Junwo “Jim” Yamashita, a 442nd Regimental Combat Team veteran who worked to ensure the public remembered the sacrifices of Nisei soldiers, passed away on Dec. 19 at home, following a brief illness. He was 93.
Yamashita was a charter member of the Americans of Japanese Ancestry World War II Memorial Alliance and served as the educational project manager since its creation in 1997.
For more than 20 years, Yamashita worked on the “Echoes of Silence” educational CD-ROM project. “Echoes of Silence” and the website www.ajawarvets.org contain the profiles of every killed-in-action (KIA) Nisei soldier along with their Caucasian officers. Yamashita led a team of volunteers who worked to collect data and photographs to ensure that the public never forgets that “freedom is not free.”
The 442nd Clubhouse in Honolulu honored Yamashita with its Kansha (Gratitude) Award during the group’s 65th anniversary in 2008 for his efforts to honor those who never made it home.
In 2011, he received the Japanese American Living Legacy Award for his commitment to serving the Japanese American community by participating in work that promotes the community’s legacy.
Yamashita was eager to share his experiences with younger generations of Japanese Americans. In October 2017, he was among the veterans to participate in the annual Spit and Polish event, where Japanese American high school students clean the Japanese American National War Memorial Court in Little Tokyo as a way to give back to the Japanese American community.
Born on May 20, 1924 in Santa Ana, Yamashita spent his formative years in Moapa Valley, Nev. At the age of 19, he enlisted in the newly formed 442nd RCT and was sent to Europe with the 442nd, I Company, 4th Platoon. He survived some of the worst battles in Europe, including the liberation of Bruyères and the rescue of the Texas “Lost Battalion” in Biffontaine.
Yamashita returned to the U.S. and relocated to California to attend a radio and television repair school. Upon graduation, he opened up a successful business from which he retired in 1992.
Yamashita helped organize the Suburban Optimists, SEYO (Southeast Youth Organization), 442nd Club of Southern California, and Americans of Japanese Ancestry World War II Memorial Alliance, among many others.
Memorial services will take place on Saturday, Jan. 27, at 1 p.m. in the SkyRose Chapel at Rose Hills Memorial Park, 3888 Workman Mill Rd., Whittier.