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Educating Allies on Nisei Soldiers' Toughest Fight-to be American

By 1st Lt. Ariana-Jasmine Castrellon | Sept. 13, 2019

SEATTLE, Wash. -- "Beyond Reconciliation," hosted by the Nisei Veterans Committee and the Japan-American Society of the State of Washington, celebrated the contributions and service of Nisei veterans and their lasting legacy on the alliance between the U.S. and Japan, at the Nisei Veterans Committee Memorial Hall, Sept. 8.

The second annual luncheon welcomed representatives from the 7th Infantry Division, the Illinois Army National Guard, and the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force. The Illinois National Guard and the JGSDF have been training together for the Rising Thunder 19 exercise the past three weeks at the Yakima Training Center in Yakima, Washington.

"We are honoring the 7th Division as a Seattle neighbor for Nisei Veterans Committee," said Allen Nakamoto, former commander of the Nisei Veterans Committee and the lead coordinator of the event.

Nakamoto shared that the organization jumped at the opportunity to educate the 7th Inf. Div. and JGSDF soldiers on Japanese-American history, after retired U.S. Army Maj. Gen. James Collins, who was a civilian liaison at the time for 7th Inf. Div., reached out to him.

"And he came to me and said that 7th Division, they would like to be more familiar with their Seattle neighbors-Seattle community, so he came to us and (asked) if there is some type of collaborated program that we could do together," said Collins. "So we have the 7th Division here, we also have Japanese Ground Self-Defense Force training in Yakima. It would be nice if we could get those two organizations together."

It was a right fit, since the NVC is a nonprofit organization dedicated to educating the public about the contributions of Japanese-Americans.
"Japanese-Americans have been in this area since the 1890's, but in 1941, with Pearl Harbor, all of the Japanese-Americans, regardless if they were born here, citizen or not, were sent to internment camps," Nakamoto continued. "120,000 people were sent."

During World War II, despite prejudice against the Japanese, more than 33,000 second-generation Americans, known as Nisei, joined the U.S. military.

"They wanted to prove their loyalty to America and they formed the 442nd Regimental Combat Team," Nakamoto said. "That team, as you know, is the U.S. Army's history's most decorated unit."

The 442nd was composed almost entirely of Nisei Americans, who served while the U.S. government held their families in internment camps. The 442nd also had one of the highest fatality rates in history, with the 5,000-person outfit needing complete re-fielding three times over. Nakamoto said that he wants people to understand the sacrifices that Japanese-Americans have made for the U.S.

"We all contributed to this country," Nakamoto said.

Among those Japanese-Americans is 83-year-old Franklin Shinoda, a former U.S. Army Medical Corps Soldier and the son of a Nisei veteran.

"I've always felt that what my grandfather did, what my father did and what I did for today, was very important in my life to help all the members," Shinoda said.

Shinoda is distinguished as a third generation veteran. Not only did his father serve in World War II as a Nisei, but his grandfather served in 1898 as an immigrant in the Spanish-American War.

"My grandfather, who was 22-years-old, came from Fukuoka (Japan) to Honolulu, enlisted in the U.S. Navy to come to America for a new life," said Shinoda.

For Shinoda and his family, service is a way of life, despite the hardships Japanese immigrants faced during the war. At 31, Shinoda's father, who was held at Minidoka Internment Camp, in Idaho, enlisted in the U.S. Army Military Intelligence Corps as a Japanese interpreter.

"After the war, he told me it was my time," said Shinoda. "So I enlisted."

Japan and the U.S. have been allies since January 25, 1960.

"An alliance is not built on paper," said Maj. Gen. Xavier Brunson, 7th Inf. Div. commanding general, during his remarks. "It takes respect and trust to maintain strong bonds. Taking the time to know one another creates a binding trust-a trust that is critical to successful bi-lateral operations in winning on any battlefield."

The celebration was a time for veterans, soldiers, and the community to reflect on historical events and accomplishments.

"As I went through my life," said Shinoda, "I look back and I appreciate everything that America had to offer Japanese people."

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