Legacy of Japanese Americans in the US Military (Washington, DC)

December 14, 2015 at 6:30pm - 8:30pm
1150 18th Street NW, Suite 100, Washington DC, 20036

Three of six speakers at a recent panel discussion honoring Japanese Americans in the U.S. military were USJC members. Council Leaders/USJC Members Rear Admiral David Boone (ret.), Colonel Bruce Hollywood and Associate (Member) Lt. Commander Janelle Kuroda (USNR) were among the speakers on December 14 at the Japan Information and Culture Center. 

Colonel Hollywood addresses the audience

Colonel Hollywood, Executive Director of the Japanese American Veterans Association, served as moderator. He said that the relationship between Japanese and Japanese Americans are the foundation of a strong U.S.-Japan alliance, and noted the diversity of the speakers, which included a lawyer, a doctor and engineers. (Col. Hollywood is also participating in the 2016 Japanese American Leadership Delegation program.)

Rear Admiral Boone discussed his experience growing up with an American father and a Japanese mother. His bilingual, bicultural upbringing helped his career in the Navy. "It pushed me to ask the right questions and think about the other culture," he said. "As military personnel, it is important to be a global citizen."

Lt. Commander Kuroda discusses her experiences in the service 

Lt. Commander Kuroda said she wanted to continue her family's legacy, as her granduncle served in the 100th Infantry Battalion. After working internationally in the Navy's Judge Advocate General's Corps, she is now based in Washington, DC as a Foreign Affairs Officer. (She was a 2010 participant of the TOMODACHI Emerging Leaders Program.)

Lt. General Thomas Bostick, the son of an African American man and a Japanese woman, spoke about the importance of diversity. He noted that his father, who served in the military for 26 years, faced segregation, and touched upon the discrimination that African Americans, Japanese Americans, women and others have faced. "Think how things would've been if society had been more inclusive," he said. He also said that although there has been significant improvement, like how all combat roles were opened to women (a milestone that was achieved just the week before), more needs to be done.

Adding to the discussion of diversity, Captain Cynthia Macri (ret.) explained that she was previously the Special Assistant of Diversity for the Chief of Naval Operations. She said that gender-neutral society changes were necessary, noting that there were very few women who reach the rank of four stars. When considering military personnel’s career advancement, "we need to see people as families, not individuals," she said. 

Rear Admiral Yuki Sekiguchi, Defense and Naval Attaché at the Embassy, brought a Japanese perspective to the discussion. He touched upon the importance of the United States and Japan understanding each other's circumstances -- like Article 9 in Japan -- when cooperating for common goals.

The panel takes questions from the audience

Much to the audience's delight, World War II veteran Terry Shima, who served in the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, made a special appearance and delivered closing remarks. "The 442nd and the Tuskegee airmen contributed to the climate of postwar reform," he said, adding that the panelists and other Japanese American leaders were continuing that legacy by achieving a high level after “compet[ing] with the best of the best.” He also recognized the many civilian leaders who further propelled the movement towards equality, like Secretary Norman Mineta, the late Mike Masaoka and the late Senator Daniel Inouye.

This event was part of the Embassy of Japan's Japanese American Appreciation Week.Click here for more information and to see the panelists' bios.