BUENA PARK — The Kazuo Masuda Memorial VFW Post 3670 held its 61st annual Installation and Senior Awards Banquet on June 30 at the Knott’s Berry Farm Hotel in Buena Park.
Col. David Uyematsu (U.S. Army, retired) was the master of ceremonies for the event. Steve Moriyama, VFW Post 1961 commander, served as the installing officer and administered the oath to the incoming commander, James Nakamura, and the other newly elected officers.
Nakamura accepted the passing of the gavel from outgoing commander, Robert M. Wada, symbolizing the transfer of authority.
In his acceptance speech, Nakamura said that the World War II, Korean War and Vietnam War veterans were the pioneers in making life easier for following generations and paving the way for other Japanese American military personnel like himself. He also mentioned that his main goal is to increase Post 3670’s significance and maintain the past VFW members’ legacy so that present and future generations would know what these fallen veterans have done for our country.
The second part of the program involved recognizing recent high school graduates and their achievements as well as awarding them scholarships.
• Nicolas Kiyohara, a graduate of Valencia High School, will be attending University of Puget Sound in Washington, majoring in kinesiology.
• Daniel Uyematsu, a graduate of the California Academy of Mathematics and Science, will be attending Cal Poly Pomona, majoring in civil engineering.
• Nicole Wada, a graduate of Yorba Linda High School, will be attending Fullerton College for two years and hopes to transfer to Chapman University or CSU Fullerton to pursue teaching.
• Jacob Jang, a graduate of Foothill High School, will be attending University of Wisconsin, majoring in business.
• Shannyn Karasawa, a graduate of Cypress High School, will be attending CSU Long Beach, majoring in illustration/art.
• Matthew Scammahorn, a graduate of Cerritos High School, will be attending UC San Diego, majoring in political science.
• Kyle Shintani, a graduate of Beckman High School, will be attending San Diego State University, majoring in business.
• Casey Cheng, a graduate of Redondo Union High School, will be attending UC San Diego, majoring in molecular and cell biology (Goya Foundation Junior ROTC Award).
Other highlights of the event include the Redondo Union High School Marine Corps Junior ROTC serving as the color guard; a presentation on “Symbolism of the Missing Man Table” by VFW post member Ken Hayashi; Kailyn Lelani beautifully singing the national anthem and later “God Bless America”; and a tribute by Nori Uyematsu to Mas Masuda, a charter member of Post 3670 who passed away in November 2017 at the age of 100. His brother was Kazuo Masuda.
It was also announced that VFW post member Don Miyada will be a Nisei Week Pioneer honoree this year.
The Masuda Story
The post, which has a history dating back to 1957, is named for Staff Sgt. Kazuo Masuda (1918-1944), who served with Company F of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team. Born to Issei parents Gensuke and Tamae Masuda in Orange County, he worked on the family farm after graduating from high school and was inducted into U.S. military service in 1941, when he was 23, less than three months before Pearl Harbor.
On the day that Pearl Harbor was bombed, his father was arrested and imprisoned. The rest of the family was separated and sent to the Jerome and Gila River concentration camps in Arkansas and Arizona, respectively. Despite t his, Masuda and three of his brothers served in the U.S. Armed Forces.
Masuda was assigned to the 442nd and left for Italy in April 1944. On the night of July 6, 1944, he turned back two major counteroffensives and inflicted heavy casualties after firing at the enemy for 12 hours. On Aug. 27, he went on night patrol with two other men, crossed the Arno River and ran into enemy fire. He ordered the two men to retreat while he advanced to take out the enemy. He was killed by enemy fire that night and was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Service Cross.
His oldest sister, Mary, was granted a leave to visit California to look over the conditions of the farm and home. While there, she was threatened and told to “get back to camp.” Despite the threats, she moved her family back to California, determined that her brother’s death would not be in vain.
In an attempt to mitigate acts of terror and discrimination faced by Japanese Americans, the War Relocation Authority and other state and federal agencies began a campaign to change public opinion by telling the story of Nisei soldiers who served their country. The Masuda family served as the face of one of these campaigns. Gen. Joseph Stilwell flew to California to present the Distinguished Service Cross to the family in a public ceremony at the Masuda farmhouse, where media and celebrities had gathered.
At a rally following this ceremony, Capt. Ronald Reagan acknowledged Masuda’s sacrifice by stating: “The blood that has soaked the sands of a beach is all of one color. America stands unique in the world; the only country not founded on race, but on a way and an ideal.” Decades later, Masuda’s legacy inspired President Reagan to grant redress to Japanese Americans through the Civil Liberties Act of 1988.
A middle school in Fountain Valley, where Masuda grew up, is named after him. Students learn about his wartime exploits and sacrifice through special programs and a dedicated display case. VFW Post 3670 created a memorial garden in his honor on campus. (Source: Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center)