnson, and CAPT Charles A. Benamen, all born in or long-time residents of Hawaii.  On May 28, 1942, Turner told the men they would be shipped to the mainland, but they could not tell their families, and all passes were cancelled. On June 5, 1942, the men boarded the SS Maui and left Honolulu quietly headed for Oakland, California, where the Battalion was designated the 100th Infantry Battalion.

The USS Frank Nisei survivors formed an exclusive club called Torpedo Gang, which held a reunion each year to honor the 12 Nisei who sank with the USS Frank.  The eight Gang members were assigned to different companies.  Apart from Takamoto, each of four other Hq Co assignees received the Combat Infantryman’s Badge (CIB) or Combat Medic Badge (CMB) and the BS.  In view of this awards record, it can be presumed that Takamoto, at a minimum, received the CIB and BS.  In addition, three others received the CIB, one other received the Silver Star, four others received the Purple Heart, three others received the Bronze Star, and one became a prisoner of war (POW).   A review of the Gang’s combat decorations suggests these men were not assigned to “safe assignments” or given preferential treatment to compensate for their USS Frank nightmare.  It is a miracle that all survived the 100th's high attrition rate in the nearly two years of combat in the European combat zones.  Susumu Yoshioka is the only Gang member known to become a German prisoner. The 100th Bn Veterans Education Center write-up stated “Yoshioka was captured in January 1944 probably during the assault on the Gustav Line and was officially registered as a POW on January 22, 1944.   He was sent to Stalag VII in Moosburg, Germany and was liberated on July 25, 1945.”  While Yoshioka was not presented with a Purple Heart Medal for his back injury resulting from the USS Frank sinking, the injury was viewed as a service-connected disability for postwar benefits purposes.

Peter Von Buol reported that on February 1, 1944, the Japanese submarine that sank the USS Frank was sunk by the US Navy off Bougainville in New Guinea.

[JRT comment: JRT appreciates the research assistance provided by Jayne Hirata, editor of Puka Puka Parade.  Also, our thanks to LTC Wayne Yoshioka, USA Ret, Afghanistan combat veteran, who discussed Susumu Yoshioka’s POW status and  arranged the use of the group photo which accompanies this article.  Finally, our thanks to JAVA member Wade Ishimoto, who, during his visit to Paradise, spent five hours with members of his family at Punchbowl to research and take photos of the Nisei who sank with the USS Royal T. Frank.]  

On May 19, 2019,  Wade Ishimoto visited Punchbowl to pay tribute to and take this photo that memorialized Torao Yamamizu and Albert H. Yano. The names of the 12 Nisei who sank with the USS Royal T. Frank are not listed together but are scattered in different courts. The Missing in Action Section occupies one section of Punchbowl and it is maintained by the American Battle Monuments Commission. JAVA is grateful to Wade and his Honolulu family for spending five hours at Punchbowl to perform this task.             

Questions or Suggestions: Please contact Neet Ford, JAVA e-Advocate Editor, at javapotomac@gmail.com.

Japanese American Veterans Association: (202) 494-1978, Address: P.O. Box 341998, Bethesda, MD 20827 https://java.wildapricot.org 

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