Monday, June 21, 1999

Chief of Staff Gen. Eric Shinseki
Gen. Eric Shinseki

Native son joining
ranks of eminent
Army leaders

Born an 'enemy alien,' a
Japanese-American from
Kauai perseveres

By Gregg K. Kakesako


A bit of Hawaii -- Kauai maile leaves -- will adorn the four shiny stars that sit proudly on the shoulders of Gen. Eric "Ric" Shinseki when he becomes the Army's 34th chief of staff tomorrow.

As the Army's No. 1 man in charge of 470,000 soldiers, Shinseki, 56, will add his name to a list that includes Washington, Grant, Pershing, MacArthur, Marshall, Eisenhower, Bradley and Abrams.

Shinseki was picked from among eight four-star generals and 16 three-star generals to lead the Army over the next four years.

His duties as chief of staff will be to preside over the Army's nine combat commands and serve as a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

That achievement comes about a half-century after Japanese Americans were classified "4C" -- "enemy aliens" -- by the Selective Service System during the wartime hysteria that followed the bombing of Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.

In introducing Shinseki to the Senate Armed Services Committee earlier this month, U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye said his nomination "could only happen in the United States," where Shinseki was classified as an enemy alien when born on Kauai in 1942.

Inouye recalled that the "day of shame," when the government established the classification, was erased after Japanese Americans like himself and Shinseki's uncles -- Hiroshi "Roscoe" Haruki, and Herbert and Chika Ishii -- petitioned the U.S. government to demonstrate their loyalty.

That action resulted in the formation of the 100th Battalion and the 442nd Regimental Combat Team. Herbert Ishii and Haruki served in the 100th, while Chika Ishii was a member of the 442nd. That unit of niseis, or second-generation Japanese Americans, would fight in Europe and become one of the most decorated units of World War II.

In urging the Senate's confirmation of Shinseki, Inouye said: "On this day, the shame that has been on our shoulders all these years has been completely washed away."

Army Secretary Louis Caldera, in a speech at the unveiling of the "Go For Broke" Japanese-American war monument in Los Angeles on June 5, noted that Shinseki "carries on the tradition of bravery and selfless service that his uncles and thousands of Japanese-Americans first established during the Second World War."

In tribute to his uncles and all Japanese-American veterans at last July's National AJA Veterans Convention here, Shinseki -- the first Asian American to become a four-star general -- said: "Your actions in World War II purchased future opportunities for all Americans but especially for Americans of Japanese ancestry."

"Today, the members of my generation enjoy the fruits of full citizenship in this great and wonderful country. There are no questions about our loyalty, our virtues or the values we bring to the American society," he said.

More than two dozen relatives from Kauai, Honolulu, London and Los Angeles will join generals, soldiers and other dignitaries tomorrow morning to watch as Shinseki accepts his new post on the Summerall Field at Fort Meyers across the Potomac River from the Capitol.

Wounded twice in Vietnam, where he lost part of his foot in combat, Shinseki will spend the next four years facing the challenges that plague today's Army: insufficient money, people and equipment, and an ever-growing list of missions.

Barbara Haruki, Shinseki's sister-in-law, said the new post is "a proud, but humbling experience."

She was busy last week coordinating the travel plans of the many relatives who wanted to be on hand tomorrow with leis to congratulate Shinseki. Besides his mother, sister Yvonne and brother Paul, other Shinseki kin who plan to be in the audience include nephew Warren Haruki, president of GTE/Hawaiian Tel.

Fudeko Shinseki, the general's mother, noted that she hasn't had much time to talk with her son since his nomination in April.

A childhood friend, Alfred Los Banos, who was paralyzed fighting the North Koreans with the 5th Regimental Combat Team in 1950, recalled running into Shinseki when he was a major and recuperating in Hawaii.

"He had been wounded for the second time in Vietnam," Los Banos said, "and he was worried that the Army was going to muster him out. But I told him that with his record and determination he would make it."

Eric Shinseki,
1965 West Point graduate.

Los Banos said Shinseki was "a really nice kid. He was very modest and very upright."

"His girlfriend, now his wife Patricia, was a very popular girl and they were always together," Los Banos said.

Los Banos recalled once remarking to the general's brother, Paul: "This kid is going to make three stars."

"And now he's a four-star general. He was only a captain then and I was only half joking," he said.

"But he had the things that made a good leader," he said. "Although we were only kidding around at the time, I had a lot of faith in the guy."

Steve Sato, another childhood friend who has known Shinseki since they were in kindergarten on the Garden Island, said the general always was a standout, serving as student body president of Kauai High School and youth governor of the YMCA's annual state Hi-Y and Tri-Y Model Legislature in 1960.

Sato said Shinseki comes from a devout Lutheran family and as a Boy Scout was awarded the "God and Country" medal when he was a freshman in high school.

"I never dreamt he would be Chief of Staff of the Army, said Sato, now a retired aerospace engineer living in Los Angeles.

"But I do recall that one of the earlier times when I saw him at Schofield -- and by that time he was a highly decorated soldier back from 'Nam -- he told me: 'I am so lucky that the anti-personnel mine had not been placed properly.'

"If it had, Eric told me, 'I wouldn't be here today.' At that time I remember telling him, 'Eric you will be a general some day.'

"That was some 20 years ago when I made that statement, but even then you could see there was something there.

"I can say that because he was more focused and more dedicated than the rest of us."

Sato added: "He's an all-around nice guy and it gives me hope that nice guys can finish first."

Sato also noted that one of the keys to Shinseki's success has to be his wife, Patty.

"Between he and Patty they are such a complete package. I think they they really complement each other so nicely."

But above it all Sato noted: "There was always something about Eric.

"He was destined for stars."

Barbara Haruki said the general hoped to have a quiet personal family dinner at his Virginia home over the weekend before tomorrow's ceremony.

"I think it will be very casual,' she said. "Probably just chazuke (tea and rice)."


A biographical sketch of Gen. Eric Shinseki:

Bullet Nov. 28, 1942: Born in Lihue.
Bullet April 1960: Selected as youth governor of annual Hawaii H-Y and Tri-Hi-Y Model Legislature.
Bullet June 1960: Graduates Kauai High.
Bullet 1965: Graduates West Point.
Bullet Dec. 1965-Aug. 1966: Forward observer, 25th Infantry, Vietnam.
Bullet Sept. 1966-April 1967: Patient, Tripler Hospital.
Bullet April 1967-Aug. 1968: Staff officer, Schofield Barracks.
Bullet Aug. 1968-June 1969: Student, Armor Officer advanced course, Fort Knox, Ky.
Bullet July 1969-Feb. 1970: XXIV Corps, Vietnam.
Bullet Feb. 1970-April 1970: Commander A Troop, 3rd Squadron, 5th Cavalry, 9th Infantry Division, Vietnam.
Bullet April 1970-March 1971: Patient, Tripler Hospital.
Bullet Mar. 1971-July 1974: Staff officer, Fort Shafter.
Bullet Aug. 1974-June 1976: Student, Duke University.
Bullet June 1976-July 1978: English instructor, West Point.
Bullet Aug. 1978-June 1979: Student, Command and General Staff College, Fort Leavenworth, Kan.
Bullet May 1980-June 1981: Adjutant, executive officer, 1st Squadron, 3rd Armor Cavalry Regiment, Fort Bliss, Texas.
Bullet June 1981-June 1982: Office of Deputy Chief of Staff, Pentagon.
Bullet June 1982-June 1984: Commander, 3rd Squadron, 7th Cavalry, 3rd Infantry Division, Germany.
Bullet June 1984-June 1985: Assistant chief of staff, 3rd Infantry Division, Germany.
Bullet Aug. 1985-June 1986: Student, National War College.
Bullet June 1986-Sept. 1987: Office of Deputy Chief of Staff, Pentagon
Bullet Oct. 1987-Oct. 1989: Commander, 2nd Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division, Germany.
Bullet Oct. 1989-June 1990: Assistant chief of staff for operations, VII Corps, Germany.
Bullet June 1990-July 1992: Deputy chief of staff for administration and logistics, Allied Land Forces South Europe, Germany.
Bullet July 1991: Promoted to brigadier general.
Bullet July 1992-July 1993: Assistant division commander, 3rd Infantry Division, Germany.
Bullet July 1993-March 1994: Director of training, Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff, Pentagon.
Bullet March 1994-July 1995: Commanding general, 1st Cavalry Division, Fort Hood, Texas.
Bullet June 1994: Promoted to major general.
Bullet July 1995-Aug. 1996: Assistant deputy chief of staff for operations and plans, Pentagon.
Bullet Aug. 1996-July 1997: Deputy chief of staff for operations and plans, Pentagon. Promoted to lieutenant general.
Bullet July 1997-Nov. 1998: Commander in chief, U.S. Army Europe and 7th Army. Commander Stabilization Force, Bosnia.
Bullet Aug. 1997: Promoted to general.
Bullet Nov. 1998-June 20: Vice Chief of Staff, U.S. Army, Pentagon.

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