Quiet Warriors

On February 19, 1942, two months after the Japanese Navy attacked Pearl Harbor, President Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066. Almost 12,000 Japanese and Japanese Americans were sent to concentration camps. Among them, two thirds were American-born Nisei. Many of the young men were in two groups: “No-No Boys” and volunteers (or drafted) for the U.S. Army. Now that they are aging, the quiet Nisei veterans are willing to tell their unspoken stories. Having lived through the war themselves, their wishes for peace are immense.

*The 13 articles in this series were originally published in The North American Post-Northwest Nikkei during 2003-2004. The North American Post recently edited and republished them on their website.

war en ja

Min (Minoru) Tsubota

“I had it in my backpack. I couldn’t wash it. Okaasan collected 1,000 stitches at Tule Lake from 1,000 different women, one stitch for one. If you were born in the Year of Tiger, you can stitch as many as you want because tigers are strong and it’s good luck.”

Min Tsubota, a 442nd Regimental Combat Team veteran, was showing his 60-year-old “senninbari,” a long sash with 1,000 stitches. Though it has a few small stains, it still looks almost brand-new; it is made of a rice sack. He thinks life must have been particularly hard at the …

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war en ja

Paul Hosoda

“Equality and justice, that’s the foundation,” Paul Hosoda says about his beliefs. “[We] all should be given the same chance to be treated equally as everyone else…That’s God’s gift.”.

Sitting next to Paul, his wife Mary smiles. They have been together for 48 years, since they met at Blaine Memorial United Methodist Church after the war.

“We (Fort Lewis Nisei) spent weekends in Seattle and on Sundays, I went to church—of course, to meet girls. It’s a good place to meet,” he smiles. His faith in justice comes from Christianity, but was also affected strongly by his experiences in the …

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war en ja

Mitsuru Takahashi

“[A] Bronze Star doesn’t really mean very much. Every soldier that was overseas got it. This is the Silver Star and this is the Purple Heart. Dog Tag. And the Presidential Citation. And this is the discharge paper,” explains Mitsuru Takahashi showing the framed memoirs with a smile. His wife June, the high school sweetheart from Minidoka Camp, put it together.

“Where did you get hurt?” I asked him.

The expression on his face turned stiff and he answered, “I got wounded in the shoulder. The bullet grazed but missed the bone and the lungs. No surgery or anything. I …

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war en ja

Pat Hagiwara

“I feel lucky; my life was (lucky) all the way from my birth. In Alaska, I was growing up very close to each other (other Nikkei)… there was only one school, from kindergarten to high school, in one building… In wintertime, the main drag (Stedman St., Ketchikan) was a hill; the stores blocked off the street with boards, so kids could slide for several blocks…”

Pat Hagiwara talks cheerfully, as though it happened yesterday. He was one of four Nisei soldiers from the Alaska National Guard. Now, he enjoys a quiet, ordinary life.

Pat’s father, originally from Nagano-ken, immigrated to …

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war en ja

Art Susumi

“No, I wasn’t afraid. I saw a lot of dead bodies around me during the war,” said Art Susumi, who became an undertaker at the age of 22.

That was his answer to the question, “Are you afraid to sleep under the same roof with dead bodies?”

Art received a Bronze Star during World War II for rescuing wounded soldiers of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team in spite of his own injuries. After the war was over, he became the only Japanese American funeral director in Washington State. He retired from E. R. Butterworth Funeral Homes in 1991 after 43 …

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