Recently a group of students from Tomishiro Minami High School, located in Tomigusuku, Okinawa, Japan made the long journey to Hawaii as part of their Educational/Cultural Exchange Program supported by the Lokahi Foundation and the Hawaii United Okinawa Association.
On February 26, the students visited the Pacific Aviation Museum on Ford Island in Pearl Harbor where they had the opportunity first hand to meet and hear the story of Nisei Veteran Herbert Yanamura who served in the Military Intelligence Service (MIS) in World War II. Mr. Yamamura talked about his experiences in the War, from how he was selected and trained for the translator corps and his duty in the Philippines and Okinawa. During the Battle of Okinawa, he used a loudspeaker to speak Japanese and successfully coaxed about 1,500 civilians and 150 Japanese soldiers hiding in a cave in the village of Maehira to peacefully surrender to U.S. forces. Mr. Yanamura was awarded the Bronze Star for his actions.
One of the students, Kinjyou Aimi, was very familiar with the story that Mr. Yanamura was sharing with her class. Turns out that this young lady’s grandparents were amongst the people from Maehira Village that Mr. Yanamura helped to rescue. She realized that without Mr. Yanamura’s role and presence, her grandparents may not have survived and she would not be alive today. She began to cry when taking pictures with him and continued crying until she got on the bus to leave Ford Island. It was a heartwarming experience to see the connection and it had an enormous impact on all the students and their chaperones.
The meeting was coordinated by the Nisei Veterans Legacy. Wes Deguchi brought Mr. Yanamura to the meeting and Byrnes Yamashita gave a short presentation discussing the exploits of the Nisei Veterans in the European and the Pacific theaters. The NVL plans to be involved with more of these cultural and educational exchanges with students from Japan. It is estimated that about 10,000 students from Japan visit Hawaii each year in conjunction with these programs.