By J.K. YAMAMOTO, Rafu Staff Writer
On June 5, 1999, the Go For Broke Monument — containing the names of Japanese Americans who served in the U.S. armed forces during World War II — was dedicated in Little Tokyo with more than 1,500 people in attendance.
A large crowd turned out under cloudy skies on June 7 to celebrate the monument’s 15th anniversary, but some speakers noted that there were far fewer Nisei veterans in attendance compared to the first ceremony.
Bill Seki, chairman of the Go For Broke National Education Center, paid tribute to “the courage and sacrifice of the men whose names are etched on the monument” and introduced veterans from the 100th Infantry Battalion, 442nd Regimental Combat Team, 522nd Field Artillery Battalion, 232nd Combat Engineer Company, 1399th Engineer Construction Battalion, and Military Intelligence Service. Veterans of other wars were also asked to stand and be recognized.
Since the monument’s unveiling, “hundreds of thousands of schoolchildren, adults and families have visited these grounds to pay their respects to a generation of men who answered their country’s call even as their country turned its back on their families,” said Seki. “They were the fathers of my childhood friends. They were humble men … whose lives are almost storybook representations of the rights and responsibilities of American citizenship.”
The presentation of colors was conducted by the LAPD Honor Guard with the Los Angeles Police Emerald Society Pipes and Drums. Helen Ota sang the national anthem, Timothy Moy, grandson of an MIS veteran, led the Pledge of Allegiance, and Rev. Mark Nakagawa of Centenary United Methodist Church gave the invocation. Seki called for a moment of silence for veterans who have passed away.
GFBNEC President Don Nose addressed the young people in the audience: “I hope this ceremony will touch all of you deeply … I hope you will come away inspired to learn more about the extraordinary legacy of the Nisei soldiers, feel compelled to do your part to ensure that their legacy lives on as the soul of this community.”
Nose also had an announcement: “As we stand in the shadow of the Go For Broke Monument, we’re also a stone’s throw away from the future home of this organization. By this time next year we will finally be located in Little Tokyo as we take up residence in the (former) Nishi Hongwanji building (part of the Japanese American National Museum) … We’ve been working with JANM … towards a long-term lease for that building. We’re excited to say that the work is done.
“Later this summer, once we have all the approved permits, we’ll actually start doing the renovation work on the building. We’ll bring the historic space up to building code so that we can occupy that space. We’re really excited to take part in the vibrant Little Tokyo community.”
Vietnam Vet’s Perspective
The keynote speaker was Vietnam veteran Scott Takahashi, who was drafted in November 1968 and served with A Battery of the 2nd Battalion, 35th Artillery. “His battery was ordered to constantly move and even found itself for a time crossing over the border into Cambodia,” Seki said.
Speaking as a Sansei, Takahashi said, “This monument is an important tribute to a very special group of men within a special generation, the greatest generation. I’m proud to say that my father, Masao Takahashi, along with Col. Young Oak Kim, Buddy Mamiya and Ben Tagami … (worked to) perpetuate the legacy of the Nisei veterans. Not just the heroic units whose insignias you see across the top of the face, but the brave individuals whose names grace its walls.”
During the war, Takahashi’s mother, then Elma Amamoto, was sent to the Santa Anita Assembly Center in Arcadia and then the War Relocation Authority camp in Amache, Colo. Her brother and her sister’s husband served in the Army. His father’s family was sent to Manzanar, where one of his uncles volunteered to serve with the 442nd.
“In 1943, Mom and Dad were allowed to leave their respective camps about the same time and moved to Detroit, where they met,” Takahashi said. “In Detroit, Dad was drafted. Because of the high number of casualties suffered by the 100th Battalion, his training was cut short and he shipped overseas to join Company C and fought in France and Italy, where he participated in the Champagne Campaign, Po Valley and Gothic Line. When Dad returned from the war, my parents married.”
Noting that “we are losing our World War II veterans at an increasing rate,” Takahashi said, “I would urge those of you have not shared any of your experiences with your children, grandchildren, or anyone else mature enough to understand, to do so before those stories are lost forever. It is also the responsibility of the Sansei, Yonsei, Gosei and others, in this age of technology, to record any stories that they’re privileged enough to hear.
“I don’t necessarily mean stories about combat — those stories can be much too painful — but the hardships they faced and how they coped. I was fortunate enough to hear some of these stories as a child. Consequently, the Issei and Nisei have been my heroes since I was old enough to understand what they endured. Unfortunately, too many of those stories have already been lost …
“You can start with simple but sometimes painful questions. Were you in camp? What camp? Were you in the service? What unit? After the answers to these basic questions, do some research and the journey begins.”
Takahashi said of the Nisei vets, “These men that you see seated here — your husbands, brothers, fathers, grandfathers, great-grandfathers, uncles and friends — are true American heroes … The values they taught us guided most of us to excel in our endeavors. In Korea and Vietnam, many of us lived in the shadow of a hero, wanting to live up to the reputation they earned.”
He added, “It was the families and girlfriends who saw their sons, husbands, brothers, nephews, cousins and boyfriends leave to fight on faraway battlefields, often waiting behind barbed wire. Can you even begin to imagine the anguish of a mother who learns of the death of a son while her three remaining sons are still in harm’s way?…
“Living with a combat veteran is not easy. Many of you know that. War experiences never leave you. I want to thank all of you for sticking by your veteran. I especially thank my wife for her constant support through all these years of what we now know as PTSD.”
Nose presented an award to Brent Doi, president and owner of Putting Edge Greens & Turf, for providing artificial turf for the monument at no cost. “It really does look wonderful … It will continue to look like this for the next 20 years because Brent decided to upgrade the quality of the turf that he put in here,” Nose said. “We do not need to cut this grass or water it … As the cost of water continues to escalate in California, we will not have that cost associated with maintaining our monument.”
Nose noted, “He had many relatives that were in the war, but actually he never personally heard any of their stories from them. I think this is due to the unpretentious and humble nature that is exhibited by our vets and is more often the norm … Once he did visit the monument, he decided to donate the turf as he saw many of both his and his wife’s relatives’ names listed.”
Doi and his wife Leann have more than a dozen relatives who are veterans, including their fathers, who served in the Korean War.
Floral tributes were presented by Don Miyada and daughter Marianne Miyada for the 100th; Mitsuo Kunihiro and daughter Linda Kunihiro for the 442nd; Ralph Kaneshiro and son Johnathon Kaneshiro for the MIS; Shirley Hibino and June Hibino, daughters of Yukio Hibino, for the 522nd; Roger Eaton for the 232nd; and Cedrick Shimo for the 1399th. Patriotic music was played by the North Torrance Youth Musicians Ensemble, conducted by Leonard Narumi.
Rev. Peter Hata of Higashi Honganji gave the blessing. Seki and the Nisei vets conducted the opportunity drawing.
Special guests included Rep. Mark Takano, Vice Consul Chikara Komiyama of the Consulate General of Japan in Los Angeles, State Sen. Kevin de Leon, Assemblymember Al Muratsuchi, Assemblymember Ed Chau, Los Angeles County Supervisor Mike Antonovich, LAPD Deputy Chief Terry Hara, and Nicole Nishida of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.
Photos by J.K. YAMAMOTO/Rafu Shimpo