The December to Remember: WWII veteran receives nation’s top civilian honor

Credit: Napa Valley Register

As I mentioned in the post published on December 1st, I will be posting articles that are related to WWII and or Pearl Harbor that are of current events. Today’s news article is one that I found on napavalleyregister.comwhich is a local news paper from Napa, California. I actually watched a segment on my local news TV channel about this gentleman. His story is one of intrigue and courage. But first here is a little background on how the Japanese American Citizens were treated shortly after the Pearl Harbor attack.

Being a Japanese American shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor, was not easy. They were treated as possible threats to National Security. Many Japanese Americans were treated unfairly as the non-Asian citizens did not trust anyone resembling Japanese descent. The country went into a sort of campaign to motivate the young and eager willing male public 16-24 years of age to join in to fight the Japanese to obtain Justice against the attack on Pearl Harbor. Some citizens took the distrust too far by hanging racist signs and writing horrible messages on or near the Japanese American houses and businesses such as these:

Racist Sign hung in San Francisco Advertising the Sutro Baths

A Japanese family returns home to find their garage vandalized with graffiti and broken windows in Seattle, on May 10, 1945. AP Photo

We had Japanese Internment camps right here in California. Japanese-American internment was the relocation and internment by the United States government in 1942 of approximately 110,000 Japanese Americans and Japanese who lived along the Pacific coast of the United States to camps called “War Relocation Camps,” in the wake of Imperial Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor. The internment of Japanese Americans was applied unequally throughout the United States. Japanese Americans who lived on the West Coast of the United States were all interned, while in Hawaii, where more than 150,000 Japanese Americans composed over one-third of the territory’s population, 1,200 to 1,800 Japanese Americans were interned. Of those interned, 62% were American citizens.

Japanese Internment Camp in California

So now you may know why this article is so significant. Now without further adieu here is the News article.

credit:Napa Valley Register

Takuma Tanada, a 92-year-old resident of west Napa, makes no claims for heroic service in World War II in the fight against Japan. “Others are the real heroes,” he said.

While vast numbers of American soldiers, sailors and pilot lost their lives or endured miserable conditions in the Pacific, Tanada was on General Douglas MacArthur’s staff as an agricultural advisor in the Military Intelligence Service.

Yet his contribution was not without significance. When the war ended and American forces ran Japan, Tanada said he was in charge of the importation and manufacture of fertilizer. This humanitarian effort, combined with American food aid, prevented millions of Japanese from starving to death after the war, he said.

Credit: Napa Valley Register

Three weeks ago, Tanada stood before the top leadership of the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate in Washington, D.C. to accept the Congressional Gold Medal for his war service.

The medal — one of the two highest civilian awards in the United States — went to Tanada and 99 other WWII veterans not only for their individual actions during the war, but to recognize the patriotism of Japanese Americans at a time of rabid prejudice at home.

The Congressional Gold Medal is part of America’s ongoing effort to atone for injustices done to Japanese Americans during WWII, said Tanada, who professes to holding no personal bitterness.

At the time of the Japanese attack at Pearl Harbor, Tanada, the son of Japanese who immigrated to Hawaii two decades earlier, was a biology student at the University of Hawaii.

Pearl Harbor triggered a wave of public hostility against Japanese Americans whose loyalty to America was questioned, Tanada said. “We were considered spies, a Fifth Column and so forth,” he said in an interview.

On the West Coast, the U.S. government rounded up more than 110,000 people of Japanese ancestry, including entire families, after Pearl Harbor and moved them to guarded camps.

In Hawaii, Japanese Americans, who constituted a much higher percentage of the population, were not sent to internment camps. “The authorities in Hawaii recognized our loyalty,” Tanada said.

Tanada and his brother both volunteered for the Army. His brother, Shigeo Tanada, was accepted and fought against Germany in an all-Japanese American unit that was highly decorated after the war.

Tanada said he was first rejected by the military, then drafted later. Because of his ethnicity and bilingual capabilities, he was assigned to the Military Intelligence Service where 5,000 Japanese Americans did top-secret work translating Japanese communications. He reached the rank of technical sergeant.

Credit: Napa Valley Register

Holding a master’s in biology, Tanada was assigned to MacArthur’s staff to work on agriculture and food issues.

Presiding over the award ceremony in the Capitol on Nov. 2 were Harry Reid, the Senate majority leader; Sen. Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader; House Speaker John Boehner and House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi.

“He was all smiles. I think this energized him,” said Juliet Tanada, his daughter who is a retired Army lieutenant colonel.

Given all that happened to Japanese Americans during World War II, “this is a kind of closure,” she said.

Tanada’s son-in-law, David Vesely, a retired Army colonel, said the Congressional medal should help to heal old wounds. “I hope when he goes to his grave,” he said of his father-in-law, “he feels there is atonement for what the government did.”

While pleased with the Congressional Gold Medal, Tanada downplays his service. “I never experienced hardship, mentally or physically. It was an easy job for me,” he said.

Japan’s decision to attack the U.S. at Pearl Harbor was a “very stupid” move, Tanada said. Japan is lucky it lost the war, he said.

“It turned out better for them,” he said. Under American leadership and with American aid, Japan was able to create a more civil society and lay the groundwork for future economic prosperity, he said.

Tanada went on to have a distinguished career as a plant researcher for the U.S. Department of Agriculture. He was “rumored” to have been nominated for the Nobel Prize, but nothing came of it, he said.

Anyone who searches the Internet for “Tanada effect” will find  entries about an electrical plant phenomenon named for Tanada, the discoverer.

Tanada and his wife moved to Napa 28 years ago to retire near their daughter, Juliet Tanada, who was then teaching optometry at Berkeley.

Widowed in 1986, he tends a one-acre garden in Browns Valley where he grows fruits and vegetables and wages war against marauding deer.

“I like the climate,” he said. “Napa has a small-town atmosphere, which appeals to me. I don’t like big cities. It was the perfect place for me to settle.”

The human rights group Stop Islamization of America (SIOA) hosts a rally at Ground Zero to protest the construction of a mosque at the site of the Islamic terror attack that brought down the Twin Towers on September 11, 2001.

America is more tolerant of minorities today than it was in the 1940s, Tanada said. While there was some backlash against American Muslims after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, it was nothing like what happened to Japanese Americans after Pearl Harbor, he said.

“I think we are much more open-minded than before,” he said.

You can visit the website by visiting: WWII Veteran Receives Nation’s top civilian Honor

I hope you enjoyed this article. If you know someone of Japanese ethnicity that lived in the United States during WWII, ask them about what it was like to live in a Nation that at first had promise of a better life but then as soon as Pearl Harbor was attacked became a Nation of stripping civil rights from anyone who was Japanese. Even though you were born in the US, you were still Japanese and considered a threat. Times have thankfully changed.

Thanks for reading,

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Published in: on December 6, 2011 at 2:15 AM  Comments (1)  
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December 1941: The December to Remember

As we are healing from the over eating and family bickering we enter into December. For myself and many others from my generation (Generation Y) born during the 1980’s, December represents the beginning of the Christmas season, countdown to Christmas gifts, and days off of school for Christmas vacation. But for a few generations before us December means so much more. For some it is a chilling reminder of the attack on Pearl Harbor Hawaii. The attack on Pearl Harbor Hawaii happened on December 7, 1941 in the early morning around 8:00AM. Sailors aboard the various ships docked in the harbor were waking and beginning to start their day in paradise. Their daily duties were abruptly disrupted by the sound of explosions and fire.

The attack was intended as a preventive action in order to keep the U.S. Pacific Fleet from interfering with military actions the Empire of Japan was planning in Southeast Asia against overseas territories of the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, and the United States.

The base was attacked by 353 Japanese fighters, bombers and torpedo planes in two waves, launched from six aircraft carriers. All eight U.S. Navy battleships were damaged, with four being sunk. All but two of the eight were raised, repaired and returned to service later in the war. The Japanese also sank or damaged three cruisers, three destroyers, an anti-aircraft training ship, and one minelayer. 188 U.S. aircraft were destroyed; 2,402 Americans were killed and 1,282 wounded. The power station, shipyard, maintenance, and fuel and torpedo storage facilities, as well as the submarine piers and headquarters building (also home of the intelligence section) were not attacked. Japanese losses were light: 29 aircraft and five midget submarines lost, and 65 servicemen killed or wounded. One Japanese sailor was captured.

The attack came as a profound shock to the American people and led directly to the American entry into World War II in both the Pacific and European theaters. The following day (December 8 ) the United States declared war on Japan.

In the wake of the attack, 15 Medals of Honor, 51 Navy Crosses, 53 Silver Stars, four Navy and Marine Corps Medals, one Distinguished Flying Cross, four Distinguished Service Crosses, one Distinguished Service Medal, and three Bronze Stars were awarded to the American servicemen who distinguished themselves in combat at Pearl Harbor. Additionally, a special military award, the Pearl Harbor Commemorative Medal, was later authorized for all military veterans of the attack.

The day after the attack, Roosevelt delivered his famous Infamy Speech to a Joint Session of Congress, calling for a formal declaration of war on the Empire of Japan. Congress obliged his request less than an hour later. On December 11 Germany and Italy, honoring their commitments under the Tripartite Pact, declared war on the United States. The Tripartite Pact was an earlier agreement between Germany, Italy and Japan which had the principal objective of limiting U.S. intervention in any conflicts involving the three nations. The United States Congress issued a declaration of war against Germany and Italy later that same day. Britain actually declared war on Japan nine hours before the US did, partially due to Japanese attacks on Malaya, Singapore and Hong Kong, and partially due to Winston Churchill’s promise to declare war “within the hour” of a Japanese attack on the United States.

The attack was an initial shock to all the Allies in the Pacific Theater. Further losses compounded the alarming setback. Japan attacked the Philippines hours later (because of the time difference, it was December 8 in the Philippines). Only three days after the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Prince of Wales and Repulse were sunk off the coast of Malaya, causing British Prime Minister Winston Churchill later to recollect “In all the war I never received a more direct shock. As I turned and twisted in bed the full horror of the news sank in upon me. There were no British or American capital ships in the Indian Ocean or the Pacific except the American survivors of Pearl Harbor who were hastening back to California. Over this vast expanse of waters Japan was supreme and we everywhere were weak and naked”.

Throughout the war, Pearl Harbor was frequently used in American propaganda.

One further consequence of the attacks on Pearl Harbor and its aftermath (notably the Niihau Incident) was that Japanese American residents and citizens were relocated to nearby Japanese-American internment camps. Within hours of the attack, hundreds of Japanese American leaders were rounded up and brought to high-security camps such as Sand Island at the mouth of Honolulu harbor and Kilauea Military Camp on the island of Hawaii. Later, over 110,000 Japanese Americans, including United States citizens, were removed from their homes and transferred to internment camps in California, Idaho, Utah, Arizona, Wyoming, Colorado, and Arkansas. The Japanese planners had determined that some means of rescuing fliers whose aircraft were too badly damaged to return to the carriers was required. The island of Niihau, only 30 minutes flying time from Pearl Harbor, was designated as the rescue point.

The Zero flown by Petty Officer Saikaijo of Hiryu was damaged in the attack on Wheeler, and he flew to the rescue point on Niihau. The aircraft was further damaged on landing, and Saikaijo was helped from the wreckage by one of the native Hawaiian inhabitants. The island’s residents had no telephones or radio and were completely unaware of the attack on Pearl Harbor. The pilot’s maps and other documents had been retained by his local rescuers, and when Saikaijo realized this he enlisted the support of the only two Japanese residents of the island in an attempt to recover them. During the ensuing struggles, Saikaijo was killed, one of the Japanese residents committed suicide and the other disappeared.

The ease with which the local Japanese residents apparently went to the assistance of Saikaijo was a source of concern for many, and tended to support those who believed that local Japanese could not be trusted.


Today, the USS Arizona Memorial on the island of Oahu honors the lives lost on the day of the attack. Visitors to the memorial access it via boats from the naval base at Pearl Harbor. Alfred Preis is the architect responsible for the memorial’s design. The structure has a sagging center and its ends strong and vigorous. It commemorates “initial defeat and ultimate victory” of all lives lost on December 7, 1941. Although December 7 is known as Pearl Harbor Day, it is not considered a federal holiday in the United States. The nation does however, continue to pay homage remembering the thousands injured and killed when attacked by the Japanese in 1941. Schools and other establishments across the country respectfully lower the American flag to half-staff.

Pearl Harbor was that generations 9/11. We look at 9/11 in the same way that the Americans of that era looked at Pearl Harbor. I am a huge history buff, and I can swear that I am reincarnated from someone who lived during the 30’s, 40’s, or 50’s. So on every December 7th I  will always remember and honor those who lost their lives during the attack on Pearl Harbor. I have been on the USS Arizona’s monument and that visit only solidified my overwhelming feelings towards the sad event in history. Aboard the monument it is deafening quiet. It is so amazingly quiet that it feels like another world. You are overcome with such a feeling of loss partly because the of the large list of names chiseled into the marble wall as well as the fact that there still are the remains of sailors locked inside the vessel. It is speculated that the small oily substance seeping from the wreckage is the remains of the sailors who were untimely entombed inside the Arizona during that fateful day.

As we enter December and head towards the day that will live in infamy, I have stories and articles of current events that are related to WWII and the Attack on Pearl Harbor. So as we learn together how WWII and Pearl Harbor is still affecting and touching aspects of our time, please help us keep the memory alive by doing a little research of your own to learn something new about that fateful day. Stay tuned as more articles are to come leading up to December 7th, 70 years after December 1941, The December to Remember.

Thanks for reading,

Published in: on December 1, 2011 at 3:11 AM  Comments (3)  
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