Johnny Nakamura was a Nisei – initially generation of indigenous-born Japanese mom and dad – and one of my schoolmates. He was killed in Earth War II fighting Germans in Italy.
How he and several of his Nisei buddies fought and died — even though their people had been getting viewed with suspicious by People in america or getting herded into barbed-wire “detention” camps – is a lesson in patriotism.
Sojourners to this column may perhaps recall my modern piece on how to publish your own epitaph. I mentioned Johnny when we were journalism pupils at Flint, Mich., Central Superior School struggling with our 1st lesson. We have been directed to compose our obituaries.
Johnny closed his assignment with an epitaph to be engraved on his tombstone: “I? Why?” His terms have haunted me for a life span.
My dissertation about epitaphs on this newspaper’s internet site was spotted by schoolmate Jason Austin of Davison, Michigan. He forwarded it via the Online to Johnny’s younger brother Frank. He lives in retirement at Oak Ridge, Tennessee. Ah, the wonders of digital journalism!
We are indebted to these and other sources about the Nisei Regimental Fight Workforce. It consisted of the 100th (Hawaii) Infantry Battalion and the 442nd (mainland) Infantry Volunteers.
It is the most adorned fighting unit in the U.S. Military for sizing and duration of support. For the record: 22 Medals of Honor, 9,500 Purple Hearts and 18,000 Overcome Bravery decorations.
Soon after Japan bombed Pearl Harbor, the 100th Battalion presently in existence pitched in to assistance rebuild the naval foundation. Native-born Japanese civilians were not segregated, but they voluntarily held a minimal profile.
In California, households of immigrant Japanese – even naturalized citizens and their U.S. born children — ended up rounded up and positioned in internment camps.
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I was graduated from Flint Junior Faculty and Johnny was effectively together on a diploma with the College of Michigan. I joined the Navy. He was drafted into the Military and began teaching in the Sign Corps. .
Two months later on, Johnny was honorably discharged “for faulty induction” and reclassified “4-C, enemy alien.“
At the exact time, Johnny’s father, William Nakamura, a structure engineer for the Chevrolet Motor Auto Business, was discharged as an enemy-alien. He and wife Elsie, also born in Japan, experienced five other young children.
The firm gave him get the job done he could do at property until eventually he could be reinstated 8 months later. He retired from Chevrolet in 1945 right after Japan surrendered.
Johnny was intensely patriotic and attempted frequently to enlist in the Army. The Army Intelligence Services turned him down since he could not communicate Japanese. He frequented Washington, D.C., and requested for assistance from his Senator and his Consultant.
In February 1943, the Army allowed Nisei to volunteer for army duty. In a 7 days, Johnny was back again in assistance. A calendar year afterwards he was in the Allied Italian marketing campaign combating Germans at Belvedere, Luciano and Leghorn.
Johnny wrote house usually to describe the friendships he produced with liberated Italians.
The 442nd was despatched to France in September 1944. There it was hooked up to the Seventh Army and observed some of the bloodiest battling of the war at Bruyeres.
Extremely soon, the Nisei had been called on to rescue a “lost battalion.” The 1st Battalion, 36th Texas Infantry Division, at Biffontaine was practically out of ammunition and surrounded by Germans.
All over again, the 442nd was prosperous, but with 800 useless and wounded. In 1963, Texas Gov. John Connally created the total 442nd Regiment “Honorary Texans” in memory of their gallant rescue.
The 442nd was despatched to Great, France, for a handful of weeks of “rest and recuperation“
The 442nd was moved back again to Italy in April 1945 as a “solution weapon” for the final war in Italy. There, on April 5, Johnny and his platoon have been qualified by a German mortar barrage. All ended up killed.
The war in Europe ended just 32 days afterwards.
Sergeant Chester Tanaka later wrote Johnny’s mothers and fathers. “John told me 1 evening he predicted to be killed the up coming day. I made available to get him out of the line for a several times, but John would not have it.”
Following working day, John was, indeed, killed in the line of responsibility.
Stars And Stripes
“Stars and Stripes,” the Military newspaper, carried the pursuing tale about his demise:
“Pvt. John Nakamura of Flint, Michigan, a walkie-talkie guy with his platoon, who has hardly ever missed a single day of combat and has about 175 true beat times to his report mentioned:
“‘When I was in France, I utilized to believe of Italy. I believed of that time we ended up thirsty and drank out of a stream. The subsequent day, farther upstream, we found a few of useless Jerries, a useless Italian girl who was pregnant, some lifeless goats and a lifeless cow. All of them experienced been in the drinking water a extended time.
“‘I also don’t forget the 27 days from Grosetto to Pisa in which there was no rain or a single cloud. Now that I am in Italy, all I can feel about is Awesome.'”
Last Letter House
Johnny’s past letter home, written from France although on R&R, was typical of his like of lifestyle, place and household – and his skill at creating:
“Thank you for the birthday card. I can’t even begin to comprehend how time has handed. I will not know if it has been a very long time or a brief time because January. House seems neither around nor much away.
“It can be all anything like a dream in which time is lost prior to it is even seen to be passing. I said, ‘Why, yesterday was my birthday and I failed to even know it.’
“The war information appears encouraging, but just one have to not hope much too a great deal. War scenarios can improve overnight – for much better or even worse.
“As for me, I do not regret staying here, nor regret currently being in the infantry. The infantry is hard, it doesn’t make 1 any younger – 24 decades and [I am] not but settled.
“One particular should dwell some form of everyday living, and I could under no circumstances be at ease if I hadn’t absent to get my share of this combating.
“Everyone’s private existence is worthwhile to himself. He needs to be authorized to enjoy it. A man who hangs back again and does not share Military assistance — if he is equipped for it and desired — basically is declaring: ‘My existence is far more useful to me. You can waste yours, but I shall hold mine.’ That is completely wrong.
“You must not fear if I never settle down even soon after the war is more than. I’ve acquired considerably even currently being in the army. I might keep in France two many years right before coming house if I could come across a way of carrying out it – examine French and literature and other issues that fascination me.
“Military daily life has produced me feel totally free, even if I even now have not picked any job yet. That isn’t going to appear to be significant as prolonged as I can uncover a truly satisfactory daily life.
“When 1 is a boy or girl, his mom and dad do all they can for him. When he grows up, he should do for himself.”
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For his military provider, Johnny was awarded the Beat Infantry Man’s Badge for motion in Italy and France, the Purple Coronary heart for wounds received in motion, and the Bronze Star Medal for “heroic accomplishment.“
He is buried at Arlington National Cemetery.
Thank you, Johnny, and relaxation in peace.