By CHRIS BRUSATTE
I can still see his wide grin, his eyes sparkling. I can still hear his chuckle. I was only fortunate enough to know Victor Abe for two years, but his humor and his warmth will always be such a fond memory for me. Victor passed away in early April after a full 95 years of life, but still too soon.
Before he became a heroic soldier, Victor “Vic” Abe was born in Los Angeles on May 4, 1920. Here he attended elementary and secondary school, showcasing the remarkable intelligence that would define all stages of his life. From my far-too-few conversations with him, he seemed to be a fun-loving youth who was passionate about Boy Scouts, swimming, and keeping active.
With the outbreak of World War II, his family’s lives were turned upside down. In February of 1942, Victor was drafted into the Army. That same month, the infamous Executive Order 9066 was issued, which would lead to the incarceration of all Japanese Americans along the West Coast. Victor’s family was forcibly moved to Santa Anita before being incarcerated at Heart Mountain in Wyoming.
Meanwhile, Victor took basic training in Arkansas and then went to Camp Savage in Minnesota to attend the Military Intelligence Service Language School. He used his intelligence and knowledge of the Japanese language to become an expert soldier linguist. He fought overseas, including in the Philippines.
When the war ended, Victor resumed his college education at Berkeley. He flourished in his studies, then became an accomplished structural engineer. He married his beautiful wife, Esther, and had two daughters, Vicki and Verna.
Victor was a huge part of the veterans organization now known as Go For Broke National Education Center, from its earliest days. The constant support that he and his family gave has been a backbone to the organization. They were weekly attendees to every Monday meeting, and Victor was a constant presence at all events and educational initiatives. Most lasting, however, was his work on the Go For Broke Monument in downtown Los Angeles, of which he was the structural engineer.
Mostly, though, Victor was one of the beating hearts of the organization. His smile lit up every Monday meeting; his jokes left everyone chuckling; and his kindness and warmth was contagious. Just sitting and talking with Victor was a joy. His wit and intelligence were astounding, even at 95 years old.
In talking about his World War II service, Victor once related, “We all went and served with distinction, so we’re all pretty proud of that.” Looking back on his entire life – 95 years of distinction, hard work, courage, kindness, character, and warmth – I myself can just humbly say that I am blessed to have known him. He will be greatly missed at Go For Broke National Education Center, but rest assured, never forgotten.
Chris Brusatte is exhibit manager for the Go For Broke National Education Center.