Rising Thunder participants invited to Nisei Veterans Committee
September 30, 2013
SEATTLE - Soldiers from the 5th Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment and Japan Ground Self-Defense Force conducted a social event with the Nisei Veterans Committee Sept. 22 at the Seattle NVC Foundation.
The soldiers traveled from Yakima Training Center to Seattle for the event, one of the last for Operation Rising Thunder 2013.
The NVC hosted the event and several VIPs, to include 7th Infantry Division Commander Maj. Gen. Stephen Lanza, state representatives, and Maj. Gen. Takeyoshi Omori, deputy commander of 4th Division, Japan Ground Self-Defense Force, attended.
"We wanted to bring soldiers together, both past and present, U.S. and Japanese, giving them the opportunity to build professional relationships," said Allen Nakamoto, NVC commander, and the event organizer.
"The NVC is committed to sharing the story of the Japanese-American soldier. Our credo is 'Honor the past, educate the future,'" Nakamoto said.
A memorial wall built outside the NVC Foundation building includes the names of Nisei veterans both living and those killed in action from past wars.
As soldiers from both Japan and the U.S. arrived at the NVC Hall, they were shown into rooms where they could meet with Nisei veterans and share stories or look at artifacts from past wars in which Japanese-Americans served.
"It's great to build these bonds, and in doing so it helps solidify the partnership we have with our Japanese allies," Lanza said in opening remarks.
Omori, on behalf of the JGSDF soldiers here for Rising Thunder, expressed his thanks for the invitation to the event.
"Through this exercise our ties to the U.S. have strengthened, so it's been my pleasure to be invited by the NVC and to get insight to the experience of the Nisei in the U.S.," Omori said.
The guest speaker for the event was Sam Mitsui, a World War II veteran.
Mitsui fought in Europe as a soldier in the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, a unit composed of Japanese-American "Nisei" (second generation) enlisted men that became one of the most highly-decorated regiments in the history of the U.S. armed forces.
The motto of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team was "Go for Broke," which was derived from a phrase used by craps shooters risking all their money in one roll of the dice.
The 4,000 men who initially formed the 442nd RCT in April 1943 had to be replaced nearly 3.5 times through the course of World War II. In total, approximately 14,000 men served in the 442nd RCT, and its predecessor the 100th Infantry Battalion from Hawaii.
Mitsui told stories of overcoming prejudice in the military, and of the little-known group of Nisei who served in the military intelligence service during World War II for the Pacific War.
Several of those Nisei served in SEATIC, the Southeast Asia Translation and Interrogation Center under Gen. Joseph "Vinegar Joe" Stilwell, a previous commander of 7th Infantry Division.
"I always thought I was an American until the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor ... so many people we called friends and neighbors turned away from us," Mitsui said. "We were determined to prove our loyalty by serving."
Mitsui received a standing ovation following his speech.
Inochi Taiko, a Japanese drumming group, provided entertainment with a performance that filled the auditorium with percussive sound. Guests enjoyed food samplings of both American and Japanese cuisine.
The afternoon closed out with gift presentations to Nakamoto, who accepted them on behalf of the Seattle NVC Foundation. Gifts included unit patches and a plaque from the JGSDF and a 7th Infantry Division bayonet with an emblem carrying case from the 7th Infantry Division.