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Stories of SSgt Seiji Nakahara, I Company

Stories of SSgt Seiji Nakahara, I Company

By First Sgt Keith Nakahara

SSgt Seiji Nakahara, I Co.

SSgt Seiji Nakahara, I Co.

My Father was in “I” company, he got shot the day before they rescued the “Lost Battalion.”  He got shot in the chest, but luckily, it hit his binoculars and wallet first, then penetrated into his chest and went out through his side, he had a big scar from it. He thought that was his ticket home, but was patched up and sent back into the front lines with the rest of the 442nd, they told him it didn’t hit any vitals, lol.

He fought from Italy, France to inside somewhere in Germany, I saw his discharge papers or maybe it was his DD214. He was wounded 3 times and got the Bronze Star of Valor. I am very proud of my Father and the men of the 442nd and the 100th BN, that they fought not only the enemy, but prejudice, discrimination, racism and ignorance in our own country. Giving all Japanese Americans a better life, and for our children’s future. Their Legacy will go on, and will be remembered.

My Father never talked about the war, but sometimes I could get some pieces of it when we sometimes watched army movies, I’d ask him what kind of weapon he had, and he told me at first, he had a M-1, then after his squad leader got hit, he took his weapon which was a Thompson machine gun or “tommy gun.” He said, going up the hill to rescue the “Lost Battalion”, they ran out of food and water. Supplies couldn’t keep up with them, they were moving fast. They also talked on the radio to HQ, in broken Japanese and Pidgin language. lol. The Germans couldn’t understand what they were saying, lol. When the movie “The Holocaust” played on TV long time ago, he cried, I’ll never forget that. I know now why he cried, he must have passed through some extermination camps in Germany.

I just wanted to say, you and the Sons and Daughters of the 442nd, are doing great things!

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Stories From My Grandpa

Stories From My Grandpa
By Kristen Nemoto Jay

Sgt. Wilbert “Sandy” Holck, 442nd RCT Cannon Co.

photo of Sgt. Wilbert “Sandy” Holck, 442nd RCT Cannon Co.

I don’t remember my grandfather. Not personally, anyway. The only memories I have of him consist of a bleak image of a large J.F.K. velvet painting that he loved, which greeted (or scared) folks who’d walk through the front door of my grandmother’s house. That house was burglarized more times than I can remember growing up but not a single one thought to steal Jr. from the wall. I’d like to think it’s because they knew Grandpa would hunt them down, which—from what I also heard growing up—wouldn’t have been too far off from the truth.

No, sadly, I didn’t know him. There were stories about his time spent fighting in WWII and the Purple Heart he received from serving in the 442nd Regimental Combat Team. But what especially stuck were tales of his parenting style, and the consensus was: strict. His kids—my mother, her three sisters and two brothers—would reference the Von Trapp family a lot; well before they were singing in the mountains with Maria. But because my grandparents had divorced before I was born, and he remarried to have another life in Arizona soon after, I never got the chance to get to know what he was really like.

It wasn’t until he was on his deathbed in 1999, during my freshman year in high school, when I finally found the courage to write him a letter. I don’t remember what I’d written, but according to my mother, when she flew up to see him and say her goodbyes, Grandpa couldn’t stop crying. “He was very touched,” my mom said to me, and I felt bad that my last and only contact with him made him grieve even more.

After his death, years passed on as if — for me anyway — he didn’t exist. I moved on to college in California, then on to grad school soon after in Chicago. And in the beginning of 2013, I’d landed my dream job as a writer in Honolulu. Coincidentally that same year I pitched and wrote a story about an upcoming trip that my family and I were about to embark on: Honolulu to Bruyères 2013 Tour Sister Cities. A trip that would retrace all the steps that Grandpa, and thousands of other Nisei soldiers, took when they were just young adults themselves.

To be quite honest, when I originally signed up to go, I was more excited for the trip to Europe than to learn about a grandfather I hardly knew. Of course I had some interest to try and comprehend what he and so many young men had to go through during a time of great turmoil, but truthfully, I was in it for the rumored endless supply of wine and buttery Croissants.

But after digging deeper into Grandpa’s particular role in Hawai‘i’s connection to the city of Bruyères, I was intrigued to find that he created the initial bond between the two unlikely friendships. I found out that years after the war, he returned to the city and became friends with resident Gerard Deschaseaux. That handshake would then be the first step in creating a close friendship that would last well into my generation.

Then, by day two of the tour in Europe—when I met up with 50-plus Hawai‘i people who were a part of the tour—I realized this trip was already meaning more than I could possibly imagine. For in the short span of nine days, I had gained memories and lessons that would last a lifetime. These experiences included a tour of the grounds of the Dachau Concentration Camp where our Nisei grandfathers once fought off Nazis soldiers; a meet and greet with families whose fathers and grandfathers helped save those who couldn’t pronounce their own last names and vice versa. I met an elder man in Bruyères who broke down into tears after learning that I was a descendant of a Nisei soldier. I made friends with every French person on the tour bus without knowing a smidgen of their language. I watched our American flag rise proudly within the forest of Biffontaine, where nearby in the Vosges Mountains, 800 Nisei soldiers once fought and died (Editor’s note: this figure is for all 100th/442nd soldiers killed during the war) to save the Lost Battalion of 275 trapped soldiers. I paid my respects to the soldiers who didn’t make it home from the war at the Epinal American Cemetery. And I cried as French children sang, with perfect pronunciation, Hawai‘i’s state song of “Hawai‘i Pono‘i.”

Image of American Cemetery

Image of American Cemetery

After the trip, I’ve been blessed to see a whole new meaning and profound appreciation for my life. My grandfather and his Nisei brothers are the reasons why I’m able to have the life that I live today. The very reason why I was able to go to school and have opportunities to succeed. It’s as if they knew, when they were all fighting in the cold mountains of France, so far from home, that their service would mean so much more than themselves one day. That their sacrifice for freedom and proven loyalty will carry on and be remembered by their children’s children’s children.

The Holck family on the Honolulu to Bruyeres 2013 Tour

The Holck family on the Honolulu to Bruyeres 2013 Tour

Although it’s a bit late in my life, I’m happy to have learned more about my grandpa. And even though I may not have known him personally, I feel as if he has always been with me. His legacy lives on: I just have to pay a bit more attention. During our trip to Bruyères, I did see him. I saw his bravery in the cold cells of the Dachau Concentration Camp. I felt his compassion for the elder man who cried tears of joy for saving his family from Nazi persecution. I saw his love for his family and country in the American flag that rose high within the forest of Biffontaine. I saw his deep sorrow and pain within the thousands of unmarked graves of his brothers who didn’t make it home. I felt his pride when I heard those children sing our state anthem. I even felt his sense of humor in The Sound of Music tour while we were in Austria (my family insisted we attend); and his love for life within our French hosts whom did indeed pour us all endless glasses of French wine throughout our entire nine-day tour. Although my grandfather and I haven’t been formally introduced, I know he has been and always will be with me.
And with that, I want to say this to him:
Thank you, Grandpa. And until we meet again, I’ll always remember you.
Love,
Kristen
(Granddaughter of Sgt. Wilbert “Sandy” Holck)

photo of author, Kristen Nemoto Jay

photo of author, Kristen Nemoto Jay

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Hawaii History Day State Fair competition (2017)

Hawaii History Day State Fair competition

Sixth-grader Victoria (Tori) Yamashita and her panel display on the 442nd RCT, titled ‘Go for Broke’.”
Sixth-grader Victoria (Tori) Yamashita and her panel display on the 442nd RCT, titled ‘Go for Broke’.” (from Byrnes Yamashita)

 

 

The legacy of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team is alive and well as represented by several entries in the State Finals of the Hawaii History Day State Fair, held on April 15, 2017 at the Windward Community College on Oahu.

Sons and Daughters members Grace Fujii, Byrnes Yamashita and Jonathan Ego attended the Hawaii History Day State Fair finals at Windward Community College campus and enjoyed the competition and awards ceremony. Jonathan’s father, Kenji Ego, a 442nd RCT veteran, was also in attendance.

Angelee Marshall, a 7th grade student from Kahuku Intermediate and High School, came in second for her 442nd RCT documentary and qualified for the National History Day competition at the University of Maryland, College Park in mid-June. She will share the final version of her documentary so that it can be posted on the S&D website. Stay tuned.

Byrnes’ two nieces, Tori and Katie Yamashita, qualified for the State finals from the Leeward District in the junior and senior categories, respectively. Tori produced a tri-fold display (photo above) on the history of the 100th/442nd RCT titled “Go for Broke.” Katie, along with partner Esther Park, produced a documentary video on the 442nd called “442nd RCT: Japanese American Soldiers Fighting on Two Fronts.” Their project also qualified for the National History Day competition.

There were two entries featuring the 100th/442nd RCT from Maui students that also qualified for the National competition. It was heartwarming to see that students across the State are helping to perpetuate the legacy of the Nisei soldiers of World War II.

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Support the “How Hawaii Changed America” project

Support the How Hawaii Changed America project

Aloha S&D members:

In our monthly meeting of 4 May, the members voted to support the work of Tom Coffman to publish a new book on the Hawaii AJA experience in WW2. Tom is the acclaimed author of deeply researched and powerfully written books on AJA history, particularly focused on pre- and post-WW2 Hawaii. This includes Catch a Wave (required reading in many high school and college courses), I Respectfully Dissent, a biography of Edward H. Nakamura, and How Hawaii Changed America, The Movement for Racial Equality 1939-1942.

Photo of Volume 1 courtesy of Tom Coffman

Photo courtesy of Tom Coffman

This latter book was intended as Volume 1, with Volume 2 to cover 1942 thru 1945. However, Duke University Press wants the new book to combine the full time period of the Hawaii AJA experience in WW2 (1939-1945) in one single book, along with a brief summation of the resulting impacts, such as statehood for Hawaii, expanded thinking on civil rights, immigration, etc.

Because Duke is a nationally prestigious press, this opens the door to spreading knowledge across the Nation of the profound impact Hawaii and our Nisei veterans have had on improving America for all its diverse citizens. Tom is dedicating the next twelve months to get it researched, written and delivered to Duke for publication and distribution.

As many of you know, Tom is an independent researcher/writer and documentary film producer who approaches history from the grassroots up. His work is distinguished by both depth and innovation. If we the S&D are to preserve and protect the 442nd legacy, we need to support the development of such in-depth history. For this purpose we have initiated a new special project, the “How Hawaii Changed America” project to conduct and manage fund-raising efforts to support the research, writing and publication of this book. The MIS Club and Nisei Veterans Legacy (NVL) have also agreed to support a fund-raising effort in their respective memberships.

Why should the S&D support this effort?
1. This book will contribute in a very big way to perpetuating the legacy of the 442nd RCT. It will tell the story of how the many ethnic divisions of Hawaii, and in particular the AJA community, responded to the crushing challenges they faced during the war years. In Tom’s own words:

This new book will breathe with the tensions and possibilities that swelled up through the war. The resulting transformation of Hawai’i from an overseas colony, ruled by a select few, to a robust multiracial state, takes on heightened meaning with the passage of time. Hawai’i has contributed to the passage of national civil rights legislation, liberalization of immigration laws, strengthening of the institutional safeguards of liberty, the increase of East-West exchange, the spread of democracy in Asia, and a general improvement of relationship between East and West, ironically between Japan and the United States.
For a time these developments merely seemed to be inevitable aspects of a great wave of progressive change. Today they stand out as signal lights against the rising storm of global tribalization, intolerance and fanaticism.

2. This story is only sketchily known in Hawaii and is unknown to our fellow Americans on the Mainland. We believe this will change the way history is understood. This is not an academic exercise. We cannot ignore the disquieting signs of a rising tide of intolerance eroding away the hard fought gains in racial equality, else the legacy of our fathers, grandfathers, uncles will cease to have meaning. Supporting the completion and publication of this book is a small task on our part, but with large benefits to preserving and protecting the legacy of the 442nd veterans and all Nisei veterans.

3. Fund-raising to support the research and writing of How Hawaii Changed America is in direct support of the following purposes of our new S&D nonprofit corporation:
• To further historical research into the contributions by the men of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team and their descendants to our Nation, our Freedoms, and the indivisible unity of our People
• To educate the public concerning all aspects of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team

How much money do we need to raise, and how will it be spent?
• Tom has estimated that $35,000 will be needed for the costs of travel and research in archives on the Mainland, and monthly expenses during the next 12 months.
• The MIS Club and NVL will be assisting us in this fund-raising effort.
• Publication costs are not part of this fund-raising project. These costs will be handled by Duke University Press itself.

How can I help?
• You can send a donation by check to the Sons and Daughters of the 442nd RCT, and note on the check that it is for the How Hawaii Changed America fund. (You will be provided with a letter of appreciation and notification that your donation should be deductible as a charitable contribution on your income tax return for 2017.)
• Please mail your donation to:
Sons & Daughters of the 442nd RCT
Attn: Shirley Igarashi
933 Wiliwili St.
Honolulu, HI 96826
• The S&D will match your donation up to $200 per S&D member, adding more “bang for your buck,” up to a total of $5,000 of member donations.
• It would be most appreciated if you could send your donation by the end of this month (31 May).
• Please pass the word — tell your relatives and friends about this new book and the story it will tell of the Hawaii AJA WW2 experience and their contribution to a better America. Please encourage them to donate also.

Thank you.

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This Time in 442nd History (May 2017)

This Time in 442nd RCT History
Start of Life at Camp Shelby for the 442nd RCT: our Fathers, Uncles, Grandfathers

E Co. at Camp Shelby
E Company, 2nd Battalion of the 442nd RCT, Camp Shelby, Mississippi. May 13, 1943. (National Archives and Records Administration.)

 

After the activation of the 442nd RCT in February and formation by March 1943, our men from Hawaii and the mainland went to train at Camp Shelby, Mississippi. Most arrived in April, though some AJAs who were already in the U.S. Army and who were assigned to the 442nd got to Camp Shelby earlier.

The 442nd started training at about the time that the 100th Infantry Battalion, who had come to Camp Shelby from Camp McCoy in Wisconsin, was wrapping up theirs and readying for departure to fight in Europe. For the 442nd there are well known accounts of the fighting between men from Hawaii and men from the mainland. By the account in the following link, there were fights if a different type as well.

From the Hawaii Nisei Story project, you may remember Katsugo Miho’s telling of some of the details of life at Camp Shelby. Or read it for the first time.

Here in moving pictures (of poor video quality but the narration is clear) is an 11 minute film produced by the War Relocation Authority. It is public relations but gives a look at some of the training activities of the 442nd at Camp Shelby. (accessed 4/28/2017)

And finally, a story from the Los Angeles Times about veterans who returned to Camp Shelby in 1995. (accessed 4/28/2017)

Camp Shelby still serves as a training site to this day. It served as the training location for our men of the 442nd RCT.

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