Loyal readers know of my love for WWII combat veteran “Old Man Jack”.
After suffering through seven decades of nightmares of war, he is now finally at peace. Hopefully, he is resting comfortably beneath these shadows cast by my two youngest kids and I:
And a shadow cast by Old Glory:
For new visitors, please feel free to click and read one story of this great American who is now all but being forgotten in our new “Common Core” history textbooks. He earned the honor to be remembered:
“When it comes to giving, some people stop at nothing.”
– Vernon McLellan
That was Aunt Michie. She gave all of herself and of her life strength to others because her heart knew no other way.
At the moment Aunt Michie watched the ugly mushroom cloud rise from her field that day, her older siblings – my dad, Aunt Shiz and Uncle Yutaka – were all imprisoned in the “war relocation centers” scattered about the United States. These were truly prisons and the popular view is that FDR imprisoned them “for their protection” because they looked like the enemy.(¹)
Life within these “camps” was “sub-standard”. They were forced to live in small, shoddily built wooden barracks covered only with tar paper with little or no privacy. No running water inside their barracks – they had to go wait in line outside, whether it be rain, snow, dust storm or searing desert sun to use public latrines or showers. Food was served in mess halls on pot metal plates at specific times, just like in the military. The food was miserable according to Dad and worse yet, they had to wait in line again. For the first month or so of imprisonment, he said all they had was liver, powdered eggs and potatoes.
But then again, he said it was food.
Aunt Michie and her family were near starving in Hiroshima while dad was imprisoned in the good ol’ US of A.
It is assumed like for the rest of America, Dad and his older siblings heard the news of the atomic bombing but while in the camps on or about August 8th… that one enormous bomb had wiped out Hiroshima. There must have high anxiety and anger as many of the inmates in Dad’s camp (Minidoka) were from Seattle; they had family in Hiroshima as their parents had immigrated from there.
My cousins tell me that sometime after war’s end, Michie’s “American” siblings – my dad, Uncle Yutaka and Aunt Shiz – managed to re-establish contact with Grandmother Kono and Michie. With the Japanese infrastructure destroyed, it was a miracle. And it was no easy task as letters to and from Japan were not only prohibited, it was impossible. There was no telephone in the villages where Grandmother and Michie lived.
But her American siblings somehow managed to send much needed clothing to them. When my father finally reached Hiroshima while a sergeant in the US 8th Army, he carried two duffle bags full of C-rations, candy and Spam. They said it was a feast for them after years of hunger.
Sadako (who savored the white rice Michie made them on the day of the bomb) told me at a farewell dinner two years ago that she fondly remembered my dad taking them to a market of some kind where he bought her a little coin purse. She remembered Dad gave her the money to buy the little purse and was told she could keep the change. She remembers then handing the change – which was a LOT of money back then – to Michie who humbly accepted it. Sadako said she cherished that little coin purse for years.
From exhaustive laboring on her farm… to taking precious sashimi to her brother Suetaro… to walking ten miles with children in tow to care for Grandmother Kono after her stroke… to the pain of learning of her brother being killed in action… to being thrown onto the ground and watching a huge mushroom cloud rise over a small hill… to pulling a wooden cart over a hill… to tirelessly aiding the victims… and most of all, sacrificing her own health for the sake of others…
She never gave up in those thirty years. Would you have? I don’t believe I would have had the fortitude.
But because her soul would not quit, she got everyone to tomorrow… but in doing so, her own tomorrows dwindled.
Michie is still here. The fruit of her sacrifices can be seen today in her six children, all of whom have lived – and are still living – full, joyous lives.
They have their mother, Michie, to thank and they cherish that… and that they were all there at the farmhouse when she looked at each one of them intently one last time before leaving this world.
A most grand mother.
They all love food to this very day.
I wish to deeply thank my Hiroshima cousins for sharing their memories of their life with Michie with us.
Like all Hiroshima citizens I have met, they simply pray for peace.
(¹) There are declassified US intelligence documents which show that a small number of Japanese and Japanese-Americans were performing espionage. Intelligence was able to determine this by intercepting and decoding secret Japanese communications. This information was given a cover name of MAGIC and these documents were typed up for FDR and a very small number of trusted officials. However, rounding up the spies would clearly indicate to the Japanese that their code had been cracked. These documents present another view contra to the widespread belief that FDR imprisoned the Japanese and Japanese-Americans from discrimination and war time hysteria. In other words, FDR used that hysteria as a cover story; by doing so, he was able to remove the “spies” from the West Coast without alerting the Japanese. FDR also stated in communications that there would be “repercussions” from such action.
Man, who wouldn’t be salivating just reading those three little words.
Well, my kids did…not.
“Pasta? Again, Papa? Can we have something different…please?”
Kinda tough to hear when you’re a single dad pretending to be a miracle chef…
I’m sorry. Cook, not chef.
And to find something that they both like? Ha!
To please my mollycoddled rug rats, I scoured my bible: “Cook’s Illustrated”. In addition to the tried and true recipes of my bud and chef Cathy Thomas, Cook’s Illustrated is my go-to play book. I think the Denver Broncos could have used one last weekend…a playbook, that is.
By sheer fortune, Cook’s Illustrated had what sounded to be a delectable pasta dish… Spaghetti al limone. And it sounded pretty light and (relatively) healthy to boot and it was a huge change from my man-kitchen pasta repertoire. As an example, my from-scratch Alfredo sauce would make Fat Albert REAL happy. It is laden with luscious butter, cream and Parmigiano-Reggiano. The only healthy thing in it is the garlic and a dash of nutmeg. But man, its to die for! Oops.
So I gave Spaghetti al limone a shot…and the kids loved it! Both of them. Ye-haw! Of course, garlic bread was a required accompaniment, making their smiles even bigger.
For those interested, the ingredients are:
1 pound spaghetti
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more for serving
1 medium shallot, minced (about 3 tablespoons)
1/4 cup heavy cream
1-1/2 cups reserved pasta cooking water
2 teaspoons finely grated zest and 1/4 cup juice from 3 lemons
1 ounce finely grated Parmesan cheese (about 1/2 cup), plus more for serving
Ground black pepper
2 tablespoons shredded fresh basil leaves
(Note: For the lemon zest, I like the zester made by Microplane. And be sure to use ONLY the yellow part of the peel and avoid the pith.)
So whether or not you have kids to appease, engorge yourself on this pasta dish. It’s a great cure if you’re feeling down. Your palate will love it.
Yes. It was that good.
And a US Marine blogger intimated that my food pictures he saw were “dated”… meaning “Do I still cook”?
There is personal pain in a full-fledged war that only those who were fully involved can feel. Those feelings will differ by how that person was involved.
We somewhat understand through survivors that a soldier, airman, sailor or Marine near or on the front lines will have an intimate kinship with instantaneous fear. They know combat is immediate, unfair, cruel, and barbaric. But hopefully, they know their families and country are behind them – perhaps giving them the edge to overcome their fears and survive.
And this is true for the enemy as well. As I become more knowledgeable on the Pacific Theater during WWII, I have learned the young Japanese combatants had the same fears (please see “There’s No Toilet Paper in the Jungle of Burma“). But unlike the Allied forces who had millions of tons of war materiel, food and medical care backing them, the Japanese military fell way short.
But what about the Japanese home front? Have you paused to ponder that? Were their countrymen any different from us in their ways of supporting their young men dying by the hundreds of thousands?
I never did myself until recently.
I met Rob on the internet through his facebook page, “WWII U.S. Capture Photos“. He focuses on the spoils of war, bringing back to the forefront the war souvenirs seized by military personnel.
He acquired a letter from a now elderly Marine who was fighting on Saipan in mid-1944. He had told Rob that he removed it from a Japanese corpse.
Apparently, this letter had ended up to haunt the Marine who was at time very young and fighting for his life on Saipan. The once young Marine is pictured in the center of this photo:
Rob asked if my father could read the letter and translate it.
The letter was haunting Rob, too.
My friend and I went to see Dad in October 2013. Below, Dad is reading the letter taken by the then young Marine from Saipan in 1944.
The backside of the envelope is below showing the sender’s name and return address. The image was enhanced to bring out the writing. The Marine had written “Japanese letter picked up on Saipan”.
The letter was anonymously addressed and sent by a young girl named “Kazuko Arai (荒井和子)”. The return address shows she was a student of a girl’s economics school in Tokyo, Nakano City, town of Honcho (東京都中野区本町通六丁目女子経済専門学校 – 附属高女). While I believe the school may have been at least damaged by the fire bombings, I may have located the successor school. It is called “Nitobe Bunka Gakuen” with its current address as 東京都中野区本町6-38-1. (While I did send a blind email of inquiry to them in my far from perfect Japanese, there has been no response. I doubt that there will be given the Japanese culture.)
While the scans were of low resolution, the two pages of the letter are as follows:
Because my father will be 95 next month, it was difficult to keep him on course. In spite of reminding him to just read the letter in Japanese (I would understand most of it), he continually tried to translate its sentences into English. Perhaps somewhere in his buried conscious, he is doing as he was trained by the US Army’s Military Intelligence Service. Admittedly, there were about a half-dozen characters that were just tough to make out due to creases and lack of clarity. And he wasn’t able to figure out one paragraph in particular…but I did! Got one on my old man.
As summer passes and turns into autumn, the war situation is getting more severe and now we must physically and mentally dedicate ourselves for our country.
As a courageous sailor out at sea, I know your unwavering fighting spirit continues.
Per our (radio) broadcasts, we hear that the intensity of battle and such has increased for both sides at all the front lines in the Far East Asia theater of war.
A radio broadcast announced that Lt. General Yasuyo Yamasaki and 2,000 of his garrison died honorably defending an island in the North Sea. All we could do was bow our heads (in honor) and swallow our grief (voices).
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
[ NOTE: In researching this report, I discovered that Lt. General Yamasaki was assigned to defend the island of Attu. He was killed with his remaining garrison in a banzai charge on May 29, 1943. Please click on the following for more information:
Now, with the daily war situation, we strongly feel as if we are in the midst of the battle and realize (winning) will not be easy.
Soon, it will be time for the autumn (military) athletic meet; I will train hard to strengthen my physique.
We resolve to not lose against the American and English women.
So please, courageous sailor, sincerely take good care of yourself and fight hard. I pray for your fighting spirit.
So now we realize that Japan also had a “home front”.
Perhaps they did not have a “Rosie the Riveter” like we did.
But the Japanese homeland did endure pain, fear and sorrow as we did…and depression. They were not the inhuman creatures depicted on war posters and in propaganda of that time. And thanks to Rob and the young Marine, we see a letter written in Tokyo by a high school girl named Kazuko Arai in the autumn of 1943 and simply addressed to an anonymous sailor. Kiyoshi also believes that the watermarked stationery was of high quality and issued out of military stock for this purpose.
Sadly, we do not know the name of the sailor from whose corpse the letter was removed from, nor do we know if Ms. Arai survived the war and raised a family.
Things like this sort aren’t evident in our (current) history textbooks. Now, WWII has pretty much been erased from school textbooks altogether, replaced by “politically correct” topics…that there was simply a war between Japan and America. A disgrace to those who endured or died.
In closing, there is a diary written by a young Japanese doctor up to the time of the final banzai charge on Attu. He was one of the attackers who was killed. As mentioned in my other posts about the Military Intelligence Service, Japanese military forces were allowed to write diaries. When these diaries were taken from the battlefield, the Japanese-Americans (Nisei) soldiers were able to read then extract valuable intel on the enemy – both for their battle front and their homeland. In his last entry, the young doctor writes a goodbye to his wife and two small children back home.
I received this light-hearted story with a brilliant sally in an email today…and thought it was apropos as we have a tremendous racial divide threatening to cleave a deeper valley into our US of A. And as I’ve posted earlier, I feel CNN is behind some – if not a lot – of this cleaving.
So here it is.
A Harley Biker is riding by the zoo in Washington, DC when he sees a little girl leaning into the lion’s cage. Suddenly, the lion grabs her by the collar of her jacket and tries to pull her inside to slaughter her, under the eyes of her screaming parents.
The biker jumps off his Harley, runs to the cage and hits the lion square on the nose with a powerful punch.
Reeling from the pain, the lion jumps back, letting go of the girl, and the biker brings her to her terrified parents, who thank him endlessly. A reporter has watched the whole event.
The reporter addressing the Harley rider says, “Sir, this was the most gallant and brave thing I’ve seen a man do in my whole life.”
The Harley rider replies, “Why, it was nothing, really. The lion was behind bars. I just saw this little kid in danger and acted as I felt right.”
The reporter says, “Well, I’ll make sure this won’t go unnoticed. I’m a reporter for CNN, and tomorrow’s headlines will have this story… So, what do you do for a living and what political affiliation do you have?’
The biker replies, “I’m a U.S. Marine and a Republican.”
The journalist leaves.
The following morning, the biker checks CNN to see if it indeed brings news of his actions and sees:
U.S. MARINE ASSAULTS AFRICAN IMMIGRANT AND STEALS HIS LUNCH
…and THAT pretty much sums up the media’s approach to the news these days…
There. I wrote the words. After all, this is WordPress.
Marge and Carol from the Greatest Generation would be so dismayed that I would be searching online for a gal. Marge met Mr. Johnson at a USO dance in WWII. Carol met Old Man Jack at his mom’s house in Eagle Rock during one of his two furloughs from warring on those “stinkin’ islands”. The commonality? They met face-to-face and it wasn’t at a bar. And it wasn’t at 2:30 AM before they were to ship out to war. (Clicking on the highlighted links will take you to one of their stories.)
Online dating began for me last month…I mean, online searching. Duh.
Dating comes later – if at all.
Unbelievable – an old fart like me is using the internet to “shop” for a lady. I’m now a (nearly) 60 year old rookie up against lady pros who reportedly have been picking and choosing “online” for their PERFECT man…for the last three years some of them write. Gee, think of the tricks they must have up their sleeves against old geezers like us.
Frightening…especially since they have the upper hand. A royal flush, ace high. Why is it that the woman always has the right to pick and choose and not the man?
The thought of online dating really repulsed me; it still does. A last resort for social misfits unsuitable for mainstream society, I thought. I also envisioned it as a “meat market” of sorts. You know, pick out the best side of beef by looking at your screen then bid on it. The highest bid wins and it is just that in substance.
Well, I haven’t learned enough during my years on this planet so I was ignorant enough to have tried it out…mostly because I knew I would likely end up in a “Why did I do that?” moment if you found your “soul mate” at a bar half-drunk out of your wits. That would also include her, too. The other reason was that I don’t like to mix with large crowds for one reason or another. So where would I meet my Disney princess of dreams, I thought?
Ergo, online dating. Old Man Jack and Mr. Johnson must be shaking their heads at me from above.
Well, this is what I’ve found out so far… and it’s my view only:
Because of “PC”, women do have the upper hand. Delete or reply. One sweetheart of a gal told me she gets over a hundred emails a day from interested men. Over a HUNDRED.
Nearly all of the women say on their “profile” that LOOKS are certainly “a plus” BUT they are “truly” looking for HONEST and loyal men…not players. However, nearly all of the ladies post photos of themselves taken years earlier or they are blurred. Many also understate their age – a few by ten years! Honesty starts with oneself, ladies. Practice what you are looking for. 🙂
Nearly all of the women – even little 5’1” Asian women – seek Caucasian men a bazillion feet tall and who look like this famous wounded Marine amputee and poster boy (above). Me? I’m but 5’7”. (Kinda like the actor who said, “Look! Zee plane! Zee plane!”)
Nearly all of the more “attractive” women expect to be taken to the Maldives, Paris, Sedona, sailing, a winter ski vacation in the Swiss Alps…on a regular basis. Well, you get the message. With me, they’ll be lucky to be taken to Chuck-e-Cheese.
Some women state in their profile their ideal man must earn over $150,000.
One story that was told to me was that one attractive woman told a man at their first meeting that she wants $3,000 month (starting now), a luxury car, and an $18,000 wedding ring for the opportunity to “date” her. You get the message on this one, too.
Nearly all of the women are of Christian/Catholic faith. I’m not. That’s understandable.
Nearly all of the women are divorced as well but their kids are now adults. I can’t blame any of them they don’t wish to live with a man with two teens even if get A’s and B’s… Well, most of the time. They’ve had their share of stress already.
In essence, online dating isn’t working for me. Perhaps I’m more towards the Walmartian level than I choose to believe or many ladies are not including “Asian” in their search criteria. Tripped up at the starting gate even before the “race” started… Yes, that’s supposed to be a pun.
I even added a couple of links to some of my short stories here on WordPress. Perhaps six ladies actually went so far as to click on the links.
Old Man Jack and Mr. Johnson were right in shaking their heads from above.
Oh. Forgot. If I did get an email from an “interested” female, they were likely from the Philippines or were most definitely specialists in “night activities” – call girls. That was how I got “conned” into purchasing membership to be honest. You were alerted “someone” was interested in you but you could only see them if you paid up. How fortunate for the internet site!
So in summary, if you, as a male my age is wanting to seek a lady via online dating, you will have great success if:
You are Caucasian;
You are a bazillion feet tall (i.e., a few feet taller than ‘Zee Plane’ dude);
Built like Superman and look like him (body suit and cape optional.);
You are a Powerball winner and will take your lady traipsing all over the globe (on your dime);
Earn over $150,000;
And your own kids do not live with you.
But in summary and in logical thought, online dating is very similar to what Old Man Jack and Mr. Johnson did 70 years ago.
The only difference back then was the eligible lady is there in front of you. No fake profile pic or dishonesty of body type. You didn’t ask a gal to dance if she didn’t strike your fancy. And your chances for a girl increased exponentially if you were the varsity football team’s quarterback, had a hot car (I do) and moolah (I don’t). And Mr. Johnson cheated, by the way. He wore the dashing uniform of a United States Marine.
On the positive side, you don’t have to feel the rejection when the gal tells you “no” when asked to dance. They just don’t reply to your emails now.
Perhaps I should be dishonest and classify myself as Caucasian. Nah. That’s as bad as ladies using photos of themselves from 20 years ago.
Maybe I should realize I’m a Walmartian in the eyes of eligible women.
Or perhaps I should go back to the tried and true Japanese method that’s worked for centuries – contract (arranged) marriage, or お見合い. Just exchange pictures and you’re set. Both sets of grandparents met that way.
Oh, dang. I did something similar to that the last time.
“Koji, funerals don’t do a damn thing for me anymore.”
That was Mr. Johnson’s reply while I was driving us to Old Man Jack’s funeral. I had asked him to help hold me together as I knew I would fall apart.
“Oh-oh,” I thought to myself when I heard that curt reply. “I guess I hit a nerve…”
Mr. Johnson was Old Man Jack’s next door neighbor.
Nearly SIXTY years. Hell, I ain’t that old yet. Well, I’m close.
They got along real well for those 60 years… except Jack was a WWII sailor… and Mr. Johnson was a WWII Marine. They reminded each other of it often.
Lovingly, of course.
Old Man Jack happily reminisced that “…us white caps would also tussle with them Marines ‘cuz they thought they were better than us”. But Jack would have gotten the short end of the stick if he took on Mr. Johnson. He towered over Jack and me…
And Mr. Johnson was a decorated WWII Marine.
Decorated twice…that I know of.
Our cozy neighborhood called him “Johnnie”. I always addressed him as Mr. Johnson…He used to say, “Damn it, Koji. I wish you’d stop calling me that.”
I never did call him Johnnie. I just couldn’t.
But in the end, we found out his real name was Doreston. Doreston Johnson.
Born August 1, 1923 in Basile, Louisiana. A tiny town, he said, and everyone was dirt broke.
I wish I knew why he wanted to go by “Johnnie” but later, I discovered Doreston was his father’s name.
After Jack passed away, I visited with him. He opened up a bit.
The Depression made it tough on everybody but then war…
When war broke out, he was gung ho like many young boys at that time.
It was expected. You were branded a coward if you didn’t enlist or eluded the draft. You were at the bottom of the heap if you got classified 4F.
He said went to the Army recruiting station. They said they met their quota, couldn’t take him right away and to try again next week.
He then went to the Navy recruiter. They also said pretty much the same thing but that there was an outfit “over there that’ll take ya”.
It was the United States Marine Corps.
The Marines “took him”…right then and there, he said.
Mr. Johnson said, “I was a dumb, stupid kid at that time” – slowly shaking his head…but with a boyish little grin.
It was 1941… When the United States Navy had their backs against the beaches… MacArthur blundered after Pearl Harbor and thousands of soldiers were taken prisoner in the Philippines.
The country’s military was poorly equipped and poorly trained. With outdated equipment like the 1903 Springfield and the Brewster Buffalo. And most gravely, the US Navy was outgunned.
“Koji, don’t let anyone tell you different. War makes good boys do crazy things.”
That was the first time Old Man Jack shared something with me about the war in a voice of unfeigned remorse. In turn, it was one of my first journeys in his time machine in which he allowed me to ride along.
Front row seats. Free of charge.
It was in 2002 to the best of my recollection. It was just before my littlest firecracker was born.
KA-BAR. If you are a World War II US Marine who served on “those stinkin’ islands”, there is no explanation necessary.
A KA-BAR was a Marine’s most prized personal possession. It was always at their side.
They opened their C-rations with it. Dug foxholes with it. Chopped coconut logs with it. Hammered nails with it. Indestructible.
Most importantly, for killing. Designed for slashing and stabbing. Desperate hand-to-hand combat. To the death.
The KA-BAR served them so well that many Marines who survived passed it down to their children.
Old Man Jack said several times, “I’ll tell ya – us white caps always tussled with the Marines ‘cuz they thought they were better than us…but there wasn’t anyone better at protecting your sorry asses with theirs when it came time.”
(If you are prone to nausea, you should not continue to read this Old Man Jack story.)
I did not know this free ride was coming. It was unexpected and spontaneous. I recall that clearly.
That afternoon, he began describing something vile he witnessed during the war. Today, I fully realize he was trying to vomit demons out from his soul.
He needed to.
He didn’t tell me what island; that would be his pattern up until his death. If he was talking about something a young man should never have witnessed, he would never say what island he was on. However, my educated guess as to the year would be late 1943 or early 1944.
Old Man Jack said to the best of my recollection that “…the Japs broke through our perimeter”.
“When the fighting broke out, most of us (the ground crew servicing Marine Corsairs) dove straight into the nearest foxholes. I only had a .45 and I kept my head down except for a dumb ass split second or two…” He tried to mimic what he did by extending his neck a bit and flicking his head left and right.
“All hell was breaking loose. Men were screaming all over the place. You could tell which rounds were from us and which ones were theirs.”
It was all over in a couple of minutes, Jack said. “I did hear moaning then a CRACK from a .45 or a M1…” A Marine apparently dispensed a wounded enemy soldier.
“I got up. There was still a little yelling going on. And I ain’t ashamed to say I started shaking real bad. Then I see this kid (i.e., a Marine) dragging this wounded Jap; he was hit pretty bad but I could tell he was still alive. The Marine grabbed his KA-BAR and sliced open that son-of-a-bitch’s mouth. I could see the Jap was flinching. The kid was trying to gouge out gold (from his teeth).”
Another Marine came over and shot the Jap dead with his .45. The kid yelled, ‘Hey! Why’d you have to go do that for?!’
The other Marine just looked at him for a split second and walked away. I stopped looking.”
Jack then just slowly shook his head.
I remember Old Man Jack was looking down when he finished. He had on a grey sweatshirt as winter was coming on.
Front row seats in his time machine of nightmares. He just forgot to mention it was on his roller coaster he kept hidden inside.
He had other free tickets for me in the years that followed.
True stories about World War II – One war. Two Countries. One Family