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Marine captain honorably discharged in career that began with racial bias


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POSTED: Sunday, September 27, 2009

QUESTION: The Marine Corps was forced to grant attorney Bruce Yamashita a commission after it admitted that he was subjected to unfair treatment and racial discrimination while in officer candidate school. Is he still an officer?

ANSWER: Yamashita received an honorable discharge from the Marine Corps Reserves at the rank of captain in May. He works in private practice in Washington, D.C., specializing in immigration and nationality law and criminal defense.

“;On May 1, 2009, I received notice of my honorable discharge from the Marine Corps Reserve at the rank of captain,”; he said. “;I had completed my tour of service, and it was time to leave the corps. Hard to believe that it's been 20 years since I was retroactively commissioned on April 14, 1989. Got an impressive discharge certificate, and a nice letter from a three-star general. The letter concludes with a statement of appreciation for 'your loyal and valuable service.' It has been a long and winding road, and this signifies the closing of the final chapter.”;

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From the day he reported to boot camp at Marine Corps Officer Candidate School at Quantico, Va., in 1989, Yamashita said, he was subjected to racial harassment, greeted with epithets such as “;Kamikaze man.”; Marine Corps drill sergeants would yell: “;Go back to your own country”; and “;During World War II, we whipped your Japanese ass.”;

At 33, Yamashita was at least 10 years older than all of the recruits in his nine-week OCS Class 140 in February 1989. He was disenrolled from officer candidate school two days before he was supposed to graduate.

With the Japanese American Citizens League leading the legal effort and the help of U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye, Yamashita was commissioned on March 18, 1994, as a captain in the Marine Corps Reserve and received an apology from the Marine Corps. Through Inouye's efforts, the Marines agreed to changes in their OCS procedures addressing racial discrimination and unfair treatment with strong language also prohibiting sexual harassment.