June 15, 2012
June 8, 2012
Originally published May 27, 2012
By Angie Lead
My late grandfather, Kenneth Kenji Ota, a World War II veteran and native of Seattle, was a student at the University of Washington just before the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. While there are many things we'd like to remember about our loved ones, there is one essential reason my grandfather should be remembered.
Japanese Americans and issei (first-generation people of Japanese descent) in the Pacific Northwest were forced into American concentration camps under Executive Order 9066, passed on Feb. 19, 1942. Some 120,000 people, two-thirds of them American citizens, had to leave their homes. Families were split, livelihoods left behind and many UW students had to quit school. My grandfather was one of those students.
PHOTO: Soldiers in the 442nd rest during fighting in Italy. Kenneth Kenji Ota was wounded fighting with the unit. BELLEVUE HISTORICAL SOCIETY
In an interview with the Go For Broke Educational Foundation (dedicated to preserving the memory of Japanese-American veterans), my grandfather said he knew they would be put in camps, so he did not finish his senior year.
While the UW did recognize many Japanese Americans who were not able to finish college before they were sent to camps, only those registered at the university in September 1941 were bestowed honorary degrees in 2008.
After graduation from Garfield High in 1937, my grandfather worked in salmon canneries in Alaska, helped with the family business and went to the UW for three years. Given all that he was doing, he may not have been registered at the UW in 1941. After Pearl Harbor and the removal to Minidoka, he had no choice.
That's why I feel my grandfather should also have his recognition. It was never the nature of my grandfather to ask for acknowledgment of his accomplishments. He was a very humble and vibrant man, a father, grandfather and friend. Since he is not here to speak, I'd like to share how he contributed to our society.
Before retiring, Kenji worked for many years as a buyer for Boeing. This job was very important to him because it had been difficult for him to find employment after he was released from a 15-month stay in Army hospitals for reconstruction of his arm, shattered by machine-gun fire in the war. He was a 100 percent disabled veteran of the all-nisei (second-generation Japanese American) 442nd Regimental Combat Team, the most decorated unit for its size and length of service in the history of the U.S. military.
My grandfather was a platoon sergeant in the 442nd and was wounded the day before the 442nd rescued the Lost Battalion (from the 36th Texas Division), which had been surrounded by Germans in Northern France in 1944. For his military service my grandfather received two Purple Hearts and two Bronze Stars. He never boasted about these medals or spoke of his service much, but he did sacrifice a lot.
Perhaps because he was only able to finish three years at the UW, education was important to my grandfather. He proudly supported both of my uncles and my mom's cousin so they could graduate from the University of Washington. When I graduated from UW in 1997, my grandfather was proud and told me not to stop there but to continue my education. Today I'm pursuing my Ph.D. in American studies at the University of Hawaii at Manoa.
I know that we'd all like to honor and remember our loved ones and appreciate the lessons they passed on to us and more importantly the sacrifices they made for all of us. What I'd like to remember about my grandfather is that while he gave up his senior year at UW, he did give our family a lot.
With this coming class of 2012 at the UW, please give a little thanks for all our ancestors and grandparents who have given so much to our education and lives.
Angie Lead lives in Oahu.
Stockton native among highly decorated Japanese-Americans
By Jagdip Dhillon
May 31, 2012
Record Staff Writer
STOCKTON - Feb Yokoi and some of his band of brothers Saturday finally received their Congressional Gold Medals last Saturday.
A ceremony in Sacramento honored local Japanese-American World War II veterans who were unable to travel to Washington in November for honorary recognition by President Barack Obama.
Yokoi, who was born in Stockton in 1919 and was a longtime Linden resident, was among 28 honorees as Congresswoman Doris O. Matsui, D-Sacramento (Poston camp 3) , presented the medals to members of the famed 442nd Regimental Combat Team, the 100th Infantry Battalion and Military Intelligence Service officers.
PHOTO: Feb Yokoi, formerly of Linden, 94, is presented the Congressional Gold Medal on Saturday by Rep. Doris Matsui (Poston camp 3) at a ceremony honoring Japanese-American veterans of World War II. Yokoi, a member of the 442nd combat unit, was among 28 surviving veterans who attended the event at the California Museum in Sacramento.CLIFFORD OTO/The Record
Many of the 442nd team members volunteered to serve despite their families remaining behind in internment camps.
But the 442nd, a segregated division of Japanese-Americans, fought bravely in Italy and France, and it became known as the "Purple Heart Battalion" because of their high casualty rate. The 442nd became the most decorated unit in U.S. military history for its size and length of service, with more than 18,000 individual decorations for bravery, 9,500 Purple Hearts, and seven Presidential Distinguished Unit Citations.
Yokoi resides in a board and care home in Sacramento and is battling Alzheimer's. He came to the ceremony with his children: Richard, Jan, Scott and Kevin Yokoi.
"The ceremony was very moving and touching," said his daughter, Jan Yokoi. "Even though it's all these years later, it's still very nice."
Feb Yokoi went through boot camp in Fort Ord, and he became a sergeant and medic while at Fort Sheridan, Ill., before being sent to Europe. His parents, Kenjiro and Komatsu Yokoi, were interned at Tule Lake.
"All of our veterans serve and sacrifice, but these men ... did so much in the face of unparalleled discrimination and prejudice," Matsui said Saturday and in a statement released by her office. "Not only from a foreign enemy, but from the country they love and served."
Jan Yokoi said her father rarely discussed his time in World War II. "Being a medic, he would say he saw some horrible things and leave it at that," she said.
Feb Yokoi was discharged in December 1945 after having earned a Purple Heart, a Medical Badge and a Bronze Badge for marksmanship. Through the GI Bill, he earned his Associates degree in Business Administration at Sacramento City College. He married Amy Kaneno in 1948 and went into carpentry, owned. He also operated the Lincoln Theater in Sacramento, and he later worked for the U.S. Postal Service.
Yokoi also is a proud grandfather to Cameron, Kelly, Alex and Ann Yokoi."He is very reserved and quiet," his son Kevin Yokoi said. "But also very generous and loving. He loves having family around."