James Yoshio Yoda and Ernest Borgnine in a scene from “McHale’s Navy.”

James Yoshio Yoda, a former actor best known for playing Fuji on the 1960s TV series “McHale’s Navy,” passed away on Jan. 13 in Fullerton. He was 88.

Born in Tokyo on March 31, 1934, he was studying law at Keio University when he was encouraged by an acquaintance to pursue an acting career. He discontinued his studies, moved to the U.S. and enrolled in 1958 at the film school at USC, graduating with a degree in cinema arts.

In 1961, the school was asked if they had anyone who was bilingual in Japanese and English. Yoda was then cast in a significant role in the movie “The Horizontal Lieutenant.” (1962), a military comedy set in the Pacific during World War II and starring Jim Hutton and Paula Prentiss. Yoda played Sgt. Roy Tada, a Nisei interpreter. The cast also included Miyoshi Umeki, Lloyd Kino and Yuki Shimoda.

This role led to Yoda being cast as a regular on “McHale’s Navy,” which aired on ABC from 1962 to 1966 (138 episodes). Set in the South Pacific during World War II, the sitcom followed the antics of the misfit crew of PT-73, led by Lt. Cmdr. Quinton McHale (Ernest Borgnine). The cast included Tim Conway, Bob Hastings, Carl Ballantine and Gavin MacLeod.

Yoda played Seaman 3rd Class Fujiwara, known as “Fuji,” a deserter from the Japanese Imperial Navy who is accepted as a member of McHale’s gang. Instead of being treated as a prisoner of war, he serves as the crew’s houseboy and cook.

Fuji has to be kept hidden from McHale’s superiors, particularly Capt. Binghamton (Joe Flynn). In one episode, to avoid detection during an inspection by Binghamton, Fuji disguises himself as a Polynesian chief.

James Yoshio Yoda, Joe Flynn and Tim Conway in a scene from “McHale’s Navy.”

During the fourth season, the setting of the show was changed from the Pacific to Italy, where it is revealed that Fuji has a second cousin who is a lieutenant in the 442nd Regimental Combat Team. In the first episode set in Europe, Fuji himself is passed off as a member of the 442nd.

Yoda reprised the role in two feature films, “McHale’s Navy” (1964) and “McHale’s Navy Joins the Air Force” (1966).

Until now, Yoda was one of only two surviving “McHale’s Navy” cast members. The remaining survivor is Bobby Wright, who played radioman Willy Moss.

TV shows set during World War II were commonplace in the 1960s. They included at least four other sitcoms, “Broadside” (from “McHale’s Navy” creator Edward Montagne), “Mister Roberts,” “The Wackiest Ship in the Army” and “Hogan’s Heroes.”

After appearing in a 1969 segment of “Love, American Style” that also featured Miko Mayama (“Star Trek”) and working as an associate producer, Yoda left show business and built a career in car manufacturing. He lived in Hawaii, became a U.S. citizen with a new first name, James, and became an assistant vice president of inventory and senior division manager at Toyota. After retirement, he moved to Fullerton.

At his request, no service will be held.

He was preceded in death by a son, Edward Yuji Yoda.

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