Eighty years or so after he posed for a photo, my Grandfather Hisakichi is in an American book.
Standing “Marine-esque” in his Seattle barbershop.
Incredible to me.
I had come to know Rob Ketcherside from flickr. We had helped each other out looking at some old photos he had of Seattle – where all my aunts and uncles were born (except one). He had some fascinating tidbits on some of my Grandmother’s photos.
Well, it turned out he was an author. He had been doing a ton of research into “lost Seattle” – skylines and communities now long gone. With his fascination for “what was” (me, too!), those sights are now basking in sunlight once again through this mesmerizing book.
It was boosting to me when he asked if he could use one of the family’s vintage photos in his book; specifically, the photo of my grandfather’s barbershop. It is on loan to me from my cousin Masako (yes, the Masako after whom my blog is named) who luckily kept these family treasures all these years. It is more wonderful in that the home in which the photos were in survived the atomic blast – as did my family.
I hope Rob (and his publisher) don’t mind a couple of pages of his book are shown herein…and I’ll be picking up a few more copies to take back to Hiroshima in a few weeks.
In the description below, Rob also mentions Masahiro Furuya and his business. As it turns out, both my dad’s oldest brother Yutaka and his best friend John Tanaka worked for Furuya… And yes, that is the same John Tanaka my Aunt Shiz married. Small world, yes? Actually, Uncle Yutaka was the matchmaker.
A close up of his photo caption from above:
Grandfather is standing at the right-rear of his barbershop. And the photo is a full pager in Rob’s book! Cool! Grandfather should be pleased. In the original print, you can see the brand names of the hair tonics popular at that time. The gal in the middle was quite a cutie, too. I wonder what happened to her. If she was still there in Seattle when war broke out, it is likely she went to the same prison camp my dad and uncle were incarcerated in.
In concert with Rob’s massive research effort, gone is my father’s precious Hotel Fujii and my grandfather’s pride and joy barber shop. It was demolished to make room for “Hing Hay Park” taking its place.
Eighty years later.
And like the barbershop and Hotel Fujii, my dad is the last one standing out of seven siblings and two courageous grandparents.
Thanks, Masako-san and Rob.
I kinda wish my grandparents could have seen this.
Life has been quite unpredictable for me for the past six weeks or so – as well as tiring. I am quite behind in reading many of your fine blogs and that is on my priority to-do list. But it is a hollow descriptive for me to say I am tired.
I am still alive.
Twenty-nine thousand are not.
The battle for Iwo Jima began 68 years ago on February 19, 1945.
Sixty-eight years ago. Just yesterday for many.
Sixty-eight years ago, about 29,000 young men met horrible deaths on that demonic volcanic island – 22,000 Japanese soldiers and 7,000 Marines. That unforgiving island still has not given up all of her dead to this day… American and Japanese.
Indeed, the camaraderie amongst the survivors as well as those linked to the battle by relation or history is rightfully still strong. It is vital to the preservation of bravery, courage and love of country.
As mentioned in an earlier blog, the US Army also participated but not in a manner you would expect.
Per Dr. James McNaughton’s authoritative book, “Nisei Linguists”, Tech Sgt. 5g Terry Takeshi Doi “landed with the assault waves on 19 February 1945”. Doi was a member of the US Army’s top secret Military Intelligence Service (MIS). Doi would be awarded the Silver Star for his actions on Iwo Jima; he went into cave after cave armed only with a flashlight and knife to persuade Japanese soldiers to come out. I believe he is still alive.
Another MIS Nisei, Tech Sgt 3g James Yoshinobu, was fighting in his second world war; he had fought for the US in WW I (that’s ONE) and was 47 years of age while fighting on Iwo Jima. He landed with the 4th Marine Division and was later awarded the Silver Star.
One MIS Nisei, Sgt. Mike Masato Deguchi, was seriously wounded by a land mine and died of his wounds shortly after war’s end.
Oddly, these Nisei may have never joined the task force sailing out of Pearl for the invasion of Iwo Jima. The Nisei contingent was stopped at the security gate and were prohibited from proceeding because they “looked Japanese”. Only with the accompaniment and support of a few Caucasian officers were they finally allowed to pass and board their transport ships.
Sixty-eight years later, let us today deeply and reverently remember these brave boys… whether they be American or Japanese…or both. The iconic flag-raising would be tomorrow, February 23.
The carnage he was to experience would be absent even from the worst possible nightmare a nineteen year old boy can possibly have dreamed.
Violence no young boy of 19 should have to endure.
He would have two lives after he stepped into that Marine Corps recruiting station: one of reality during the day and of a nightmare he would never awaken from at night.
I was not close to Mr. Johnson as I was to Old Man Jack; perhaps it was because for the first five years after I moved into this patriotic Naval neighborhood, he and his good wife Marge traveled about the US in their motorhome. They were gone for perhaps six to eight months out of the year. Man, did they enjoy seeing the US of A. After all, he fought for her.
He stayed indoors most of the time when at home while Marge would walkabout during the warm summer nights with her wine and chat with neighbors and me. She enjoyed her Chablis very much. Slowly, her legs would give way to age. Mr. Johnson’s, too.
In the early part of 1942, Mr. Johnson found himself on a little boat out in the middle of the Pacific – the Big E.
The USS Enterprise.
She was one of only three operational carriers in the Pacific. The Enterprise, Hornet and Yorktown.
The Battle for Midway
He was on his way to the Battle of Midway (Mr. Johnson did not tell me that. Old Man Jack did.). June of 1942.
A tremendous gamble of scarce naval assets and young men by Admiral Nimitz.
PFC Doreston “Johnnie” Johnson manned her anti-aircraft batteries as a US Marine.
Thousands of young lives were lost during the most critical sea battle – on both sides. But the critical gamble paid off for the US. The Japanese Imperial Navy lost four carriers. They would never recover.
But we lost the Yorktown. A tremendous loss for the United States…but the tide of war changed.
Miraculously, the Enterprise escaped damage.
And as far as I understand, so did the young boy from Basile, Louisiana, Mr. Johnson.
At least physically.
Guadalcanal and the Solomon Islands Campaign
His next trial would be Guadalcanal and the Solomon Islands campaign.
It would be an insult to to all the brave men that were there if I were to even try and express in writing what brutal sea combat was like.
I was not there. But every young man there thought – every second – that there was a bomb coming at him. Constantly.
Like hearing shrapnel from near bomb misses ricocheting off the batteries – or striking flesh. The deafening, unending thundering of “whump-whump-whump” from AA batteries. The yelling. The sound of a mortally wounded enemy plane crashing into the water nearby with a likewise young pilot. The screams of wounded or dying boys.
This is taken from a naval summary: “After a month of rest and overhaul, Enterprise sailed on 15 July for the South Pacific where she joined TF 61 to support the amphibious landings in the Solomon Islands on 8 August. For the next 2 weeks, the carrier and her planes guarded seaborne communication lines southwest of the Solomons. On 24 August a strong Japanese force was sighted some 200 miles north of Guadalcanal and TF 61 sent planes to the attack. An enemy light carrier was sent to the bottom and the Japanese troops intended for Guadalcanal were forced back. Enterprise suffered most heavily of the United States ships, 3 direct hits and 4 near misses killed 74, wounded 95, and inflicted serious damage on the carrier. But well-trained damage control parties, and quick, hard work patched her up so that she was able to return to Hawaii under her own power.”
“Repaired at Pearl Harbor from 10 September to 16 October, Enterprise departed once more for the South Pacific where with Hornet, she formed TF 61. On 26 October, Enterprise scout planes located a Japanese carrier force and the Battle of the Santa Cruz Island was underway. Enterprise aircraft struck carriers, battleships, and cruisers during the struggle, while the “Big E” herself underwent intensive attack. Hit twice by bombs, Enterprise lost 44 killed and had 75 wounded. Despite serious damage, she continued in action and took on board a large number of planes from Hornet when that carrier had to be abandoned. Though the American losses of a carrier and a destroyer were more severe than the Japanese loss of one light cruiser, the battle gained priceless time to reinforce Guadalcanal against the next enemy onslaught.
Regardless of who is correct – and we’ll never know for obvious reasons – Enterprise gunners shot down more planes at Eastern Solomons in 15 minutes and at Santa Cruz in 25 minutes than did the vast majority of all battleships, carriers, cruisers and destroyers throughout the entire war.
She was the last operating carrier in the Pacific.”
For those of you who are unfamiliar with the violence of World War II, perhaps these photos will give you an idea.
Try – just try – to imagine you are on that ship… Nineteen years old. The Japanese planes are shooting at you and dropping bombs on you. Dead and wounded boys are everywhere. Fires are raging… The ship is listing…and through all this, you must continue to man your anti-aircraft guns… Protecting the ship and the lives of your fellow Americans.
Remember these young boys. I always will.
Mr. Johnson was one of them.
Mr. Johnson was one of those wounded.
And I have proof of his valor and guts on board as a US Marine.