HORSE’S MOUTH: The Army ID Number

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YOSHINAGA-GEORGEBy GEORGE YOSHINAGA

(Published Nov. 12, 2014)

Do numbers have more meaning than just numbers?

This thought came to mind the other day when someone asked me what was my Social Security number. I had to think for about 30 seconds before I could start muttering my number.

On the other hand, if someone asked me what my Army identification number was, even after nearly 70 years since it was assigned me I could rattle it off in a second.

Ask any veterans what their Army ID numbers were and they will respond as quickly as I did.

We rarely are asked about our Army ID numbers, yet we have no problem sounding off the seven-digit numbers.

Remember, the Army ID numbers were issued to the Nisei GIs when they signed up for military service during the 1943-46 era.

Why am I touching on the subject?

Well, the other day I was filling out a form and it called for my Army ID number, which I jotted down on the sheet.

The person requesting the information said, “Are you sure this is your number? You didn’t hesitate a second to put it down. After all these years, are you sure you are right?”

Needless to say, I began to think about what he said.

The next day when I ran into a Nisei friend who I knew was also in the Army during WWII, I asked him, “Hey, can I ask you a question? What was your military ID number when you signed up for the Army?”

He looked at me with a curious face and rattled off his number. “Why are you asking such a question?” he said. Then he added, “Gee, that’s kind of interesting. I never thought about it after all these years. I think I’ll ask some other Nisei guys who served during WWII the same question you put to me and see if they will respond with the correct answer. ”

Hey, to those of you who joined the Army back in those days, try asking your buddies about their ID numbers and see if they react the same way my friend did when I put the question to him.

By the way, those numbers were assigned based on the area where each soldier resided.

In the case of most Nisei, we were given numbers for California residents even though we were drafted in Wyoming (Heart Mountain Relocation Center). The beginning three numbers indicated we were California residents.

I’m not sure who decided this or why. We figured that since we were living in Wyoming, we would be classified as Wyoming residents, but we were all assigned as Californians.

Not too much was ever mentioned about this.

It was an important issue after we got out of service and returned to California because we qualified for the privileges presented to California residents.

If we had been classified as Wyoming residents, many of the benefits we were issued by California would not have been given to the Nisei GIs upon retirement.

Benefits included such things as enrollment in California colleges and stuff like that.

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There was a time when most Americans felt that Japan was the most important country in Asia where the U.S. was concerned, but in recent years, this feeling has been fading away.

However, for the first time in four years, it was found that most in the U.S. still feel that Japan is still leading in importance to America.

A survey found that 46 percent of Americans age 18 and over who were polled consider Japan as the most important Asian partner to the United States, up 11 points from last year. Twenty-six percent chose China.

The survey was conducted from July 31 to Aug. 21, 2014.

Respondents said the result reflected a growing view that China poses a strategic challenge to the United States rather than being seen as a potential partner. Others said there had been much negative news from China compared to Japan, which offered relatively positive news. However, the Japanese Foreign Ministry didn’t have much insight as to why the American public responded more positively to Japan.

Among the respondents in the general public who chose Japan as the United States’ top Asian ally, 63 percent cited political ties as the primary reasons and 19 percent chose trade and economic relations because of Japan’s national character and culture.

A new question was introduced in the latest survey, asking whether Japan and the United States would closely cooperate for peace and stability in the Asia Pacific region. Ninety-one percent of the general public and 97 percent of the opinion leaders said, “Yes.”

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Oh yeah, I looked at my calendar for the coming week and saw that Tuesday would be a national holiday, so since my column appears on Tuesdays and Saturdays, I called Editor Gwen but could not get in touch with her.

I hope she isn’t in Hawaii, where she frequently visits.

At any rate, I will just assume that the week will be regular like always, so I started pounding out today’s column.

I’ve been kind of busy running round the last few days, so I really didn’t have time to think about what to do with the “Mouth.” The only solution was to write it anyway and let the chips fall where they may.

If you’re in Hawaii, Gwen, aloha.

Speaking of “aloha,” I’ve learned a lot about Hawaii since I married my wife, who was born and raised on the island of Maui.

For one thing, I always thought “aloha” was the way Hawaiians bid farewell to friends when they leave the Islands. Not so.

Aloha seems to have so many meanings.

For one thing, people greet each other with “aloha” when meeting, and even when they exchange gifts, they toss in “aloha,” which would indicate it also could mean “thank you.”

My wife’s oldest brother was given the nickname “Aloha” and was known by that moniker for most of his adult life.

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heart mtn chimneyOkay, I’ll jump from Hawaii to Wyoming. That’s because I came across the photo included here when I was clearing out my desk.

The Rafu has run it before, I believe. However, since I want to make my own comments, I thought I would toss it here.

It’s a photo of one of the landmarks at the Heart Mountain Relocation Center.

While we were living there, I guess we didn’t pay too much attention to the landmark but after they tore down the camp, they left the structure standing and it has become the landmark of the camp site.

The photo was taken by one of the former residents during one of his trips there.

When he gave me the photo, he said, “Here, Horse, you can relive your memories of the camp by looking at it every now and then.”

I had it stuck to the wall next to my computer and decided to take it down and put it in my column.

Yes, camp life wasn’t that great, but as I look back and see photos like the one I’m including today, most of us really recall the good times as well as the bad days.

For one thing, I made friends with a lot of Los Angeles-area Nisei, which was an experience for a small-town farm boy from Northern California, and the friendships developed became my life and made me move to the L.A. area after my discharge from the Army back in 1946.

Residing in Los Angeles made it possible for me to become a journalist.

I guess if I had stayed in Mountain View, the small town where my family were farmers, I might still be driving a tractor even at my present age. Instead, I’m sitting at a computer pounding out my chatter for The Rafu.

My change in life after the evacuation and service in the Army makes me wonder what life would have been like for me if it weren’t for WWII and Japanese Americans being thrown in relocation camps.

For one thing, I wouldn’t have the nickname “Horse,” which was tagged on me by the guys from L.A. because they all considered me a farm boy.

Yes, my friends did give me a nickname when I was growing up in Mountain View, but I won’t reveal what it was.

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Gee, I’ve gotten this far in today’s column without really touching on any news items going on in J-Town.

Well, pounding out two columns a week sometimes gets me off the trail.

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A lot of readers expect to find me touching on my trips to Vegas, but as most of you know, I haven’t been there now for a year and four months.

Oh well, I expect to change that in a couple of weeks.

I hope the people at the California Hotel don’t forget who I am when I do show up.

Hopefully some of the readers who go The Cal frequently have told the people there that I’m still around and still banging away on my column.

I chat with friends who still go to The Cal almost monthly, and they tell me the place hasn’t changed at all.

That’s good news because I wouldn’t want to see so many changes that I won’t recognize the place.

See ya in Vegas.

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I have several other items I want to touch on, but I guess I’m running out of the space Editor Gwen allows me, so I’d better find a way to wind up my chatter.

There are a number of stories I have stored up on sports in the JA community.

Sports has always been one of my favorite topics, so I could devote an entire column to this subject. But that would not be pleasing to most folks, so I try to spread my chatter to a lot of community events.

I will be hoping to catch your attention in my next column, so I’ll gallop into the horizon for now.

George Yoshinaga writes from Gardena. Opinions in this column are necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.

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