Nikuma and Ted Tanouye

Pearl Harbor is attacked on December 7, 1941, immediately placing the Japanese American community in a state of confusion and concern for what the future will bring. A President issues Executive Order 9066 on February 19, 1942, establishing the west coast as a military secure zone, giving the military authority to forcibly remove all people of Japanese ancestry. A son is inducted into the United States Army on February 20th, 1942. A father is suspected of being a spy and arrested in the middle of the night by the FBI on February 21, 1942. A wife with four other sons and a daughter, are sent to the Jerome War Relocation Authority (WRA) Center near Denson, Arkansas. A mother and father receive word that their son has died in Italy on September 6, 1944, but they will receive a medal, the Distinguished Service Cross, (the second highest military award), to show that he has “restored” honor to his family, himself and that he has honored the unit he served in. This summarizes three years in the life of the Nikuma Tanouye, head of a proud Japanese family living in Torrance California. Those three years no doubt seemed like decades.

Record of immigration of Nikuma Tanouye’s picture bride, Momoe to the United States

Nikuma Tanouye was born on March 21, 1886 on the island of Kyushu in Kumamoto, Japan. He completed high school in Japan then came to the United States in 1903, an immigrant hoping to make a better life for himself. He worked hard and on March 23, 1918, his picture bride, Momoye Uemura arrived in Los Angeles on the ship, the “Persia Maru”. She was also from Kyushu, Japan.

Nikuma had registered for the draft in the United States on September 12, 1918. Immigration laws of the period were such that Japanese citizens living in the United States were barred from becoming citizens no matter how long they lived here, but they could enlist in the armed forces. Nikuma was willing to fight on behalf of his adopted country during WWI.

Copy of the WWI Registration Card for Nikuma Tanouye
Copy of the WWI Registration Card for Nikuma Tanouye

Address listing for Nikuma Tanouye taken from the 1939-1940 Rafu Shimpo Yearbook and Directory<br /> Photographs by Nancy Teramura Hayata
Address listing for Nikuma Tanouye taken from the 1939-1940 Rafu Shimpo Yearbook and Directory
Photographs by Nancy Teramura Hayata

By 1941 Nikuma Tanouye, his wife and their six children were well established in Torrance, California. Nikuma had learned the English language, and was a farmer working for Mr. Hiromoto also from Torrance, CA. He was also a Kendo (Japanese sword fighting) instructor. He was a member of the Shuboyo Kendo Club of Redondo Beach, CA and had been for ten years. Nikuma served as vice president. The pre-war kendo clubs were formerly branches of Dai Nippon Budoku Kai, whose headquarters were in Kyoto Japan. Dai Nippon Budoku Kai was originally designed to develop the Japanese warrior spirit in young Japanese. The literal translation would read, “The Great Japan Military Virtue Association”. Mr. Yoshinobu, on whose ranch the kendo club was housed, stated that the Shuboyo Kendo Club was not affiliated with the Dai Nippon Budoku Kai, nor any other clubs or organizations.

Nikuma’s parents were deceased and he had no living siblings in Japan. Nikuma had never made any contribution towards war relief in Japan and he had never attended any meetings welcoming Japanese Army or Naval officials. His children had never been to Japan, and he came to the United States to start a new life, and had no intention of ever going back to Japan.

Nikuma’s eldest son, Ted Takayuki Tanouye, who to his friends was simply “Tak”, was born on November 14, 1919 in Torrance, California. His family was no doubt proud of him as he excelled in both academics and athletics, and lettered in both baseball and football each of his years in high school. Tak made Honor Roll, and was a member of the Varsity Club, Future Farmers of America, the Japanese Club and Key Club. He was also elected President of his sophomore class. An “All American” teen. Tak was also schooled in Japanese culture, learning the martial art of Kendo with his father and brother at the Shuboyo Kendo Club.

Ted Tanouye (front row, second from left) Photo provided courtesy of the Tanouye Family
Ted Tanouye (front row, second from left)
Photo provided courtesy of the Tanouye Family

Upon graduating, Tak started working in the produce department of Ideal Ranch Market along with his friend, Ray Takayama. Ray later opened his own local store, Ray’s Friendly Market, and Tak went to work for him as head of the produce department. It was while he was at work on that morning of December 7, 1941, that he learned of the bombing of Pearl Harbor. The United States was at war, and he knew that things would never be the same. On February 19, 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066 which allowed the military to order more than 100,000 Japanese Americans to be forced out of their homes and relocated to remote areas of the country where they were incarcerated surrounded by barbed wire, and monitored by military guards.

Tak in front of Ideal Ranch Market Photos provided courtesy of the Tanouye Family
Tak in front of Ideal Ranch Market
Photos provided courtesy of the Tanouye Family

December 7, 1942 changed the lives of Japanese Americans, but it was the night of February 21, 1942 that was to forever change the Tanouye family’s lives. In a midnight raid, the FBI arrested Nikuma. According to the family story that has been passed down to his granddaughter, Diane Tanouye, they did not even bother to knock. The family’s door was kicked in, and the house was raided. Her grandfather was a “proud, dignified man, a master of the martial art of kendo and the father of five sons and a daughter. The “Old World” concept of family honor was very strong in Japanese American families, and the idea that the family’s door had been kicked in during a midnight raid and that the patriarch of the family had been arrested brought great shame to the family name.” Nikuma was 56 years of age at the time of the arrest and his standing as a martial arts specialist in the art of kendo, and his standing as a respected member of the Japanese American community made him a suspect, a threat to the United States. This man who had registered for the draft during WWI was now a person of suspicious nature during WWII.

Page 1 of U. S. Department of Justice Alien Enemy Questionnaire completed by Nikuma Tanouye on February 23, 1942. From the National Archives at College Park
Page 1 of U. S. Department of Justice Alien Enemy Questionnaire completed by Nikuma Tanouye on February 23, 1942.
From the National Archives at College Park
Click here to read the completed document.

Gwen Granados, a federal archivist found that the first 35 Japanese nationals that were arrested after the attack on Pearl Harbor were sent to Griffith Park and placed in a makeshift jail. They were then transferred to Tuna Canyon, originally a Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) camp built in the 1930s, then converted into an internment depot on December 15, 1941. While held at Tuna Canyon, which had fences topped with barbed wire, sentry boxes at each corner, and floodlights, detainees were subject to Justice Department hearings and trials.

Tuna Canyon Detention Center surrounded by barbed wire fencing, sentry boxes and flood lights. Photo provided courtesy of the Tuna Canyon Photo Catalog
Tuna Canyon Detention Center surrounded by barbed wire fencing, sentry boxes and flood lights.
Photo provided courtesy of the Tuna Canyon Photo Catalog

Nikuma was held at Tuna Canyon for nearly two months. During his stay he recorded names of other prisoners, and expressed his humiliation, and his distaste for the meals they were fed. He was finally paroled and transferred to join his family at the Santa Anita Racetrack, which had been converted and designated as an “Assembly Center” near Los Angeles, California. He arrived on April 13, 1942.

Enemy Alien Cards for Nikuma Tanouye
Enemy Alien Cards for Nikuma Tanouye

Nikuma Tanouye's parole release document from Tuna Canyon Detention Station From the National Archives at College Park
Nikuma Tanouye’s parole release document from Tuna Canyon Detention Station
From the National Archives at College Park

As a result of the attack on Pearl Harbor the government decided to reclassify Japanese-American men as 4C (enemy alien), exempting them from the draft Having been drafted before this policy went in to effect, Tak was inducted into the U.S. Army on February 20, 1942. The following evening of February 21st, the FBI had come to arrest his father. Some weeks later, his mother, brothers and sister were ordered to go to the Santa Anita Racetrack, now an “assembly center”. After being paroled from Tuna Canyon, Nikuma joined the family at Santa Anita where they lived for six months. On October 16, 1942, they were shipped to Camp Jerome, a “Relocation Center” in Arkansas, one of ten such camps operated by the War Relocation Authority and incarcerating an estimated 110,000 Japanese Americans. When Jerome was closed to be converted to a German POW camp, the Tanouye family was sent to Camp Rohwer, Arkansas until the end of the war.

Meanwhile Ted, who was inducted at Fort MacArthur in San Pedro, would come to be transferred to various military installations including Arkansas, Wyoming, and Mississippi. The diligence that he put into excelling in high school carried over to the military and he quickly rose in rank from Private to Technical Sergeant. He applied for officer training, but was denied, which greatly disappointed him, suspecting that his being Japanese may have been an issue. Ted’s service included duties at post headquarters at Fort F.E. Warren, Wyoming, where he trained as a cook and baker.

Collage of photographs of Private Ted Tanouye during basic training Photo provided courtesy of the Tanouye Family
Collage of photographs of Private Ted Tanouye during basic training
Photo provided courtesy of the Tanouye Family

Japanese in the Hawaii Territorial Guard (HTG), which was mainly ROTC students from the University of Hawaii were dismissed. After their dismissal, the students that were with the HTG decided that they still wanted to play a role during the war and petitioned the military governor to volunteer as a labor battalion. This petition reads:

We, the undersigned, were members of the Hawaii Territorial Guard until its recent inactivation. We joined the Guard voluntarily with the hope that this was one way to serve our country in her time of need. Needless to say, we were deeply disappointed when we were told that our services in the Guard were no longer needed. Hawaii is our home; the United States, our country. We know but one loyalty and that is to the Stars and Stripes. We wish to do our part as loyal Americans in every way possible and we hereby offer ourselves for whatever service you may see fit to use us.

In February 1942, the 169 students got their wish and became a labor battalion that came to be known as the Varsity Victory Volunteers and they performed small labor jobs.

There was fear about the loyalty of Japanese-American soldiers should Japan invade Hawaii. Through the efforts of many supporters, permission was granted to form the segregated “Hawaiian Provisional Battalion”. As an active military unit they were renamed the “100th Battalion Separate” and sent to Camp McCoy, Wisconsin for training. They proclaimed the motto, “Remember Pearl Harbor”. The 100th Battalion was sent to Italy and entered battle there on September 29, 1943, near Salerno in Southern Italy. They advanced north, facing heavy enemy resistance but advanced 15 miles in 24 hours, to Benevento, an important rail intersection.

Building on the exemplary training record and success of the 100th Battalion Separate, the army decided to expand the model and formed the 442nd Regimental Combat Team which was also a segregated unit comprised mainly of Nisei soldiers. Nisei are Japanese-Americans whose parents had immigrated to the United States. Most of the officers were not of Japanese ancestry. The army first looked to the WRA camps to get recruits to fill the 442nd ranks, but they had not fully considered all of the complex factors and social pressures that might prevent these young men from volunteering from this environment of incarceration in large enough numbers to meet the needed quota. Having secured approximately 1,300 men in this initial effort on the Mainland, the army returned to Hawaii announcing the call for 1,500 men. They were overwhelmed by the response when an estimated 10,000 men came to volunteer, eager to serve their country and prove their loyalty. The 442nd chose the motto, “Go For Broke”. In Hawaiian Pidgin, this means “to wager everything”. In other words, they would risk everything and give it their all. The regiment had many soldiers whose Japanese families were stripped from their homes and most of their belongings, then put into camps, so they had this strong desire to prove their loyalty to their country, which made them more determined to conquer their fears and attain their objectives.

Tak working as a mess hall cook at Ft. Warren Wyoming in November of 1942 Photo provided courtesy of the Tanouye Family
Tak working as a mess hall cook at Ft. Warren Wyoming in November of 1942
Photo provided courtesy of the Tanouye Family

When Ted was first transferred to Camp Shelby, he served as the Mess Sergeant for K Company. Then seeing that the position of 2nd Platoon Technical Sergeant was open, Tanouye volunteered himself, wanting to assume a more active role in the infantry. He joined the ranks of the 442nd.

The 100th Battalion was moving north in Italy. They were assigned to take the Monte Cassino Monastery. The Germans had “Clear-cut” the forest and redirected water to flood the surrounding valley, protecting the only approach to Castle Hill, the site of the castle guarding the road to the monastery. Having suffered heavy casualties after multiple assaults which stalled at walls of the castle, the High Command determined the German defenses to be too strong and ordered the bombing of the Monte Cassino Monastery. As a result the 100th Battalion was nicknamed the “Purple Heart Battalion” and held to the motto “Remember Pearl Harbor”. Soon after, the 100th began to receive its first replacements from the 442nd RTC. The 100th Battalion became the first battalion of the 442nd RTC and kept their name the “100th” in honor of their military record.

The 442nd landed at Anzio on May 28th, and joined the 100th Battalion in Civitavecchia, north of Rome on June 11, 1944. On July 7, 1944, his third day on the front line, Technical Sergeant Tanouye displayed that “Go For Broke” mentality. He led his platoon in an attack to gain control of a strategically important hill that allowed very little cover. This site was known as Hill 140, a strong line of German resistance. The enemy held the hill, and had already wiped out machine gun squads of L Company of the 3rd Battalion and G Company of the 2nd “Battalion.

Map of Italy
Map of Italy

In a dawn attack, Technical Sergeant Tanouye, leading an advance attack on Hill 140, noticed an enemy machine gun crew to his left. The area allowed for little cover. He noticed the enemy setting up machine guns to fire on his troops. He crept forward a few yards and opened fire on them killing or wounding three men and leading two others to try to disperse. From somewhere an enemy machine gun opened fire on him. He fired back and killed or wounded three more enemy soldiers. Reorganizing his platoon, he was still intent on moving forward. He charged through heavy fire and grenade bursts, and in the process destroyed many enemy machine gunners and machine gun nests. Tanouye was wounded on his left arm but turned down medical aid. He did not give up here. Tanouye caught sight of an enemy-held trench and fired his submachine gun, wounding more enemy soldiers. Out of ammunition, he crawled 20 yards to get more clips from a fellow soldier. At that point he saw an enemy machine pistol that had pinned down some of his men, so he crawled further forward and threw a hand grenade in that direction. The enemy fire ceased. He then took note of another machine gun nest located above him, so he once again opened fire, and once again silenced the nest. Tanouye next organized a defensive position on the reverse slope of the hill. His left arm was seriously injured, but he made his mark on Hill 140. Hill 140 became known as “Little Cassino” due to the strong resistance from the Germans. By 1800 hours on this day, the Germans started their retreat.

Technical Sergeant Tanouye was sent for medical care, but would soon return to join his men as the 442nd advanced against the Germans. They faced heavy resistance as they fought on towards the Arno River.

Last letter home from Sergeant Ted Tanouye Photos provided courtesy of the Tanouye Family
Last letter home from Sergeant Ted Tanouye
Photos provided courtesy of the Tanouye Family

Last letter home from Sergeant Ted Tanouye Photos provided courtesy of the Tanouye Family
Last letter home from Sergeant Ted Tanouye
Photos provided courtesy of the Tanouye Family

The letter reads:

Aug 27th
Hya Folks–

Received your most interesting letter today – good to hear from you all – as for me I’m in the best of health – at present am on the front line again dodging attacking fire & bullets just sweating our head off. Glad to hear that Kike, Harm & Sue is doing okay in Chicago. How is every one out there? – in good health I presume – Don’t worry about me, I’m okay yet – only miss Akira now.

Hey — Did you receive my Purple Heart Medal yet? – also I sent couple package of souvenirs too – let me know when you receive them too – well besides that there isn’t much else to write about — the same old stuff out here in Italy.

I’d like to hear more about things going on out there – so keep up the good writing – good to receive letters from someone back home especially as I’m here sitting in a foxhold – really gets lonesome at times if it weren’t for those letter – read them about dozen times simetimes.

That’s all for now till later – so long & my regards to all.

Brother Ted

Two months later, on September 1, 1944, Sergeant Tanouye, now near the Arno River in Italy, was once again wounded. He passed five days later, and his parents learned of his heroism and death from within the guarded and barbed wire fences in Rohwer, Arkansas. Ted Tanouye was posthumously awarded the Army’s second-highest decoration, the Distinguished Service Cross. His mother was picked up at Camp Rowher and taken to a nearby military site to receive the award. The 442nd came to be the most decorated unit for its size and length of service in the history of American warfare.

In the following article, the following excerpt is taken from a letter of condolence from Sergeant Tanouye’s commanding officer, “He was a credit to his race, an excellent soldier, a loyal American who was respected and admired by everyone in the company.”

Article that was not cleared for publication until after the death of Sergeant Tanouye Torrance Herald Thursday, November 16, 1944 Click here to read
Article that was not cleared for publication until after the death of Sergeant Tanouye
Torrance Herald Thursday, November 16, 1944
Click here to read

Article on the death of Sergeant Tanouye Torrance Herald Thursday, October 5, 1944
Article on the death of Sergeant Tanouye
Torrance Herald Thursday, October 5, 1944
Click here to read

Nikuma Tanouye (left) with Katsuhei. Shimatsu taken at Rowher Relocation Camp The Tanouye and Shimatsu families were close. Katsuhei's son, Akira was Ted's best friend. Photo provided courtesy of the Shimatsu and Tanouye Families
Nikuma Tanouye (left) with Katsuhei. Shimatsu taken at Rowher Relocation Camp
The Tanouye and Shimatsu families were close. Katsuhei’s son, Akira was Ted’s best friend.
Photo provided courtesy of the Shimatsu and Tanouye Families

Technical Sergeant Ted Tanouye was the second person of Japanese ancestry and former resident of Torrance to die as the result of action during WWII. The other was Akira R. Shimatsu, also killed in Italy and Tanouye’s best friend, whose loss Ted referred to in his last letter home. Shimatsu was also killed in battle in Italy. While originally buried in Italy, both their bodies were brought back home where the Shimatsu and Tanouye families held a joint Buddhist service and burial service at Evergreen Cemetery in Los Angeles, California. The friends are buried side-by-side.

Shimatsu/Tanouye funeral service in Los Angeles, California Photo provided courtesy of the Shimatsu and Tanouye Families. Photographed by Toyo Miyatake
Shimatsu/Tanouye funeral service in Los Angeles, California
Photo provided courtesy of the Shimatsu and Tanouye Families. Photographed by Toyo Miyatake

Shimatsu/Tanouye burial service at Evergreen Cemetery in Los Angeles, California. Evergreen was one of the few that would accept Japanese Americans during WWII (and shortly after), in the Los Angeles area. The friends are buried side-by-side. Photo provided courtesy of the Shimatsu and Tanouye Families. Photographed by Toyo Miyatake
Shimatsu/Tanouye burial service at Evergreen Cemetery in Los Angeles, California.
Evergreen was one of the few that would accept Japanese Americans during WWII (and shortly after),
in the Los Angeles area. The friends are buried side-by-side.
Photo provided courtesy of the Shimatsu and Tanouye Families. Photographed by Toyo Miyatake

Shimatsu/Tanouye burial site at Evergreen Cemetery in Los Angeles, California. Photograph by Nancy Teramura Hayata
Shimatsu/Tanouye burial site at Evergreen Cemetery in Los Angeles, California.
Photograph by Nancy Teramura Hayata

Front and back of a photo of (l to right) Sergeant Ted Tanouye, Jumbo Mochizuki and Akira Shimatsu. Photo provided courtesy of the Shimatsu and Tanouye Family
Front and back of a photo of (l to right) Sergeant Ted Tanouye, Jumbo Mochizuki and Akira Shimatsu.
Photo provided courtesy of the Shimatsu and Tanouye Family

Front and back of a photo of (l to right) Sergeant Ted Tanouye, Jumbo Mochizuki and Akira Shimatsu. Photo provided courtesy of the Shimatsu and Tanouye Family
Front and back of a photo of (l to right) Sergeant Ted Tanouye, Jumbo Mochizuki and Akira Shimatsu.
Photo provided courtesy of the Shimatsu and Tanouye Family

Sergeant Ted Tanouye's uniform jacket. Photograph by Nancy Teramura Hayata Sergeant Ted Tanouye’s uniform jacket.
Photograph by Nancy Teramura Hayata

The California National Guard in Torrance is a tribute to Ted Tanouye and is also known as the Ted Tanouye Memorial Armory.

California National Guard Ted Tanouye Memorial Armory Photographs by Nancy Teramura Hayata
California National Guard Ted Tanouye Memorial Armory
Photographs by Nancy Teramura Hayata

California National Guard Ted Tanouye Memorial Armory Photographs by Nancy Teramura Hayata
California National Guard Ted Tanouye Memorial Armory
Photographs by Nancy Teramura Hayata

This National Guard location is home to the 640th Support Battalion. The battalion designed their battalion crest with Ted Tanouye in mind, incorporating the yin yang symbol.

640th Support Battalion Unit Crest
640th Support Battalion Unit Crest

On March 19, 2002, the City of Torrance erected the City of Torrance Veterans Memorial. It is located by City Hall, and is dedicated to Torrance residents who have given their life in the service of their country during war. Note that the City of Torrance is one of the few cities in the nation designated by the U.S. Department of Defense to host an Armed Forces Day celebration with the Torrance Armed Forces Day Parade as a highlight. The Parade has the distinction of being the nation’s longest running military parade sponsored by any city, and passes this monument annually. There is a quote:

“Let me not mourn for those who have died fighting, but rather let me be glad that such heroes have lived.”
–General George Patton

City of Torrance’s Veterans Memorial Wall located at the corner of Maple and Torrance Blvd in Torrance, CA Ted Tanouye and Akira Shimatsu are among those listed. Photographs by Nancy Teramura Hayata
City of Torrance’s Veterans Memorial Wall located at the corner of Maple and Torrance Blvd in Torrance, CA
Ted Tanouye and Akira Shimatsu are among those listed.
Photographs by Nancy Teramura Hayata

City of Torrance’s Veterans Memorial Wall located at the corner of Maple and Torrance Blvd in Torrance, CA Ted Tanouye and Akira Shimatsu are among those listed. Photographs by Nancy Teramura Hayata
City of Torrance’s Veterans Memorial Wall located at the corner of Maple and Torrance Blvd in Torrance, CA
Ted Tanouye and Akira Shimatsu are among those listed.
Photographs by Nancy Teramura Hayata

The following are photos from the dedication service for the Torrance Veterans Memorial Wall.

Masaru Shimatsu pointing to his nephew (Ted's best friend), Akira Shimatu's name. Photo courtesy of the Shimatsu and Tanouye Families
Masaru Shimatsu pointing to his nephew (Ted’s best friend), Akira Shimatu’s name.
Photo courtesy of the Shimatsu and Tanouye Families

Masaru Shimatsu and Isao "Easy" Tanouye (Ted Tanouye's uncle). Photo courtesy of the Shimatsu and Tanouye Families
Masaru Shimatsu and Isao “Easy” Tanouye (Ted Tanouye’s uncle).
Photo courtesy of the Shimatsu and Tanouye Families

On July 7, 2004, a stone and bronze memorial to Tanouye was dedicated in a park across the street from his high school, Torrance High.

Memorial to Techinical Sergeant Tanouye at Triangle Park, across the street from Torrance High Photographs by Nancy Teramura Hayata
Memorial to Techinical Sergeant Tanouye at Triangle Park, across the street from Torrance High
Photographs by Nancy Teramura Hayata

In May of 2004, a group of eight Torrance High School students were selected to participate in a research project of this alumnus, and how he had fought in WWII while his family was incarcerated in Camps Jerome and Rohwer in Arkansas. Their findings revealed how he had still given it “his all” on the battlefield, and how he was eventually awarded (posthumously) the Congressional Medal of Honor. They researched Ted Tanouye’s history via school yearbooks, newspapers, the internet, and interviews with veterans of WWII, resulting in the award winning and nationally broadcast documentary film, Citizen Tanouye.

Cover of the dvd, Citizen Tanouye
Cover of the dvd, Citizen Tanouye

Nikuma Tanouye once again made Southern California his home after the war, and he passed away in Gardena, California on March 22, 1966. This man who moved to America with dreams of success, who brought a woman here from Japan to be his wife and start a family, who suffered humiliation when one night, in front of his wife and children his home was invaded and he was arrested, and who spent WWII in barracks that were surrounded by barbed wire fencing, never experienced the Civil Liberties Act of 1988 that granted reparations to Japanese Americans who were interned during WWII. Moreover, Nikuma Tanouye, never experienced the glory of seeing his son posthumously receive the United States military’s highest decoration for bravery, the Congressional Medal of Honor, for his actions on Hill 140. This ceremony took place at the White House on June 21, 2000 following a 1996 review of his service record as an Asian American who had received the Distinguished Service Award during WWII . In addition to receiving the Medal of Honor, Tanouye was also posthumously awarded the Bronze Star, Purple Heart with Oak Leaf Cluster, European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal, Combat Infantryman Badge, and World War II Victory Medal.

Technical Sergeant Ted T. Tanouye's Medal of Honor Certificate housed at the California National Guard Armory in Torrance, CA Photograph by Nancy Teramura Hayata
Technical Sergeant Ted T. Tanouye’s Medal of Honor Certificate housed at the California National Guard Armory in Torrance, CA
Photograph by Nancy Teramura Hayata

The 442nd RCT in Action - T/Sgt. Ted T. Tanouye Photograph by Nancy Teramura Hayata
The 442nd RCT in Action – T/Sgt. Ted T. Tanouye
Photograph by Nancy Teramura Hayata

In a speech given at the Japanese American Veterans 2016 Joint Memorial Service at the Japanese National War Memorial Court on May 28th, Robert Horsting, Oral Historian, gives us deeper insight in the following segment from his Memorial Day message:

“The stories of veterans who served with T/Sergeant Ted Tanouye in the 442nd’s K Company, have given us a personal insight beyond the citation which documents his action on Hill 140 in Italy, that would eventually result in the Medal of Honor being presented to his family in the year 2000.

Kent Kajiwara remembers the Mess Sergeant that befriended this Hawaii boy and even took him along to the War Relocation Authority site, Camp Jerome, where his family was incarcerated by the U.S . government. He told of how Ted would bring him to sit with his parents and then duck out to visit someone (It’s speculated that this was his love interest).

Ted’s younger brother Isao, shared the back story of a somber family portrait (the only group photo of the family) shot outside the family barrack. It was wasn’t the usual stoic Japanese family portrait, but one in which expressions revealed deep wounds. He said that on that day Ted asked his father for permission to marry, but was told to wait until he returned. (Photograph below).

S/Sergeant, Hideo “Lefty” Kuniyoshi talked about his friend who had a safe job, but volunteered to join them as a frontline soldier, saying, ‘He could have come home safe.’ He always credited Ted with saving his life. Their platoon had stopped near the Arno River while a combat engineer was inspecting a land mine with a trigger wire. Ted walked up and knelt next to ‘Lefty’ positioned between him and the engineer. Just as ‘Lefty’ was commenting how dangerous it was that the engineer was applying so much tension on the line, as he moved to track it’s end, the mine exploded instantly killing the engineer and wounding Ted who received all of the blast while shielding ‘Lefty’.

Kiyoshi Yoshii recalled that even as he was carried away on a liter, mortally wounded, his spirit was still strong, calling out, ‘Go for broke, go for broke.’ T/Sergeant Tanouye died five days later on September 6, 1944.”

The only Tanouye family photograph of known existence. Taken while Ted was on leave and visiting his family who were incarcerated. Front Row l to r: Nikuma (father), Harumi “Harm”, Yukiwo “Yuki”, Kiyoyuki “Bill” Back Row l to r: Isao “Easy”, Momoe (mother), Sumiye “Sumi”, Takayuki “Ted” Photo provided courtesy of the Tanouye Family
The only Tanouye family photograph of known existence.
Taken while Ted was on leave and visiting his family who were incarcerated.
Front Row l to r: Nikuma (father), Harumi “Harm”, Yukiwo “Yuki”, Kiyoyuki “Bill”
Back Row l to r: Isao “Easy”, Momoe (mother), Sumiye “Sumi”, Takayuki “Ted”
Photo provided courtesy of the Tanouye Family

Nikuma and Momoe Tanouye were to lose another son to war. Their youngest son, Yukiwo was killed in action in the Korean War on September 7, 1951. His brother, Isao, also fighting in Korea, accompanied his brother home, then returned to the front line. Nikuma Tanouye no doubt never imagined how life would take such a turn for him in 1942.

Nikuma and Momoye are buried at Evergreen Cemetery in Los Angeles, CA, not too far away from their son, Tak. Photograph by Nancy Teramura Hayata
Nikuma and Momoye are buried at Evergreen Cemetery in Los Angeles, CA, not too far away from their son, Tak.
Photograph by Nancy Teramura Hayata

May this type of prejudice and families being torn apart never happen again.  May places like Tuna Canyon Detention Center never again exist.

Sergeant Tanouye recognized at the Go For Broke Monument in Los Angeles, CA Photographs by Nancy Teramura Hayata
Sergeant Tanouye recognized at the Go For Broke Monument in Los Angeles, CA
Photographs by Nancy Teramura Hayata

“Their motto was ‘Go for Broke!’ They risked it all to win it all. They risked their lives above and beyond the call of duty and in doing so they did more than defend America. In the face of painful prejudice, they helped to define America at its best.”
— President William J. Clinton, at the 2000 ceremony honoring 22 WWII-era Asian American soldiers who finally received their Medals of Honor

About the Contributor

nancyhayata

Nancy Teramura Hayata, a graduate of the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) and the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising (FIDM), who lives life with a passion. She is a web and graphic developer, and marketing consultant who also choreographs, teaches and performs classical Japanese dance. Her volunteer work in the community recently led her to the Tuna Canyon project, and she firmly believes that this must never happen again.