Category Archives: World War II

Ike, a German-American Soldier


General Dwight D. Eisenhower

Ike.

General Dwight D. Eisenhower, Supreme Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Force.

Thirty-forth President of the United States of America.

An American soldier.

___________________________

An “American soldier”.

Plain.  Straight forward.  No descriptive.

But as a simple question… Was he ever referred to as a “German-American” soldier?  After all, he is of German descent.

Or as a “Kraut”?  No insult intended whatsoever.

I don’t know.

___________________________

How about General Charles Willoughby?

Major General Willoughby

Never heard of him?

He was General Douglas MacArthur’s right-hand man.  Chief of Intelligence during and after World War II.  G-2.  My dad’s boss’ boss.

An American soldier.

Did you know Willoughby was born in the town of Heidelberg, Germany, the son of Baron T. von Tscheppe-Weidenbach from Baden, Germany?  A royal German family.  His real name was Adolf Karl Tscheppe-Weidenbach.

He spoke German fluently.  And spoke English with a heavy accent.

Was he referred to as a “German-American” soldier?

Or as a “Kraut”?

I don’t know.

__________________________

How about my two uncles who received the Congressional Gold Medal?  Or even my dad?

An American soldier.

Unlike Willoughby, dad was born here.  In Seattle.

He spoke both English and Japanese without an accent.  And Ike didn’t speak German.

Is there any difference in Dad’s summer uniform in comparison to Ike’s?

Well, I guess there is a difference.  Ike’s has five stars; Dad’s doesn’t… Oh, and Dad’s is wrinkled.

But unlike Ike and General Willoughby, soldiers like Dad were referred to as “Japanese-American” soldiers.  Even today.  Or just plain “Jap” back then…even when in uniform.

Even in newspapers.  Here is one on my Uncle Paul who was bestowed the Congressional Gold Medal two years ago.

____________________________

Don’t get me wrong.  There is no intent to ruffle feathers.  Or to be accusatory or express anger.  And I certainly am not calling our 34th President a “Kraut”.

This is just history…  Albeit, perhaps, from an odd vantage point.

____________________________

But why is there a distinction made?

Are we – Americans in a broad stroke of the keyboard – bringing attention to minorities in too great a lawyer-driven focus?  But considering the popular vote, my friends, the minorities are no longer minorities.  Let’s face the facts.

From history, we need to learn.  Yes.  And we need to look at ourselves as of today… but with a helluva lot fewer lawyers.  (Did I write that?)

And people need to be “working” to the best of their ability… to live on their own ability instead of an expectation of assistance.  As a fellow blogger so eloquently wrote in “The Value of Ability“, we need to tighten up this ship and boost a person’s confidence that they do have potential and to live up to those expectations.

It’s time to move on from minority recognition…in whatever shape or form.  Hiring requirements.  College enrollment requirements.  Special program requirements. Especially within governments – local, state or federal…  Especially in our schools.  How about hiring a conservative to be a teacher once in a while..?  In my humble opinion, of course.

Time to promote “American-ism”.

Ike would have liked that, I’m sure.

Today


Today was Veteran’s Day.

At times, I mix in Memorial Day with it…  I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that.

They will always be veterans in my eyes.

____________________

Dad at Miyajima, Hiroshima in the spring of 1949.  I now have a bad case of “tennis elbow” and can’t retouch:

He was part of the US 8th Army’s Military Intelligence Service and served during Occupied Japan.  Being a “kibei”, he translated during the War Crimes trials, interrogated Japanese soldiers being released by Russia, Korea, Manchuria and China and translated Japanese war documents for intelligence.

Dad today with my two littlest kids:

Ninety-three years old.

Went to pay our respects to Old Man Jack.  Sun was just too low in the sky for a good pic… 😦  Miss you, Jack.

And went to see good ol’ Bob, too…  What a kind, great man he was.

Happy Veteran’s Day, guys.

Live On, America


You have three hundred words to justify the existence of your favorite person, place, or thing. Failure to convince will result in it vanishing without a trace.

Go!

____________________________

My favorite place is here.  Our country.  Our America.

Our fathers and forefathers sacrificed all for their descendents’ freedom and prosperity unlimited… for us to cast our individual votes tomorrow.

Honor our right to vote and honor those that bought us that right with their lives.

Vote or our America will vanish.

Dad Reminisced Today


Dad’s eyes got a teensy-weensy bit watery again today.

Perhaps its becoming a routine.

________________________________

Went to see Dad this morning.  Took him his “bentou”, or Japanese lunch to-go, as a change of pace.  They only serve America cuisine there.

Pork cutlet bento

Not that he complains.  He doesn’t.  But all the servers there know he WON’T eat fish.  He makes sure of that.

Also took him “yokan”, “senbei”, “manjyuu”, and Morinaga caramel (his favorite from decades ago)…  Oh.  And “anpan”.  Gotta feed his sweet tooth.  Make him happy is all that matters now.

Another favorite of Dad’s – anpan

While he asked how “Sue-boh” is as usual (his favorite brother who was KIA), he – by coincidence – talked about how he broke his elbow again. 😉

But this time, I had the pictures I had taken last month with me!  Blew his mind.  He “kinda” remembered my son and I went to Japan, but he couldn’t comprehend how I got those pictures.  Oh well.  Anyways, the most important thing was that yes, that was the large stone he jumped from…but he asked, “Where’s the benjo?  There was a benjo there behind the tree.”  A “benjo” is kind of like an Japanese-style outhouse.  🙂  And that definitely was the (remnants of the) branch.

You should have seen his boyish smile.

I took along what vintage pages I dared to from Grandmother Kono’s album today.  I was concerned as they were so fragile…  but Dad handled them gingerly.

He said there was a butcher shop in the brick building in the background. That brick building at King and Maynard is still standing.

He particularly liked the photo of him, Mieko and Suetaro…  He had a nice smile.  I wonder what was going through his thoughts then but I wasn’t going to interrupt.

He is smiling while looking at the three of them.  By the way, the stone bracelet he is wearing was from Masako and Izumi.  He says he doesn’t take it off but doesn’t remember where it came from. 😉

I think his eyes got a bit watery.

He said, “That was a long time ago,” and “懐かしい”

Just a teensy-weensy bit.

______________________________

About an hour later, he remembered looking at the vintage pictures.

Today was a good day.

A Mother’s Anguished Solitude – Part I


Grandmother standing near King and Maynard in Seattle with (L to R) unknown girl, Dad and her loving hand on Suetaro. Circa 1925

My Grandmother Kono could not have possibly foreseen her future pain in solitude…  But the anguish she endured seven decades ago brings our family together today along with a message to the world.

________________________________

Born on October 6, 1888 in a Hiroshima village called Furue, Grandmother Kono came into Seattle on February 4, 1909 via the Shinano Maru.  She was a picture bride for my Grandfather Hisakichi.

She gave birth to seven children; all but one was born in Seattle.  They were American citizens.

Uncle Suetaro (Soo-e-ta-rou) was #6 and born in Seattle sometime late in 1920 although I have been unable to locate his birth records on-line.  His name (末太郎) implies “last boy (or child)” but as you can see in the damaged photo above, Grandmother and Grandfather appear to have had an “oops” moment.  That’s Mieko, their youngest sister; she became truly the last child.

Uncle Suetaro is on the high chair with Dad standing next to him. They are in front of my grandparent’s barbershop on King St and Maynard in Seattle. The shop was inside Hotel Fujii (no longer standing). Circa 1921.

________________________________

While growing up, Uncle Suetaro was my father’s favorite sibling.  Suetaro and dad were inseparable from what I am told.  Dad’s nickname for him was (and still is) “Sue-boh”.

Suetaro was a happy child and always made people laugh and feel good – like Grandmother Kono.  Suetaro and Dad played “oninga”, or tag, together frequently; there was no Nintendo or footballs to throw around in the 20’s.  When Suetaro got old enough, they picked “matsutake” mushrooms together on Grandfather’s mountain property as told in “Masako and Spam Musubi“.  When Grandmother made fish for dinner, Dad wouldn’t eat it – but Suetaro did.  Suetaro ate everything.

This is my favorite photo of three of the youngest siblings; we uncovered it just this month in Hiroshima thanks to my cousin Toshiro:

The three youngest siblings: Mieko, Suetaro and Dad. A rare photo as all three are smiling – especially Dad. This portrait was also taken while they sat on the Hiroshima home’s sakura wood. My assumption is it was taken immediately before Dad left to return to Seattle.

Dad says they had one bicycle to share between them.  On school days, they would walk to the train station together in the morning while one slowly rode the bike.  They would leave it at a little shop which was still quite a ways away.  However, whoever got to the bicycle first AFTER school got to ride it home – quickly.  Leaving the other brother in the dust.  And it was a long walk – especially in the summer heat and humidity.  Perhaps it was the bicycle in the early portrait shown in “Souls of Wood“?

________________________________

Dad left Hiroshima soon after graduating from Nichuu High School at 18 years of age; he arrived back in Seattle on May 18, 1937.

Grandmother, Suetaro and Mieko were left behind in Hiroshima.

He would never see his favorite brother Suetaro or Mieko alive again… and Grandmother Kono will soon experience a demonic dread that will stay with her for the rest of her life.

________________________________

To Be Continued… A direct link to Part II is HERE.

Souls of Wood


They walked on it.  They posed for family portraits on it.  They passed away on it.  It felt as if their souls were infused in it.

Although my ancestors have come and gone through that house for about a hundred years, the old sakura wood shared their souls with me.

______________________________________

Then:

The Kanemoto’s sat on the cherry wood walkway for a portrait. Notice the glass paneling at the center-rear.  My father (second from left) is sadly all who remains from that generation. Circa 1928, Hiroshima, Japan.

Now:

Although aged and weathered, the sakura (Japanese cherry) wood upon which my ancestors sat upon for family portraits is unchanged. Even the glass paneling in the background is the same.

____________________________

While I am certainly not in the construction industry, my father’s family home is based on the Edo design era.  Generally speaking, they are built on stone foundations, with supporting square timbers and a raised floor.  “Tatami” mats were used for flooring.

My father, while now 93 and suffering from dementia, fondly recalled the floor plan of the Kanemoto house…especially of the main room seen the family portrait.  He said it had a “tokonoma”, or a small alcove alongside the altar, or “butsudan”.  He also clearly recalled the floor space measured by the number of tatami mats used; in this case, “hachijyou” or eight mats.

This is the room in which my cousin Masako “saw” Aunt Shiz a few days before she passed away.

____________________________

The house was indeed damaged from the atomic bomb’s shock wave.  This same shock wave shook the Enola Gay violently even while trying to escape the blast at about 30,000 feet altitude.  She was 11-1/2 miles away.

The house is about 4-1/2 miles away by way the crow flies.  Almost due west of the hypocenter.  Masako was knocked down by the hard-hitting shock wave while in her classroom.

A low lying hill called Mt. Suzugamine served somewhat as a barrier, deflecting the shock wave.  Still, nearly all of the sliding door panels were knocked down and the ceiling was sucked up more than a foot per Masako.  Roof tiling was also blown away from the force.

Masako is trying to show how the atomic bomb’s shock wave lifted the ceiling up over a foot. It is repaired now but was left as-is for decades.
Masako in the process of trying to show how far the ceiling was lifted by the blast on August 6, 1945.

My Uncle Suetaro took one of his last photos in front of this house in May 1944.  My grandmother already had her stroke and is not in this photo but his sister, Michie, is standing to his right.

One of the family treasures found during our journey to the family home in Hiroshima this month. Uncle Suetaro is going to war and his death.

Grandmother Kono’s funeral in 1954; my father can be seen in the lighter suit to the left standing next to Michie and Masako (hidden by the flowers):

Grandmother Kono’s funeral at the house.  1954

The home does have spirits within.  It’s not cornball.  It is an incredible sensation.  We were called to those souls in the wood this month.  Seriously.

________________________________________

When I saw my son in front of the home, I saw that I’m in the last half of my journey in life… but I came back to myself on that old sakura wood.

Early family picture in front of the house.  The entry is on the right.
My son Takeshi standing next to the Kanemoto name in front of the house just this month.  The entry can be seen behind him.