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War was hard on those part Japanese

By JOUNICE L. NEALY

© St. Petersburg Times, published December 7, 2000


Soon after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Herbert T. Kimura was classified as an enemy. In fact, he was a second-generation Japanese-American whose family had settled in St. Petersburg.

Months after the attack -- 59 years ago today -- Kimura was considered a friend and was called by the Army to fight in World War II.

He joined about 17,600 other Nisei, second-generation Japanese-Americans, many of whom were interned and screened to prove their loyalty before being released to fight.

Kimura, who died two weeks ago at age 77, was proud to have served in the military but talked little about his wartime experiences and hardships that he and other Japanese-Americans suffered in civilian life.

"Immediately after the bomb was dropped, (Japanese-Americans) became enemies," said Mr. Kimura's daughter, Linda Kimura-Marcus.

Although the Kimuras were not interned, "growing up, it was a very bad thing because people didn't realize that there were a group of men ... that were born in America yet Japanese and they fought for this country," she said.

Mr. Kimura and his daughter were active in the national Go For Broke Education Foundation, which seeks to bring attention to the plight and heroics of Japanese-Americans during the war.

Her father fought in the Army's 442nd Regimental Combat Team/100th Infantry Battalion, which became one of the most decorated in U.S. history.

Mr. Kimura was in Italy when that country was liberated, his daughter said. But he never considered his service heroic. He was discharged in August 1946 and returned to St. Petersburg and later started a tile company.

He parted with one of his best friends in the Army, Shim Kawaguchi, who went back to California.

"We buddied around together. We saw action together. He's from Florida, and he didn't see so many Japanese people altogether. That's why he was kind of amazed," Kawaguchi, 76, said Wednesday in a telephone interview from his home in Fair Oaks, Calif.

They were reunited in 1999 after being separated for nearly half a century. They talked about Army life during a reunion in Branson, Mo.

For the first time, Mrs. Kimura-Marcus, 50, heard her father talk about how disturbed he was when he saw boots that were not side by side. To see them in disarray reminded him of slaughtered soldiers.

It was one of the lingering effects that he avoided talking about. "He never told me that or anyone that, that shoes had to be right together," she said.

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