BIJAC History - Bainbridge Island Japanese in the Military
Sixty–six men and two women from Bainbridge Island's Nikkei community served in the armed services during WWII, joining more than 33,000 nationwide. Six Island Nisei were already serving in the Army when the war began. Enlistment of Nikkei was severely curtailed at that time, and all Nikkei were reclassified IV–F (unfit for the military) or IV–C (enemy alien) by September 1942. Not until 1944 were these citizens allowed to enlist again; drafting of Nikkei began again at that time as well. In addition to the many stateside positions filled by Nikkei, Japanese Americans served heroically in both theaters. The highly decorated 442nd Infantry Battalion included sixteen men from Bainbridge Island. The all–Nisei unit saw brutal fighting in Italy and France and suffered the highest combat casualty rate of any American unit. Mo Nakata, Art Koura, and William Okazaki were the first Islanders seriously injured with the 442nd. In the Pacific, the Military Intelligence Service, also including sixteen Island men, was one of the best kept secrets of the war. Praised by commanders from MacArthur on down, they acted as interpreters and interrogated captured prisoners of war. Their translating skills allowed commanders to anticipate enemy action. General MacArthur: "Never in military history did an army know so much about the enemy prior to actual engagement." Major General Merrill who ordered his men to protect with their lives the Nisei of the MIS: "I couldn't have gotten along without them." Major General Willoughby: "The Nisei shortened the Pacific war by two years and saved possibly a million American lives."
SLIDESHOW — A collection of photos of Bainbridge Island Nisei in the military
Oral History Clip (OH0025 – Taketo Omoto) 3:36 — Drafted before war
Oral History Clip (OH0026 – Taketo Omoto) 3:14 — Visiting mother in Minidoka
Oral History Clip (OH0029 – Isao Yamashita) 1:53 — Receives draft notice in camp
Oral History Clip (OH0069 – Earl Hanson) 1:59 — Runs into Koba brothers
Oral History Clip (OH0094 – Sada Omoto) 2:34 — Receives draft notice while in college, MIS training