Editorial: On Memorial Day, making right for 'abhorrent' actions

June 1, 2011

Congratulations to Bob Huskey, Dennis Leonard and everyone else who had a role in planning, and carrying out, Monday's rich and meaningful Memorial Day service at Idlewilde Cemetery. (See page A1 for the full story.)

The event should go far in helping heal the wounds that are still felt over the inhumane treatment of the World War II-era residents of Hood River Valley who happened to be of Japanese heritage.

Rep. Greg Walden spoke passionately, applying the term "abhorrent" to the removal in 1942 of 16 names of Japanese-Americans from the wall of honor at the county courthouse.

Walden, a Hood River native, gave what was perhaps the strongest local public condemnation on record of the World War II forced internments.

Citing the heroism of the Nisei (the Japanese term for second generation Japanese in America) in World War II, he cited the words of Gen. John Pershing, the commander of forces in World War I, "time will not dim the glory of their deeds."

Among those deeds are those of Frank Hachiya, who died in action working to pass on information that would protect hundreds of his comrades - Frank Hachiya, born in Hood River and raised in Hood River and Japan. Niko Yasui gave a riveting address, in uniform, portraying Hachiya.

"I was an American … I died for democracy … my life and death might not have changed the world as a whole, but it changed Hood River, a valley that was rocked with racial tension and disgrace … it was a sign of redemption when nearly four years after my death, citizens called for my body to be brought back here from the South Pacific."

Walden also cited the writing of Linda Tamura of Lake Oswego, a Pine Grove native and author of "Hood River Issei," who quoted Mas Kusachi this way:

"I quit taking the Hood River News at camp after Nisei names were removed from the honor roll. When I saw that article in the paper, I was very disturbed. America and Japan were at war, but we had had no control over that. This was a very barbaric act, and we Hood River Japanese were incensed about it."

On Monday, more than 50 Japanese Americans and their families sat in the place of honor as Tamura read all 140 inscribed names aloud.

As she did so, the memorial was unveiled in a fittingly quiet and gentle manner. Bob Huskey of Idlewilde and Dennis Leonard and Ray Elliott of the Legion, along with veteran Shig Imai were the first to salute the marble honor. Huskey later pledged to ensure that names not yet on the stone would be added as soon as possible.

Will some resentment remain over what happened in the 1940s? Certainly that will be the case. But the actions of the Idlewilde Board and the Hood River American Legion are deeply appreciated not only by Japanese-American members but the community as a whole. As Walden put it, "A wound as deep as this one cannot heal, if it is not appropriately treated. And today, we get about that healing process to the best of our ability."

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