Remarks by Glen S. Fukushima as prepared for delivery at the ribbon cutting ceremony of the Military Intelligence Service Historic Learning Center in San Francisco on Veterans Day, November 11, 2013.
Thank you for the kind introduction. I am privileged and honored to be invited today to present the keynote address at this National Japanese American Historical Society (NJAHS) event celebrating the opening of the Military Intelligence Service (MIS) Historic Learning Center at Building 640, the site of the first MIS Language School. I would like to thank NJAHS Executive Director Rosalyn Tonai for inviting me to speak at this important event.
I am especially pleased to be invited today because, in addition to the historic significance of this building and the opening of the learning center, MIS has a profound personal meaning for me because of my father, Fred Fukushima. Please allow me to explain.
My father, a Nisei (second-generation American of Japanese ancestry) who was born in Taft, California in 1924 and who died in Torrance in 2010, was a senior at Manual Arts High School in Los Angeles when Pearl Harbor was attacked on December 7, 1941. The following year, he and his family were interned in the war relocation camp in Amache, Colorado.
In late 1943, at the age of 19, my father enlisted in the U.S. Army. Upon induction, he was assigned to the Military Intelligence Service Language School at Camp Savage, Minnesota. After studying Japanese for six months, he graduated and was sent to Camp Blanding, Florida for two months of infantry basic training. He then returned to Minnesota, this time to Fort Snelling. After two months of additional training in Hawaii, he was sent to the Philippines and, later, Okinawa. His main jobs were intercepting Japanese codes, translating Japanese documents, interrogating prisoners of war, and coaxing Japanese soldiers to come out of their caves so they wouldn’t be incinerated by the flame throwers being used by the U.S. Marines.
In 2007, while doing an Internet search on MIS, I came across a photograph of my 20-year-old father taken in December 1944 at Leyte in the Philippines, with the 314th HQ Intelligence Detachment of the 96th Infantry Division, headed by Warren T. Higa of Hawaii. This led me to contact Ted T. Tsukiyama, an MIS veteran, who sent me a manuscript he had written entitled “The Battle of Okinawa Revisited.” My father is mentioned in this manuscript as follows:
A strong Nisei linguist team was assigned to the 96th division, the 314th HQ Intelligence Detachment led by team leader T/Sgt. Warren T. Higa and comprised of Takejiro Higa, Thomas Masui, Rudy Kawahara, Takeo Nonaka, Fred Fukushima, Haruo Kawana, Osamu Yamamoto, Herbert K. Yanamura and Akira Ohori. Landing with the invasion forces on D-Day, the 96th Division bore the brunt of the attack against General Ushijima’s forces throughout the bitter three months’ battle for Okinawa. Nisei MIS of the 314th undertook the dangerous task of cave-flushing, trying to coax out Japanese soldiers and Okinawan civilians holed up in the caves.
When the war ended in 1945, my father was assigned in Tokyo at SCAP (Supreme Commander Allied Powers) to work in the U.S. military occupation of Japan. He later served in the Korean War, and when that war ended, he was assigned to work in Camp Sendai in Miyagi Prefecture. It was on that U.S. Army base that I attended kindergarten and first grade of elementary school from 1954 to 1956.
After an assignment at Fort Ord, near Monterey, from 1956 to 1959, my father was assigned to the Presidio of San Francisco. He served on this base from September 1959 to November 1960. Until we were able to secure on-base housing, we lived in two apartments in San Francisco, and I attended Winfield Scott School on Divisadero Street and the Hawthorne School on Shotwell Street in the Mission District, since renamed the Cesar Chavez School. In March 1960, we moved into our duplex apartment in the Presidio at 1501-A Pershing Drive, and I started to attend the Sutro School on Funston Avenue. We lived here until November 1960, when, after seeing Douglas Edwards on CBS-TV report the results of the 1960 presidential election, we left on a MATS (Military Air Transport Service) airplane from Travis Air Force Base in Oakland to go to Japan, where my father was eventually assigned to work at Camp Zama in Kanagawa Prefecture.
So, I have these three personal connections to today’s events: (1) my father served in MIS from 1943, (2) my father was assigned at the Presidio from 1959 to 1960, and (3) our family lived in the Presidio, not far from here, from September 1959 to November 1960.
It was almost exactly 53 years ago that we I left the Presidio for Japan in November 1960. Since then, I have been extremely fortunate to work in interesting, significant, and fulfilling jobs in academia, journalism, law, government, business, and now in the non-profit sector, almost all of them related to the U.S. relationship with Japan and Asia.
I am always mindful that my good fortune to have such wonderful professional opportunities have come from the hard work, sacrifice, and devotion to country that were embodied in my father and his generation of Japanese Americans.
These opportunities have also come from the fact that the United States has provided unlimited opportunities to those willing to work hard and to pursue their dreams. The Second World War interrupted by father’s education so that he did not receive his high school diploma until he was in his 40s, and he never attended college. My mother also did not attend college. But this did not prevent their son from attending some of the top educational institutions in both the United States and Japan and to benefit from the many career opportunities they provided.
Finally, through much of my adult life, Japan has been the world’s second largest economy and a close partner and ally of the United States. Although recently surpassed in the size of GDP by China, Japan still remains the most important economy in the world next to the United States as measured by the level of technology, innovation, sophistication of the consumer market, and other indicators.
The remarkable relationship forged between the United States and Japan since 1945 has created tremendous opportunities for individuals and corporations willing to invest in the relationship. The Nisei generation has paved the way for their children and grandchildren to take advantage of these opportunities. Yet most Americans of Japanese ancestry have not yet fully seized the opportunity to get engaged to contribute to, as well as benefit from, this vital relationship—whether in academia, journalism, law, government, business, etc.
Historical and political factors in the United States and Japan have inhibited the fostering of the close ties between Japanese Americans and Japan that have characterized the relationship between virtually every other ethnic group in the United States and the country of their ancestors—whether in Asia, Europe, Latin America, etc. Especially notable are the roles being played by Chinese Americans in U.S.-China relations, Korean Americans in U.S.-Korea relations, Vietnamese Americans in U.S.-Vietnam relations, and Indian Americans in U.S.-India relations. I do not deny that there are certain individual Japanese Americans who have played important roles to strengthen ties between our two countries, but this has not been the case for Japanese Americans as a whole in the postwar period.
Today’s opening of the MIS Historic Learning Center provides us an excellent opportunity to reflect on the meaning and significance of linguistic expertise, cultural understanding, loyalty, patriotism, and peace. It is my strong hope that one effect of the Learning Center will be to stimulate Americans—especially Americans of Japanese ancestry—to engage more actively in U.S.-Japan relations and to draw on their rich history and experience to help inform and shape this vital relationship in the 21st century.
Thank you, and may I convey my very best wishes for the future success of the MIS Historic Learning Center.