AAP staff report
MINNEAPOLIS (May 21, 2010) – The Japanese American Veterans of Minnesota held its annual memorial service Monday at Fort Snelling National Cemetery, where Nisei veterans and their descendants gathered to read off the names of fellow veterans and their spouses that have since past on.
JAVM president Edwin (Bud) Nakasone gave introductory remarks, followed by an invocation by U.S. Army Chaplain (Major) Robert Burmeister. The keynote address was delivered by Dan Motoyoshi, a board member of the Japanese American Citizens League – Twin Cities chapter.
Like all aging veterans of World War II, the Nisei (second-generation Japanese Americans) are becoming fewer in numbers. As with each year since the memorial event began around 12 years ago, a moment of silence was given to honor deceased Japanese American veterans.
An honor roll call of the deceased was a roster numbering 56 names as it was read aloud by Bud Nakasone and John Takekawa. It was a list of 38 names when the event began 12 years ago.
Sam Honda, JAVM vice president and event chair, coordinated the decoration of the veterans’ gravesites with flowers after the service.
“Our first memorial service was in 1998,” Honda remarked, “and we are fortunate to have the help from the Fort Snelling National Cemetery staff.”
JAVM secretary, Kathy Ohama Koch, has maintained a list of local veterans, primarily from the World War II era, since the organization was formed in 1991.
Most of them were interned during the war. The men volunteered to serve their country, while the women, children and elders remained in the camps for the duration of the war. After the war they moved to Minnesota and became the foundation of the Japanese American community.
Many local Nisei veterans went through the Military Intelligence Service Language School (MISLS) at Camp Savage and Fort Snelling, and would return to Minnesota at the conclusion of the war.
A plaque at the former Camp Savage site just off Highway 13, quotes, General Charles Willoughby, chief of intelligence for General Douglas MacArthur, who credits 6,000 Nisei MISLS with gathering intelligence and shortening the Pacific War by as much as two years.
Other local Nisei were members of the 100th Infantry Battalion/442nd Regimental Combat Team, a blend of Hawaiian and mainland Japanese Americans who saw some of the fiercest combat of the war in North Africa, Italy and Germany. They became nicknamed the “Go For Broke” and “The Purple Heart” Battalion because of such enormous casualties.
Tom Hara would comment during his 2007 keynote that the Nisei veterans have an “esprit de corp” that is like no other unit he has ever seen.
Some of the Nisei veterans who joined later in the war would serve in the occupation of Japan, such as Bud Nakasone, and in the Korean War, such as George Murakami. Some of their children, such as Tom Hara, would serve in combat during the Vietnam War, and the next generation is now serving in the Gulf War, Iraq and Afghanistan.
The Nisei and their descendents fought again for the next 50 years to make the U.S. government admit to the injustice in interning Japanese Americans during the war era, and the community has since helped to define Asian American identity in becoming a model champion for civil and human rights.