Sunday, July 15, 2001


From left, Makiki Japanese Language School Principal Eiko
Wakayama, State Veterans' Affairs Director Walter Ozawa, the
school's board of directors Chairman Dr. Glenn Masunaga,
Hawaii Military Intelligence Service Veteran's Club President
Dan Takehara, and MIS members Robert Honke and James
Tanabe talked after the school donated $20,000 to the club.

School honors
Military Intelligence
Service vets

The Makiki Japanese Language
School gives $20,000 to the
veterans' group


By Lisa Asato

The Makiki Japanese Language School closed its doors last summer, but it celebrated its nearly century-long history yesterday by honoring local veterans of the Military Intelligence Service -- some of whom are former students.

The school presented a $20,000 check to the Military Intelligence Service Veterans of Hawaii after they received the Presidential Unit Citation last year. The presidential citation recognizes an entire unit for action and gallantry during war.

"The school is very, very proud that they used their language to help the U.S. government," said Glenn Masunaga, who wears two hats as a member of the school board and an MIS club member. Japanese school taught them language and culture, responsibility and loyalty, he said, "and with loyalty they served the country of their birth."

During wartime the U.S. War Department found that 3 percent of the 3,700 enlisted Japanese Americans were competent linguists, according to the National Japanese American Historical Society. In the end, the Military Intelligence Service Language School graduated more than 6,000 students, mostly Japanese Americans, who were "shipped out to every major combat unit in the Pacific, translating Japanese maps and technical manuals, combat orders, enemy diaries and interrogated Japanese prisoners of war," the society's Web site said.

The local MIS club of about 255 members was represented yesterday by three of the school's former students, including club President Dan Takehara. The group plans to use part of the donation for its Aug. 11 celebration of its Presidential Unit Citation, he said.

The Makiki Japanese Language School opened in 1906 to teach Japanese language and culture to Hawaii-born children of contract laborers, Masunaga said. Thousands of students graduated from the school before it finally closed last year after a steady decline in enrollment. The final class had about 15 students total from the first through eighth grades, Masunaga said.

Like other Japanese language schools and temples, the Makiki Japanese Language School was shut down after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. Its principal and teachers were sent to internment camps, even though the schools were established to teach language and culture, not loyalty to Japan, said James Tanabe, a 70-year-old Korean War veteran who was the personal interpreter for the camp provost marshal in Sendai, Japan.

"Yet it was alumni of these schools who learned Japanese and who the military chose to use as interpreters and translators," he said. "In the words of (General Douglas MacArthur's Chief of Intelligence) Maj. Gen. Charles Willoughby -- because of the work of the MIS the Pacific war was shortened by two years and countless lives were saved."

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