June 5: Virtual Tribute Recognized Japanese American WWII Military Service
Janis Tanji Wong
Vice President of Development & Strategic Initiatives GFBNEC
On Saturday, June 5, 2021, the Go For Broke National Education Center premiered its live broadcast marking the Go For Broke Monument’s 22nd Anniversary. With new voices and perspectives from over 30 different individuals, the virtual program shared remarkable stories of courage, patriotism and sacrifice of Japanese American World War II soldiers and the relevance of their legacy to the issues our nation faces today. Hosted by David Ono, ABC 7 Los Angeles News Anchor, and Mitchell Maki, GFBNEC President and CEO, the full livestream program can still be viewed on YouTube, Facebook and goforbroke.org.
Each first Saturday in June since 1999, GFBNEC has held a community gathering in downtown Los Angeles’ historic Little Tokyo district to commemorate the Go For Broke Monument, a striking dedication that honors more than 16,000 Japanese American men and women who served overseas during World War II. In total, more than 33,000 Japanese Americans served in the segregated military units of the 100th Infantry Battalion, 442nd Regimental Combat Team, 522nd Field Artillery Battalion, 232nd Combat Engineer Company and 1399 Engineering Construction Battalion; and in the Military Intelligence Service, the Women’s Auxiliary Corps, Army Nurse Corps and Cadet Nurses.
A memorable highlight this year featured six unique, personal stories and their connections to each of the units that served during World War II.
- Stephen Kagawa, founder and CEO of The Pacific Bridge Companies, and a member of the GFBNEC Board of Directors, shared his recollection of the legendary 100th Infantry Battalion. While growing up in O‘ahu, Kagawa was unaware of the heroism of the 100th IB which fought in the most treacherous and defining battles in Italy and France. It was only later as an adult, attending GFBNEC’s annual Evening of Aloha Gala, that he fully understood why the 100th earned the name “Purple Heart Battalion.”
- L. Stuart Hirai, a member of the GFBNEC Board of Governors, explained his personal interactions with Italian and French citizens who re-enact and emulate the 442nd RCT and the liberation of their towns by the 442nd from the Nazis
- The bilingual Nisei who served in the Military Intelligence Service were regarded by President Truman as the “human secret weapon of the U.S. Armed Forces.” Hawai’i-born Joyce Yamane and her husband, Stephen Waite, shared the contributions made by the MIS and her father, Kazuo Yamane.
- Mary Pat Higgins, president and CEO of the Dallas Holocaust & Human Rights Museum, describes the role of the 522nd Field Artillery Battalion’s liberation of Jewish survivors from the Dachau satellite camp and the Death March.
- In recognition of the 232nd Combat Engineer Company and the 1399th Engineering Construction Battalion, Carrie Morita shares a story about the service of her father, George Furuya, in the 232nd and his friendship with Hiroshi Arisumi and Charles Ijima.
- Mary Tamura discussed her service in the Cadet Nurse Corps, a shining example of the women who served to also prove their loyalty to their country.
The keynote speaker was Nikki Kodama, granddaughter of Yoshio “Buddy” Mamiya, a member of the 100th/442nd and a founding veteran member of GFBNEC. Kodama eloquently presented her connection to the legacy of the Nisei veterans and what it means to her as well as to all Americans today.
Moving renditions of the national anthem and “America the Beautiful” were performed by theatre actress Kendyl Yokoyama, whose grandfather was a veteran of the MIS and great-uncle was in the 100th/442nd. Woven into her in-studio performance are archival footage and poignant images of the selfless bravery of the young Japanese American men and women.
The 2020 Monument Anniversary, held for the first-time virtually, received close to 10,000 views from across the nation and internationally. This year’s virtual tribute debuted with close to 5,000 national and international views; this number of views is anticipated to increase on the GFBNEC’s YouTube and Facebook channels.
The 2021 Monument Anniversary was sponsored, in part, by Signature Sponsor Richard & Patricia Shinto and Family; Legacy Sponsor Tokuji Yoshihashi and Family; and Patriot Sponsors Nikki Kodama & Arnold Yniguez, The Pacific Bridge Companies and The Kazuo & Mary Yamane Foundation. The event media sponsors are The Rafu Shimpo, The Hawai’i Herald and Hawaii Hochi.
Go For Broke National Education Center (GFBNEC) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that educates the public on the valor of Japanese American veterans of World War II and their contributions to democracy. Its goal is to inspire new generations to embody the veterans’ core values of courage, sacrifice, equality, humility and patriotism. Founded in 1989, GFBNEC maintains the Go For Broke Monument and the interactive Defining Courage exhibit in downtown Los Angeles, as well as extensive oral histories and archives, educational programming and other initiatives. For more information, visit goforbroke.org.