Congress Bestows Highest Honor

Congress to bestow highest honor on Japanese-American soldiers: Award awakens memories for Watsonville World War II veterans (Photo credit: Shmuel Thaler/Sentinel)

by Donna Jones

Ben Umeda & Ichiro Sam Sugidono

WATSONVILLE - A German bullet slammed into Ichiro Sam Sugidono's (Poston 220-10-B) head shortly after he arrived in Italy. Fortunately, Sugidono's steel helmet stopped the shot, leaving him with a concussion and the need for the hearing aid in his left ear.
     Many of his comrades in the U.S. Army's 442nd Regimental Combat Team weren't so lucky. While their families were imprisoned behind barbed wire in camps in the United States, thousands of Japanese-American soldiers fought for their country in some of the fiercest battles of the war. Hundreds were killed in action.
     Wednesday, nearly 70 years after their service, the nation's leaders will pay tribute to the 442nd [RCT], as well as Japanese-Americans soldiers who served in the 100th Infantry Battalion and Military Intelligence [Service], with the presentation of a Congressional Gold Medal during a ceremony in Washington, D.C.
     "We did what we had to do," said Sugidono. "We fought. We fought them pretty good."
     Tasked with pushing the Germans from tough terrain in the mountains of Italy and France, the 442nd and the 100th Infantry Battalion - Japanese-Americans from Hawaii who were the first to fight in Europe and whose decimated ranks were folded into the 442nd - earned seven Distinguished Unit Citations, more than 4,000 Purple Hearts, 21 Medals of Honor, 29 Distinguished Service Crosses, 588 Silver Stars and more than 4,000 Bronze Stars.
     The latest honor, the most prestigious award bestowed by Congress, comes as the numbers of 442nd veterans dwindle. Sugidono, 89, is one of the few left of the more than 70 Japanese-American soldiers from the Watsonville-Santa Cruz area.
     Monday, he sat on the sofa of his Watsonville home with fellow veteran Ben Umeda, who served in military intelligence. The award seemed bittersweet to the men. Both recalled being sent to internment camps after the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor.
     Sugidono, a Watsonville High School graduate, was sent to Poston, Arizona (block 220-10-B), and Umeda, who originally hails from the town of Selma near Fresno, was sent to the Gila River Relocation Camp near Phoenix.  As 18-year-olds, they registered for the draft, they said, but, despite being born and raised in California, they were classified "4C," enemy aliens, unfit to serve.  Later, officials changed their minds and sought volunteers for an all Japanese-American unit. Sugidono's brother, Jiro Sugidono (Poston 220-12-B) , volunteered and also served with the 442nd. Sugidono was drafted shortly thereafter.
     Wearing a ball cap emblazoned with the 442nd's motto, "Go For Broke," Sugidono said sometimes it seemed as if the Army's leadership was trying to get rid of the Japanese-Americans and letting the Germans do the job. He recalled one mission to rescue fellow soldiers pinned down by the Germans. The Germans quickly turned their firepower on the rescuers. With little cover, they hit the dirt. Standing up was a sure way to get killed. Sugidono said it reminded him of a Boardwalk game. "It was like shooting ducks," he said.
     Still, they made it to the trapped soldiers, and he helped carry out a big Hawaiian who didn't make it. Decades later, Sugidono shuddered at the memory of the coldness of the man's arm when it slipped off the stretcher and brushed against him. 
     ............More painful memories awaited their return.........
     Sugidono said he was denied service at restaurants and gas stations in his hometown. Umeda, who served as a translator in the Philippines, occupied Japan and Korea, became a pharmacist after the war and moved to Watsonville.
     He said going through old newspapers at the library, he found a postwar opinion piece signed by more than a dozen residents urging "the Japs" not to return.
     Sugidono and Umeda said they appreciated the award for calling attention to a story that's unknown to many. 
     Sugidono said he watched the documentary, "442: Live with Honor: Die with Dignity," at the Rio Theater in Santa Cruz during the recent Pacific Rim Film Festival.
     "It was packed, and after it was over, people shook my hand, hugged me," he said. "I was shocked. I almost cried."

             VIEW ON THE WEB
Congressional Gold Medal Ceremony honoring Japanese American World War II veterans
2-3:30 p.m. Wednesday 


Source: http://www.santacruzsentinel.com/localnews/ci_19235195


Baseball in Arizona

Poston III Baseball at Gila River camps

   The Poston camp III Yankees baseball team led by manager Jimmy Shigemi Fujita (308-5-C) , played seven games against Gila River at the Butte and Canal camps. Among those from Poston who made the 211 mile trek through the hot Arizona southeast for the game on July 4, 1944 were Poston III administrator, Gerald Shigeru Wumino (305-5-D); Kay Kazumi Hanada (326-4-A); Jay Jitsuo Nishida (308-3-CD);  brothers Maya Miyamoto (308-13-C) and Chokichi Roy Miyamoto (309-6-C); Harry Hisatoshi Sakamoto (328-11-C);  and Frank Goro Tanaka (307-2-A).  
     Frank Tanaka hit an impressive .371 in 10 games while playing in the Poston “A” League, while Maya Miyamoto hit .333, and Chokichi Miyamoto hit .313 in nine games.
      Of their seven games played at Gila River, the Yankees suffered one loss was with the Canal All-Stars and twice to the Zeni’s Block 28 team (named for Kenichi Zenimura). The Yankees won 3 and lost 4 during their stay at the Gila River camps.

      At the end of the visit to Gila River, the Poston III Yankees’ coach Fujita praised the sportsmanship of the team and fans at Gila. On behalf of the entire Poston team, he also extended his sincere gratitude to Block 28 and especially to Kenichi Zenimura.

     In 2005,  the City of Chandler, Arizona selected the name "Nozomi Park" for a new park site to honor all Japanese Americans who were interned in Arizona during WWII. Nozomi is the Japanese word for "hope" and was inspired by the game of baseball that was played behind barbed wire in the camps. Ultimately the game gave an entire community a sense of hope and normalcy, making life bearable while being unjustly incarcerated by their own country.

    Unfortunately the City of Chandler has stopped discussion on the plans for Nozomi Park due to budget problems.  Instead of allowing this idea to "die, " the Arizona Baseball Community -- the official adopt-a-park sponsors of West Chandler Park -- is asking for your support to rename West Chandler Park to Nozomi Park
     The goal is have the name change completed in time to re-dedicate the park in February 2012, the 70th Anniversary of President F.D. Roosevelt's signing of Executive Order 9066,  and during the month of the Day of Remembrance.  E.O 9066 gave the War Department authority to create military exclusion areas during wartime.  This set in motion the beginning of the evacuation of people of Japanese ancestry from the Western states.

      Bill Staples, baseball historian and author, is asking for your support in signing a petition that calls for honoring all those incarcerated in Japanese American Internment camps in Arizona during WWII with the renaming of a park in Chandler, Arizona.

      Please sign the petition, and spread the word. A MONETARY DONATION IS NOT REQUIRED TO SIGN THE PETITION.  Below is a link to the petition and a background summary on the story: 

Kenichi Zenimura, Japanese American Baseball Pioneer by Bill Staples, Jr. McFarland (July 1, 2011)  ISBN-10: 0786461349 ISBN-13: 978-0786461349. See Chapter 6: A Taste of Freedom (1944) p. 148-149.

 “Ball Team Visits Gila,” Poston Chronicle, July 4, 1944.
 “Himaka Wins Batting Title,” Poston Chronicle, July 6, 1944.
 “Dust and Desert,” Poston Chronicle, July 15, 1944


Honored at nation's Capitol for service during WWII

Munster man to be honored at nation's Capitol for service during WWII
George T. Okamoto
 October 18, 2011

     MUNSTER, INDIANA--A local man will be honored in Washington, D.C., later this month as part of a Congressional Gold Medal ceremony honoring formerly imprisoned Japanese-Americans.
     George T. Okamoto (Poston 12-5-AB) , 87, of Munster, Indiana was one of 120,000 Japanese-Americans who was imprisoned in internment camps after the 1941 bombing of Pearl Harbor.  He will be among the Nisei veterans honored in Washington, D.C., at the end of this month as part of a Congressional Gold Medal ceremony honoring formerly imprisoned Japanese-Americans.
     The three-day ceremony honors Japanese-American veterans who served in the 100th Infantry Battalion, 442nd Regimental Combat Team and in the Military Intelligence Service.
     During World War II, Okamoto and his family were forcibly evacuated from southern California and imprisoned in the desert at the Poston, Arizona internment camp block 12-5-AB .  In 1943, George volunteered and joined the all Nisei 44nd RCT.  He fought in the European theater with the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, Company I, and was injured while in Italy.
     After the war, he moved to Chicago to work as an artist in advertising.  Later, he  married and had a family of five children.

Source: http://www.nwitimes.com/news/local/lake/munster/article_27a900ae-c120-5b5d-9d5e-2dfee5d2f359.html


Talk on Nikkei WWII Experience in Orange County

Chizuko Judy Sugita de Queiroz 
Photo credit: J.K. Yamamoto
FULLERTON — Historian Arthur A. Hansen, emeritus professor of history at Cal State Fullerton, and Chizuko Judy Sugita DeQueiroz (Poston 38-7-C) , who lived in an internment camp as a child, will deliver a free, public talk on “The World War II Experience of Orange County Nikkei in History and Memory.”
     The event will take place Wed, Oct. 19, at Fullerton Arboretum, 1900 Associated Rd., with exhibit viewing and entertainment at 4 p.m., recognition of Orange County Agricultural and Nikkei Heritage Museum benefactors and visionaries at 5 p.m., and lecture at 5:30 p.m.
     DeQueiroz has lived in California her entire life except for 3 1/2 years (1942-1945) during World War II when she and her family were forcibly removed from the West Coast and confined by the U.S. government in the Poston, Arizona internment camp.
     On Aug. 6, 1945, most of her father’s family members in his hometown of Hiroshima were killed by the U.S. atomic bombing of that city. In 2004, DeQueiroz published a book, “Camp Days, 1942-1945,” her memoir, in paintings and words, about her years of incarceration.
     Hansen, a former senior historian at the Japanese American National Museum, will focus his talk on the life and death of Orange County’s most famous hero in World War II, Kazuo Masuda. His presentation will highlight the racist reception accorded his sister Mary when, after Kazuo’s battlefield death in Italy, she attempted to investigate Orange County conditions prior to her family’s return there from the Gila River Relocation Center in Arizona.
     Hansen also will cover the personal visit of Lt. Gen. Joseph W. Stilwell to the Fountain Valley farmhouse of the Masuda family on Dec. 8, 1944, to present Kazuo’s Distinguished Service Cross to Mary Masuda, an event followed by a rally at the Santa Ana Bowl in which one speaker was Capt. Ronald Reagan.
     When Masuda’s body was transported in 1948 from Italy to Orange County for interment, the Westminster Memorial Cemetery manager declared that because it was a racially restricted cemetery, Sgt. Masuda could not be buried in a “desirable” cemetery section, a decision reversed after intense and supportive public reaction.
     Hansen will discuss the successful culmination of the Japanese American redress movement on Aug. 10, 1988, when President Reagan, reminded of his words at the Santa Ana Bowl in 1944, signed the Civil Liberties Act of 1988. Reagan’s words at that 1944 rally: “Blood that has soaked into the sands of a beach is all of one color. America stands unique in the world, the only country not founded on race, but on a way — an ideal. Not in spite of, but because of our polyglot background, we have had all the strength in the world. This is the American way.”
     The lecture is one of several sponsored by the university’s Center for Oral and Public History, as part of the exhibit “New Birth of Freedom: Civil War to Civil Rights in California” at the Fullerton Arboretum’s Orange County Agricultural and Nikkei Heritage Museum. The exhibit features oral histories and artifacts dating back to the Civil War.
     Call (657) 278-3673 to reserve a seat. For more details, contact Maria Figueroa at mafigueroa@fullerton.edu.

Source: http://rafu.com/news/2011/10/talk-on-nikkei-wwii-experience-in-orange-county/


Restoration Project site

View looking east from the site  10/8/11


Remains of the school auditorium

Internee hand-made adobe bricks used for the school buildings

Unit I elementary school cornerstone


Restoration Project Barrack

Still waiting to be moved    10/8/11

How many families used to live in here?

Double roof Poston barrack

On the Road to Poston 2011

Thank you to H & R Arakawa and J.J. Israel for sharing their photos.
Monument Dedicated at WWII Relocation Camp

 October 7, 1992

From Associated Press

POSTON, Ariz. — More than 1,400 people gathered on an Indian reservation in the desert Tuesday to dedicate a monument where the government built the largest of 10 camps used to intern 120,000 people of Japanese ancestry during World War II.

     The three-story-high, concrete obelisk was built on the former site of the Poston War Relocation Center, where nearly 20,000 Japanese immigrants and their U.S.-born children lived behind barbed wire from 1942 to 1945. Included were 1,851 Japanese-Americans from Orange County, most of them farmer

     "Fifty years ago, the failed leadership of our country condemned guiltless people into concentration camps," said George K. Ikeda, 70, a former internee (214-4-B) from Emmaus, Pa., who spoke at the ceremony.

     The commemoration came 50 years after President Roosevelt signed an order Feb. 19, 1942, paving the way for the forcible evacuation of Japanese-Americans from the West Coast on the grounds that they were a threat to national security. It wasn't until 1983 that a government commission determined that not a single documented act of espionage or sabotage was committed by a Japanese-American on the West Coast.

     The ceremony came less than two weeks after President Bush signed legislation authorizing an additional $400 million to complete reparations payments to those interned and relocated during the war. Each person who spent time in the camps is due $20,000 from the government under a law passed in 1988.

     Part of the 1 1/2-hour ceremony paid tribute to the men from Poston who served in the Army during the war. Among them was Bruce Nagasaki, 68, of San Diego, who went into the Poston camp (36-4-B) at age 17 and was inducted in 1944.

     Nagasaki was asked why he joined the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, which fought in Europe and became the most decorated unit of the war.

     "You figured maybe the next generation would be luckier," he said. "Maybe they'd get more breaks than we did and be able to blend in better."

Source: http://articles.latimes.com/1992-10-07/news/mn-472_1_concentration-camps

Japanese-Americans Recall Harsh Life at WWII Camp
October 8, 1992

Ann Levin, The Associated Press

POSTON, Ariz. — Jimmy Takashima (Poston 322-8-C) had no idea what awaited him half a century ago when, after several months living in converted horse stables at a California racetrack, he got off the train in the middle of the Arizona desert.

     What he and other Japanese-Americans who were put into an internment camp during World War II found was a harsh and desolate place of sweltering tar-paper barracks set behind barbed wire.

     "We were brought into Poston about the middle of September. At that time it was very hot, windy and dusty," said Takashima, 78, of San Diego.

     "When you went to the bathroom in the middle of the night, you could hear the coyotes howling," said Rose Yamauchi, 55, also of San Diego, who was 4 when her family was sent to Poston.

     On Tuesday, Takashima and Yamauchi were among 1,400 people from around the country who gathered to dedicate a monument at the site of the Poston War Relocation Center, the largest of the camps used to intern people of Japanese ancestry during the war.

     The three-story concrete obelisk cost $300,000, raised through donations. It was built with volunteer labor.

     The commemoration came more than 50 years after President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed an order paving the way for the evacuation of some 120,000 Japanese-Americans from the West Coast on the grounds they were a threat to national security.

     "Fifty years ago the failed leadership of our country condemned guiltless people into concentration camps," George K. Ikeda (214-4-B), 70, of Emmaus, Pa., said at Tuesday's dedication. The presidential order "legalized racism and made the accident of birth a crime."

     The Poston Memorial Monument Committee had originally planned to build a Japanese-style pagoda on the site but changed the design for fear of anti-Japanese sentiment, said George S. Oki (229-13-A), co-chairman of the committee.

     Instead, the bottom third of the monument resembles a Japanese stone lantern, which is topped by a 20-foot shaft that towers over the scrubland ringed on all sides by rugged mountains.

     Poston and Manzanar, in the Eastern High Sierra, were the first of 10 such relocation camps. One other camp was built in Arizona; the rest were in Arkansas, Utah, Wyoming, Idaho and California.

     From 1942 to 1945 Poston was home to nearly 20,000 Japanese immigrants and their U.S.-born children. They lived in blocks of wooden barracks, with communal bathrooms and laundry rooms for every 14 barracks.

     Very little remains of the three camps--Poston I, II and III--that sprawled over 71,000 acres of the Colorado River Indian Reservation in western Arizona, about 80 miles south of the gambling resort of Laughlin, Nev.

Source: http://articles.latimes.com/1992-10-08/local/me-667_1_relocation-center

Family Legacy Poston Reunion 2011

Poston Restoration Project Display Table

Thomas (18-2-A) and Masaru (220-12-A) browsing the Poston Chronicles

Hand carved wooden bird pins was a familiar pasttime
1st  assignment upon arrival to Poston--stuff your sack with straw for your mattress.
Old black and white photos of the Poston camp days
Thanks to whoever brought the camp I High School yearbook
Honoring the World War II Nisei veterans
Poston Restoration Project photo albums
Looking up Poston  arrival and departure information
She found her family barrack
Adding missing names and information
Taking a video to capture the information
Looks like they found their relatives barrack
He found his barrack
Taking four bus loads of people and many cars following behind
Loading up the buses for the tour out to Poston
Arrival at the Poston Memorial Monument
Ruby & Bob came a long way to visit

Visiting the Poston Elementary School Unit I site
So this is Poston unit I
Former internees recall their experiences
Poston---the common bond
Recalling the times
Over 500 in attendance
Rev. Paul Nagano, former internee
Kiyo Sato
Head Contractor Ted Kobata
Caring for Our Poston Legacy
Photos courtesy of Bob Iwamasa