Sunday, May 29, 2016

Kazuo Masuda Memorial Day program, May 30

ABOVE: A photograph of SSgt. Kazuo Masuda in the foreground, an honor guard prepares for a salute at last year's Kazuo Masuda Memorial VFW Post 3670, Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States, Memorial Day Service at Westminster Memorial Park. (Photo, M. Urashima) © All rights reserved.

    Kazuo Masuda is one of twelve Nisei soldiers featured in the Smithsonian Institute's 2016 digital exhibit, The Nisei Soldier: Congressional Gold Medal  He was awarded posthumously both the Distinguished Service Cross in 1945 and, more recently, the Congressional Gold Medal

    Kazuo Masuda is honored each year at the Kazuo Masuda Memorial VFW Post 3670, Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States Memorial Day Service at Westminster Memorial Park, Orange County, California.  This year, Historic Wintersburg will be part of the program, with comments by the preservation task force chair Mary Urashima.

   The Masuda family are part of the history of the Wintersburg Mission, congregants who traveled from their farm in Talbert (Fountain Valley) to attend services and carnivals on the Furuta farm.  One of the Masuda descendants serves on the Historic Wintersburg Preservation Task Force, providing first-hand historical insight for the efforts to save a National Treasure historical place.  This family's history is one of the reasons Historic Wintersburg is considered nationally significant.  It is part of the history that we work to preserve for future generations.

RIGHT: From a traveling exhibit held at a veterans' organization in Maui, Hawaii, in 2014, an image of General Joe Stillwell presenting the Distinguished Service Cross to Mary Masuda, on behalf of Kazuo Masuda, on the steps of the Masuda family farm house in Talbert, December 1945. (Photo, M. Urashima) © All rights reserved.

    The Masuda family history is linked to one of our country's monumental civil liberties moments: the authorization of the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, during which President Ronald Reagan talks specifically about the Masuda family and the heroics of SSgt. Kazuo Masuda, of the "Go For Broke" 442nd Regimental Combat Team, Company F.  Their story can be found here:

LEFT: The Los Angeles Herald featured General Joe Stillwell's visit to the Masuda family on their front page. Newsreel media covered the event, at which a young Army captain--Ronald Reagan--accompanied Gen. Stillwell, to present posthumously the Distinguished Service Cross. (Image, Los Angeles Herald, December 9, 1945)

   Four of the Masuda brothers served in the U.S. military during World War II, while their family remained incarcerated, first at the Jerome Relocation Center in Arkansas, later at the Gila River Relocation Center in Arizona.  Gensuke Masuda, the family patriarch and a farmer in Talbert, was taken and interrogated by the FBI the night of the attack by Japan on Pearl Harbor.  He had been in America for over 40 years.  

   Seen as a community leader for his involvement with the Wintersburg Japanese Mission and due to his success as a farmer, Gensuke Masuda's hard work and efforts to establish his family in America now moved against him.  Kazuo Masuda--already in the U.S. Army--wrote letters on behalf of his father, asking for his release and noting his father's devotion to America, "I believe he has done his part in making it the great nation that we are."

   Killed in action in Italy, in 1944, it would take several years before Kazuo Masuda would come home to rest. Finally, in 1948, the family and community were able to memorialize a hero who had walked on.  The funeral services were held with a full house in the Wintersburg Japanese Church with a Nisei military honor guard and Japanese American clergy, before proceeding to the Westminster Memorial Park.   Those in attendance knew of the long, painful journey by the Masuda family.  Many had shared the same journey.

   In 1988, President Ronald Reagan would remember Kazuo Masuda and his family, remarking, "America stands unique in the world, the only country not founded on race, but ideal. Not in spite of, but because of our polyglot background, we have had all the strength in the world. That is the American way."

ABOVE: The funeral procession for Kazuo Masuda in 1948, enroute to the Westminster Memorial Park. Originally prohibited from burial in an area with grass and trees due to "restrictive covenants" which barred persons who were not of Caucasian ancestry, public pressure on behalf of the hero reversed the Park's decision. The annual Memorial Day service is held near his grave. (Photo courtesy of Dennis Masuda) © All rights reserved.

  On Monday, Memorial Day 2016, we remember and honor Kazuo Masuda and those who have fallen during their service to our country. We honor their families, who--even in the best of times--must bear the absence and loss of loved ones.  We reflect on the sacrifice of generations of Americans. 

All rights reserved.  No part of the Historic Wintersburg blog may be reproduced or duplicated without prior written permission from the author and publisher, M. Adams Urashima.