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Federal 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Conference

Hyatt Regency Maui Resort & Spa

August 13 and 14, 2012


Maui Nisei veterans were prominently featured at this year’s 9th Federal Circuit Court of Appeals Conference held at the Hyatt Regency Maui Resort & Spa in August 2012. On opening day, Maui born Eichi Oki, member of Co. K, 3rd Battalion, 442nd Regimental Combat Team (RCT) was given the honor of leading the Pledge of Allegiance. The Baldwin High School graduate is the father of Susan Oki Mollway, Hawaii’s Chief U.S. District Judge.

At the spouses’ luncheon hosted by Chief Judge Alex Kozinski’s wife, Marcy Tiffany, approximately 60 spouses attended a discussion of the book, “Just Americans” written by Robert Asahina, in which he tells the story of the 100th/442nd RCT and the unit’s role in ending the Japanese-American internment. Guests at the luncheon included NVMC board member David Fukuda, who elaborated on some of the book’s references to Maui veterans, and Eichi Oki who provided first-hand accounts of his experiences in the war.

Upon reflection, Mr. Oki proclaimed “I am a very lucky person. Where else but in America can one be classified as an enemy alien, and 68 years later, be presented the Congressional Gold medal, Congresses highest accolade?” Oki is a practicing attorney in Honolulu.

Tom Yamada
Tom Yamada addressing Senior Judges of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals at Kaanapali.

On the second day of the conference, veterans Stanley Izumigawa and Tom Yamada joined Fukuda at a gathering for the senior judges and spouses. Fukuda described the long ties which Maui Nisei veterans have had with the judiciary. Kase Higa (MIS) served as a Maui District judge, Katsugo Miho (522nd Artillery) was a family court judge, and Takashi Kitaoka (100th) was the first Maui-born Circiut Court judge.

Izumigawa recounted for the audience, how he was a naïve “two-time” volunteer, first volunteering to join the 442nd RCT, and then volunteering to go into combat with the first wave of replacements for the 100th Infantry Battalion in Italy. Izumigawa was wounded on three occasions, the last incident occurring in the Vosges Mountains a day before his unit was to reach the “Lost Battalion.”

Tom Yamada, an original member of the 100th Infantry Battalion, was transferred out of the unit into the Military Intelligence Service where his Japanese language skills acquired from years of schooling in Japan, were vitally needed. Yamada traced his service from Australia, New Guinea, the Philippines, and finally to Japan. It was in Japan where Yamada was assigned to be an interpreter for General Tojo, the Prime Minister of Japan who had ordered the attack on Pearl Harbor, while the general was recovering from an attempted suicide.

Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy

Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy sharing stories with Yamada and Izumigawa

Following the gathering, the two Nisei veterans were pulled aside by Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy who wanted to share some stories with them of his childhood experiences with his Japanese neighbors in California.

Both attendees and guests expressed appreciation for having this opportunity of meeting and sharing experiences with one another.