SEATTLE — Members of Task Force Bayonet and Japanese Ground Self-Defense Forces gathered together for the Fifth annual Nisei Luncheon Sunday in Seattle to celebrate the Japan-U.S. alliance and to honor Nisei veterans.
“It’s pronounced NEE-SEY,” said Dale Watanabe, executive director of the Japan-America Society of the State of Washington. “It means second generation in Japanese.”
During World War II, many Japanese-American Soldiers, or Niseis, had to prove their loyalty to the United States by fighting against the Axis powers abroad, even though their families back home were confined in internment camps and faced racial prejudice, following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941.
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JUMP deepened and broadened its focus and event offerings in its second year, while rerunning a few old hits. In January, we held an event focusing on U.S. bases on Okinawa featuring the chairman and CEO of Sasakawa USA, Admiral Dennis Blair, JUMP program director Lieutenant Colonel James Kendall and Lieutenant General Chip Gregson. The three had written a report on the issue, which has become more and more politically volatile recently.
In February, we held a networking event in Port Tampa Bay to honor veterans who had been stationed in Japan and let them meet Japanese people living in the Tampa Bay area. On a lighter note, we also attended the Japan Festival at the Marine Corps Base Quantico, a family-friendly affair with a ninja skit, Okinawan classical dance, and Japanese toys.
March kicked off with a joint US-Japanese military band concert held at the Embassy of Japan to commemorate the fifth anniversary of the March 11, 2011 tsunami and thank the U.S. for its efforts to help. Lieutenant General Kenneth Glueck and LtCol Kendall delivered remarks. One of the highlights of the year was our first annual dinner at the Army and Navy Club, where General Robert Neller, commandant of the Marine Corps, joined Adm Blair to speak about the future of the U.S.-Japan alliance. Save the date for our second annual dinner coming up this spring!
The evening networking continued later in the month with an open bar at Sine’ Irish Pub in Arlington and a reception in Los Angeles for service members who have been stationed in Japan. And once again, we participated in a kid-friendly festival: the April Sakura Matsuri (Cherry Blossom Festival) in Washington, D.C., the largest one-day celebration of Japanese culture in America. Our booth offered kingyo sukui, a traditional Japanese goldfish-catching game.
Japan loves baseball, so we had to bring back the popular baseball game event from 2015. This year, we visited a Padres-Marlins game in San Diego in June, which brought together American sailors with Japanese sailors visiting for a port call. Retired Japanese pro baseball pitcher Takashi Saito even showed up. In July, JUMP headed to the Big Easy for an event at the National World War II Museum. The keynote speaker, Lieutenant General Burt Field, celebrated the progress in U.S.-Japan relations in the past 70 years.
September was a busy month for JUMP — we had a reception at the Marine Corps Base Quantico that reunited Marines with a connection to Japan. Then at an event at Seattle’s Nisei Veterans Committee Memorial Hall, we honored other veterans with a connection to Japan: second-generation Japanese-Americans who fought for the U.S. in World War II. Distinguished guests included the consul general of Japan and generals from both countries. At the end of the month, our members acquainted themselves with a selection of Japanese whiskies and sake at a tasting event at the Army and Navy Club.
Our final two events this year were continuations of successful gatherings from last year. In October, we met at the National Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola to watch a taiko performance and hear from distinguished speakers, including Consul General Ken Okaniwa and Admiral Patrick Walsh. Our November event at the National War College in Washington, D.C. focused on challenges for the U.S. and Japan in Northeast Asia. We heard from Adm. Blair along with Japanese Rear Admiral Yuki Sekiguchi and prominent scholars of Asia associated with Washington think tanks. JUMP also attended a reception for the Japan Self-Defense Forces at the Japanese Embassy on October 27.
We hope to continue building on this strong foundation of events next year, and thank you to our members for their support! If you’d like to see photos of these events, there are plenty more in our galleries.
The Japan-US Military Program’s recent event with the Nisei Veterans Committee in Seattle was highlighted in an article in the North American Post by Shihou Sasaki. Members of the U.S. Army, the U.S. Air Force, the Japan Ground Self-Defense Forces, along with members of the broader Seattle community came together at the event to honor the Nisei Veterans who served in the segregated 100th Battalion/442nd Regimental Combat Team (RCT) and the Military Intelligence Service (MIS), during World War II.
“We clearly understand that most Japanese Americans went through a lot of hardship during World War II,” Lt. General Takashi Motomatsu, Commanding General 8th Division, Western Army of JGSDF, is quoted as saying in the article. “I would like to express my appreciation” for their contributions to society and the reconstruction of the Nikkei community.
Read the full article here.
More than 70 years ago, at the height of World War II, one regiment of the United States Army fought not only against the Axis powers in central Europe, but also to exonerate themselves from prejudices that led their families to be incarcerated back home. Today, the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, which was composed almost entirely of Japanese Americans, is known as the most decorated unit in American history for its size and length of service—a distinction that was celebrated in Seattle on Sept. 17 at an event honoring their sacrifices while also celebrating two nations that have reconciled to become the closest of allies.
Members of the U.S. Army, the U.S. Air Force, the Japan Ground Self-Defense Forces, along with members of the broader Seattle community came together at this Japan-US Military Program (JUMP) event to honor the Nisei Veterans who served in the segregated 100th Battalion/442nd Regimental Combat Team (RCT) and the Military Intelligence Service (MIS), during World War II.
The event, held by the Nisei Veterans Committee in collaboration with the Japan-America Society of the State of Washington and with support from the Consulate General of Japan in Seattle, included American and Japanese forces, officials with Joint Base Lewis McChord, and veterans from the area who have served in Japan. The event also coincided with the annual U.S.-Japan Rising Thunder training exercises at the Yakima Training Center, and service members who had been participating were among those in attendance.
The event began with tours among the Japanese-American Memorial Wall and through the well-curated Medal of Honor Museum with WWII-era memorabilia from Nisei veterans within the NVC Memorial Hall. NVC members brought the displays to life with a plethora of wartime stories illustrating the Nisei veterans who lived them.
As the main event began and about 100 people in attendance gathered, Master of Ceremonies Allen Nakamoto explained that the aim of the Nisei Veterans Committee is to honor and remember the past, and to educate the future—a goal that was reflected at the event.
Major General Thomas S. James Jr., commanding general of the 7th Infantry Division and Task Force Bayonet, called the experience of joining veterans at the event “humbling.”
“Those of us that are currently serving understand the importance of the sacrifice of those that came before us,” he said. “I want to thank all the veterans here for serving, for it is only because of your service and sacrifice that we can serve today.”
He also recognized the importance of events like these to “build strong bonds and solidify the partnership we have with our Japanese allies.”
Lt. General Takashi Motomatsu, commanding general of the JGSDF’s 8th Division, Western Army, said training together like they had been doing in Rising Thunder is meaningful to both the friendship and strategic goals of both forces. Being such close allies, he added, is a testament to how far the two countries have come since the end of WWII more than 70 years ago.
Admiral Dennis Blair, USN (ret.), now the Chairman and CEO at Sasakawa USA, said the complex history that the two countries share is even more amazing given that the two allies now join together to defend peace, prosperity, and democracy.
“We believe that we must, and we can, live and defend those fundamentals,” Blair said. “We need to continue to support the powerful U.S.-Japan alliance which, I think, is key to the kind of world that we want our children to live in.”
The event also featured a video presentation from Nisei Veteran Sam Mitsui, who explained why “Good Things Grow from Horse Manure” while recounting his story of the Japanese-American experience during WWII. Closing out the event was an uplifting Okinawan-style Eisa Taiko performance by Okinawa Kenjin Kai Taiko that got everyone on their feet.
Major General James’ comments on the Nisei veterans perhaps best summed up the feelings of those in attendance at this special event:
“The story of the Nisei is an amazing story of loyalty and love of country, as well as resilience, perseverance and courage,” he said. “These Japanese-Americans set the conditions for our military to realize how pointless the policies of segregation had been. Nevertheless, they served of our nation with distinction and the heavy price paid by Japanese-Americans, both in war during World War II, and by their family members back in the United States, should never be forgotten. If you look at the ranks of any of our formations today, you would never know that things were otherwise, which is a testament to the Nisei sacrifice.
“Today, we honor the Nisei veterans in attendance of the 100th Battalion, the Military Intelligence Service (an organization of MI personnel and interpreters that belonged to the 442nd) and the 442nd Regimental Combat Team. The unit’s motto was “Go for Broke,” and you did, leaving it all on the battlefield, with the 442nd earning over 9,000 Purple Hearts and eight Presidential Unit Citations, making it the most decorated unit of its size and length of service.”
• Adm. Dennis C. Blair, USN (ret.), chairman and CEO, Sasakawa USA
• Maj. Gen. Thomas James Jr., commanding general, 7th Infantry Division
• Lt. Gen. Takashi Motomatsu, Japan Ground Self-Defense Force
• Mr. Rick Takeuchi, commander, Nisei Veterans Committee
• Mr. Sam Mitsui, Nisei Veteran
• Consul General Masahiro Omura, Consulate-General of Japan in Seattle
• Mr. Tay Yoshitani, chair, Japan-America Society of the State of Washington
• Mr. Dale Watanabe, executive director, Japan-America Society of the State of Washington
• Mr. Peter Kelley, President, National Association of Japan America Societies
• LtCol. James Kendall, USMC (ret.), Director of the JUMP Program and Fellow at Sasakawa USA
Event summary by JUMP Communications Manager Christa Desrets
Photos by JUMP and courtesy Japan -America Society of the State of Washington
2023 The Japan U.S. Military Program (JUMP)
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