Japanese Americans and World War II


North County Times article, April, 1998: "Japanese-American vets to get World War II memorial" Groundbreaking for monument to WWII vets. 16,000 Nisei served, earning 1,800 individual citations and eight Presidential unit citations. 700 were killed and 9,500 purple hearts awarded. "We all believed in America and fought for America," said one. '"We had a dual goal - to prove loyalty and to be treated as first-class citizens at home." A circular black granite monument which will rise to a peak on one side to signify the mountains where the 100th/442nd fought. Names of those who served will be engraved on the curved wall with stars next to those who died. Will be built in Little Tokyo and slated to be finished by October.

A World War II Story

April, 1998

Your article on the proposed Japanese-American War Memorial was especially interesting to me because my husband Shogo's name will be on it. The memorial will be located in Little Tokyo, Los Angeles, not far from the Japanese American National Museum. This Museum is in the building which was the Buddhist temple in 1963 when Shogo and I went there for my father-in-law's funeral. Tokuji Yamaguchi would have been proud to know that three of his veteran sons will be remembered here.

Shogo graduated from Huntington Beach High School, went on to UCLA, and traveled home weekends to his family's farm in Westminster, Orange County. Even then he enjoyed growing things, joining the LA Horticultural Society and sharing plants. He earned his Bachelor's from UCLA, and in 1941 had started graduate school when he was caught in the second Selective Service draft call. Stationed at Camp Roberts, he drove home once a month, while spending other weekend furloughs collecting delphiniums and other plants to press and send to the Botany Department at UCLA.

When Pearl Harbor was bombed by Japanese war planes, the U.S. Army removed all Japanese American servicemen from the West coast. Shogo ended up at Fort Leavenworth, and later was reassigned to Camp Crowder, Missouri. There, instead of a gun, he was given a detail of men and ordered to beautify the grounds of the USO. Then the Army realized it had few men who could translate captured Japanese military documents or interrogate prisoners. Shogo, thanks to the Japanese language school training required by his parents, was recruited for Military Intelligence Service, Language School and sent to Camp Savage, Minnesota.

From the newspaper and radio broadcasts, Shogo knew about the planned evacuation of his family from California, but public suspicion made personal communication difficult. By May of 1942, the Army had removed his family from Westminster to the Colorado River Indian Reservation in Arizona. The War Relocation Authority named this Relocation Center Poston, and it became a city of 18,000 people living in barracks in three separate camps. Looking through a book of photographs of Poston (loaned to me by Sho Inada, who was there with his family), I found that some Fallbrook people were at Poston also, including Amy Inouye, FUHS Junior and yell leader. (Margaret Ray, who was the secretary at FUHS at the time, remembers how Amy cried on the day she had to leave for Poston.)

Shogo's older brother, Frank, and his wife (their granddaughter, Kirsten, now lives in Fallbrook) were also evacuated with the family. Before Frank left Poston to farm in Colorado, he helped build Poston High School (from which Kazuko Ito, 1941 FUHS freshman, graduated). Shogo did not find out until later that his brother George, who was in OCS at Yale, had been reassigned to Camp Berkley in Texas.

Other Yamaguchi family members were scattered. A married sister was removed to a Relocation Center in Arkansas, and Shogo's youngest sister, evacuated with the family to Poston, obtained labor leave and went to Chicago to work. The youngest brother, after driving a truck which helped families move into their camps at Poston, went out with a labor unit to Utah.

In Minnesota, after nine months of training at Camp Savage and Fort Snelling, Shogo's language team was ordered overseas. On his way to being shipped out, he was granted a special pass to visit his parents at Poston. He found them in the Arizona desert, in a barracks city surrounded by barbed wire and "protected" by sentry towers and armed guards. His mother and father had beautified their barracks room with polished jasper and ironwood collected in the desert and fashioned into vases and trays.

Shogo was assigned leader of his Japanese language team, which sailed on a Matson Liner for the South Pacific Command of Admiral Nimitz. They were attached to Admiral Halsey's G-2 at Noumea in New Caledonia. They logged and translated captured documents, and in free moments, Shogo waded the lagoons and collected sea shells to send back to Poston. Later, he was attached to a division in the Philippines, where his unit was awarded the Bronze Star for meritorious service in the interrogation of captured Japanese soldiers.

After the surrender of Japan, Shogo's unit was assigned to interpretation duty in Korea, where the U.S. Army provided civil government while Korea reestablished its own. In the meantime, brother Bob, taking advantage of the new law which permitted enlistment of internees, had completed basic training, and was stationed in Hokkaido, Japan.

Shogo was discharged in November 1945 and returned to Westminster to help his father with the crops before returning to graduate school. The Yamaguchis had been released from Poston the previous year, and come home to find their farm in weeds, their belongings broken into, the garden overgrown with Bermuda grass. But the fish were still swimming in the goldfish pond.

I met Shogo at UCLA, and we were married at the San Luis Rey Mission in Oceanside in 1953, the year after California repealed its anti-miscegenation laws.

Visit the Museum at 260 RockyCrest Road to view some Poston artifacts and see an FUHS photo which includes Amy Inouye and sisters, Kiyoko and Kazuko Ito. We would appreciate more information about this era of Fallbrook history. For photos of Poston, talk with Sho Inada at the strawberry stand on the Square.

Caption for photo:

1943. Sgt. Shogo Yamaguchi (top, 2nd from right) and his team of MIS, Japanese language men, at Fort Snelling, Minnesota, just prior to being shipped out to Admiral Halsey's Command in the South Pacific.

The names of some of the other men are Hisashi Komori, Shizuo Tanaka

For back of 1941 FUHS photo: Kazuko Ito, Freshman, is listed with the graduating class in the Poston High School newspaper of June 1, 1945. Amy Inouye is shown on the page with community leaders and secretaries in book, "WRA, Colorado River Relocation Center, Poston, Arizona" by TecCom Productions, 1987.

More Notes

After our three children were grown, and we moved to Fallbrook, we visited Shogo's old high school in Huntington Beach. In the old auditorium, we found a roster of graduates who had served in the war. I was excited to see Shogo's name among them, and also that of his brother, George, who was in Officer's Training School at Yale when Pearl Harbor was bombed. With Frank Yamaguchi, the Colorado brother {who became a County Commissioner in Weld County, and whose granddaughter now lives in Fallbrook (Kirsten Evans)}, we also visited Poston at one of the reunions hosted by the Colorado River Indian people on whose land it was located.

Copyright © 1998 by Fallbrook Historical Society
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Comments and feedback: Elizabeth Yamaguchi
Last update: 25 December 1998.