Japanese American Veterans Association


Vol. 2, No. 21, June 1, 2020

Ambassador Harry Harris visits the U.S.-Korean War Memorial at Paju City, South Korea

During his visit to Imjingak, near the DMZ, in late May 2020, Ambassador to South Korea Harry Harris (left) visited the U.S.-Korean War Memorial at Paju City, South Korea. On the right is the Mayor of Paju City.  The Memorial, erected by the Japanese American Korean War Veterans on May 24, 1997, lists the names of 247 Japanese Americans who were killed in the Korean War, 1950 - 1953. Photo: Ambassador Harris.

Nine Japanese Nationals were serving on the USS Maine when it was destroyed.  Two survived, seven perished. 

JAVA Research Team (JRT)

At 9:40 PM on February 15, 1898, five tons of powder charges exploded in the forward section of the battleship USS Maine as she lay at anchor in the harbor of Havana, Cuba.  The explosion obliterated that part of the ship where the enlisted crew had their quarters and were retiring for the night.  Of the 355-member crew (26 officers, 290 enlisted seamen and 39 Marines), 261 men died or were declared missing and presumed dead.  Ninety-four men survived and, of this number, 16 were not injured.  Though largely American, the crew also included citizens of Canada, Great Britain, Russia, Japan, China, and the Philippines.

Of the USS Maine’s 261 known or missing/presumed dead, 231 have gravesites at Arlington National Cemetery and 27 at the USS Maine Plot in the Key West, Florida, City Cemetery.  The remains of three men were returned to their families.  The identities of 63 men interred in Arlington National Cemetery are known and 168 gravesites are dedicated to those whose bodies were never found and who were declared missing/presumed dead.  The USS Maine Plot, dedicated on December 11, 1898, and administered by the City of Key West and the U.S. Navy, contains nine gravesites of identified crewmen and 18 dedicated to those missing/presumed dead.

Nine Japanese nationals were serving as U.S. Navy seamen aboard the USS Maine when it was destroyed.  One had completed 14 years of sea duty; three had completed their first three-year enlistments and were on their second three-year enlistments; and five were in their first three-year enlistment. Two of the nine men survived; one was wounded, the other uninjured.  Kashitara Suzuki’s body was recovered from the Maine on March 24, 1898, one week before recovery activity stopped with 75 bodies still in the vessel.  His tombstone (Figure 1) is at Spot 47 in the USS Maine Plot of the Key West City Cemetery.  It is likely that the unidentified remains of the six Japanese seamen declared missing/presumed dead are also interred in the City Cemetery.  In Key West their graves are marked by individual tombstones bearing the inscription, “One Unknown.  U.S. Battleship Maine.  Killed in Havana Harbor, February 15, 1898,” (Figure 2).  It is not known how many of the Asian nationals risked their lives to gain U.S. citizenship that was not otherwise possible as the U.S. Naturalization Act of 1790 prohibited Asians from becoming U.S. citizens.

Figure 1.  Inscription on tombstone: “Kashitara Suzuki, Mess Attendant.  USS Battleship “Maine.”  Killed in Havana Harbor, February 15, 1898.”  City Cemetery, Key West.  Photo by Russell Brittain.

Figure 2.  The inscription reads: “One Unknown.  USS Battleship Maine.  Killed in Havana Harbor.  February 15, 1898.”  Photo by Russell Brittain.

Key West residents honored the USS Maine casualties by erecting a statue in the Maine section of City Cemetery of an American sailor dressed in Spanish American War period uniform, (Figure 3).  The well-groomed cemetery is a testimony to the dignity and respect accorded to deceased seaman, U.S. and foreign, irrespective of race, nationality and rank, and whether the burial occurred one year ago or over a hundred years ago.

Figure 3. USS Maine Cemetery, Key West, FL. Photo from Russell Brittain.

The seven Japanese seamen who lost their lives on the USS Maine are also honored at various other locations.  Their names are inscribed at the base of the USS Maine Mast Memorial (Figure 4) and the six missing are also listed at the Tomb of the Unknown, both located at Arlington National Cemetery.  Their names are also inscribed on the Heroes Wall of the Japanese American National War Memorial Court (JANWMC) located in Japan Town, Los Angeles.  The JANWMC, constructed by southern California Nisei veterans, is the only location in the United States where ethnic Japanese killed in all wars, from the Spanish American War to the current Gulf Wars, are memorialized.  During a ceremony at the JANWMC on June 15, 2009, after paying his respects to the Japanese Americans and Japanese nationals killed in wars and whose names are etched on the granite wall, Japan Ambassador Ichiro Fujisaki said he was deeply touched by the powerful cultural message conveyed by the inclusion of Japanese nationals in the Memorial Court.  

Figure 4. USS Maine Mast Memorial. Arlington National Cemetery, VA.

Two Japanese nationals survived the Maine explosion: Katsusaburo Kushida, one of only 16 USS Maine crew who were uninjured, and Fusanoin Awo, who was wounded.   According to U.S. Navy records at the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC), St. Louis, Missouri, Kushida was born in Hiroshima City on March 3, 1873.  He enlisted in the U.S. Navy on April 4, 1894, and gave his father, Josko Kushida, as his next of kin. He completed his three-year enlistment on April 5, 1897 and reenlisted on May 4, 1897 for another three years.  He was in the ninth month of his second three-year enlistment when the USS Maine was destroyed.  He was then reassigned to the USS Vermont as a warrant officers’ cook and subsequently promoted to wardroom steward on the USS Mayflower. Foreign nationals serving as U.S. seamen were bound by the same administrative, medical, and security requirements as the U.S. seamen.  During his four years in the U.S. Navy, Kushida’s job performance and conduct were evaluated as “Very Good” and his health was evaluated consistently as “excellent.”  His pay was $37 per month. 

A letter from the Secretary of the U.S. Navy to the U.S. Secretary of State, dated May 12, 1898, lists personal items found in the USS Maine for Katsusaburo Kushida and Isa Sugisaki, one of the men who was killed.  The letter asked if the U.S. State Department “would ascertain if the Japanese Legation will receive these articles for distribution to the proper heirs." The personal items included banking information, gold coins, cash, silver items, letters in Japanese.  Kushida was still serving in the Navy when the letter was sent but he left on October 10, 1898.  He may have resided for a time in Boston, Massachusetts, where on June 9, 1904, someone with a similar name signed a petition before the clerk of the Boston District Court to become a U.S. citizen.  The match is not perfect.  For example, the handwritten name on the affidavit could be read as “Katsusa Kashida” or “Katsusa Kushida.”  Also, the date of birth Kushida gave the court is May 1, 1877, however, the U.S. Navy records said his date of birth is March 3, 1873.   Additionally, Kushida’s date of arrival in Seattle, Washington, is recorded as November 21, 1899, while the U.S. Navy documents state he enlisted on April 4, 1894, perhaps while a U.S. vessel was calling at a foreign port.  Nonetheless, the similarity of the names, the place of birth as Hiroshima City, and his occupation as “Officers Steward” together with the known vagaries of spellings and dates in such documents suggest that the applicant may have been Katsusaburo Kushida from the USS Maine.  Unfortunately, except for this legal petition for U.S. citizenship, no other U.S. public record has been found for Kushida.  Additional research is underway to determine his activities following his service in the U.S. Navy.

Based on information collected from NPRC and other sources, Fusanoin Awo was born December 15, 1873, in Aichi Prefecture and immigrated to America in 1896.  On July 22, 1897, he enlisted in the US Navy at Fishers Island, New York, and was assigned to the USS Maine as steerage cook.  He gave his mother, Ei Awo, as his next of kin residing at Haguri, Yamanaka Mura, Kikata Gori, Mikawa, Aichi Prefecture.  An indication of Awo’s interest in America was a list of items he claimed to have lost when the USS Maine sank: a Japanese-English dictionary, books on grammar and geography, and a book on Commodore Perry.  After surviving the sinking of the USS Maine, Awo served on the USS Vermont, USS Saturn, USS Franklin, USS Vulcan, USS Yosemite, USS Brutus, and USS Colombia.  He consistently received a rating of “Very Good” in the categories of job performance and conduct, and his pay was $37 per month.   He was promoted to cabin steward in 1898 and left the Navy October 25, 1901. 

Following his naval service, Awo apparently settled at 110 Bower Street in Boston, Massachusetts.  On November 26, 1903 he married Mary Goodrich in that city.  His occupation at the time was club house keeper.  Nine years later, on November 3, 1912, listing himself as a widower and an auctioneer and merchant, Awo married Mary A. Bowen, also of Boston.  In 1914 he and his wife moved to Jacksonville, Florida where they resided at 529 West Church, listing his occupation as a chef.  Subsequently, Awo visited Japan and returned to Seattle, Washington, aboard the Manila Maru on October 17, 1916.  The vessel’s manifest listed his nationality as Japanese, and his destination as Tacoma, Washington.

The seven Japanese nationals who perished when the USS Maine was destroyed are: 

Kashitara Suzuki of Hachioji, Tokyo, a mess attendant whose body was recovered, enlisted in New York on January 8, 1895 for three years.  In early 1898 he reenlisted for a second three-year stint, but was killed shortly after.  Suzuki’s tombstone is shown in Figure 1.

Suke Chingi of Kagoshima Prefecture, a mess attendant, enlisted on September 26, 1895 in New York for three years.  He had six months of naval duty prior to his assignment on the USS Maine shortly after it was commissioned.  Missing/presumed dead.

Otogiro Ishida of Yokohama, Kanagawa Prefecture, a steerage cook, enlisted on September 25, 1895 in New York for three years. He had one year of naval experience prior to his assignment on the USS Maine.  Missing/presumed dead.

Yukichi Kitagata of Kobe, Hyogo Prefecture, a warrant officers cook, enlisted on August 12, 1896 at Norfolk, Virginia, for three years.  Missing/presumed dead.

Tomekichi Nagamine, a mess attendant, enlisted in New York for three years on December 10, 1896. Missing/presumed dead.

Mas Ohye of Wakayama Prefecture, a mess attendant, enlisted in New York on September 21, 1895, for three years.  Missing/presumed dead.

Isa Sugisaki of Odawara, Kanagawa Prefecture, a wardroom steward, enlisted in New York for three years on September 16, 1895.  Declared Missing/presumed dead.  On July 11, 1898, Wakichi Nishimiya of 227 W 25th, New York City, reported that Sugisaki had died in the US without relatives and filed a petition at Kings County Surrogate’s Court to settle his estate.  

Sugisaki had served in the U.S. Navy since 1885, making him the first ethnic Japanese to serve in the U.S. military.  He was recognized in New York's Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper, April 28, 1898.  The article said "he was only a [U.S. Navy] steward, but Isa Sugisaki, who died on the ill-fated Maine, will long be remembered by his grateful countrymen.  Some years ago out of his hard-earned savings he established a home and clubhouse at 164 Sands Street, Brooklyn, for Japanese who were out of employment.  It was named the Sugisaki Club in his honor, and is now in a very flourishing and prosperous condition.  At least a dozen Japanese societies have their headquarters at the “Sugisaki.”  The most prominent organization which meets there is the “Dai Nippon Jin,” or the Great Japanese Society.  It is primarily a mutual-benefit society, and was founded for the purpose of helping young men.  It meets twice a year.  Another society which meets at the “Sugisaki” is the “Shio bu Kai,” which means literary and social club.  At its meetings Japanese literature, history and current events are debated and discussed.  A fencing gymnasium which was recently established in the backyard is open to the members of the various clubs.  It consists of an open pavilion profusely decorated with Japanese lanterns."  A photo of Sugisaki appeared with the article, (Figure 5).

Figure 5. Isa Sugisaki, Photo from Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper, April 28, 1899

Referring to the Issei on the USS Maine in 1898, retired Army historian Dr. James McNaughton, author of Nisei Linguists: Japanese Americans in the Military Intelligence Service During WW II, commented: "When thousands of Nisei joined the U.S. Army in World War II, few of them knew that they followed in the footsteps of some ancestors that history nearly forgot.  In the nineteenth century, many Japanese men signed up to serve on U.S. Navy warships, often as cooks or mess attendants.  When the USS Maine exploded, seven men tragically became the first known persons of Japanese origin to die under the flag of the United States.  These men may be silent in the historical record, but are not forgotten.  Over time their footsteps were but the first of many on the long path of proud service in the armed forces of the United States that continues to this day."

JRT Comment.  As Dr. McNaughton noted, Japanese nationals also served on other U.S. war ships. One such person is a Nisei, Nobuteru Harry Sumida, born in New York City in 1872 of a Japanese father and Caucasian mother.  He enlisted in 1891 and served as a gunner on the USS Indiana in the Battle of Santiago, Cuba, where he received a shrapnel wound in his right leg.  During WW II he was forcibly interned at the Manzanar internment camp.  During the early phase of our research we could not find any published data on the nine Japanese nationals.  The JAVA Research Team hopes this article sparks an interest in a researcher, probably collaborating with a Japanese scholar, to write a more comprehensive paper. While the content and presentation is ours, our appreciation for collecting and assisting in the various phases of our research is gratefully extended to Dean DeRosa, Arlington National Cemetery; Russell Brittain, City Cemetery, Key West; Ambassador (Admiral, USN Retired) Harry Harris, JAVA Member; RADM Samuel Cox, USN Retired, and Mark Mollan, Naval History and Heritage Command; Ellen Nakashima, JAVA member; Theresa Fitzgerald and David Hardin, National Personnel Records Center; Adebo Adetono, NARA; William Elsbury, Library of Congress; Erika Moritsugu, Esq, JAVA member; US Senator Tammy Duckworth and Benjamin Rhodeside; Douglas Haynes, US Census Bureau; John Tobe, JAVA Member; Edson Mori; Dr. Thomas and Catherine Yoshikawa (financial);  Jeffrey and Yoko Morita, JRT researchers; and Dr. James McIlwain, Professor Emeritus, Neuroscience, Brown University, JRT editor.

Eaton Receives High JAVA Award for 17 Years of Dedicated Service

Awardee Roger L. Eaton

Congressional Gold Medal with JAVA inscription

La Palma, CA. Roger L. Eaton received a bronze replica of the Congressional Gold Medal similar to the one awarded to Nisei in 2011 by the U.S. Congress. Presented in mid-May 2020, the award was given to Eaton for perpetuating the Nisei legacy over 17 years. Pursuing his post-retirement mission with a fervent dedication, Eaton completed two major projects and a third in partnership with a colleague. In his message to Eaton accompanying the award, JAVA President Gerald Yamada, Esq, expressed:

JAVA’s sincere appreciation for Eaton’s tireless service and dedication to perpetuating the legacy of the Nisei who served in the 100th Battalion,442nd Regimental Combat Team, and Military Intelligence Service. We are indebted to you for:

  1. compiling a comprehensive database of deceased Nikkei veterans by assiduous review of obituaries, an essential source for Echoes of Silence;
  2. serving with Jim Yamashita to create Echoes of Silence, a list of 20,000 Nikkei men and women who served in the military during WWII, and
  3. compiling a list of slightly over 3,000 Nisei linguists who served overseas during WW II.

I am honored to present you with a replica, appropriately inscribed, of the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest honor the US Congress has bestowed to members of the 100 Battalion, 442nd RCT, and MIS.

A gold-colored band placed below the replica of the Congressional Gold Medal contains the JAVA logo with the inscription “For your Steadfast Support of JAVA.” 

Eaton, having just returned home from a brief stay at the hospital, telephoned a member of the JRT on May 15 to express his appreciation for this thoughtful award. He said he genuinely appreciated the recognition and requested that his thanks and best wishes be conveyed to JAVA leadership.                                  

 Legacy Voices

A short documentary featuring several JAVA member veterans from the Korean, Vietnam and Gulf War

and a 

2020 Memorial Day Message 

LA County Superior Court Judge and Vietnam Veteran U.S. Army Captain Vincent Okamoto, (Ret)

Ken Hayashi. Photo: Robert Horsting.

The black granite walls of the Japanese American National War Memorial Court are etched with the names of the almost 1200 Japanese Americans who gave their lives in America’s wars.  The Memorial Court is located at the Japanese American Cultural & Community Center in the Little Tokyo area of Los Angeles.  For 20 years services have been held on the Memorial Day weekend to honor and remember the ultimate sacrifice of our heroes.  Due to the worldwide pandemic, we were not be able to gather together this year to pay our respects in person. 

As most of us were still remaining “Safer at home” and services across the country had been cancelled, I asked that all take a moment on Memorial Day to reflect on the gifts of freedom and dignity given to us as Americans of Japanese Ancestry.  That gift was not free.  It was paid for with the blood of young men who gave their lives in foreign lands, far from friends and family.  Most had not yet even seen their 21st birthday.  Please remember and appreciate their ultimate sacrifice on our behalf.      

To see our Memorial Day message and the names of all who are honored at the Memorial Court, please visit the Memorial Court website at:  memorialcourtalliance.org. There are also photos of prior events, some short bios of those who are on the walls as well as bios of some living heroes and our short documentary featuring veterans of the Korean, Vietnam and Gulf Wars, “Legacy Voices.”    

We are still in a war against an invisible and silent enemy.  By the time you read this, I sincerely hope that victory is near.  Please remember and honor those medical workers, first responders and other frontline warriors who have given theirs lives in this battle.  Be thankful for the many more who daily risk their lives to keep us safe.  Please be careful and stay safe and healthy.  I look forward to the day that we can once again come together to honor our heroes in person. 

Ken Hayashi

President, Veterans Memorial Court Alliance

[EdNote.  The Japanese American National War Memorial Court is the only location in the USA where the names of all ethnic Japanese including the 7 Japanese nationals who served as US Navy seamen and perished from the explosion on USS Maine in Havana Harbor Cuba in 1898.]

“Legacy Voices” Synopsis:

Moments of reflection stir emotions and the passion of seven veterans as they discuss their service sacrifice and the importance of the Japanese American National War Memorial Court. 

To watch video click here.

JANWMC. Photo: Robert Horsting.

For a 2020 Memorial Day Message from LA County Superior Court Judge and Vietnam Veteran U.S. Army Captain Vincent Okamoto click here.

Arlington National Cemetery

Memorial Amphitheater's Centennial

On May 15, 1920, the Memorial Amphitheater at Arlington National Cemetery was dedicated. ANC is celebrating the Amphitheater's centennial with an online exhibit featuring original photographs and short video. Arlington National Cemetery remains closed to the public. 

To access the exhibit click here.

To access the video click here.

 Search Tool for Families and Friends of Veterans Buried at VA Cemeteries

The Veterans Legacy Memorial has a search tool that allows families and friends to search for veterans buried at 142 Department of Veteran Affairs operated cemeteries in 40 states and Puerto Rico.  For example, the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific (Punchbowl) in Honolulu is a VA-operated national cemetery.  The search tool is located at  http://www.vlm.cem.va.gov/.

Note that Arlington National Cemetery is operated by the U.S. Army and their search tool is located at  https://www.arlingtoncemetery.mil/Explore/Find-a-Grave

Also, veteran cemeteries overseas are operated by the American Battle Monuments Commission. Graves for service members buried in these overseas cemeteries can be located at  https://www.abmc.gov/database-search.

U.S. Navy Captain and JAVA member Elizabeth Seiko Okano Nominated to Rear Admiral

U.S. Navy Captain and JAVA member Elizabeth Seiko Okano

U.S. Navy Captain and JAVA member Elizabeth Seiko Okano has been selected for promotion to Rear Admiral (lower half). She will be assigned as Program Executive Officer for integrated warfare systems (PEOIWS), Washington, D.C.  CAPT Okano is a 1994 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy and was awarded the Program Manager of the Year at the 2018 Department of the Navy Acquisition Excellence Awards. 

Los Angeles Resident Awarded the French Légion d’honneur

Morikawa and the Légion d’honneur. Photo: Morikawa Family. 

Jeff Morita

Los Angeles, California. In February 2020, Harry Yoshio Morikawa was approved for induction into the prestigious Légion d’honneur, the highest French order of military and civil merits, and established in 1802 by Napoleon Bonaparte. On May 16, 2020, amidst the COVID-19 pandemic precautions, Morikawa received his French Légion d’honneur medal via the US Postal Service for his participation in the liberation of France during World War II. A future French Government conferment ceremony take place at a later date when safety and health issues permit.

Morikawa, originally of Bakersfield and later a resident of Los Angeles, California, was assigned to Headquarters Company, 2nd Battalion, 442nd Regimental Combat Team as an infantry assault rifleman and ammunition bearer. He carried ammunition and meals to infantrymen on the front lines and evacuated the wounded from the front lines, frequently under heavy enemy fire. Morikawa served in four Allied campaigns, the Rome-Arno; Northern Apennines; (France) Rhineland-Vosges and Rhineland-Maritime Alps; and Po Valley. 

Morikawa received the Combat Infantryman Badge; Bronze Star Medal; Army Good Conduct Medal; American Campaign Medal; European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with four (4) Bronze Campaign/Battle Stars; Distinguished Unit Badge (now known as the Presidential Unit Citation); World War II Victory Medal; Honorable Service Lapel Button-World War II; and Marksman Badge with Rifle Bar. In 2011 he received the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest honor the U.S. Congress can bestow.

Morita, a U.S. Army and civil service retiree, has completed the applications to obtain the Légion d’honneur for 30 Nisei veterans who participated in the liberation of France during WW II. His pro bono assistance is also offered to veterans and families seeking documents and medals from U.S. government entities. Jeff can be reached at jeff_kine_57@icloud.com.   

Morikawa in WW II uniform.  Photo: Morikawa family.

WW II Veterans Speak to High School Students in Honolulu

(L-R) Hawaii Nisei Veteran Shinye Gima (MIS), Lorry Dillion, Kaiser HS history teacher, Kenji Ego (442nd RCT), and Lynn Heirakuji, President, Nisei Veterans Legacy spoke to 200 students at Kaiser High School in Honolulu on March 3, 2020. Photo: Lynn Heirakuji.

Lynn Heirakuji, President, Nisei Veterans Legacy gave a presentation on the Nisei Soldiers of WWII who served in the 100th Infantry Battalion, 442nd Regimental Combat Team, Military Intelligence Service, and 1399 Engineer Construction Battalion to 200 students at Kaiser High School in Honolulu on March 3, 2020. Nisei Veterans Shinye Gima, MIS, and Kenji Ego, 442nd RCT, shared their inspiring personal war and post war stories and then took questions from the students. The students were thrilled to be up close and personal with these special Nisei Veterans. The event was coordinated by Lory Dillon, Kaiser High School history teacher. The Nisei Veterans Legacy (NVL) is a Hawaii nonprofit whose educational mission is to preserve, perpetuate and share the legacy of the Americans of Japanese Ancestry who served in the U.S. Armed Forces during WWII. Learn more at: nvlchawaii.org.   

Scholarship Awardee, Stays in Touch with JAVA

Jamie Ryan next to a telescope at the VERITAS Observatory in Arizona.  Photo: Jamie Ryan

Jamie Ryan

Los Angeles, CA.  I had the honor of receiving the Ranger Grant Hirabayashi Scholarship in 2011. The scholarship helped allow me to graduate from Harvard in 2015 and, consequently, to enter UCLA where I am currently pursuing a PhD in astrophysics. My thesis project will attempt to learn about the nature of dark matter using cosmic ray anti-matter. I am still grateful to JAVA for their generosity.

Thinking of the scholarship, I can’t help but be reminded of the role Japanese-American veterans have had in securing the opportunity Japanese-Americans like myself can enjoy today. Through JAVA members, I was made aware of the incredible courage and patriotism demonstrated by Ranger Hirabayashi and others like him, including fellow MIS member R. Lee Ujifusa, my grandfather, in the face of great adversity and prejudice.  Their example paved the way out of an era of widespread anti-Japanese sentiment, and the lives they led continue to inspire me today.

Receiving this scholarship led me to learn more about Japanese-American veterans.  Conversations sparked by this scholarship, for example, inspired me to visit the Japanese American National Museum and nearby Go For Broke Monument.  Due to the JAVA scholarship, I also feel like I have learned more about my grandfather – a member of the 191st  Signal Repair Company.

[EdNote. Grant Hirabayashi is one of 14 linguists of the Military Intelligence Service (MIS) who volunteered to serve in the Merrill’s Marauders, a special forces unit which operated behind enemy lines in Burma to disrupt their activities.  Nisei translated captured documents, interrogated prisoners, eavesdropped on enemy discussions and served as riflemen.  Hirabayashi received the Combat Infantryman’s Badge, two Bronze Star Medals, and was inducted in the Rangers Hall of Fame.]

2019 Scholarship Winner to Begin Residency in Radiology

Dr. Monica Matsumoto with proud parents. Photo: Monica Matsumoto

Last year's Founder's Scholarship winner, Monica Matsumoto, recently shared the exciting news that she will join the University of Pennsylvania’s integrated Interventional Radiology residency program in July 2020. Dr. Matsumoto, who graduated from the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine in May, expressed her sincere appreciation for the scholarship and how much the funds helped her finance her last year of medical education expenses.


JAVA has recently switched to a new domain name for our website - www.java-us.org. While our old web address www.java.wildapricot.org will still function and land you in the exact same spot, we wanted to better focus attention on the acronym for the Japanese American Veterans Association and add emphasis with US.


Lillian Chiyeko Kimura

April 7, 1929 – April 23, 2020

Lillian Kimura. Photo: Legacy.com

Lillian Chiyeko Kimura was born on April 7, 1929 in Glendale, California, to Homer and Hisa (Muraki) Kimura. During World War II, along with her family, she was incarcerated at the Manzanar War Relocation Center. At Manzanar, she was influenced by programs for Japanese American women and girls run by the YWCA. Lillian graduated from the University of Illinois with a Master's in Social Work. She worked for the YWCA of Chicago and rose to become the Associate Executive Director of the YWCA of the USA in NYC.  She also became involved with the Japanese American Citizens League (JACL) especially the redress movement which provided reparations for Japanese Americans interned during WW II and brought congressional attention to the issue of acknowledging and apologizing for the violation of rights of Japanese Americans as U.S. Citizens. In 1992, she became the first female elected as JACL's national president. In her retirement, she was a docent with the Ellis Island Immigration museum.

With sympathy, JAVA President Gerald Yamada noted the recent passing of Japanese American women, “[i]n April 2020, the Japanese American community lost three icons – Irene Hirano, Helen Kawagoe, and Lillian Kimura.  I met each of them in the 1980’s and have fond memories of working with them over these many years.  Their enduring contributions will not be forgotten.”   

[Ed Note: The above write-up was based on the Legacy obituary found at https://www.legacy.com/obituaries/dailygazette/obituary.aspx?n=lillian-chiyeko-kimura&pid=196114170 ]


U.S. Army WWII Nisei Veteran

Seated L Herbert Yanamura, Linda (Ishimoto) Inlay (daughter of Arthur Ishimoto); Standing: Amy (Yanamura) Young (Herbert’s daughter), Wade Ishimoto (cousin of Herbert’s wife).

Herbert Kiyoto Yanamura, 95, passed away peacefully at St. Francis Hospice Nuuanu on January 19, 2020. He was born on April 20, 1924 in Honaunau, South Kona, to coffee farmers Sakamatsu and Tatsuyo (Tachibana) Yanamura. While still a senior at Konawaena High School in 1943, Herbert volunteered to join the 442nd RCT and was sent to Camp Shelby, MS, for basic training with K Company.  Due to his strong Japanese language skills he was selected to transfer to the Military Intelligence Service Language School in Camp Savage, MN.

          During WWII Herbert served with the 96th Infantry Division in the Leyte and Okinawa Campaigns.  Until just before his death he could recount in detail the massive invasion of Okinawa on 4/1/45 in which he participated. His war experience in Okinawa was portrayed in the 2015 docufilm, The Surrender Call.

          After the war, Herbert attended University of Hawaii - Manoa on the GI Bill.  He subsequently worked for the U.S. Soil Conservation Service, U.S. Navy, and retired from the Hawaii State Department of Land and Natural Resources.

          Herbert was predeceased by his wife of 54 years, Chiyo (Sasaki), in 2006.

He is survived by son, Jay (Kalene), daughter, Amy (Russell) Young, grandchildren, Michael (Kaiemi) Young, Jennifer (Jonathan) Ono, Jayson (Gracia) and Jaclyn Yanamura, as well as two great-grandchildren, Kyrie Young and Aila Yanamura.

Also surviving are brothers, Kenneth and Franklin, and sister, Bertha Yanagida.

          Private services to be held at a later date. The family requests no koden or flowers.  Donations may be made to MIS Veterans Club of Hawaii or UH Foundation in his memory.

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

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

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